Friday, December 17, 2010

A Gift

A Holiday Gift for Those Against the Repeal of
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
For those who have ever parented a child, the absolute worst thing you can tell that child is, “No.”  Don’t do that, don’t touch that, and don’t go there. I don’t like him; I don’t want you to hang out with him. No-you can’t wear that. Whatever it was that you didn’t want that child to do is the exact thing he or she wants to do more than anything, and will do behind your back if they can find a way.
If, however, a parent can make a reasoned argument about something without making a negative ruling on it, the child may try it, but is more likely to lose interest. Try telling a kid that you really love his Mohawk haircut. I’ve done it with a nephew, and the next time I saw him, it was gone.
I have always wondered why gay people want to be in the military. Why would anyone want to risk his life for a country in which beating, killing in some cases, discrimination in housing and jobs, the source of tasteless jokes and derision, and institutionalized dishonesty is forced upon them. I have two theories about this. The first one comes from the stereotype of the very ripped, masculine gay man and the uber-athletic gay woman. Where better to show ones toughness and discipline than in the military? Think back to the disco era (as hard as that may be for some of us who really lived it) and the gorgeous men in uniform of The Village People. And American soldiers are very striking in uniform-I think even most peaceniks can agree on that. They look good-and the stereotype is that gay men like to look good. The stereotype is that gay women like to look strong-healthy, athletic and a touch rebellious. What better way to be all those things than going into a man’s world, and in some cases, besting the men. Think of all the female officers who have famously been asked to leave the service-they won in a man’s world.
Another theory is that gays may join the military because of a deep need to prove that they are just as “American” and patriotic as straights. They are willing to fight and die for this country because they love the country no matter what.
I don’t know if either reason is correct. Maybe both are correct for some. I am not gay, and though I have many gay friends, I have never known one who has served. Not to mention, neither my theories nor their reasons matter all that much. Why? Because once they are eligible to serve openly, the ones who are there will fulfill whatever their career goals, and the rest will not want it any more once it is not forbidden. Didn’t blacks stop joining the military once they were allowed to serve openly with whites?
And while we are at it, the same will likely be true of marriage. Once the right to marry whomever one wishes is afforded to same sex couples, they will realize just how outdated and oppressive marriage is, and they’ll not want that anymore either.
So, for those who are certain that the United States of America will fall once every American has equal protection under the law, as is outlined in our constitution, fear not. I bring you tidings of great joy: neither marriage nor military service is all it’s cracked up to be. And once the gays can do both without having to live a lie-they won’t want to do it anymore.
And I am so glad to have this realization-my husband works with a lot of police men, and I’m not sure that he doesn’t get a gleam in his eye when he is around those guys in uniform. In fact, there was an officer in uniform at our company Christmas party last week, and he and my spouse started talking only to each other, excluding everyone else in the circle, until I spoke up and asked if they planned to exclude the rest of us all evening. If gay marriage were legal, my husband might actually leave me. Bummer. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mass Transit in Fort Worth Sucks

Mass Transit in Fort Worth Sucks
My husband and I have been a one car family for nearly two years. Because of that, we moved into a smelly, high traffic city with no good places to walk our dog so that I could live on a bus route that would take me to work. My husband gets the car (or pick up-this is, after all, Texas) because I work in a doctor’s office which has two locations, both in the city hospital districts. Hospital districts are always placed in poorer areas of cities, and are, therefore, always on bus routes.
When I first started where I work, I had to leave the house to get to my job, about 8 miles from our apartment, nearly two hours before work started, and got there about 10 minutes before clock in time. That’s how sparse the buses are, even though I live on a major city street. I moved in April to our other location, which is 2.1 miles from my house. I leave the house at 6:30, and get to work at 6:50 for my 7:30 clock in because the buses run once per hour, and I would be late to work otherwise. The buses are rarely full, probably because of the silly schedules they run, and the drivers are often surly and condescending if a passenger asks a question. I am one with the ideal notion that using mass transit can be a way to both help the environment, save money and build community. When I tell coworkers that I ride the bus, they are horrified-Texans fall for the notion that only the underclass rides the bus because they can’t afford cars. (That may be a post for another time.)
But last week our local bus company did something that made me proud. They bought advertising from a coalition of local atheist groups to put stickers on the sides of some buses that say “Millions of people are Good without God.” I went to the website of the Fort Worth Star Telegram to see what sort of firestorm was caused by this move. The responses on the newspaper’s blog were reliably mixed, some commending the T, some calling on the people of the city to remember the First Amendment to our Constitution. Some were angry at being “attacked” by the hateful and godless. Within the city some ministers threatened boycotts of the buses, some other writers on the paper followed with articles commenting on the article, and many of the letters to the editor gave the usual comments about Christians being victims and the ongoing “War on Christmas.”
I put a response on the blog regarding the bumper stickers and store signs we’ve been inundated with for YEARS that say, “Jesus is the reason for the Season.” I couldn’t resist placing my tongue firmly in my cheek to remind folks that “the reason for the season” is the earth’s annual trip around the sun.  
But as I thought longer about that seasonal celebration, it occurred to me that the reason we celebrate really IS the trip around the sun. Ever since human beings have formed communities there have been celebrations of light during the long, dark days of winter. The Celts did it, the Jews do it, Muslims and Hindus do it. Even though Christian scholars take certain features of the stories in the New Testament and the myth around the birth of Jesus, and they themselves say he was probably not born in December, but more likely in early summer. But when Christians moved into Celtic Britain, and the winters there were long and bitter cold, they incorporated aspects of Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) and added Christian elements. Why do Christians use an evergreen tree? According to legend, St. Boniface came upon a Celtic celebration of the revered oak, took an axe and chopped the holy oak in half. From the center sprang an evergreen tree, which, according to the saint, represented the fact that the love of the Christian god was evergreen.
There is a scientific/psychological reason for surrounding ourselves with light during these gray days. People tend to be depressed during this time of year and the physical reason is the lack of light. Many people theorize that the reason is the loss of loved ones during this festive season, or unreasonable expectations leading to feelings of sadness in subsequent years. All this may increase the likelihood of depression for some, but the lack of light has been proven scientifically to affect human moods-we need the sun. Like all creatures of earth, we use the sun for energy-though perhaps in a different way than plants. Therefore, when we get together during winter months we celebrate light. If we get down to the bare facts, not one of these feast days really has its root in any god one could choose. It is a basic human drive to fill ourselves with light.
I am not advocating removing Christ from Christmas for Christians. I am not advocating the removal of the Menorah from the Jewish celebration of the eight days of light from one day worth of oil. I guess what I would like to do is be allowed to celebrate the light without being attacked myself for not being a Christian. We are so busy most of the year that setting aside a “season” to remind ourselves of the importance of love and friendship, and light may be the only way to get it done. We’ve gone through our lives all year, and we need a time to break, rest and spend time with something besides our jobs.
This is NOT a “War on Christmas,” and I’m sick to death of that term. While the United States may be a hodge-podge nation, Christians are in the majority, and have most of the power. Those with the power cannot be real victims. But some Christians want so much to silence those who disagree with them that they have chosen to act in ways that are quite contrary to my readings of New Testament Christianity. So, let’s shed some light amongst ourselves this year, and stop calling for war on people who just want a little light in our lives.