Republicans Now See Porn In School Books, Too Much Concern About Racism

I will be the first to readily admit a lack of awareness when it comes to abstract art. I may like the colors used or the flow of the brush or the way drops of paint are splattered on a canvas. But when asked about what I ‘see’ my answer would have to be more about the wall it is hanging on than the work itself.

‘Some things are not visual. They only exist when the mind wishes to see them.

This brings me to Texas State Representative Matt Krause, a conservative Republican who is openly waging war on books. He ‘sees’ all sorts of ‘troubling things’ within their pages.

His list of offensive books (for now) only numbers 850. He insists that state schools should go through their stacks and determine if any on his list are found. The reason for such a book-hunting is obvious he claims as the books “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.”

As I scanned his list for censorship I found the masterful read, John Irving’s The Cider House Rules. I can not fathom why that piece of literature should not be used to teach good writing to larger examinations of social issues. Students today are not coming in off the prairie. Rather they are tuned into social media and more aware than adults about an array of topics needing a discussion. Using the classroom to take what they know and then put it into differing perspectives is a most useful educational tool.

Books are an essential means to accomplish that task.

Matt Krause

Krause’s absurdity is but one of the latest and truly reprehensible actions taken as conservative Republicans marshal their forces to create a false narrative about schoolbooks and classroom texts. When a political party can not win on the actual issues, or create policy ideas that mesh with what is actually occurring in the nation then a fabricated and misleading concoction needs to be fomented.

When it comes to Krause and this specific action it becomes even more cynical. He will be in a primary fight to become the next Attorney General. What better way to play to the Trump base, who never saw a book worth reading, and at the same time make some headlines and cash in for a higher name ID in the state? After all, censorship and other illiberal actions are not outside the bounds of the conservative base.

The larger battle underway in the nation is for the midterm elections and the race for the White House in 2024. The culture war started this time from the books and educational material used, or purported to be used, to educate students about America’s history of institutional racism. Now they have swung into books by people of color and others who are gay or transgender.

The teaching of such material, if you listen to the far-right will make Little Johnny and Sally feel uncomfortable about being white children. They might have a fuller appreciation for the totality of the American experience, and that will not play well in rural America.

The students might view personal diversity as a positive aspect of our culture, and better understand the larger idea of America as a “melting pot”. (‘We must not have that in Texas or anywhere!’)

Lord!

Banish the thought that education is designed to open new horizons, ways of thinking, and yes, at times, make for personal discomfort. All that is called part of the educational process.

This fall we were treated to this narrative as it played out in the Virginia governor’s race. Fairfax County resident Laura Murphy took off after Toni Morrison’s treasure of a read Beloved saying that, in part, graphic depictions of sex in the book caused her son–then a senior in high school—troubling dreams.

Say it is not so! A teenager having sex dreams.

For the sake of the conservative base, I trust the dreams were not biracial.

Meanwhile, one does have to wonder what Matt Krause might see in abstract works of art.

And so it goes.

Progress In America: Navy Ship Named For Gay Rights Leader

In the midst of our great challenges ranging from how to keep the pressure on so more Americans understand the rationale for being vaccinated (and I understand the ridiculousness of even needing to still entertain such a need) to pressing forward with a range of social policies in a massive Congressional bill, we can lose sight of the gains we have made as a nation. But it is important to step back from the bombast that echoes from every direction and consider something that happened this weekend.

It is hard to imagine that anyone does not recognize the name of Harvey Milk. He was a powerful leader of the gay rights movement, though he started later in life to challenge existing laws and perceptions. He was elected the first openly gay official in California but assassinated in 1978. His life has been the topic of books, lectures, a major motion picture in 2008, and a play off-Broadway in 2018.

On Saturday a Navy ship named for him was christened and launched in San Diego Bay. This moment had weight to it. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro made that most clearly in his comments.

“The secretary of the Navy needed to be here today, not just to amend the wrongs of the past, but to give inspiration to all of our LGBTQ community leaders who served in the Navy, in uniform today and in the civilian workforce as well too, and to tell them that we’re committed to them in the future,” Del Toro said.

Milk received a less-than-honorable discharge and was forced to resign from the Navy because he was gay. That will not happen in 2021. Conservative guys from the deep South will surely be among those who work on the replenishment oiler USNS Harvey Milk and will be part of the arcing of history towards a more just America. That is what happens when we continually advocate for changes and progress.

The fact that so many gay citizens in uniform had to measure their words and actions in the military so as not to violate truly bigoted codes of conduct was painful and wrong. With social pressure and political tools, however, modernity has been ushered into the military, just like other parts of our society. There are many issues still to be dealt with but no one can miss the significant steps that have been achieved.

It is important to reflect on the victories we score in this nation. Even while we work for the next success.

And so it goes.

Politics Needlessly Ugly, Anti-Gay Statement Proves Point

There is every reason to have robust discussions about paying for broadband access, how to green our nation’s energy supplies, and what might be the best path forward when dealing with a rejuvenated Taliban. There are, and should be energized views and forceful presentations of those opinions.

That frothy nature of our dialogue has been the standard since we threw off King George III. And it is a healthy part of our republic.

But it is the most ridiculous and purposefully divisive rhetoric, far from the issues, that we too often hear that causes for the further polarizing of the nation.

Such was the case recently when Fox News’s Tucker Carlson mocked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for doing exactly what millions of other Americans do every year. The very same program that citizens desire and elected officials recognize as most prudent Carlson openly mocked.

Paternity leave.

Carlson who usually plays on the shallow end of the swimming pool could not contain himself over the idea that two male married parents were raising adopted children. He quipped that Pete and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, were “trying to figure out how to breastfeed.”

That surely made for guffaws around the nation for the low-brow who make a habit of watching such dribble on television. The anti-gay backslap was not lost on the ones who first read about it in news accounts.

The great social swing in this nation on a host of issues from racial accountability, gay marriage, transgender issues, women’s rights, and caring for refugees has left a swath of mostly rural caucasian Americans wondering what happened to their Archie Bunker world. No more smoking in a diner, slapping a waitress on the backside, and using racial slurs as a punchline.

This nation has made some fine and needed steps to structure much of the nation from our neighborhoods to the floors of the United States Senate to reflect our more rational side as a society. So, why then, do some national commentators and an entire ‘news’ network seem unaware that we are well into the 21st century?

I do not think there is a legitimate argument against paternity leave. The bonding between the child(ren) and parents has been proven to be most important in the early weeks of life. But even if someone wanted to play to the far side of the field on the issue why make an anti-gay slam as Carlson did?

What troubles Carlson, and others like him, is the normalcy that comes with gay marriage, gay parents raising children, and the seamless blending that has occurred in communities nationwide. All the wild-eyed lingo from the right-wing about gay rights folded like a wet house of cards.

But people like Tucker Carlson hold onto their prejudices like a raccoon to a late-night find in a garbage can. When they take those views public, however, and feed the base with them it continues to stunt the needed growth among that segment of the nation who keep falling farther behind the majority.

And so it goes.

Anti-Gay Policy By Autocrat Causes International Outrage

Whenever Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Mihály Orbán is mentioned on this blog it is in a negative way. The reason being there is no positive manner in which to write about an autocrat.

With his blessing and strong support, Hungary passed a bill that banned the distribution of material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change. Orbán has long played this type of card as an advocate of traditional Catholic values. Anything that smacks of liberal democracy gets tarred by him as a dangerous undermining of values. One could only wish he would be so concerned with the free press, independent judiciary, and process of open government.

He claimed that the law was aimed at giving parents the exclusive right to decide about their children’s sexual education. And we all know the success that parents worldwide have with sex education within their homes! One of the running themes on this blog has been the need to allow young people to recognize that their sexuality is fine to embrace, and with adults taking that perspective, youth suicide among that demographic can be reduced.

This law has created a major issue among the European Union leaders. Rightfully, they are defending gay rights and piling pressure upon Budapest to step back. Part of their anger comes from Orbán equating homosexuality and sex changes to being akin to pornography. The absurdity speaks for itself.

This is not even close to the first time that Orbán has spit on democratic values. But the level of blowback is increasing concerning his homophobic moves.

Members of the European Parliament are calling for this law, which is to go into effect this week, to be withdrawn and for EU leaders to sanction Budapest.

Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld told the European Parliament: “we can already congratulate Mr Orbán for winning the European championship for the most homophobic law on the continent.”

Flexing political will from the EU is making headlines.

The European parliament has denounced a Hungarian law that bans gay people from appearing in educational materials or on primetime TV as “a clear breach” of its principles of equality.

In a resolution voted in Strasbourg on Thursday by a resounding majority, MEPs condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the Hungarian law as “a clear breach of the EU’s values, principles and law”, while urging the European Commission to launch a fast-track legal case against Viktor Orbán’s government.

Gay people worldwide, and their advocates, need to be engaged in this fight as many of us know full-well the attitudes and dangers felt and experienced in our lives. Progress for rights and changed laws has been a slow and all-uphill trek. While much of the world have enlightened views, or making strides in that direction, we must not forget those who still reside in backward and hostile places.

Such as in Orbán’s Hungary.

And so it goes.

Why It Matters NFL Player Carl Nassib Announced He Is Gay

I rarely address sports related issues on this blog. But the news from Carl Nassib is such that it merits a posting tonight.

The Raiders defensive lineman came out in a statement posted to his Instagram account, becoming the first active player in the National Football League to publicly identify as gay.

I wish we were at a point in the larger society of this nation where such an announcement was akin to a yawn. In places like the city I live, it is not really ‘news’. Liberal and highly educated Madison has embraced living authentically for many years. We are proud, for example, of our openly gay Congressman Mark Pocan, and our openly gay United States Senator Tammy Baldwin.

But the degree to which bigotry and attempts to marginalize gay men and women still occur, and some politicians turn policy ideas into culture war issues for the cheap sake of campaign fodder, proves why the news from Nassib is important to be heard in many places across the nation.

I grew up in a rural conservative town in Waushara County. I just knew it not wise to come out until I was on safer ground. That would occur when I secured a job in Madison and found the friends and environment where coming out was truly one of the easiest events in my life. The part, however, that was difficult for me was knowing that scores of others in places around the state were not able to have that same sense of self, based on the conservative constraints placed upon them.

One of the best ways to reach those conservative areas is to wrap any message in football terms.

Many in the state who follow Green Bay Packers football, and that would constitute a sizable portion, and who perhaps are aware of the gay players who, over time, were part of the teams, know anti-gay behavior was not tolerated by Vince Lombardi.

Multiple players who played for Vince Lombardi, the legendary former Packers and Redskins coach, say that he knew some of his players were gay, and that not only did he not have a problem with it, but he went out of his way to make sure no one else on his team would make it a problem.

Such lessons are important and have value to impart to those who need assurance that being gay is totally fine, and that acting in bigoted ways against gay people is not.

The news from Nassib, therefore, is not an announcement that gay men play the rough and tumble game of football. No, we are well aware that gay people make up all professions. Rather, Nassib stated clearly who he is as a person, not wishing to hide or deflect or lie anymore. He chose to live authentically.

I am proud of him.

I also know how he feels tonight. A little freer. A little less tight in the chest. Deeper breaths never felt better.

I trust that the news does have an impact on others in the state and that it helps carry the ball of progress with gay rights ‘down the field’.

I know we will reach a time in the nation when someone will say they are gay and we will collectively say, ‘that is great’. And yawn.

And so it goes.

Wisconsin’s Pride Month Needs Focus On Transgender Rights

Last week a press release from Democratic Governor Tony Evers stated that the LGBT Pride flag will again fly over the State Capitol. This decision matters for many citizens in our state. Let us make no mistake about the visual importance of the flag bending with the breeze over this wonderful and symbolic building.

At moments like this, I think of gay teenagers in this state who live in rural areas.  I know they need support and assurance that living authentically is truly an option as they prepare for adulthood. The flag and the message it imparts is meant as much to recognize past achievements, as providing continued assurance and hope for the future.

But this year, in light of the national conversation about transgender rights, along with legislation being debated under our Capitol dome about girls’ and women’s sports, makes the flag being hoisted high even more important.

The reason is due to discriminatory legislation aimed at creating sports participation bans for transgender people. We apparently have not had enough culture wars in the state. Outside of the political arena, I have not noticed a groundswell of examples in female sports that required a partisan resolution. Once again, however, a solution is in search of a problem and it is taking up far too much bandwidth with some legislators.

Therefore, if anyone wonders why the pride flag needs to fly over the statehouse should simply follow the news about bills that would allow students to join teams only that correspond to their biological sex as assigned by a doctor at birth. In time, that type of discourse will be as ancient as defining being gay as a mental illness. Until that time we must stay vigilant and fight on.

From a national perspective, this month should also focus our attention on states that are attempting to prohibit gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. We all should be most concerned that partisan legislators are working feverishly in some states to get in between a doctor, who is guided by science and ethics, and a teenager who is in search of medical advice and therapy.

We know that forgoing gender-affirming medical procedures can have tragic consequences with mental health problems which can also lead to drug use and increased rates of suicide. We absolutely must do better for the young people who look to us for guidance and a helping hand.

I can not speak about transgender rights from more than a humane perspective. But as a gay man, I know full well the way it felt when politicians were writing and signing laws to deny my rights over the decades. They had no idea how I felt, or the stresses it placed on my life. As such, I can understand how others now facing discriminatory actions must feel.

It is why I press the case that we must not do harm to those who are dealing with being uncomfortable in their bodies. When it comes to these children I feel a deeper sense of responsibility to speak up and stand alongside those who need our support.

For too long gay Americans were the ones who were vilified by Republicans and used as nothing more than partisan tactics and a means to raise money in letters to the base. Now it is transgender people, including children who are so treated to this abuse.

THAT is the reason the Pride flag needs to fly above the Wisconsin State Capitol.

And so it goes.

Most Americans Do Not Personally Know Active Member Of The Military

I have often wondered how military policy would look if more valedictorians served in the armed forces. What would their families demand of policy-makers when constructing international policy or engaging in military maneuvers? Over the years thoughts of this kind percolated when issues of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, and more recently transgenders openly serving were making headlines  During the national dialogue with both topics the end result furthered an image of the military as being small-minded and backward.

For many in our country who are not involved in the military, but listened and watched those debates, concluded that living a double life was quite pre-Stonewall.  Most Americans know gay people, more and more know a transgender person, and poll after poll shows a strong level of support for a variety of ever-more rights to ensure equality is provided regardless of sexual orientation or biology.  When those topics were making headlines nationally about the military it needs to be noted gay dates for high school proms were no longer uncommon.  In other words, society is moving forward.   

So must the military.

So, it has long been perplexing to me the disconnect between what is happening in neighborhoods across the nation and then what comes from the aging politicians and military planners in Washington.  All this underscores how the mindset of the military as a whole needs to be shaken up.  After all, gay men and women and transexuals just want to serve their country with their heads held high. Does not the nation want a military made up of members serving with pride?

As I think about this matter one question keeps popping forward. Why would any intelligent and self-confident young man or woman coming out of high school want to join the military?  Why would any well-reasoned and educated person want to enter an organization that is so disjointed and illogical when it comes to human sexuality? Or join an organization that is simply backward with their scope of thinking when it comes to people in another land, or the faith they follow?

This should be concerning to us all.

Most people do not personally know any active enlisted members of the military. I do not. But during my life, I have known a number of valedictorians.  Three are in my family.  My husband James, along with my niece Katrina, along with her father Darvin. They all had the honor of representing their class on graduation day. 

But I have known only two people (neither were family, and both were casual acquaintances) who served in Iraq, and in each case, they were stationed there for less than a year.  In one case it was only for a few months, and the young man spent most of it on a base.   When he returned, he told of the type of stunted social development some of his fellow soldiers had, and how uncomfortable it made him hear the way they talked about the people and country where they were stationed.  The words they used were not the ones he heard at home or uttered on his own.

While my dad served in World War II, and a few uncles were in this or that branch of the armed forces, none of their children made the military a destination when they reached adult age.  No one in my high school made the military a career, and the vast majority never even made the military a pit-stop on the road to the future.  I think most people have the same experience as I have had.  Most people simply do not know someone personally in the armed forces.

Why is that? 

Does it not warp the way we feel about war and the policies of the nation if we do not at least know one person involved in a conflict?  It is different to have a young man from the larger community shredded by a roadside bomb than to have a son or cousin meet the same fate.  Does that fact make a difference when we condone this or that military adventure?  I think it does.

I bring this all up today because there is still a strong perception of the military as a place that stigmatizes certain people or groups of people who wish to serve the nation. Such ‘jar-necked’ notions, create an atmosphere where a whole segment of the country says “I want my kid to go to college and not get messed up in the army.”  

That may sound elitist, but it is an honest statement that is played out over and over coast-to-coast in living rooms and kitchens every day.  The military is seen as red-neck and most parents want their kids to have a different direction in life.  That is proved by the fact so many Americans do not know someone serving in the military.

And it will continue to be that way as long as in the military “sand-monkey” is thought to be a funny term, and those who can quote Thoreau are ‘fags’.

It is essential for the long-term military interest of the nation that a strong and determined signal is sent that the modern defense establishment understands that society has changed, and they need to change too.  Until that happens folks across the nation with a good job (because this is also very much an economic issue) are saying “our kids are going to college, they are not getting into the military.”   It has everything to do with what image they want their family to have, and a deeper sense of what parents want their kids to connect with as adults.

Who can blame any parent for wanting the best for their children?

LGBTQ Americans Deserve Protected Class Status, Now Major Lawsuit

In the midst of COVID vaccination shots having taken the top slot on many national newscasts, it might be easy to understand how many Americans missed a significant action taken earlier this year by the House of Representatives. The Equality Act was passed in February, and though it has a steep climb for passage in the Senate it has again made news this week.

The bill would amend federal law, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act, to explicitly include anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans. If you are gay, or have ever talked to anyone who is, it will come as no surprise as to why this legislation was crafted, or why it needs to be passed. The same holds true for transgender people. Without doubt, this bill would provide the strongest legal protections for LGBTQ Americans in history.

Why does this matter? Lets us take just one example which made for a newspaper report this week.

Elizabeth Hunter says she became suicidal after Bob Jones University administrators grilled the former student about her sexuality for tweeting “happy Pride” and writing a book with lesbian characters. She was fined, sent to anti-gay counseling and removed from her job at the campus TV station. Veronica Penales says she’s told officials at Baylor University, where she is a sophomore, that people leave anti-gay notes on her door, but they don’t investigate. Lucas Wilson said he graduated from Liberty University with “a profound sense of shame” after being encouraged to go to conversion therapy.

This would not be allowed to happen to any other minority student. As such, it is more stark examples of the lack of safety and justice for the full LGBTQ community. And this type of outlandish activity occurs continuously, without a remedy.

The bill has gained steam in the past years with 70% of Americans supporting the Equality Act as of Dec. 2020. The polling data comes from GQR and the Human Rights Campaign. That poll shows support up from 65% of voters who supported the legislation in 2018.

The bill passed largely on a party-line vote, with President Biden expressly stating he would sign it if it made its way to his desk. But first, it needs to get past the political party in the Senate that still can not understand gay people are in every family–Blue ones and Red ones. The usual religious organizations have chimed in with their ‘one-note Charlie’ arguments and that is where things have stood since last month.

Until this week.

It was reported that students from 25 religiously-affiliated colleges and universities have filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education, claiming the schools are unconstitutionally discriminating against students in the LGBTQ community, It lists 33 students as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit specifically takes aim at a religious exemption clause in Title IX schools have used to continue with discriminatory practices. The schools, which receive government funding, have been using the exemption clause to evade an executive order Biden signed on his first day in office, which was aimed at “preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

The political calculators are watching now how religious groups are talking with civil rights groups and gay rights groups to lobby for a religious exemption to be explicitly included in the Equality Act. But there is no way to pretend that deep concerns are not most evident and proving as to all why a remedy must be obtained.

The suit injects dozens of personal experiences into a debate about religious liberty and ­LGBTQ rights that’s often been more legalistic. It seeks to put individual faces and names on an aspect of Equality Act debate that doesn’t get much attention — students at conservative Christian schools.

It cites a gay ICU nurse who said he was admitted to a graduate nursing program, sold his car, left his old job and was days away from starting school when he was allegedly told his admission was rescinded because he is engaged to a man. “A grown man with a successful career, loving family and fiancé, [he] went into his closet, curled up in a ball and cried,” the suit says. It cites a queer student who recalls being regularly called slurs on a Christian school’s campus and is afraid to walk at night alone. According to the suit, that person is often subject to disciplinary action for wearing feminine-style clothing. Another said he was fired as a resident assistant and then kicked out of school for being openly bisexual.

I look at my calendar and it reads 2021. It should not only read that way, but feel like that, too. It is imperative this bill become law.