26 November 2008

On Gratitude

Dear Reader!

Hello. I've missed you. I haven't been well lately. Very distracted, a little angry, perhaps a little dimmed by storm. But don't worry! I am undaunted. I've hoisted up my sails and, safe within my quarters, I'm determined to ride out the storm.

I have a little treat for you. I'm not going to lecture you this time, not on hunger, nor hypocrisy, nor politics. No. For tonight, as rain falls on Los Angeles, I have a special subject for you. Tonight, I speak of gratitude.

But first! Dear Reader, you don't think I'd leave you hanging with no interactive media to entertain you, do you?! No! Perish the thought. I'll give you this little bit from my bard d'jour, to light the narrow way.

Now to the story.

When I was a kid, I used to read all kinds of things. Fantasy was my favorite:

The Lord of the Rings

A Wizard of Earthsea

Narnia Chronicles

It was an escape, yes. I didn't have to look at the real world when I was lost on the back of a dragon, high above imagined hills. The wind was cool in those places, so far away. The nights were clear and the dawns were bright. The storms meant something. In these places, there were always identifiable adversaries. There was good, and there was evil. You always knew which was which.

You could tell by their castles.

As adults, we learn in layers that life is more complicated than it was in the books of our childhood. Evil is seductive; sometimes it looks like good. Sometimes people do evil in the name of good. Sometimes people do good in name of evil. Things get so grey. Sometimes something is both good AND evil. Most times it is neither, or it is one or other depending on how you look at it, like a hologram or an optical illusion. Morals in the real world are less immutable than in those fantasy worlds of my youth.

No, the real world was not so easy to understand, relate to, or categorize.

So as Ray croons in your computer to "Be Here Now" you might be wondering what this has to do with gratitude. Or maybe, clever Reader, you've already jumped ahead--in mind or on the page--to anticipate where I'm going.

"Don't let your soul get lonely,
Child it's only Time;
It will go by.

Don't look for love
In faces, places
It's in you, that's where you'll find...

Be here now...
Here now

I'm getting older this Saturday. I guess I get older every day, but this one seems to have caught me off guard. I'm struggling a bit, and though I might be able to point at economic or political forces that are dragging me down, some of it is just plain old ME.

And in these times, because the world is not what I learned in my childhood books, I am prone to be sad, and lonely, and a little angry. As Ray sings: "I never learned to count my blessings; I choose instead to dwell in my disasters."

So on this night, on this eve of Thanks, on this precipice, I say to you Reader: Thank you.

I'm grateful for Your Readership, that I am not alone.
I'm grateful for a light to those in darkness, that they are not alone.
I'm grateful for my health and prosperity--both fragile gifts.
I'm grateful that I haven't gotten everything I wanted right away; it makes the getting sweeter.
I'm grateful that fighting for something challenges us to understand why we value it.
I'm grateful for the rain.
I'm grateful for a dizzying and scary parabolic future.
I'm grateful for the opportunities I have, and that they are so numerous they are daunting.
I'm grateful that I don't have to have it all figured out right now.
I'm grateful that I have friends who tell me (repeatedly, and over long horizons of time) that I'm okay, that they love me, and that the world is not as bad as I fear.
I'm grateful that my loving parents told me today that--in their minds--my future partner and I will be married, regardless of what the law or anyone else thinks.
I'm grateful for my family: those to whom I was born, and those whom I have chosen.
I'm grateful that I can feel so deeply.
I'm grateful you're still reading this list.
I'm grateful that I can hear a couple--a man and a woman by the sound of it--having sex somewhere in the vicinity of my apartment. F.
I'm grateful she seems to be enjoying it.

It's so hard sometimes to be grateful. My natural state is not gratitude: it's struggle. I struggle with my gifts, I struggle with my limitations. I'm so blessedly busy struggling I haven't considered (recently, at least) what might happen if I DIDN'T struggle.

What if I did as Ray suggests? Be Here Now, he sings. Here now. It's almost a mantra, a siren call to a sane shore.

I think there is a great link between being present and being grateful. It seems to me that you can't be one without a measure of the other. Don't you think, Reader?

I'm present when I'm reading. I love reading. There's a part of me, let's say it looks like a child, that yearns for those worlds. Not all my friends like it. Some say it contributes to the problem. I don't think so. It's a lense, like glasses, that helps me to see. This is the part of me that doesn't judge--it dreams. I'm also present when I'm writing, for many of the same reasons. Freedom. The capacity to dream.

These are heavy times. If we have savings and investments, we've lost a lot of our wealth. If we don't, we're likely in even more dire straits and are holding on by a thread, or a paycheck. Times will get better. If I were a betting man, I'd say the market bottomed on Friday, and that the economy will recover--modestly--in the second half of 2009. That doesn't mean it will be easy, or linear. Just that the scary part is probably over, and the hard work has just begun. Brace yourselves, and buckle down.

And be kind.

Mostly to yourself.

18 November 2008

On Allocation of Resources

I spend a lot of time deciding on the allocation of resources: financial, human, political, and social.

Consider this: The Wall Street Journal today reports that 691,000 children "went hungry in America in 2007."

And activist churches spend $40,000,000 to see that I can't marry?

Disgraceful. Who's protecting children now? And what does that REALLY say about the family?

The WSJ goes on to point out that 36,200,000 Americans overall went hungry in 2007.

I know this. I spend my time and money trying the heal the damage done by a myopic and hateful group of zealots, and to make my community a stronger and more self-sustaining place--a place where love is free and hate is confined to its rightful place alongside bigorty and ignorance.

Truly despicable.

By their fruits ye shall know them: Stick it to the fags and let the children starve.

08 November 2008

On Our Allies

Dear Courageous Reader!

To those of you who have not read me before, Welcome. Please read here to orient yourself to the task before us.

On Thursday, a rally of thousands gathered at the corners of Wilshire Boulevard and Westwood Avenue in Los Angeles, just blocks from my sparkling glass office. I watched from my computer screen as they gathered, and could hear the helicopters hovering outside my window. It was electric. As they began to move west down Wilshire toward Beverly Hills, I gathered my things and dashed downstairs.

In the grand marble lobby, I raced to the main doors. My friends! Just beyond the glass I could see them marching in the streets!

"The doors are locked," said the secruity guard. I looked at him in haste and irritation: "Which ones aren't?" I said. He pointed, and I moved to go: "Where are you going?" he asked.

"To join my friends!" I called, as the brass door swung out and I dashed into Wilshire Boulevard--across police lines!--and joined my second civil protest this week.

The march was long. We marvelled at the organization and graciousness of the police, who blocked streets ahead of us, and protected us from oncoming traffic. So many people I marched with THANKED them! We thanked the drivers we inconvenienced. Many honked in support, some waved, and some looked sheepishly from their cars--seeking eye contact and a little acknowledgment. I gave it, and so did others. We put the "civil" in civil rights. We are passionate and undeterred, but we are not monsters.

I marched with the growing group down Wilshire, and sat in the center of Wilshire and Santa Monica surrounded by strangers. How many times have you passed by that great crooked crossroads, Reader? A dozen? A hundred? A thousand? Have you looked at the pavement beneath you? Have you touched it? I have, and it was incredible. Imagine the power of sitting in that great intersection, one of the busiest in California, during rush hour, in peaceful protest. Our feet ached, our throats were hoarse, but we were unbowed. We marched on to the so-called Temple, where we enshrined ourselves before its lonely ceremonial gate.

When I returned to my office, it was very late. I had walked miles in my work shoes, and the arches of my feet were like violin strings, taut and whiny. I was tired and hungry.

The same security guard was on duty. "Well," he said. "How was it?"

For the first time in the many times I had seen him, I took full acount of him:, a short, muscular Latino man, a baby face, the suggestion of stubborness in his brow and lips.

"Amazing," I said. "I've never been in anything like that. I never believed I'd need to."

"So," he said, as he squared his feet and took firmer ground. "What is it that's so important?"

So began our conversation, and it lasted the better part of an hour. I listened to him: he is ex-military, a soon-to-be father, a proud Latino. His baby is stubborn, like him. He has tattoos that show when he drives wearing the muscle shirts he favors, and he gets racially profiled by the cops he hopes someday to be. He admitted he was firmly in the "yes" camp, and supported traditional marriage.

He asked many questions: What's the difference between marriage and civil unions or domestic partnerships?

I answered as best I could. I told him that civil unions and domestic partnerships are Frankenstein monsters, with rights missing and things not quite in place. They are subject to contest, and are often questioned. They are complex, confusing, and misunderstood. Marriage, by contrast, anyone can get with a few dollars and a trip to City Hall.

"Well," he said, "let me be honest, there's an ick factor. I don't want to see two guys kissing."

I laughed at this. "Yes," I said with a smile. "I suppose there is. But that's not what this is about, and there are 'ick factors' to a lot of things that regular folks do."

At one point he leaned back a little and said, "Everything I heard was Yes on 8 in my community."

I nodded. "I'm sorry," I said. "That's too bad. It only takes 30 seconds to remind someone of their fear and to raise doubt. It takes a lot longer to have conversations like this."

He agreed, and asked about his child. "I don't want them learning about gay sex in sex ed."

To this I said: "Don't you think it's amazing that we can't teach our kids basic math and sentence structure, but we're worried about what they're going to learn in sex ed? How much did you learn in sex ed that you hadn't already known from other kids, anyway?" He laughed at this, "Not much."

"And is this the right way to legislate that concern? Deny me 1,138 legal rights that are afforded by marriage?"

I went on: "I could marry any woman off the street, and she would have more rights in that partnership than if I 'unioned' my partner of 15 years. Does that seem fair to you?"

"No," he admitted.

The conversation turned to cars, and football. I told him about how I started to become a football fan, and how surprised I was at the first stirrings of team loyalty. It makes for strange bedfellows, as they say.

Then, he said that he had once been asked what he'd do if his kid came out to him as gay or lesbian. "I think I'd kick them out," he said. Then he reconsidered. "Naw, but I'd want to."

My eyebrows raised, I nodded and asked, "And where would they go? Would they find a loving community somewhere else? What kind of rights would that community have? Let me tell you about the Trevor Project, which is the nation's only 24 hour suicide and crisis prevention hotline for gay and lesbian youth. 14,000 calls a year we field from kids who are lost, whose parents have kicked them out, and who only want to die. Is THAT the world you want for your little baby? Or her best friend? Or his soccer buddy?"

"No," he said. Then he paused, "You know, this stuff comes up a lot in my house, and we talk about it all the time. But I've never had this kind of perspective before. I think you've kinda changed my perspective a little. I was firmly "yes" before this, and now..."

He trailed off, and his hands rested on the marble desk that separated us. He had made the gesture of two hands far apart, coming closer, meeting in the middle. Our conversation was near its close. "But do you think that protest had any effect?"

A chill went up my spine at this question. Of course, I thought. The answer is so clear.

"Yes," I said. "Look at this conversation we've had. Maybe you'll have one that opens up somebody's mind near you, too."


This battle we face will be long and hard and cannot be waged without the support of our many allies. They are legion: Google, Apple, PG&E, teachers, mayors, religious leaders, businessmen, you, your friends, your relatives.

But our allies are in unexpected places! Our allies are in the people who voted yes on this terrible proposition because no one had talked to them with candor and respect. We need to demonstrate the compassion and patience that our detractors have so sadly lost in their zeal for righteousness.

I saw that same security guard this morning; he'd had an 8 hour turn-around on his shifts, for those astute Readers who are wondering about time-lines.

I told him I appreciated our conversation last night.

He smiled: "Me too. I talked to my fiancee when I got home, and she was like, 'Now you're No on 8?' I told her I guess so."


My Reader, My Revolutionary, when the day comes that you are asked by your children and your grandchildren about this time ("Grandma, why would they treat people like that?"), will you say with grace and pride, "I was not silent"?

We must speak. People are discussing this already, and they are looking for a new perspective. The old perspectives--the ones the TV and some old guy gave them--don't fit quite right. We know why they don't fit. Share this blog. Share any blog. We do not speak alone when we are united in purpose and fairness.

Speak up, and speak out, though you and I may never meet and though you may never face what I face now.

For know this, and hold it in your heart:

My dear Reader, when the time comes, I'll do the same for you.

06 November 2008

On Fairness and Freedom

Hello, dear Reader! Did you miss me? I've missed me, too.

Sable Crow has been fighting on the front lines of two wars--one financial, one civil--that have left his feathers ruffled and his beak a little scratched.

Later, I have pictures from last night's civil rights march (What do you wear for a civil rights march, Diabolina?), and more thoughts on where we're going economically.

For now, I have some thoughts on 8.

I have been callously calling for a financial crisis to awaken our sense of fiscal responsibility. Sadly, my calls have been answered, and the style pages of the Wall Street Journal now speak of self-restraint as the new chic. Quelle surprise: we're more prosperous if we save and invest than if we squander our money on foreign goods.

But we have other responsibilities as well...

In the gay rights movement (what, there's a gay rights movement? EXACTLY) the passage of Prop 8 has been another kind of wake-up call, and has had an unintended consequence: a sleeping dragon has been awakened. Now is the time for us to rise up with many voices, this time with a powerful network of business, ethnic, and religious leaders, and demand equality. Progress was so soothing, so inexorable, so taken for granted. If we've learned anything, it's not to take freedom for granted.

First, a word about blame: I can't imagine anything that would make the Mormon or Catholic churches more happy than if we spent our resources fighting the black community or within our own. What a joy for them! Eliminate marriage equality and get your adversaries in-fighting, all in one fell swoop!

Tempting though it may be, let's not do it. Let's stay focused:

They voted to silence us.
They counted on our 'tolerance' of their bigotry.
Their fondest hope is our acceptance of this travesty.

They will be greatly disappointed.

We will not be silent: The conversations have begun in workplaces (even my own!), in homes around the state, and even in places of worship. Fair-minded people who were scared can still be reached with civil discourse. There were so many, and it is a hard road to bring reason to a frightened public. Reason doesn't make for good spot-ads, and it doesn't make for good drama. It's just boring old civic equality.

But look at the national discourse: the politics of fear and hate can only stand so long against the voices of millions speaking in unity.

It's too late, Sable Crow, says the Skeptical Reader. It's already passed. This should have come before.

I ask: When is it too late for progress? The first setback? The second? The 50th? Was 1920 too late for women's suffrage? Was 1954 too late for integration of schools? Was 1967 too late for interracial marriage? (Look at the parallels in these links to the struggle we now face.) It's not too late. This was no referrendum. This was a sliver, a splinter under a nail, a whimper of a victory. Our rights will not be deprived by constitutional hijacking. The Proposition will be overturned.

But make no mistake: it is our responsibility to speak out and build bridges of the heart. To revive the movement, we must, as Yoda might say. I think he'd probably be on the side of fairness and freedom.

Who is "we," Sable Crow? you ask. Good question.

"We" are fair-minded and rational people, speaking out to those outside the gay and lesbian community. It is not only gays and lesbians that must speak. We are a minority, however visible. We need our allies to succeed.

So many of my friends talked to their parents. Speak out more. If you're straight, say "gay" without meaning "fucked up" and talk to people about civil equality. That's it. Talk to them about fairness. Dare to speak to your grandparents. They want to hear from you anyway.

I talked to mine about same-gender marriage, and they SHOCKED me. A Methodist and a Presbyterian, each in their late eighties, said: The answer is clear. [Here it comes, I thought...] Let people love and get married as they wish. We have enough to worry about without depriving people of that basic human right. Our hope for you, Sable Crow, is that we get to meet the man you will marry.

I was stunned.

When the fearful bring up children, ask them why it's bad to have children know that gays exist. Be warned. To answer, they must uproot their prejudice and fear. To answer this question, a person must look at what it is that is BAD about gays and lesbians. They will find little substance behind the cloak of visceral fear.

It's ironic that we can't teach kids to read or do basic math, but we're sure afriad they might learn about diversity and acceptance. If they learn about that, how will kids act? With acceptance? How will they learn to hate or fear?


If you like this post, and don't know what to say yourself, share it with someone you think is fair and resonable. Honor me by letting me speak on your behalf. Ask for their help. Ask for their ear, and maybe their voice, if they are brave and freedom-loving Americans. Don't be afraid to speak. Half the people you speak to already agree, anyway. But we cannot and will not be quiet any more.

To those Readers who are outside the gay and lesbian community, let me tell you about us:
We pay taxes. We buy goods. We work. We laugh. We cry. We hope. We struggle, we love, and we die.

We're the same as everyone else. We ARE everyone else.

We are one. And yes, We can, too.