Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
The Rape of Public Broadcasting
If there's any truth to the oft repeated maxim, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" we're about to see it underscored in the halls of Congress.
It's no secret that the Republican party is seeking absolute power and control of everything American. The own the presidency, they own both houses of Congress, and they're wearing out horses trying to gain absolute control of the Judiciary. They don't care how blatant their power grabs appear to the public. They have the ultimate cover - "God is on our side."
But it's not the stuff that's out there easily seen that bothers me. It's the takeovers of the bits and pieces of a free America and turning them into party functionaries without the notice of most Americans that scares the knickers off my backside. Things like the replacing of environmental watchdogs as heads of environmental agencies with Republican controlled anti-environmental ex-lobbyists who have laid waste to our countries natural resources and continue to damage our air, water, and land in deference to Corporate bottom lines.
Our Repubo friends are not satisfied with having their own Pravda in the Fox News Network. Nor are they satisfied with having powerful Repubo billionaires owning and controlling most of the five major news networks in this country (think Murdoch and Sinclair). Nor are they satisfied with controlling the majority of Volksempfäänger pundits from Lindbaugh to O'Reilly, Schultz to Colson. The voice of Repubo politics can be heard 24 hours a day on a plethora of Repubo controlled radio stations.
But it's not enough for these master power mongers. Now they are zeroing in on Public Broadcasting. It started with the realization that Public Radio and TV were one of the few remaining voices reaching people with the truth concerning what was happening in the world and in our country.
The Repubos figured, "Hey, we own the government and the government owns Public Broadcasting. So why not take it over?" So they did.
They appointed Kenneth Tomlinson the new chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Mr. Tomlinson is now intent on ramming partisan "balance" (you know, like Fox News) on the airwaves. To accomplish that, he is stocking the corporation with Repubo loyalists. His next move will be to appoint the former co-chairwoman of the Repubo National Committee to the presidency of the corporation.
Repubos even have their own Reichstag Fire going in that the House Appropriations Committee recently voted not only to end taxpayers support for next year's children's shows on public radio and TV, but also to close out entirely the $400 million in federal support of the PBS.
Tomlinson is using this as justification for the changes in personnel and programming restrictions, claiming this will "make the case" for monetary support by the Feds. A true ideological putsch!
What can YOU do about this? 1. Write to your Senators and demand they block this Repubo power grab when it comes up for a vote there. 2. Get rid of all the right wing whackos in the House during the 2006 elections and restore some balance to Congress again.
Show them neither God nor the American public is on their side.
Monday, June 13, 2005 - Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
A distrubing article appeared in the Wilkes-Barre, PA Times Leader a short while ago. It shows what happens when young gay men are pushed into believing their sexual orientation is a sin and that they can somehow change it.
Jeffrey Price, a gay young man age twenty, had been fighting his sexuality for a long time. Deep depression, two suicide attempts, and five stays in psychiatric wards marked his struggle, a reality not uncommon among gays his age. There was also a constant, driving fear that he let his father down. Jeff's life ended in May of last year, cut short by what police described as "an accidental self-inflicted gunshot to the head."
As a fourteen-year old, Jeff explained to his parents that, "I like boys. I'm not really attracted to girls." His mother's reaction was, "If you're trying to tell us you're gay honey, that doesn't change you as a person. You're still my son and you still have a beautiful heart. You're still the same person."
But Jeff's father had a different take. He spent six years trying to comprehend Jeff's homosexuality. He never told Jeff it didn't matter. He said, "I don't hate you. I just don't understand it. I never will." His dad had been in the military when being gay meant suffering beatings while superiors turned their heads,
At age fifteen, Jeff began attending the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly Church, pastored by Rob Coscia. Jeff liked the man, opened up to him, turned to him for help in accepting himself for who he was. But the pastor believed that if a person didn't want to be gay, they didn't have to be gay and he told Jeff that with God's help, he could change. As Jeff's understanding of God strengthened, his displeasure with being homosexual grew.
Coscia told Jeff that he could help him rid his body of homosexuality and Jeff tried very hard to believe him. "I don't think God's plan was homosexuality in any way," Coscia told him after Jeff expressed a desire to deny his sexual orientation. "It's not like race, like you're born Caucasian or African-American. I let him know the he was not an aberration or a terrible person and God can do something about it."
Yet for all the spiritual guidance that came from Pastor Coscia, his inability to convert to a heterosexual was to Jeff just another form of failure. "Something's wrong with me, but I don't want to admit it," he wrote in his journal. "I'm sorry I ever labeled myself as gay. Now it's too hard to escape. I know if I start now at this young age I can become the man I'm supposed to be. The man that feels right. The man that has a family. But I want that with another man."
Jeff swallowed a large amount of extra-strength painkillers at age 13, but threw them up later. "He had a lot of anger, but most of it came from himself, and being gay and not being able to do anything about it," his mother said. "My son thought I was a hard-ass," his father said. "You have your good days and your bad days. What father and son don't see eye to eye sometimes? Yeah, I would have loved to have seen my son get married and have kids." But Jeff felt that if his father couldn't accept who he was, how could anyone else.
When he was in seventh grade, Jeff dated Amanda Maneval. They went to dances and their photo albums were filled with pictures of them. But Jeff confided to her that he was homosexual and the two stopped dating, although they remained friends.
Jeff fell in love with Shawn Bublo, a young man he had met at an after-care program for troubled kids when he was thirteen. After splitting up with Amanda, Jeff and Shawn entered into Jeff's only attempt at a gay relationship. The pair dated for two years, until Jeff was sixteen. "After two years we weren't the same people," Shawn said. "He stopped going to church. He started getting mean and upset a lot." The two remained friends, however, and it was no secret that Jeff still loved Shawn.
At age seventeen, his parents knocked down Jeff's bedroom door and found him laying on the floor, unconscious and mumbling incoherently. He had taken a handful of pills and barricaded himself in his room. He was rushed to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, where doctors pumped his stomach. They saved his life. His suicide note read, "Please understand why I chose to die. I have suffered way too much. I would have suffered the rest of my life, so I had no choice at all...No matter what, no one could have helped. I was still gay and no one could change it."
The last two years of his life saw changes in Jeff. In an effort to make new friends, he took up using marijuana, drinking, and hanging out with new people. It didn't help. He still felt alone in a world where he wasn't accepted for who he was.
Jeff's poetry and journal became filled with obvious references to taking his own life. They were suicide notes written in short, broken sentences and grim stanzas. "Take away the pain, the tears, the longing and the fears." A journal entry on May 16th read, "Wouldn't it be nice to have someone miss me..."
Soon after that entry, Jeff visited his friend Shawn. He still had Shawn's picture on the TV in his bedroom. The two ran some errands. Shawn was the last person to see Jeff alive.
After Jeff's death, his tragic end left friends and family still struggling for answers. His minister said, "Hopefully God used me to show Jeff God's unconditional love. I just wish it didn't have to come out this way."
Shawn keeps pictures of him and Jeff on his computer to remember the fun they had as lovers and friends. "I don't have as much fun with anyone else. I don't even like clubs anymore. When I go, I just stand around and I'm bored. I just wish that somehow I could have helped him not be so down and out all the time."
Amanda says she hopes to pay tribute to her lost friend by giving her first son the middle name of Jeffrey. "We were so good together, as friends and as a couple. There was such a strong bond."
To Jeff's mother, "It's a devastating nightmare. He was a kind and compassionate person. I know how he died, but I'll never know why."
Jeff's father is filled with regrets. He knows Jeff wasn't a bad person because he was gay, he just never told him. He bowed his chin to his chest to hide his tears. He lifted his head up to reveal his red, watery eyes. "I just really miss him. At Jeff's funeral the minister tried to talk to me. I said 'I don't think I believe in God right now. I feel like He let me down.'"
This article doesn't contain pictures. It doesn't need to. The pictures of what happened to Jeffrey Price are there for all to see. It was a death that shouldn't have happened. One that is all too familiar to most gay people.
I thank Kris Wernowsky of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader for giving birth to this article. I'd also like to thank Jeff's friend Joe, who wrote to me after seeing this story on another site, for sending me the picture of Jeff shown in this article.
This is something every minister, priest, and pastor should think about before telling a young gay person that they can change their sexuality, that they weren't born that way. It's also something every straight person, especially parents of gay children, needs to understand so they can stop berating them about who they are. Gay teens, like any kids, respond to uplifting messages - not to put-downs that make them feel like outcasts in society.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaiming Jeff's parents or his minister for Jeff's death. That was a choice, however desperate, that Jeff made himself. My point is that if you continue to tell a person they are wrong in who they are, tell them they are unacceptable in life as they are and give them no option but to change the unchangeable, sooner or later they will believe you.
How many gay sons and daughters have to die before people will accept them for who they are and treat them like regular human beings?
Sunday, June 12, 2005 - Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
THE TRUTH ABOUT GAY COUPLES
When you think of a lesbian or gay person, what do you picture in your mind?
When you use the words "gay lifestyle" what is it that you're really saying?
Unfortunately, when right wing Christians think of lesbian or gay people, this is what they see:
Instead of this:
And when those same people talk about the "gay lifestyle," this is what they're talking about:
Instead of this:
I apologize for the graphic presentation, but it's the truth. We're not people to them, we're the images you see above. This is the reason that new education secretary Margaret Spellings, in her letter to PBS concerning the "Postcards From Buster" that featured a child of a lesbian couple in Vermont, said, "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode." What's worse is they will fight to the end to make sure that most Americans keep those images in the forefront of their minds when they think about homosexual people.
When Joe and Anna Redstate think about homosexual couples marrying, these are the images they conjure up. Is it any wonder that they think it's wrong and shouldn't be allowed?
I'm not saying that there aren't gays that live like that, but they're in the same minority as heterosexuals who live much the same way. Ordinary people need to understand being homosexual is not about sex. It's about living lives very similar to their own. But the Christina right won't allow us to tell our story. They know what will happen if ordinary people replace those scary images with images like this:
This is the Riesner/Pike family that would have appeared on the discarded episode of "Buster." The family was in the background as the film concentrated on 11 year old Emma Riesner (top left). The show was meant to teach children about where maple sugar comes from, but that's not how it was portrayed by the religious right. Nor did any of the hundreds of articles that appeared about the show carry the above picture. Neither the right nor the press wants to show the truth about gay families. They look too normal.
Finally, how do you think 11 year old Emma felt about her show being canceled? Put yourself into her shoes for a minute. You know how kids anticipate and how they can't wait for things. Imagine for a minute how this destroyed her world. Would you care to hear it in her own words?
"I was pretty upset when the show was canceled, because I was very excited about it," Emma said in a recent telephone interview from her home in Vermont. "I know some people don't like gays and lesbians because they think they are bad people. That's just a stereotype and it's kind of hurtful. I don't think people should think of us as very different. We are just the same except we have two moms."
This is what the right is doing to our families. And what did president Bush say about his education secretary's remarks concerning showing a lesbian family on television? "Studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman." Yet experts agree that there is no scientific evidence that children raised by gay couples fare any worse than those raised in more traditional households.
But that hasn't stopped right wing legislators from spewing forth their anti-gay marriage propaganda and formulating bills to outlaw the adoption of children in states across the country.
It makes me sick.