Last week I got to spend a good bit of time with Melissa's son Joe. He had driving school here in Little Rock and she was jammed up at work. So I picked him up everyday, got him fed and watered and took him home.
While I have spent a good bit of time with teenagers the last 3 years or so, I don't often spend a lot of solo time with anybody other than my nephews or my Godson. And while there were other things I could be doing, spending time with a 15 year old sure beat hanging around my house listening to the floor in my bathroom being torn out and watching dollar signs fly out the window.
As anyone who has been watching the news lately can glean, last week was pretty momentous. So I took the opportunity to pick Joe's brain about current events. Just to get the perspective of a young person about all of this.
Now Joe is a really good kid and his plenty smart just like his sister. He is refreshingly free of the narcissism you can find in teenagers in general and boy athletes in particular. I suspect that is due to the fact that he knows in his heart of hearts that his mom would kill him if started copping an attitude. And while we get along pretty well, our deepest and most animated discussions revolve around sports, particularly football and basketball. So this was the opportunity to change the subject. Besides, what was he gonna do? Walk back to Conway?
"So Joe," I asked him at lunch on Wednesday. " What you think about all this stuff with the Confederate flag?"
He munched on his sandwich. He shrugged his shoulders.
"It's disrespectful," he said. "I don't think they should fly it."
" Do you and the black guys you hang out with ever talk about this stuff?"
He gave me a blank look. He shook his head.
"No." He shrugged again and returned his attention to the feedbag he had tied on.
He was in class Friday while the Supremes were dropping the bomb over in DC. I asked him if he had heard the news.
"What news?" he asked.
"The United States Supreme Court ruled that state statutes banning same sex marriages are unconstitutional," I said.
Lunch arrived about that time so he quickly turned to the more pressing business at hand. After all, a man's gotta eat.
After he inhaled his chicken nuggets or whatever they were, I decided to press him a little.
"So what do you think about gay folks having the right to marry?" I asked as he loudly sipped through the straw.
"I don't care."
"What do you mean you don't care?"
"I mean they should be able to marry if they want to. I don't care."
A confused look crossed his face.
"Tell me again what happened today."
This happens in class sometimes. Joe, like a lot of kids I have the privilege of being around, is plenty smart. But he's 15. I forget this sometimes. As Huey Long once said, "You got to put the hay down where the goats can get at it." Even the smart goats.
"OK," I said as I backtracked. " The Supreme Court ruled that laws making same sex marriage illegal are unconstitutional. You know you have to get a license to get married right?"
"The Supreme Court ruled that states can't refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay folks just because they are gay."
He nodded his head. And that was that.
Besides, he wanted to talk about the NBA draft. Fine with me. We talked about basketball on the way back to Conway.
Mike Huckabee can threaten to call down fire from Heaven until he is blue in the face. Right wing pundits can bemoan the alleged eradication of "our heritage." The next generation just doesn't see it that way.
After all, it's pretty simple to young Joe. Flying the Stars and Bars is disrespectful. Gay marriage is no big deal. I suspect his views are pretty much in line with others in his peer group. Sure. Not everybody will agree with him. But I'm guessing his opinion is not too divergent from that of his associates.
And that's what won't change. And that's why things will never be the same.
It doesn't matter what Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz thinks. It just doesn't matter.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
This is hilarious.
I ran into my friend Bill in the grocery store the other night. We hadn't seen each other in awhile and resolved to go get some dinner soon to hoist a few and catch up on old news.
I admit to having some reservations about this. The last time I planned to meet Bill for dinner, I wrecked my car en route in the ice and snow. But I'm not overly superstitious so I agreed to meet him Sunday night.
This morning (Friday) I got a text asking for a rain check. Seems he had forgotten about Father's Day being this Sunday.
Now, I tend to forget about Father's Day with something approaching regularity. I am not a Dad and my own father died damn near 40 years ago. As I have written before, at this stage of the game it's almost like Buck never existed. He's an abstraction made tangible primarily by the presence of myself and my brothers and a marble marker at the Veteran's Cemetery.
But really that's about all he remains at this point. No disrespect. It is what it is. I forget about people I haven't spoken to in a year. Try 38.
But Bill has 3 kids. 2 of them are still in town. I think. At least one of them is. Of this I am sure. And Bill forgot Sunday is Father's Day.
I submit that this is one of the main differences between men and women. No Mom in the long and storied history of motherhood has ever forgotten Mother's Day. Ever. I can state this with teleological, if not metaphysical, certitude. I challenge you to prove me wrong.
Most Dads I know can take it or leave it. Or at least they don't want a big honking deal made of the day. My brother Bob probably does but that's OK too. Back when my friend Richard's kids were in the house he used to say that all he wanted for Father's Day was to be left alone. Bill says that while he can relate to Richard's sentiments on the issue, by the same token he allowed as how he could use a travel coffee mug that doesn't leak. If his kids presented him with that he wouldn't turn it down despite his ambivalence about the occasion.
The word "ambivalence" would never be used in connection with Mother's Day by any Mom worthy of the title. Hence another difference between men and women.
I hope Bill gets his mug. If you are a Dad I hope you get your wish for Father's Day.
Even if its just to be left the hell alone for one day.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Dylan Storm Roof, pictured above at his bond hearing, is the only suspect in the shooting spree in historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in which 9 folks were killed. 6 women. 3 men. They were killed Wednesday night during a prayer meeting in the church. According to press reports Roof joined the meeting. As it wound down he opened fire.
Roof seems to fit the usual profile for this kind of perpetrator. Young. A socially inept loner. Unemployed or underemployed. A close relationship with the Internet. And, oh yeah. White.
If the atmosphere at Emanuel AME is anything like the other African-American churches I have had the privilege to attend, I'm certain that Roof was welcomed warmly by the folks there at the meeting. Black churches are like that. Which makes the crime even more reprehensible if that's possible. He intended to kill the pastor he asked to sit by.
The initial reaction from some of our conservative Presidential candidates was that the crime was not about race but was yet another example of the continuing assault against religious people allegedly going on in this great land of ours. Rick Perry even went so far as to initially describe it as "an accident."I suppose that catching a slug from a stranger that you have welcomed into your prayer group could be broadly construed as an assault on your religious freedoms to be sure.
But they dropped that explanation once it got out that one of the survivors quoted Roof as saying prior to the shooting, " You're raping our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."
I'm willing to bet that the "you" to which Roof was referring was not the African Methodist Episcopal church. A doctrinal dispute this was not. This act was motivated by racial animus in the heart of a disturbed young white man revved up by white supremacist web sites and delusions of grandeur. Who unfortunately had access to a firearm. And it was no accident.
I know many responsible gun owners and hunters. They are safety conscious and obey the game laws. I know, off the top of my head, 3 or 4 people with concealed carry permits. They are equally cautious. 2 of the folks I am thinking of have law enforcement backgrounds. I don't give any of them a second thought. I may even join them during next duck season. Only, I will be shooting a Nikon.
And I know many folks that are socially conservative on issues of race and sexuality. It would never cross the mind of any of these folks I am thinking about to go shoot up a black church, a Mosque or a gay bar.
But there are people out there who hate fellow humans for no other reason than they exist. Consider the words "You're taking over our country." They are fairly dripping with zero-sum paranoia. The pregnant aspect of this sentence is "It is because of you that I am a pathetic loser. And I am here to settle the score."
By lighting up a gathering of mostly ladies peaceably attending a meeting in a place they thought was a sanctuary.
You cannot tell me that the 2nd Amendment guarantees that unstable people, and they are mostly men, have a right to own a firearm. You can't practice medicine or law without a license. Everybody has to buy car insurance. You can't have a parade without a permit. There are regulations that govern damn near everything.
What makes guns sacrosanct? Not the 2nd Amendment according to the United States Supreme Court which has ruled that the government can pass regs to keep firearms out the hands of, well, the insane. We have a gun problem in this country. We have a hate problem in this country.
Will the 72 people running for President acknowledge this? Nope. And I disagree with President Obama. Mass killings here in America is "the new normal."
At Roof's bond hearing, some of the relatives of the victims were allowed to speak to him via closed circuit TV. They told him that they forgave him. You can find the video. You should watch it. But make sure there's a tissue handy.
I'm not that good a Christian. I don't think I could. In any event, Dylan Roof does not merit nor deserve the forgiveness of these poor folks.
And he damn sure didn't deserve the right to carry a gun.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Sunday, June 07, 2015
At a party some 30 years ago I was introduced to a psychiatrist who, among other things, provided services to folks that were considering transitioning. Her job was to make sure that such a decision was not the product of otherwise treatable emotional issues. It was a fascinating conversation and I remember clearly what she said.
"These patients tend to be very complicated people."
I remembered this cocktail party discussion when former Olympian Bruce Jenner-not yet Caitlyn-revealed to Dianne Sawyer and the world that he was in the process of becoming a woman.
It is my privilege to count gay people as some of my closest friends. I don't think I know any transgendered folks. I did, however, once see the tennis player Renee Richards back when I was a kid at Tulane. At a Bonanza steak house in Metairie of all damn places. And so I do not profess to have any particular insight into these issues other than I would have to think that being self-aware of a longing at one's core to change the biological condition of one's birth would have to be a scary and lonely place. Although I try not to write about things I know nothing about, it would just have to be.
Caitlyn Jenner's "coming out" to the world has been met with scorn by religious and political conservatives. It has been met with mostly admiration by advocates for LGBT issues. Indeed, it is not inappropriate to view Bruce Jenner's decision to transition as courageous.
However, I tend to view with deep suspicion practically anything that has a basis in the erroneously termed world of "reality TV." And I wonder just what real impact this will have on transgender issues that are grappled with by real people in the real world.
Caitlyn Jenner looks fabulous. But she should. She has money and privilege. She has access to the best medical care and cosmetic surgery. She was photographed for Vanity Fair by Annie Leibovitz for God's sake. This is not reality.
Some might say that I am objectifying her in the same reductive way that women are treated in the media and on the Internet. No I'm not. What else am I supposed to do with this person? She didn't come out of anesthesia quoting Simone De Beauvoir. One could have waded in the ocean of Bruce Jenner's deepest thoughts and scarcely get your ankles wet. As far as I can tell she's still got the same brain. And it is the same one that thought it was a good idea to appear in the movie "Can't Stop The Music."
While I hope Bruce Jenner's transition put transgendered folks in a more favorable light, I fear that it doesn't reflect the "reality" of the issue for most LGBT folks any more than his marriage to Kris Kardashian reflected the "reality" of marriage.
Caitlyn Jenner couldn't exactly disappear. I get that. She has been in the public eye for over 40 years. This is a legitimate news and human interest story. I get that.
I accept Caitlyn Jenner and other transgendered people. One can hope that her story starts a frank and useful discussion in the culture about complicated issues concerning sex and gender.
This is, however, also showbiz. Like the psychiatrist said, these patients are complicated people. I hope that Caitlyn Jenner doesn't turn her new life into a burlesque of the issue. That will do nobody any good.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
By now it seems like all of America has turned its lonely eyes to our little State in a combination of shock, disgust, and not a small amount of schadenfreude over the scandal concerning the downfall of virulent anti-gay activist Josh Duggar after it was revealed that he "made a mistake" as a young kid when he engaged in inappropriate touching of some of his sisters as they slept.
Of course, Josh is but 1/19 (I think. I confess that I'm not really paying attention.) of the notoriously fecund Duggar family who up until recently had their own "reality show" on TLC. I wrote "up until recently" as TLC has suspended the show in light of these allegations and Josh has resigned as president of something called the Family Research Council.
Full disclosure: I have never watched the Duggar's show "19 Kids and Counting." It is my understanding that it provides a platform for them to promote their ultra-conservative Christian values. But I would think that the main draw for viewers, especially those that have kids, is to see just how Jim Bob Duggar and his dutiful wife Michelle manage all of this.
I mean, I can't imagine there being much interest in inserting the camera into the average,say, United Methodist family, with homework, going off to a real school with other kids, soccer practice, piano lessons and the like being the average stuff the camera would record. My friends up the hill still have 4 in the house ranging in age from 16-8. Chaos, albeit happy chaos, prevails. But it's not a freak show.
19? My God. The mind reels.
Much has been written and will be written about this situation. And Jim Bob and Michelle are supposed to appear on Fox to discuss this matter, which has a chance to be fun.
I mainly have one question which I will get to after a brief recitation of the facts.
13 years or so ago, it was discovered that Josh had engaged in "inappropriate touching" of some sisters as they slept. Jim Bob did not notify the authorities. Rather, he sent the boy to Little Rock for counseling at a religious based center that was run at the time by a friend named Bill Gothard, who eventually resigned after allegations of sexual impropriety and harassment on his own part.
Except that Michelle says he didn't really go. She says he stayed with a family friend in Little Rock who was remodeling a house. Whatever.
Jim Bob also took Josh to an Arkansas State Trooper named Joseph Hutchens who supposedly gave the young man what was described as a "stern talk." Mr. Hutchens, as a law enforcement officer was required to report this to the child abuse hotline. He did not because the Duggars told him that only one sister was the object of Josh's curiosity. How do we know this?
Because that's what Hutchens told the coincidentally named tabloid Touch Weekly in an interview from prison where he is pulling 56 years for possession of child pornography.
Now I'm not sure that I would turn my kid over to the authorities under the circumstances. Josh's behavior may well be considered more inappropriate than criminal. I don't necessarily disagree with Jim Bob's thinking at the time. And I don't necessarily disagree with having a cop deliver a lecture to the young man. Countless young people have been diverted from trouble by a good talking to from a police officer.
But it strikes me as really curious that the only people that Jim Bob sought out for help in this matter turned out to have had troublesome allegations of sexual misconduct against them. What are the odds of that? Which leads me to my question.
How many sex offenders do you know and have ready access to, Gentle Reader?
And the Duggars are held out as exemplars of Christian family values?
I mean, really. Think about it.
How many sex offenders do you know?