The court is in session

A list of traitors:

Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.

Laura Ingraham

Ralph Alvarado

Peter Thiel

All of you have been accused of treason against the very people you are – black, woman, Latino and gay. Your trials start now.

Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., you are one Milwaukee county’s “finest” and an African American whose opening line for your Republican National Convention speech was “Blue lives matter in America.” The crowd, predictably, went wild, especially because they had a real live black man up at the big house doing their bidding. In your use of the bluelivesmatter line, you denigrated the entire idea of #blacklivesmatter, defaced the corpses of the black men killed by white cops and joined millions of whites in co-opting a black idea for their own antagonistic purposes. Ironically, one of the images in the audience after your clarion opener was of a blond, white woman holding a “Make Our Borders Safe Again” sign. Fear of brown people runs deep amongst nervous unconscious white women protecting the homestead from being overrun by ravening crowds of dark men intent on rape.

You went on to say that the “safety that many of us once took for granted is shattered.” You can’t be speaking from you own experience, because every black person I know has said they’ve never felt safe around the police, and why should they? Much of the police force is a tool of a white-empowered state choked by racism. The “actions of Occupy and Black Lives Matter violates the code [of law] we rely on. I call it anarchy.” The trouble with that precious code of law that you spent much of your speech defending is that the law, literal and tacit, does not stand up for all people equally. When the center doesn’t hold, anarchy, naturally, is loosed upon the world.

Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. Guilty.

Laura Ingraham, we are not surprised by your chest-thumping for an America that never existed (read: the one your parents left you). Nor are we shocked by the black magic necromancy you employed to resurrect Ronald Reagan’s befuddled shade riding in on his white horse to save America from the clutches of Jimmy Carter. You spoke endlessly of respect, which your deceased mother taught you, and then had the temerity to say that Donald Trump “understands we have to restore respect across all levels of society.”

Ms. Ingraham, single mother of three adopted children, including one daughter, do these words mean anything to you?

“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

“My favorite part [of Pulp Fiction] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: ‘Bitch be cool.’ I love those lines.”

Women are “fat pigs,” “slobs,” “dogs,” and “disgusting animals.”

“There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

Ah, respect, yes, I see how Donald Trump is the champion for respectful behavior, especially toward women. I bet your mother, who worked as a waitress until she was 73 and likely endured a misogynistic attitude or two over the course of working with men, would be proud of your endorsement for Trump, a man as bankrupt on respect as his businesses.

Laura Ingraham. Guilty.

Ralph Alvarado, you proudly declared that you’re the first Hispanic person to be voted into the Kentucky state assembly. You showed yourself to be a good Latino (and legal, you were quick to point out) raised by parents who taught you about “family values, discipline, love and faith in God.” Because of that hallowed upbringing by legal (did I say, legal?) immigrant parents you learned that “Hispanics believe what Republicans believe – traditional family values, church, faith in God, the dignity of work and the opportunity for self sufficiency that comes from a free society and a limited government.”

You also lamented the current state of the nation and addressed (in your own way) the terrible racism we continue to endure.

“Today we have a president who has not only failed to end racial tension, he has made us more divided than ever.”

So, naturally, you’re voting for Trump, who has categorized illegal immigrants as rapists and drug dealers intent on snatching good jobs from Americans. This past week, I helped set up a friend’s remodeled store. There were tons of construction crews, painters, electricians and a cleaning crew army. Not all of them spoke English. And I did wonder occasionally how many of them were illegal immigrants versus legal ones. But I can tell you they worked their asses off. Showed up early. Went home late. Did excellent work and probably didn’t get paid as much as they should have.

I also worked alongside a white woman who had a gig at a restaurant. She told me that working as a cook didn’t pay much because of all the illegals who take less money for the job. “They’re ruining it for us.”

My response: “To be completely fair, let’s not forget that the white employers are happily employing those people for less money. We can’t lay it on the workers’ heads.”

Back to Alvarado. Your parents did not work their asses off, learn another language and suffer discrimination so that you can support a man who has already deepened racial division just by running for office. Trump is digging into the shadow of white rage against you, but like a good Hispanic who believes in a religious system with a slave morality, you line up with the oppressor who’s only going to send your ass back over the border when he figures out how.

Ralph Alvarado. Guilty.

And finally Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal who doesn’t believe in democratic forms of government (see Rachel Maddow clip below). This one cuts deep.

“I am not a politician and neither is Donald Trump. He is a builder.”

Hailing from Silicon Valley where you’ve worked in startups for several years and are now a billionaire, you grew up in Cleveland and waxed rhapsodic over your memories of America’s great technological past. You then said how the country’s submarine bases are still using floppy disks and our fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain.

“A sad decline for the country that completed the Manhattan Project.”

Dude. You do know the Manhattan Project led to Hiroshima and the flesh-melting specter of a nuclear holocaust, right? Okay, just checking.

As a child, you said the great debate was about defeating the Soviet Union.

“Now, we’re told the great debate is who gets to use which bathroom…who cares?”

And then you said this:

“I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican, but most of all, I am proud to be an American.”

Standing ovation.

You can’t be proud to be gay and be a Republican. Because at the same Republican convention where you spoke about the pride of America’s nuclear ambitions and the pride you have in sucking dick (that is, if any self-respecting gay man will touch you after your antics), your party proved its colors. Again. It trounced same-sex marriage in its party platform along with any semblance of transgender rights.

In your rush to fit in, you stepped on everyone who fought for you to be able to declare who you are. You stepped on all the people dead throughout the centuries who were tried and killed for being queer. You stepped on every victim in the Orlando shooting. And you stepped on every man who ever deigned to love you and fuck you.

Peter Thiel. Guilty.

Each one of you has fallen into the bottomless well of greed and doublespeak that is the hallmark of conservative ideology. Each one of you has sold your people into the hands of slave masters who view you as chattel to be trotted out for their own desultory stabs at diversity, and each one of you has become a shame to your ancestors and your children.

 

 

 

 

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Scattered thoughts on revenge

Driving back from the northern cooler climes of Arizona, my husband and I saw three white people carrying signs outside a Walmart:

Rally for our police!

Support our police!

A woman with a smile on her face shook police-blue pom-poms at passing cars as if inviting them to a tailgate party.

Three days after the shooting of Dallas police.

One day after the shooting of Philando Castile.

Two days after the shooting of Alton Sterling.

And I heard Pirate Jenny (in the voice of Nina Simone, of course) in my head –

As they pile up the bodies, I’ll say – that’ll learn ya!

A conversation I had recently with a well-regarded traumatologist who has spent years traveling to hell and back to ease the suffering of children abducted by Boko Haram and people brutalized by the Bosnian-Serbian conflict (among others).

We spoke of lions and elephants. When the lionesses kill a young elephant to feed their cubs, the matriarch of elephants gathers up her sisters and tramples the cubs.

She says research yields terrifying conclusions about revenge:

People who take revenge don’t suffer from PTSD in near the numbers as those who turn the other cheek.

Which leads me to the River Styx (for where else are we going but the Underworld?) –

Flowing around the land of the dead in ancient Greek cosmology, the River Styx, according to archetypal psychologist James Hillman, “whose name, ‘hateful’ or ‘hatred’…is the deepest source of the Gods’ morality, for on its water they swear their oaths, implying that hatred plays an essential part in the universal order of things.” (The Dream and the Underworld)

Blanche, you might fancy yourself better than the brutes, but life’s a Greek tragedy and we’re all playing lions or elephants.

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A letter to Congress on July 4th

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Dear Congress,

My name is Greg Marzullo. I am a 39 year-old gay man, and I’m writing to you from the American front.

Corpses litter the ground around me. Those who aren’t dead are crippled in both body and mind. Children are slaughtered. People of color lie bleeding from wounds never healed. Women, victimized by brutal men, scream in the streets.

And my people, or at least the ones I feel I have a right to claim, have been savaged by violence again. LGBTQ citizens of this country, which allegedly grants them certain inalienable rights, have been, most recently, mown down in an anti-gay hate crime at a nightclub.

Time is brief, and in this gun-toting America, it’s getting shorter by the hour. Before I, too, become a name to be read at a candlelit memorial, I feel I must remind you not of your duties, for those seem long forgotten, but of the very people you’ve stepped on during your ascent to the podium.

We, the people.

People who are black.
People who are brown.
People who are mixed.
People who are women.
People who are men.
People who are both.
People who are queer.
People who are poor.
People in the projects.
People in the sticks.
People under bridges.
People drowned in fear.
People seared by grief.
People burn enraged.

We, the people
do not expect you to stand up for us,
because you haven’t.
And you don’t.
And you need to.
And I wish you would.

Because we’re dying out here.

While you sit in the hallowed halls of Congress and debate the importance of state birds and dead-end inquiries into Benghazi, we’re being butchered. You spend millions of our money on programs to “keep America safe,” but America hasn’t been safe for some time. A political bait-and-switch, you rile up the masses with ghosts conjured from beyond our borders, but we, the people, know where the real terror lies.

In our streets,
In our clubs,
In our schools,
In our churches,
In the day-to-day lives
you have forgotten;

Politicians enflamed with lust
for the soured honorific of “Congressman,”
you vote against we,
the people, because you are not
of the people.

I want you to read my letter from the battlefield that America has become, scrawled lines of prose and poetry tossed off in the light of fire, because, as I lay dying, I want you to know you’ve defiled your office, the country and all of us.

Sincerely,

Greg Marzullo

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We need to Check It.

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My freshman year of college was not the most academically glittering time of my life (a 1.17 GPA would attest to that), but one of the few assignments I did turn in touched me personally. For a freshman English comp class, I chose to do my research paper on hate crimes against LGBT people. I spent hours in the library, nauseated by the dizzying whirl of microfiche, as I culled articles and FBI reports about the prevalence of violent crimes against my sisters and brothers.

Even then, numbers were hazy, but one thing became crystal clear – the violence itself was notably grim. Many of the hate crimes exhibited signs of “overkill,” an almost redundant use of force, seemingly caused by the depth of hatred for the victims. Late at night, in the library’s dark basement, I read of people beaten to death with a hammer; shot and then stabbed; thrown through a plate glass window; even slashed to ribbons with broken bottles.

The statistics haven’t abated in the past 20 years. In fact, they’ve risen, partially due to a better reporting system, but that system is still seriously flawed, especially when it comes to towns outside the reach of major metropolitan areas. According to recent F.B.I. numbers, LGBT people are more likely to be a victim of a hate crime than any other minority group in the country.

Orlando was not an anomaly. It was striking for its scope, but it’s nothing new, and in the midst of all the sympathetic handwringing by politicos and community leaders, the names of thousands victimized by anti-queer bias have gone unspoken. There are no candlelit vigils or worldwide outpourings of grief for the relentless grind of beatings, disfigurings and murders that take place against queer people every day.

After the Pulse massacre, LGBTQ organizations sat up from their marriage beds and decided that gun control should be our next cause celebre, but we can’t lobby our legislators now (and late, I might add) and think that a Congress who didn’t vote for gun restrictions after the slaughter of over 20 children at an elementary school are going to protect a group of people that many can’t even name in their pallid prayers.

If we are to be protected from violence and other forms of discrimination, we must come up with something new and radical.

Enter the Check It.

Washington, D.C., a town that, compared to rural backwaters, seems to have its queer (or, more accurately, its white gay male affluent) self together, boasts one of the highest rates of anti-LGBTQ violence in the nation. In response, a group of African-American teens from the Trinidad neighborhood formed a queer gang somewhere around 2010. These kids suffered terrible violence and disenfranchisement for being gay and/or trans. They’d been stabbed, shot and beaten senseless by peers or people in the neighborhood. They were kicked out of their homes by drug-addled relatives and suspended from schools for striking out against homophobes.

So they decided to fight back with the Check It, a gang that served, as so many gangs have done over the course of history, as a protective family unit forged in the fires of debilitating poverty, violence and degradation. However, in an inimitably queer sense where radicalism so often dovetails with art, the group developed an entire fashion aesthetic for their gang identity. They stomped down the street, purse first, wearing clothes one could only describe as fabulous, and summer fashion camps became a regular seasonal happening for group members. Their sartorial past times eventually developed into Check It Enterprises, which hopes to shift the focus away from rap sheets to fabric swatches. (Click here to visit the group’s website where you can support their endeavors by buying a t-shirt.)

In a documentary about the gang that played the Tribeca Film Festival in April and also made an appearance at the AFI SilverDocs festival this past weekend in Washington, one of the gang’s members says, “No one was gonna stand up for us. We stood up for ourselves.”

It’s very popular in current politics and so-called activism in the LGBT community to pray at the altars of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi, rightfully holding them up as paragons of social change against crushing forces of bigotry. We look down on those who would resort to violence and try to convince them that living by the sword means they’ll most certainly die by it.

Yet LGBTQ Americans (and their allies) can not call for peaceful responses to homo- and transphobic discrimination without a willingness to be as radical as those great leaders of civil disobedience. Lobbying and fundraising dinners aren’t going to cut it. Neither are the tired protest chants grown toothless since they were first heard in the streets. (“Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! blahblahblahblah’s Got to Go!”) We can’t just tear a faded page from the civil rights, suffragette or anti-war playbooks. The actions from those eras are now nothing but tropes that nobody listens to anymore, and the danger of reviving them is that the opposition knows how to deftly (if disingenuously) counter them (all due respect to John Lewis).

Why did the Check It manage to grab the attention of filmmakers, media and even New York Fashion Week? Because they did something unheard of.

It’s time we all check ourselves, stop singing “We Shall Overcome” and write a new song, one that can be heard by a world gone deaf to spirituals.

 

A sidebar: Some regular readers may have noticed the Scourge has gone off its founding ideas of reporting on religious foolishness in the world. The blog is expanding its scope. The idea of heretics definitely remains the same, but being heretical is not just limited to a religious context. A heretic is someone who goes against the grain, who stands up for justice and clear thought in the face of people and institutions who demonize us for being different. Each week’s posting will relate to something in the news where the perspective of a heretic would do us all some good. 

 

 

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A eulogy (of sorts) for Omar Mateen

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I’ve met you before, Omar Mateen. I’ve known you for years. For decades, I’ve heard your voice and seen your troubled eyes glance furtively in my direction.

You see, you’re one of hundreds of men I’ve known in my lifetime who rest their manhood squarely on the shaky ground of homophobia and misogyny. I first met you in sixth grade when everything changed and all my former friends began to shun me, call me “faggot” in classrooms, hallways, buses, locker rooms. You threatened me, spat at me, encouraged others to do the same, until any association with me was a stain on their burgeoning sexuality. I sat alone at lunch tables. Read at recess. Disappeared into books and poetry and the darkness of a theater whose shadowy wings sheltered all the glorious freaks.

In college, you were everywhere. The dorms. The lecture halls. The student union. Once when I was walking on the street with a straight friend, you yelled “faggot” at me from a car window. My friend said, incredulously, “That guy called you a fag!”

“Really? I don’t even hear it anymore.”

After I graduated, you lived down the street from me and one night, you egged my car and wrote “Fags Burn In Hell” at the foot of my driveway.

Inevitably, I see you at Pride, carrying your tired signs about sodomites, the flames of perdition, Adam and Steve (it wasn’t clever the first time, it’s certainly not clever now) – each one splattered with more pornographic imagery than the wall of a bathhouse.

I hear you in the mutterings of those who’ve said I’m “disgusting,” a “sinner,” “unnatural” or a “pervert” when I’ve held a man’s hand in public.

Omar Mateen, you’re all around, although the people of my country like to pretend you’re an anomaly. They wring their hands, shake their heads, attend rallies and put a blurb on Facebook as if you’re a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon that will ultimately bring us closer together so something like this will never happen again, and while their feelings are real, I wonder how deep they run.

And then there are the rumors that you struggled with your own sexuality. I barked a harsh laugh when someone read me the headline that you’d been seen on gay apps and in clubs. That’s no surprise to me or any other LGBTQ person. It may not be true, the jury is still out on so much, but the possibility follows a groove well worn. Some kid grows up in a family with a father who didn’t seem to question his son’s angry response to seeing two men kissing (or the New York Times reporter never asked, a grievous offense either way). He grew up in a religion that bluntly tells its adherents to kill what we call gay or bisexual people. He grew up in a country – the United States – where homophobia and transphobia have been part and parcel of the hysterical political discourse for decades. He went to school in an educational system formed by the so-called ethics of religion and government.

When “god,” the government and the educational system of a nation tell its flock, overtly or tacitly, that a group of people is sinful/criminal/predatory, it’s a wonder all of us haven’t been blown away. Instead we do your work for you, taking our own lives to escape the cruelty of your words and fists. We dash off a quick note or, in this Orwellian era, create a video to be posted later on social media for people to shake their heads over before gorging themselves on “reality” television.

So while some people will forget you, your cocky selfie smirk fading in their memories, I will not. I will always remember you, because you’re not dead. You live on in the preachers, the senators, the imams, the representatives, the rabbis, the presidents, the faithful, the hundreds of people I see each day who purse their lips, tell me to quiet down, cool my anger, work to find common ground, take stock of all the progress we’ve made so far as if I should be grateful to them for doing the bare minimum.

But beyond all that, we share something deeper, Omar.

Rage.

Like you, I will go to my grave carrying a coal that burns inside me over the injustice suffered not just by me, but by the thousands across history’s years who were tortured, murdered, exiled, thrown from buildings, doused with gas and burned, hung in public squares, beaten in schoolyards, sent to extermination camps, attacked on city streets and slowly smothered from a life of backbreaking duplicity. And while it’s not popular, and while we want to believe we’re all more tolerant and forgiving, citing syrupy scriptures as a moral high ground, my first response when I heard of your latest crime was, “Kill them all.” I want to wipe you, in all your iterations, from the face of the earth.

It’s unlikely that I’ll become a vigilante, not because I don’t think it has value, but  because ultimately, I don’t know that I’m cut out for it. My weapons are my words and the well-honed refusal to keep quiet about the pervasive anti-queer sentiments flooding human culture in a bitter and bloody tide. I will not play nice for the sake of expediency or allow people to get away with their crimes uncounted because “it’s a free country” or “that’s between them and god.” I will not pretend I don’t want exactly what the religious fanatics, political conservatives and small-minded idiots say I do:

I want kids to be taught queer history in school.

I want us to be present in governments, board rooms and school boards.

I want to take away their guns so they can stop murdering us with them.

I want to march into churches, mosques and synagogues and lay the brutal killings of my people at their feet – a bloody offering on an altar blasphemed by their facile prayers.

Until these things happen, I will keep my weapons sharp and the fires of my anger hot, because the dead haunt the living, as you will me.

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Unholy words. Unholy acts.

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I don’t want your prayers. Not to the god you worship in churches, synagogues or mosques. Not to the god of murder, genocide, war, cruelty and rage we read of in the torah, bible, koran. Keep those prayers out of it, because that god, as stated so specifically in the core documents of these faiths, hates me and my kind.

In the hours since the deadliest mass shooting to-date in American history, many are trying to parse out the shooter Omar Mateen’s involvement with ISIS and/or fundamentalist Islamic ideology, and while this certainly changes the tenor of the conversation, foundational points about religious attitudes toward LGBT people are being ignored. Many in the Muslim community, including religious leaders like this absolute gem, have denounced the shooting and offered support for those affected by the slaughter, and while that’s grand, here’s what I really want:

Go back to your mosques. Pick up your Koran. Tear out the pages that speak against same sex relations as worthy of death.

And then priests and rabbis, go do the same thing.

Liberal clerics speedily point out how their religion is one of love and peace and all the things that sound good on a bumper sticker, but their chapter and verse stays unaltered, pristine, locked in an ancient world prison that keeps all of us, today, behind the bars of barbarism.

We can’t inculcate people into a philosophical system whereby the ultimate power in the universe expresses its infallible word through a set of written laws and then act appalled when people carry out those very clear instructions to the letter. We can’t pretend that following a god with a history of decimating towns, peoples and nations doesn’t incite adherents to battle. We can’t pretend that our nation “under God” – where Congress members talk about that same god on the floor of our governing bodies, or a lieutenant governor posts weekly messages with religious themes, or a judge known for his statue of the decalogue reviles same-sex marriage – isn’t overrun by the cancerous ideology of the book religions. We can’t pretend those credos haven’t infected the ethical systems of our citizenry.

I came of age in a time when thousands were dying from AIDS after a government, a medical system and an entire society turned away from the epidemic, because if the gays got wiped out, it was good riddance. I was a freshman in college when Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence in Wyoming and left to die, and were he alive today, we’d be the same age. I’ve poured over documents about gays tortured and wiped out in the Holocaust. I’ve researched the church’s campaign of demonization and murder against gender-variant and queer people since its inception. I wrote papers in college on hate-crimes against LGBT people and how they’re examples of overkill where madmen don’t just kill the person, they use multiple weapons and commit further atrocities on the corpse because the hatred against us is so high. Since I came out at 15, for the last 24 years, I have combed through the record of imprisonment, rape, mutilation, systematic slaughter and degradation suffered by the LGBTQ people of the world, and while I can’t lay the blame so simply at the feet of men and women with their eyes turned to heaven, I can say, without a doubt in my heart, that were it not for the oppressive predations of Judeo-Christian-Islamic beliefs, 50 more gays and lesbians would be alive today.

The Scourge is initiating a campaign among his readers. Take a picture of yourself holding the torn-out pages of the bible/torah/koran/scriptures that denigrate the LGBT experience. Post it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

#unholywords

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A massacre…

Gay people again are the victim of pig-ignorance caused by religious insanity. Recap: religion is bad for LGBTQ people, because religions – their power structure, their bureaucracy, their lust for domination and control, their misogyny, and their hateful rhetoric towards gay people – has tried to wipe us from the map for millennia. 

More to come…for now, mourning and rage. 

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