aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Let’s try Bible study in the public schools II, the argument
“Their proposal makes them modern-day pharisees,” State Senator Eric Johnson of Georgia, the Republican leader from Savannah, said in a statement. “This is election-year pandering using voters’ deepest beliefs as a tool.”
Saying he found “a little irony” in the fact that the Democratic sponsors had voted against a Republican proposal for a Bible course six years ago, Mr. Johnson added, “It should also be noted that the so-called Bible bill doesn’t use the Bible as the textbook, and would allow teachers with no belief at all in the Bible to teach the course.”
To the Right I say, of course we can’t require the teacher to be Christian or that they use the Bible. If we do, which denomination? Which Bible? I think most reasonable people will be pleased to have the Bible taught, and understand that it can’t be their Bible or their denomination.
To the Left I say - and most especially to my friends who reject this notion so flat-out - that the Bible has to be the most significant book ever written. (I’m game for teaching that other big important book, the Koran, too.) And I’m not big on denying the impact of Christianity on the world. To not teach it seems something of a distortion to me.
To all those who say it’s about separation of church and state, I say separation is fine and good; exclusion appears to be what we’re talking about. We’ve accepted case law rulings cascading down on us and, you may recall, I’m not all that fond of rolling over and accepting case law. (I’ve got a good First Amendment post in me; it’s coming.)
There is a political component to this (interesting to watch the Christian Right say the Left is playing politics with religion) but that’s not why I support it. I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I like and respect these people, and they like me. I believe the religious right is reachable. And given that I believe we are a closely divided not deeply divided country - on religion too - persuading just a few to vote our way is a winning strategy.
And when we win, I want to live with my Christian neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance.
BTW, Howard Dean supports it too, “I think teaching the Bible as literature is a good thing.”
Demand gay leaders support gay people around the world
Doug Ireland is exactly right:
Within the last weeks, there has been a spate of bad news from abroad. Consider: In the United Kingdom, a 28-year-old gay Iranian named Javad-whose full name is not used to protect him and his family in Iran-has been ordered to be deported back to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Last year, a video of Javad and his partner at a private gay party fell into the hands of the police. Fearful of being imprisoned, tortured, and executed for being gay-like so many other Iranian same-sexers-Javad fled to the U.K. last September, winding up in the town of Oakington, where he filed for asylum.
The Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization-PGLO, the largest Iranian gay group with secretariats in several countries, including Turkey and Norway-reported last week: “After a few days, Javad was arrested and taken to Oakington’s police department in Cambridge, where he was threatened and told that if he couldn’t come up with satisfactory answers for their questions they will forcefully deport him, sending him back to Iran. In December the British government denied his refugee status. Under the law, Javad has the right to appeal this decision. Sadly, a few days ago, without taking into consideration his appeal over the ruling, he received papers stating that he must leave the country; therefore, Javad was deprived of any protection by the British government.” [...]
In India-the world’s second most populous country, with 1.1 billion people-homosexuality was accepted in cultural traditions for thousands of years, and the Hindu religion had venerated bisexual gods-including Samba (above eft), son of Krishna, who seduced both men and women. Male worshippers had ritual sex with male prostitutes in Hindu temples well into the 20th century.
But homosexuality was made illegal under British colonial rule in the 19th century, and that colonial anti-sodomy law remains on the books, five decades after India’s independence. (The British themselves decriminalized homosexuality in 1968.) Under Indian law, gay sex is bracketed with sex with animals and pedophilia as an “unnatural” offense, punishable by 10 years imprisonment.
READ ON. Nepal and Cameroon and Poland… he strongly condemns the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), and the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLRHC) for doing nothing:
I’m angry at our Brokebrain gay leaders for not making international solidarity with persecuted gays abroad part of their agenda, and thus part of our national gay agenda. And doing so requires a helluva lot more than just issuing an occasional press release. It requires, yes, real activism, organizing and education. The next time you think of sending a check to HRC or NGLTF, tell them you’re sick at heart at their indifference to this gay suffering. Demand that they create an international desk, and assign at least one full-time staff person to monitor attacks on gay people in other countries and educate gay Americans about these threats to human freedom abroad.
Demand that these groups immediately take up the most urgent case-the ongoing and massive entrapment, persecution, torture, and execution of gays in the Islamic Republic of Iran, on which their silence has been deafening. Demand they give Iran full-throated attention, through demonstrations-like the ones European gay organizations have been holding repeatedly all across the continent-public forums, and their own publications. Demand they provide concrete and material help for the penniless gay Iranian refugees from torture who are living precariously from day to day, under constant threat of deportation back to certain persecution for how and whom they love.
Is it harassment to recruit “GLBT Friendly” gamers?
I think not.
In Newsweekly reports that the popular online multiplayer World of Warcraft game is apparently “using a policy meant to protect GLBT people as a way to discriminate against them.”
Sara Andrews received an e-mail from a game master citing her for “Harassment - Sexual Orientation.” Andrews had posted that she was recruiting for a “GLBT friendly” guild in a general chat channel within the game:
Gamer John Blatzheim, who heard of Andrews’ situation, e-mailed Blizzard to express his concern of a double standard that game masters would send her a warning that she could not use “GLBT” as an advertisement to express a safe place for gay gamers after an incident a few months ago where a plague occurred within the game and players yelled in general chat, “Don’t get the AIDS!”
“Many people are insulted just at the word ‘homosexual’ or any other word referring to sexual orientation,” Blizzard responded to Blatzheim in an e-mail. “Also to discriminate against other players, such as not allowing any heterosexuals into the guild simply because of their sexual orientation, could cause extreme offense to a large percentage of our players and should be avoided.”
Online games are incredibly, deeply moving social software that have hit on a perfect formula for getting players to devote themselves to play: make play into a set of social grooming negotiations. Big chunks of our brains are devoted to figuring out how to socialize with one another—it’s how our primate ancestors enabled the cooperation that turned them into evolutionary winners.
But real life has one gigantic advantage over gamelife. In real life, you can be a citizen with rights. In gamelife, you’re a customer with a license agreement. In real life, if a cop or a judge just makes up a nonsensical or capricious interpretation of the law, you can demand an appeal. In gamelife, you can cancel your contract, or suck it up.
In Newsweekly promises to follow-up. I’ll be following their follow-up.
Academic Freedom: A cornerstone of a free society
I just finished Michael BÃƒÂ©rubÃƒÂ©’s 5,500 richly-linked word argument that “academic freedom is an aspect of procedural liberalism that is one of the cornerstones of a free society.” The 35 minute talk is entitled, Recent Attacks on Academic Freedom: What’s Going On. I am quoting a random passage, and urge you to read the whole thing:
[M]ost critics of universities don’t seem to distinguish between unconscious liberal bias and conscious, articulate liberal convictions. They take the language of “bias” from critiques of the so-called liberal media, where it is applied to outlets like the New York Times and CBS News that, in the view of some conservatives, lend a leftish slant to the news both deliberately and unwittingly. But the language of “bias” is not very well suited to the work of, say, a researcher who has spent decades investigating American drug policy or conflicts in the Middle East and who has come to conclusions that amount to more or less “liberal” critiques of current policies. Such conclusions are not “bias”; rather, they are legitimate, well-founded beliefs, and of course they should be presented-ideally, along with legitimate competing beliefs-in college classrooms. Now, notice that I said legitimate competing beliefs. We have no obligation to debate whether the Holocaust happened. And that’s not a hypothetical matter. Late last fall, the philosopher with whom I co-founded the Penn State chapter of the AAUP, Claire Katz, informed me of a graduate teaching assistant in philosophy who had just had a very strange encounter with a student. The course, which dealt with bioethics, had recently dealt with the vile history of experiments on unwitting and/or unwilling human subjects, from the Holocaust to Tuskegee, and the student wanted to know whether the “other side” would be presented as well. I hope you’re asking yourselves, what other side?-because, of course, to all reasonable and responsible researchers in the field, there is no “other side”; there is no pro-human experimentation position that needs to be introduced into classroom discussion to counteract possible liberal “bias.” We are not in the business of inviting pro-Nazi spokesmen for Joseph Mengele to our classrooms. But this is the language with which some of our students enter the classroom; it is the language of cable news and mass-media simulacra of “debate.” There is one side, and then there is the other side. That constitutes balance, and anything else is bias.
Now I’m going to watch the 1 hour video via Mediasite, available for the next 30 days, to see the Q&A that followed.
Is it defamation to call someone gay?
I think not.
Reading this raised the question again:
Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has sued his former boss, ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for accusing him of being homosexual.
Dr Mahathir repeated the allegation - first made when the two leaders became rivals in 1998 - last September.
“Imagine having a gay prime minister. Nobody would be safe,” he said.
The repugnance of the comment aside, the article sent me back to my post, Will Tom Sue?, which asked whether it would be a good idea for Tom Cruise to sue South Park over its Trapped in the Closet episode in which all of South Park asks Tom to “Please come out of the closet!” (clip)
Findlaw did a terrific piece on the question, which included this:
Imagine a white person in the Jim Crow South suing to counter rumors that he was hiding African-American ancestry, and the problem with such a claim becomes plain: The purpose of the claim is to restore the plaintiff to a prior, undeserved position of societal privilege, so he can avoid the maltreatment, racism—and if he is a racist himself, the shame—that he would otherwise suffer. The claim itself, then, rests on a malicious societal hierarchy.
The same is arguably true of a claim by a straight person that he has been falsely labeled as gay: Such a claim takes advantage of the courts so that one person can escape bias that others unfairly suffer.
It also caters to societal bias by saying, in effect, “Stop thinking less of me; I’m not really gay.” But imagine, again, the parallel claim: “Stop thinking less of me, I’m not really African-American.”
I hope Mr. Anwar can take down Dr. Mahathir, but not with a lawsuit alleging that being called gay is defamatory.
RELATED: For how allowing confusion about your heterosexual orientation might actually be a political act in support of equal rights for lesbian and gay people, see Gay Like Me.