Thursday, June 30, 2011

Not To Be A Hard-Ass... But...

I am a writer. When someone asks me how to be a writer, my response is simple: write. Just do it. Write something every day. Because the simple truth is that writers write: it is far better to have tons of "raw material" to sort through looking for your next (or first) best-seller than to sit there day after day feeling sorry for yourself for not having written that great novel. And, writing is like muscle tone; the more regularly one does it, the more easily it flows.

This truism is simple enough. But last night it occurred to me that the underlying philosophy hinted at by the above statement does apply more broadly than just with writing. Don't get me wrong: there are literally thousands of situations that people experience wherein careful pre-planning is appropriate before taking action. I mean, would anyone seriously suggest that a person who wants to be an airline pilot just "go for it" and start flying right away without any advance training?

That said, it seems to me that many people around me are infected with shit-or-get-off-the-pot-itis these days. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but... at some point, don't we need to get our collective asses in motion, squeeze out that collective turd, wipe our collective holes, flush, and get on with our collective lives? I'm all for thinking our way through issues, but seriously folks, how long is it going to take us to... reform our healthcare delivery system? Fix what's really ailing our economy? Run longer BART trains on the Richmond-Fremont line? Properly fund education? Commit to our sobriety? The list goes on and on.

I'm not sure what I intended this entry to be about when I started it over a day ago, and I'm not sure what it ended up being about now that I am drawing it to a close. But one thing I do know, is that I got it done.

Wipe and flush.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ed Roberts: American Hero

Ed Roberts attended community college, then got an undergraduate degree at Cal-Berkeley, then a graduate degree from Cal; he also began a PhD at Cal but he never finished. He was, at first glance, a fairly unassuming man... but there was something in his eyes that made you pay attention. I had the divine privilege of meeting Ed a few times in my days at Berkeley; I would often see him around town, just being Ed.

The reason I implore you to remember Ed Roberts is because his simple desire to get a Berkeley education was the beginning of a revolution: Ed survived the last American polio outbreak before Doctor Jonas Salk proved that angels still take human form and help God heal His children. I could write at length about the profound lessons of Dr Salk's life, and why the fact he never won a Nobel Prize is incomprehensible to me, but this post is about Ed Roberts.

We take it for granted in the early years of the second decade of this century that people with physical disabilities, even profoundly life-altering disabilities like post-polio paralysis, deserve equal access to educational opportunities and a chance to participate in society on their own terms. But, lest we forget, the Americans With Disabilities Act has only been in effect since 1990; the concept of people with disabilities as being full people, deserving of accommodation rather than institutionalization, and the recognition of disability as a distinct social identity with its own narrative, language, and self-sovereignty... these things did not really exist until the latter 20th century.

Ed Roberts began his studies at Berkeley in 1962; he moved to Berkeley with an iron-lung in tow and refused to be marginalized by "living" in a hospital ward. The bravery such an act must have taken is truly mind-boggling. A hero is not a super-being per se: a hero is, just as often, an ordinary person who drops into extraordinary circumstances and who dares to survive. Ed Roberts was a hero.

Ed died in 1995, and for many years the community worked on a fitting tribute. In April 2011, the Ed Roberts Campus opened its doors to the public. It is a beautiful facility; I finally got a chance to see it with my own eyes today, and in a word, the place is remarkable. From the enormously oversized elevator buttons mounted near the floor, to the security-card readers over 1-foot square, to specially designed curb-cuts positioned to provide safe access from the side-ramp of a wheelchair transport van, and even special harnesses in the bathrooms which lift people out of their wheelchairs and safely place them on the toilet... remarkable. Truly remarkable.

I think Ed would approve. Thank you, brave sir. Your memory lives on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I Am NOT Celebrating Same-Sex Marriage in NY

There is no denying that recent events in the state of New York are historic. Despite its clearly stated intention to convince America that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" does not apply to LGBTQI folk who are moved to marry another person, the GOP was unable to stop the will of the majority in the Empire State, plain and simple. This is an example of representative democracy at its finest, and clearly a huge victory in the struggle for gay rights. The fact that same-sex marriage is now the law of the land in New York, by a vote of the people's elected representatives rather than by court-order, is absolutely something to savor. Having the very state where the Twin Towers stood join the correct side of history is something that I am sure the spirit of Mark Bingham appreciates. Yaknow, Mark Bingham, the gay man who died rushing the cockpit of Flight 93, thereby possibly saving the lives of all those federal GOP folks who continually piss on gay rights? The man who died on hallowed ground in the home state of Rick "Frothy Mixture" Santorum? Yeah, you know who - and what - I'm talkin' 'bout.


A friend of mine on Facebook told me just to chill out. She used words like "oh for pete's sake, Philip, can't you just sit back and enjoy one day of success?" Another friend reminded me that a victory like this in New York is a pebble which begins the landslide that will eventually result in true marriage-equality for all genders in all territories of the US of A. These are completely understandable points... and yet... so far the only people I've heard telling me things like this are people who, by the very nature of their sexual orientation, have marital rights that I do not have in California and 43 other states. Hello? Get the point yet? Shall I spell it out for you? First word: H-E-T-E-R-O-S-E-X-U-A-L. Second word: P-R-I-V-I-L-E-G-E. You want me to be happy for my queer siblings in the Empire State, and I absolutely am. But you also ask me to celebrate New Yorkers' new-found freedom when I still live as a second-class citizen?

To that I say, without reservation, NO. Until we are ALL FREE, none of us are free. Until a gay Mormon in Provo has the same rights as a gay woman in Boston, Manchester, or Montpelier, then NO. Until the rights I had for 6 months in 2008 until the passage of Proposition 8 are restored, then NO. Until gays in Alaska have the same rights that gays in New York just "won" then NO. Until gay people in Guam or American Samoa have the same rights as gay people in Iowa, then NO.

NO NO NO. I WILL NOT CELEBRATE DIFFERENTIAL JUSTICE BECAUSE JUSTICE-DELAYED IS JUSTICE-DENIED. Of what value is a "day of success" when only ONE-EIGHTH of America's population has marriage equality? Until the federal government repeals the Defense Of Marriage Act, then NO. Until the federal government demands that the other 44 states honor the Full Faith And Credit Clause as it applies to same-sex marriages in the 6 states and DC, then NO. Until this country expands the definition of "with liberty and justice for all" to mean FOR ALL, then NO. NO CELEBRATION. Until there is true marriage equality, from sea to shining sea, this war is not over.

And it is a war, folks. Do not fool yourselves. I warned you in 2008 that the Religious Right was planning a proposition to codify marriage discrimination in California. People told me I was being an alarmist and that there was no way it would happen, particularly after the May 2008 court ruling. I WARNED YOU AT THAT TIME. Look what happened.

And folks have told me that I need to back off from my alarmist rhetoric and stop stirring up the culture wars because the GOP will not remain unified in its opposition to same-sex marriage. Really? Check out the position on same-sex marriage of every single candidate seeking the GOP nomination for president in 2012. I AM STILL WARNING YOU.

And if you still don't believe my warnings, then consider this: the GOP is only eight states away from having enough states in-line to enact the Federal Marriage Amendment, which will invalidate all state laws allowing same-sex marriage at once. ARE YOU LISTENING NOW? Do not tell me to chill out and shut up. I will not shut up until the day that my country has true, complete, marriage equality. As in, from sea to shining sea.

NOW, damnit. NOW.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Through The Wormhole

Morgan Freeman, in a word, rocks. I'm so glad that he has produced more episodes of his fantastic show Through The Wormhole on Science (Science Channel, whatever it's called now). I encourage everyone to check it out; I think there are only four more new episodes left in this year's crop. It is good stuff.

The show appeals to me because it presents the latest in scientific thinking without being anti-faith. Our world needs more voices that are both religious and scientific and that can integrate the two without descending into either the willful ignorance of religious fundamentalism or the arrogant anti-Theos of science fundamentalism (as I call it). Human history is replete with people of faith who were also people of science; it is to the detriment of our future that we apparently can no longer bridge the two naturally.

And that's my message.

What kind of dork would I be...

if'n my first entry didn't say... 
Sorry, I just had to do it...