My cousin Herman struggled to take his next breath. The man known for his strong tenor voice lay helpless in a hospital bed, barely able to speak. The scars on his body bore evidence of the drain of living with AIDS. It was time for him to die.
Everyone in the room knew there was nothing that could be done to resurrect his battered body. Most of the family stayed away. For them, Herman made a choice long ago when he informed the family he was gay. They turned their backs on him, leaving him to contend with the devastation of lost vitality on his own.
When they walked away, so did all that comes with being reared in a family of highly religious people. Lost was access to his place of worship and the people who claim to be people of faith. They wouldn't make those much needed visits to the hospital bedside to pray over his bruised body and spirit.
Herman was alone. His death was, for me, a reminder of the great disconnect caused as a consequence of theological confusion.
Herman cried that day. For all those years since being asked not to return to the church, he had wished for one last chance to worship with those he once called family. One last time to sing in front of the people. One last time to hear a prayer. He never got his chance. He died alone drenched in tears.
He was among the rejected, yet his faith in God never died. Herman's death opened my eyes to the massive contradictions found among those who call the black church their home. Historically, it has been a place of refuge for those rejected by the larger society. It has been a home when there was no other home. Those who gather there for worship cling to the contention that hope can be found. That somehow, some way, God would answer their prayers. No sin is too big for God to forgive. There is nothing too hard for God. That is, unless you are gay or lesbian.
When Herman died, alone, in that New York hospital bed, a part of me died with him. It was the part that made assumptions about those who are gay and lesbians. Like those in the church who kicked Herman out, I too had been guilty of burning the bridge that would have allowed them to share in the life of the church. I assumed they were sinners, and that repentance was needed before they could hear from God and participate in the work of the church.
That's "A Conversation that can't be heard: Gays and the Black Church" by Rev. Carl Kenney and it's from The Raleigh-Durham Independent.
If you're in the Eugene Oregon area, Eugene Weekly has some suggestions for next week:
UO students, faculty, and community members will gather at several locations on Thursday, Jan. 20, to mark President-elect George W. Bush's inauguration day with a series of events that will encourage individuals to help inaugurate an alternative, more just and peaceful vision for the U.S., according to Michael Carrigan, one of the organizers. In addition, participants will use the occasion to "celebrate the dawning of a new era in Eugene with the election of Kitty Piercy as mayor," Carrigan says.
Events at UO begin at noon at the EMU with talks by Sandy Morgen, Garrett Epps, Shaul Cohen, Sharon Schuman and Brian Bogart. Related student events with music and more speakers run from 2 to 4 pm.
At 4 pm, students and faculty will march from the EMU to the Federal Building at 7th and Pearl to join the events there.
Scroll down to the third item on the page, "Countering Inauguration" and I'm guessing it's by Alan Pittman who's listed for the fourth item. (The third item has no listed author.)
Moving to the international scene and the international press, Scoop:
The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today urged Congress and the Bush administration to maintain restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia. Congress has limited U.S. weapons and training support for the Indonesian military (TNI) for more than a decade because of human rights violations and other atrocities committed by Indonesia's armed forces.
"The tsunami must not be used as an excuse to sweep away U.S. military restrictions on Indonesia," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. "The Indonesian military's behavior during the current crisis in Aceh shows it hasn't reformed. Brutal operations also continue in West Papua."
Read more of John Miller's " Tsunami Must Not Sweep Away Restrictions on Indonesian Military" by clicking on the link above.
Wanting to protest the inauguration but you're not sure anything is going on in your area? Check out this from North Bay Bohemian:
Barring divine intervention--highly unlikely, considering God is on his side--President George W. Bush will be sworn in for his second term on Thursday, Jan. 20. But there's no reason to take it lying down, except of course for those who join the Not One Damn Dime Day protest on Jan. 20. Organized anonymously over the Internet, the protest urges citizens to spend "not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours" to demonstrate against the Bush administration and the Iraq war. Are such boycotts effective? "Probably not," concludes the debunking squad at Snopes.com. "[I]n this case, our opinion is that someone has taken the futile concept of slacktivism to a new extreme." At least it's cheap.
This is an issue that A Winding Road has also touched on:
The second thing I wanted to note for you all was forwarded to me by a dear friend. It's a boycott of all consumer spending on January 20th, the day on which Bush will be sworn in for a second term. It's a silent form of protest for those who will be unable to be there in person to protest the idea of four more years of hell. I'll let the forward speak for itself:
>> Subject: Don't spend on Jan. 20th
>>>> Inauguration Day, Silent Protest
>>>>>>>>> Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in
>>> Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to
>>> oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not
>>> One Damn
>>> Dime Day" in America.
>>>>> On "Not One Damn Dime Day," those who oppose what is happening in
>>> our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of
>>> all forms of consumer spending.
>>>>>> During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money. Not one
>>> damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for
purchases. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.
Wondering how D.C is reacting to the inauguration? Check out this editorial from The Common Denominator, "Washington's Independent Hometown Newspaper:"
For Americans who cherish the Bill of Rights, it is difficult to rationalize the extreme measures being contemplated in the name of "security" that will be imposed upon citizens and visitors in coming days as parts of the nation's capital are locked down to facilitate events associated with the presidential inauguration.
In this case, it is especially important to distinguish between the official swearing-in of the president and vice president on Jan. 20 – a legally required element of U.S. government structure – and the celebratory activities that precede or follow the ceremony.
We have heard no objections raised to what has become fairly routine security when the president visits the U.S. Capitol, where the oaths of office will be administered, as tradition dictates.
It is the security measures being planned for the latter events – i.e., the "official" parties, but parties nonetheless – that many are questioning. One locally elected official, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alex Padro, has aptly described the planned barricading of the neighborhood adjacent to the Washington Convention Center as imposition of "martial law."
Thousands of residents and business owners, especially in Shaw but also in areas abutting the location of other inaugural festivities that the president plans to attend, have been informed unilaterally that Secret Service requirements for protecting the president will restrict access to and use of their property.
. . .
Freedom of movement? Freedom of association? Security within citizens' own homes? Sorry. If you are not among the elite invited to party with the president to celebrate America's democratic institutions, you will be out of luck.
Dan Frosch charts a disturbing tale in "Soldier's Heart: Thousands of Iraq War Veterans Will Come Home to Face Serious Psychological Problemns And A System that May Not Be REady To help Them" (Baltimore City Paper):
The first time Kristin Peterson's husband hit her, she was asleep in their bed.
She awoke that night a split second after Joshua's fist smashed into her face and ran, terrified and crying, to the bathroom to wipe the blood spurting from her nose.
When she stuck her head back into the bedroom, there he was -- punching at the air, muttering how she was coming after him and how he was going to kill her. Kristin started yelling, but Joshua's eyes were closed. He was still asleep.
The next morning Joshua saw the dried blood on his wife. "'Oh God,'" she recalls him saying. "'I did that.'"
Peterson doesn't remember the night or the nightmares. He also can't remember punching his wife again in his sleep a few weeks later, this time driving her front tooth through her lip, all the while murmuring how he'd never go back.
For six months last year, Peterson helped build an oil pipeline across Iraq as a specialist in the Army's 110th Quartermaster Company. On the same highway where Pvt. Jessica Lynch was ambushed, he saw Iraqi soldiers, dead and rotting, dangling out of their tanks. One time Peterson's truck broke down and he was surrounded by a group of Iraqi children, some throwing rocks, others toting AK-47s."'I kept thinking, God, I can’t handle this," the 24-year-old says with a hollow laugh.
In the LA Weekly, check out Doug Ireland's "The Bush TheocracyRighteous homophobe Claude Allen brings his agenda to the White House:"
President Bush’s appointment of his new chief domestic-policy adviser, Claude Allen — a notorious homophobe, a ferocious enemy of abortion and an opponent of safe-sex education who for years has been one of the AIDS community’s principal enemies — is a huge victory for the social reactionaries of the Christian right.
Allen, who was named to his new position in the White House last week, had previously been a top aide at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He was placed there by Karl Rove as a watchdog on then–HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who had an exaggerated reputation as a "moderate" and who wasn’t entirely trusted by Rove to carry out — by administrative order — the social agenda of the Christian right, a key part of Rove’s successful plan to mobilize millions of Christer voters for Bush’s re-election.
Known as Rove’s enforcer, Allen wielded a heavy, censorious and punitive hand at HHS. In November 2001, Thompson loyally toed the Rove-Bush line when he put Allen in charge of supervising HHS’s audit of HIV-prevention spending. Allen led an HHS witch-hunt that investigated all of the AIDS service organizations (ASOs) receiving any federal funding (like New York City’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis) whose staff members had disrupted Tommy Thompson’s speech to the 14th Annual International AIDS Conference in Barcelona; they were there to protest Bush’s lethal do-nothingism about the AIDS pandemic. These audits were designed to intimidate ASOs into abandoning AIDS advocacy. A number of ASOs, like San Francisco’s Stop AIDS Project and half a dozen other California AIDS-fighting groups, were ultimately purged from receiving U.S. funding by the Allen-led witch-hunt because Allen didn’t like their science-based sex-education programs. Allen ordered Advocates for Youth, the leading national coalition for safe-sex ed, audited half a dozen times.
We honor MLK on Monday. Does your city have a street named after him? Philadelphia doesn't:
Five years ago, a journalist named Jonathan Tilove set out to visit all of the Martin Luther King boulevards, avenues, drives, and streets in America. There are more than 500 of them, and over the course of two years, Tilove walked along each one, discovering in them a profound continuity. He was traveling, he wrote, along a "black Main Street" that ran through nearly every African-American neighborhood in the country.
His journey did not bring him to Philadelphia.
It's hard to believe that there's no MLK street in Philly. Tilove didn't; he called up the Streets Department, where a spokesperson, thinking of Cecil B. Moore, told him that there is one. There's not. There's an MLK High School (on Stenton) and a recreation center (on Cecil B. Moore), but no street.
Several years ago, a movement to dedicate an MLK began. It has made little headway. Some cities identified their MLK immediately after the civil rights leader's assassination. Others fought battles that were proud extensions of the civil rights movement itself. Philly's effort comes down to this: one man sitting in a cluttered office in North Philadelphia with a box full of signatures, lost in the maze of city bureaucracy.
That's from "Why Philly doesn't have a street named after Martin Luther King Jr." by Doron Taussig in The Philadelphia City Paper.
Trying to figure out the January 30th elections in Iraq? Check out The Lone Star Iconoclast's
"Iraq Election Primer: Iraq Government Structure To Be Based On Parliament" by
Jonmichael Swetnam and Anson McCarty:
Voters across Iraq will gather on Jan. 30 to replace the Coalition-appointed Interim Authority with a 275-member popularly elected assembly. The assembly will develop a new constitution defining the future government of Iraq, as well as serve the interim government as a legislative body.
Once the new government is appointed, the assembly will be dissolved.
“Iraq has had a parliament under Saddam Hussein, so this structure is not new. However, Hussein was absolutely brutal in maintaining power. So the objective here is to set up a government that represents the people’s choice,” Dr. Mark Long of Baylor University’s Middle Eastern Studies Department, Waco, said.
The elections are a milestone in that they are the first free elections Iraq has enjoyed in its history, Dr. Avraham Zilkha of the University of Texas’ Department of Middle Eastern Studies, Austin, said.
“The elections will lend the new government legitimacy, because the current administration is seen to a large extent as an American puppet,” Zilkha said.
The polls are open to any Iraqi 18 years of age or older as of Jan. 1, 2005. Voters will select candidates from lists presented by over 80 parties. Iraqi citizens living abroad may vote Jan. 28-30 provided they can demonstrate their citizenship and were born before Dec. 31, 1986. Seats in the new government will be awarded based on proportional representation. That is, parties will be awarded a percentage of the available seats based on the number of votes it received in the elections. So a party that receives 10% of the vote will get 27 seats.
Finally, in the "Less Talk, Show Us the Proof" category, check out Joe Hagan's New York Observer article about 'changes' coming to CNN -- "CNN’s Midlife Midwife:"
"We report the news," he said. "Fox talks about the news."
On Sunday, Jan. 9, Mr. Klein received the blessing of The New York Times, which, in its third editorial, hoped "this"—Mr. Klein’s return to values—"could be the start of something big."
When the Thornburgh report left a smoking crater where CBS News’ Tiffany reputation used to be—along with all the memories of Murrow, Collingswood, Severeid, Cronkite and Moyers—CBS chairman Leslie Moonves promised to steer his ship back to glory by keeping Mr. Heyward in office to overhaul the news division.
But Mr. Klein had already gone to work on his end. He said that CNN already had the slogan it wanted—"The Most Trusted Name in News"—and now it had to live up to its own ad campaign."There was a time when CNN was essential viewing. That’s what we’re getting back to," he said. "We have to be one of those must-view experiences. To do that, we have to provide more real information, more ‘I didn’t know that’ moments. Because the world, post-9/11, is just more complicated and … scary. And people need as much information as they can get. Real information.
And I’m counting on them knowing the difference.
Thanks to Dona, Jim, Elaine, Natalie, Jimmy and Martha for sending in six stories (their suggestions were linked to).
[Note: This post has been corrected to deal with font issues. Hopefully, all were caught.]