Batkid is The Best Thing Ever

Wow, it’s dusty around here.

So, all of my writing time has been for work these days (please click the donate button on the main page if you want to see me focus more here), but I had to come out and write here because I apparently missed the best story of the month, possibly the year, and need to comment on it.

My favorite charity, the Make-a-Wish Foundation (I toured Europe with a jazz band doing work for them twice) granted a wish for a leukemia survivor by going to my favorite medium, comic books. Not only did they turn him into “Batkid,” they had him running around the city in a Lamborghini Batmobile with Batman and his kid brother dressed a Robin. He disarmed a bomb and rescued a woman tied to cable car tracks, mere seconds before the cable car came by. Then he stopped the Riddler from robbing a bank. Then he saved the SF Giants’ mascot, Lou Seal, from being kidnapped by the Penguin who was also hauled off the prison. Both villains were in their delightful Adam West-era costumes.

But that’s not the best part. The best part is that thousands of people got involved in this. San Francisco was turned into Gotham City for this event. There were people cheering him wherever he went. The actual Chief of Police made a public call for his help, and thousands begged his assistance. Graham Nolan, co-creator of Bane and artist for several excellent Batman stories, drew a picture of Bane being frightened of Miles Scott, the 5-year-old secret identity of the mini Caped Crusader.

batkid baneAbout 12,000 volunteers from the city got involved in this. The president of the United States sent him a Vine to congratulate him on his work. He was given the key to the city. The San Francisco Chronicle turned its front page into the Gotham City Chronicle to run stories about his exploits. Former and future Batmen Ben Affleck, Adam West, and Michael Keaton all had great things to say to him.

gotham city chronicleThere is nothing bad about this story, except for a few assholes who think that it was wrong to do because he is in remission. Make-a-Wish’s response: “We would never penalize a child for getting better.”

This is so incredible. This is what comic books are supposed to be about: giving hope to people who don’t have it, making ordinary people feel extraordinary, and uniting people in goodness. It’s what a lot of comic book fans were saying was missing from Man of Steel.

But the sheer outpouring reaction from people is a perfect example of the greatness of human beings. When we come together for goodness, we do amazing things. Thousands of people gave up part of their days just to make a sick five year old feel good about himself.

This story made my year. This is why I read comic books, and why I support Make-a-Wish, and why I love human beings despite all of our flaws.

Hug Club?

Reposting this remarkable idea from Sasha Pixlee at More than Men that Greta Christina expanded on.

1st rule of Hug Club: Let’s talk about Hug Club a lot!

2nd rule of Hug Club: Let’s talk about Hug Club some more!

3rd rule of Hug Club: If someone says “stop” or goes rigid, the hugging is over.

4th rule of Hug Club: As many people can hug at a time as they want!

Go read the rest of the rules at Greta’s blog.

I am Jack’s loving embrace.

Guest Post: Weird, and Proud of It

Guest post from Lisa. I had wanted to respond to this particular Robertson quote since it’s outside of his normal homophobic, misogynistic, racist, anti-intellectual, abilist bullshit. I mean, it’s so generically xenophobic as to be kind of shocking since he’s generally pretty good at specifically identifying all the groups of people who he dislikes rather than just outright saying, “anyone who isn’t just like me.”

Regardless, I’ll let Lisa take it from here.

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You, sir, Mr. Robertson, are an asshole.

I’m a few days behind on this, mostly because I try to avoid the poison spewing forth from Pat Robertson’s general direction. If I paid attention to him on a regular basis, I’d probably need to be on medication to control my blood pressure. He has a tendency to hit far too many of my triggers during any single conversation than most of the other people on the planet. However, this is a particular message to which I feel the need to respond. On Thursday, Mr. Robertson made outrageous and egregiously malicious claims against adoption and, specifically adoption of abused children.

I’ve spoken before about my history as an abuse victim, specifically as the type of abuse victim that he has insulting things to say about, and I can tell you that I AM weird. Of course, weird is the new normal. This is not the 1950’s where we all have a homogenous way of living or risk being forever outcast and unable to function in society by dint of our weirdness. Being weird does not, in any way, make me less deserving of a loving family. I have the great fortune to HAVE a loving family, but how dare you, sir, imply that I am any less deserving of one, or that any child is less deserving of one, especially a child who has been traumatized? Children need loving homes where their needs are met. Plain and Simple.

Now, I know that I fit many of the criteria by which Mr. Robertson thinks me unfit as a human being to be on the planet. Apparently, he believes that as an abuse victim, I must be mentally ill in some way, which is reinforced by my sexual orientation (for those of you not “in the know”, I’m proudly bisexual, though married happily to a wonderful man), but you would never know these things if you met me on the street. Likely, I would tell you, if it happened to come up in conversation, because I do not feel these are things to be ashamed of, as he does. They do not hinder me or my ability to function and add value to the society, just as they would not with any person having gone through what I have. If anything, having been traumatized has given me one greatly positive outcome: EMPATHY. Unlike Mr. Robertson, It pains me to see people suffering unnecessarily no matter their orientation, gender identity, wealth (or lack thereof), or personal history. Suffering is the evil that must be uprooted in our world, and by advocating against loving anyone, especially a child, you are more likely creating the monster you fear them becoming than by taking them in and providing them with love and services that can turn that tide toward a functioning life.

Children need love. They need homes, and food, and clothing. They need education. Children who have been abused also need social services such as therapy, to learn to cope with the tragedy that has befallen them. By avoiding them, you are putting them at greater risk for things like suicide, continuing the cycle of abuse, and other dangers. I know in his perfect world, abuse victims would stay under the radar in some hole somewhere, but eventually we grow up. Without access to vital services and a loving home to nurture us, we won’t grow up to be productive members of society.

I was fortunate to grow up with a family who was incredibly supportive of me. My journey to the other side of the trauma has been long and arduous, and will never be completely finished. I would not have been able to make the progress that I have without them. I spent many years in therapies, from the initial victim’s counseling to depression therapy. Abuse leaves its scars and its un-healing wounds. Every now and again, they creep up. Without the support of loved ones, this would happen more often and be far more dangerous. I would not have learned how to deal with anger, or be able to have a healthy view of sex, and possibly not be able to maintain a relationship with a partner, or be a loving parent to my two healthy, beautiful children.

By advising people to not bring these traumatized children into their loving homes, you are doing irreparable harm to their futures. These are the children who arguably need the most love and support (though it is absolutely needed by all children). These are children who are already in deficit of love and understanding. They need more help, not less, sir. If I had the ability to adopt (the time, funds and care required are currently outside my economic ability), I would not hesitate to take in a child to rescue them from abuse of any kind. Adoption is an incredibly expensive and labor-intensive process. If you are adopting, you WANT a child. Are there not enough children born unwanted in this world every day? I think so. We should be encouraging people to provide for them.

Many people feel unequipped to love a child that has been traumatized, but instead of encouraging them to take a chance to save a child from a harsh system and possibly turn the tide of anger, pain, and fear, you have done the opposite and told them that these children will basically be a poison in their homes.

Shame, sir. Shame on you for encouraging divisiveness where you should be encouraging unity.

Bigotry Can Be Really Expensive

So, the highest ranking of the Catholic clergy in Scotland, Keith Cardinal O’Brien, has put his foot down. He’s going to stand for marriage before it disappears off the face of the planet. And he’s going to do it the way the Catholic Church has traditionally fought: by asking for your money. He told the Sunday Times (emphasis mine):

“Marriage is under threat and politicians need to know the Catholic Church will bear any burden and meeting any cost in its defense. . . We will use this opportunity to remind Catholics of the importance of marriage as a union of a man and a woman and to urge them to be generous in contributing to a special collection which will be used to support initiatives in defense of marriage.

Apparently, this declaration was accompanied with threats of “unprecedented backlash” if his demands were not met. I presume he’s talking about a Crusade or something.

Seriously, what does Cardinal O’Brien think he’s going to do? Threaten to “disestablish” the church from the state like the Church of England did last month? Is the Church going to take its toys and go home? What, exactly, do they think they’re threatening?

Actually, no, I like this plan. Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church of Scotland can turn their back on government, stop meddling in the affairs of state, and leave the secular authorities to make policy that has nothing to do with myths or the desires of the invisible sky pixie.

Seriously, I don’t know how this can be seen as anything but a blatant plea for money at a time when the Church is trying to make up for the corruption and money laundering they just got caught at. I’m not suggesting that the Red Cap Mafia and the Pope aren’t actually, really, and truly squigged out by queers. They are. But if they can parlay that general sense of unease into financial gain through creative interpretations of reality, why pass up the chance?

It’s time that the Church gives up on this. I know I keep saying this about a lot of institutions that oppose gay marriage, but it remains true. They’re fighting a losing battle. While Cardinal O’Brien is calling for people to open their wallets to God, mock gay weddings are happening outside of the Scottish Parliament.

The thing is, they won’t give up on this. They think this is the perfect, unchangable (see how many opinions haven’t altered), and most of all loving word of the Lord. They’re convinced that in order to show any sort of love, they must by nature discriminate, because it’s the will of their probably-fictional ultimate patriarch.

And I find that a little sad. That says quite a bit about the speaker that they see no difference between “love” and “tough love”, that they cannot see the ultimate being as being capable of not discriminating. As per usual, Fred Clark puts it better. He’s speaking to evangelicals, but it applies here to cardinals and the CoE as well:

“Conservative evangelicals reading this are now convinced that what I’m saying here is that we need to reinvent God according to our own preferences. They think I’m saying we need tochange what God is really like and who God really is in order to make the idea of God more popular — more palatable and more acceptable…

What they’re really saying — what they’re really confessing — is that they believe that the actual truth about God is, in fact, unpalatable and unacceptable. They believe that God’s actual character is, in fact, distasteful — that God is exclusive, condemning and oppressive. And that any attempt to portray God as otherwise is a liberal lie.”

The thing is, it’s very easy to believe that. I consider the god he’s referring to here to be a genocidal megalomaniac with all of the maturity of the Squire of Gothos and all the loving kindness of Anthony Freemont. But I also don’t worship such a creature. For a thing to be worthy of worship, it needs to demonstrate that through actions, not just the endless Biblical refrain reminding us of god’s goodness.

Clark, John Shore, a number of my friends, and a whole lot of other people have decided that if love and goodness are essential characteristics of god, then anything that contradicts that must, by its nature, be false. That one cannot be both loving and discriminatory, cannot claim to respect people while pleading for money to prevent their equality, cannot simultaneously obey a doctrine that calls for treating people well and publicly call their relationships “grotesque.” Cardinal O’Brien wants to have it both ways, express his love and disgust at once, and is pathetically pleading that you give money to his organization so that he can impose that sort of twisted logic on others.

Pat Robertson recently said that we can ignore certain things in the Bible. No, really, he did. He was referring to slavery, but it puts him in the awkward position of having to now explain why we can ignore the slavery stuff and not the much more spurious gay stuff. The Catholic Church and the Church of England are not going to put themselves in that position by claiming that you can ignore parts of the Bible, but they are now left in the even more awkward position of having to explain how their loving god demands oppression and inequality.

The best and easiest solution is to stop pretending to know what a creature that is highly unlikely to actually exist wants, but baring that, applying our minds to the task of alleviating human suffering rather than perpetuating it is the only moral option. And for the FSM’s sake (pasta be upon him) stop with these sad, sad calls for money and empty threats. You’re not fooling anyone.

Hate the Sinner?

Recently, a 14-year-old in Iowa confronted Rick Perry on his DADT stance. She asked, quite pointedly, how he could defame gay people in the military who fought and died so that he would have the right to run for president. She revealed in interviews later that she is openly bi-sexual. At 14. In Iowa. This is not only a very smart and articulate young woman, but also an incredibly brave one.

Perry, who is not nearly as smart, articulate, or brave (though there are enough suspicions about whether he and Marcus Bachmann might attend meetings together for self-hating closet cases), fell back on a string of cliches and hid behind his faith.

“Here’s my issue. This is about my faith, and I happen to think, you know, there are a whole hosts of sins. Homosexuality being one of them, and I’m a sinner and so I’m not going to be the first one to throw a stone,” Perry said. “I don’t agree that openly gays [sic] should be serving in the military. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was working and my position is just like I told a guy yesterday, he said, ‘How would you feel if one of your children was [sic] gay?’ I said I’d feel the same way. I hate the sin, but I love the sinner, but having them openly serve in the military, I happen to think as a commander in chief of some 20,000 plus people in the military is not good public policy, and this president was forced by his base to change that policy and I don’t think it was good policy, and I don’t think people in the military thought it was good policy.”

Alright, so let’s forget for a second that there are 1,477,896 active duty members of the military and 1,458,500 reserve personnel. I mean, he’s technically correct in the same way that he would be correct had he said he would be in charge of “more than a dozen people in the military” or, as Douglas Adams so well put it, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Even given the remarkable gift of the Syrup Cuddler for understatement, there are two really worrisome things in this statement. And I think you, my handful of loyal readers, already know what they are.

The first, “This is about my faith…” Alright, stop right there. You’re telling me that if you are elected to the office of the president, your faith gets to trump all available evidence re:national security and military strength? Now, he does go on to say that DADT was working, but like his faith that there’s a God who thinks gay people are choosing to defy His otherwise perfect creation, he’s demonstrably wrong. Even more wrong, in fact, as the nature of God makes proof or disproof impossible and we have actual, tangible evidence that DADT was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea. Mr. Perry’s faith is his to have, and he can believe whatever idiotic thing he wants, but the sad thing here is two-fold: both that he wants to use that belief in defiance of reality and that he’s not entirely wrong in gambling that a whole lot of people will vote for him because of that.

It’s hard to really say if that’s a determining factor since the nature of GOP orthodoxy is such that every candidate is expected to measure themselves against a wall and there is very little daylight between them and the most extreme members of their party, providing a very flat baseline. In other words, if Rick Perry were the only candidate in this race that believed that, we could see if his idiotic beliefs were swaying voters, but since every candidate has to reach a certain quota of insane beliefs and ideals (100% of them, in fact), then there is no control sample. All of the candidates fall over one another to demonstrate how much they understand that God wants them to deny gay people rights, so primary voters don’t actually have to make a choice to still get their dose of homophobia (and magical thinking, Islamophobia, immigrant hatred, family values hypocrisy, etc.) and it throws off analysis of what messages are actually resonating.

The other objectionable part of his rambling dodge (side note: The Rambling Dodge would be a great name for a rock band) was his resurrection of the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” canard.

The question, of course, is “Is this possible?” Short answer: no.

Long Answer:

In order to understand this little bit of theological ju-jitsu, you must first understand that people want to consider themselves good. They also want other people to consider them good. This goes doubly for Christians and infinitely more than that in direct proportion to how loudly they proclaim that faith. So, the average person likes being good, the average Christian has the added inducement to be Christ-like on top of just normal good (pretty high standard, according to the story, I’ll grant), and you go all the way up to Tim Tebow who wants to be good so bad that he’s actually convinced himself that throwing less than half of his passes to completion is awesome and ostentatiously prays between bites at dinner.

The other thing to understand is that being good is hard. It is so much easier to claim to love everybody and continue to hate them to yourself than to actually love everybody. I would argue, in fact, that actually loving everybody is a bad idea, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

So, you have a bunch of Christianists like Perry who believe they must love every person, but also believe that they are squigged out by gays, afraid of Muslims, not happy that they have to study the science thing, and totally convinced that God Loves Them Best. That, my friends, is a recipe for trouble, and thus was born “love the sinner, hate the sin,” a piece of vile dishonesty and rank hypocrisy that allows people to convince themselves that they’re doing what Jesus wants while still doing what makes them comfortable.

In Perry’s (and every other GOP official other than Fred Karger and…there’s at least one more, I think) case, he claims to love the sinner (gays) and hate the sin, but what does that actually mean? We, as humans, experience love. It’s not a measurable thing, so we tend to describe love as a reflection of actions. The same way that we can tell a massive object is in space when we might not be able to see it by seeing the way gravity affects things around it, we can see love in the actions of people toward other people.

So, is it loving to deny rights to people? Categorically not. Unilateral denial of basic human rights afforded to others for no other reason than your particular invisible man said in his confusing and contradictory book that they weren’t in accord with his vision is not an act of love. The question must then be: in what way is the sinner being loved in this scenario?

This is similar to Jules Manson’s claim that he isn’t a racist. Just saying something doesn’t actually make it true, and actions are generally good indicators of emotional realities.

The fact of the matter is, you cannot both love the sinner and hate the sin. Love is something that has to be manifested, expressed, in order for it to have meaning and sincerity. Without that manifestation, it is nothing but potential, an empty promise with an implied, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” It changes love into a salve for those who are too cowardly to admit that there are some things they don’t like for no good reason. They want to be good and, failing that, be thought of as good when the truth is that they irrationally hate various people and don’t want to suffer the social backlash for it.

Moreover, the entire concept is astoundingly condescending. Anybody who “hates the sin but loves the sinner” is basically saying, “I know you don’t know what you’re doing is wrong, but it’s ok, I’m willing to overlook your stupidity.” What sort of self-righteous bullshit is that? You think I’m doing bad things, but you don’t hold them against me because you inexplicably “love” me? If you’re doing terrible things, especially if I don’t know you, I’m not going to love you like some mentally retarded younger cousin who doesn’t know any better. This idea that you somehow know better and barely tolerate my wicked ways severely degrades the very concept of “love,” and that is something up with which I will not put.

So, what’s the solution? The most obvious one is simply, “Don’t be a dick.” You can solve that second problem by attempting to be inclusive, getting over your idiot notions, and weighing things in a way that makes sense.

The issue still comes in with how one can love everybody and still not particularly like certain people or, often, “what they do.” However, the answer to that one is just as easy: stop claiming to love everybody. You can’t do it, you shouldn’t do it. Nobody should feel obligated to love Kim Jong Il, and the world should rejoice in his death. He’s a murderous, oppressive dictator, a monster who starved his people to maintain his bloated army and to glorify himself. We should hate that man. Nobody should feel obligated to love Rick Santorum, or Michelle Bachmann, or Mitt Romney, or Ron Paul, or even Mr. Perry. Especially not Newt Gingrinch. Hell, nobody should feel obligated to love me and while I’m fortunate that many people do, it’s because I give them a reason to.

But please, don’t tell me you love me despite my being queer. Or poly. Or kinky. Or anything else I am that composes the great and gorgeous tapestry that is me. I don’t want your prayers for me to somehow be more in line with your vision of things and I don’t want your condescending tolerance. I want you to be honest that you don’t like things about me, be honest about the reasons, and if there are none, be honest that you have no reasons and accept the consequences that come with disliking somebody irrationally.