The American Way ...
This is Pride Week in Vancouver, culminating in tomorrow's Gay Pride Parade through the West End. Commercial Drive's annual contribution is the Dykes on the Drive Parade, always held on the Saturday lunchtime. The dykes and their supporters march from McSpadden Park to Grandview Park where a musical party is held.
While the march is nothing like the size of tomorrow's jamboree, this year's parade seemed to be about double the numbers from last year. It has become very much a family affair.
Compared once again to the Gay Pride Parade tomorrow, Dyke's on the Drive is a low-key affair, but there is no shortage of pride.
Fucking For God and Power
Kathryn Joyce who was associated with the late-lamented Revealer blog has written a fascinating and terrifying story for The Nation this week. Called "Arrows for the War" it tells the tale of the Quiverfull Movement; fundamentalist Christians seeking to have as many children as possible, with the declared aim of swamping all non-fundamentalists beneath their weight of numbers. They point out that,
"if just 8 million American Christian couples began supplying more "arrows for the war" by having six children or more, they propose, the Christian-right ranks could rise to 550 million within a century ("assuming Christ does not return before then"). They like to ponder the spiritual victory that such numbers could bring: both houses of Congress and the majority of state governor's mansions filled by Christians; universities that embrace creationism; sinful cities reclaimed for the faithful; and the swift blows dealt to companies that offend Christian sensibilities."
Their philosophy is couched directly as anti-feminism. They believe that feminism has unleashed the following ghastly evils onto society: contraception, women's careers, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and child abuse. All of which need to be abolished, by force if necessary.
"Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship--"Father knows best"--and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess's 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the "Great Physician" and sole "Birth Controller," opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women's attempts to control their own bodies--the Lord's temple--are a seizure of divine power ... They borrow their name from Psalm 127: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Quiverfull mothers think of their children as no mere movement but as an army they're building for God."
Joyce points out that this is still a small movement today, but one that is growing rapidly. It has the high-powered support of people like Senator Brownback of medieval Kansas. This is something to watch.
Pride and Joy
The main event of Vancouver's Pride Week took place this afternoon under a blazing sun -- the Pride & Joy parade through the streets of the city's West End. We were lucky enough to secure front row seats along Beach Avenue. The crowds were enormous and playful, reveling in the sunshine and the wonderful parade that seemed to take literally hours to pass by. This has truly become one of the major events of the city's year. These boys had a great time ...
We had politicians from the right (Hedy Fry) and left (Libby Davies) ...
... boys and girls having fun in the sun ...
...and dykes on bikes
But mostly we had boys on floats!
What Year Is This Again?
And Americans wonder why they are so often the laughing stock of the civilized world...
Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.
"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."
Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.
Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.
First Amendment advocates say the ban clearly does amount to censorship. But in book after book, Allen reads what he calls the "homosexual agenda," and he's alarmed. "It's not healthy for America, it doesn't fit what we stand for," says Allen. "And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal." He says he sees this as a line in the sand.
Nazi-style book burnings in Alabama? Makes me almost nostalgic for the straightforward days of George Wallace's simple bigotry.
Beware The Fascists
In 1987, when his terrible disease had already damaged his mind, then-President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to a vacancy on the US Supreme Court. It was a disastrous decision, one decreed entirely by political ideology, and which led to one of the most bruising and ultimately unsuccessful nomination battles in US history. The Judiciary Committee voted Bork down, followed in turn by the full Senate.
Bitterly disappointed, Bork left the bench and took up a lucrative career with the American Enterprise Institute -- a group that believes the people should be governed by the corporations and the weight of private property not by the will of the people. Today he is still writing his bigoted rubbish.
In the current edition of "First Things", Bork has an essay on the dangers to society caused by people having the freedom to think what they want. Bork doesn't like freedom of thought. He hates what he calls "the anarchical spirit of extreme personal and group autonomy that is the driving force behind much of our cultural degradation." In particular, he actively campaigns against any Court -- the Supremes, especially -- who profess to give people choices. He believes it is entirely wrong to suggest, as the Supreme Court has on a number of occasions, that
"[a]t the heart of liberty [protected by the Constitution] is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."Clearly Bork believes that people like him should make the rules and that everyone else should follow slavishly (a deliberate choice of phrase). This is a man who believes that giving women rights over their own bodies is "judicial incontinence", that no individual has the right to be a "sovereign nation" with their own thoughts and capabilities, that same-sex marriages will lead inevitably to a rise in crime, drug usage and unstable relationships, and that personal freedom of thought is a "catastrophe."
Why am I talking today about a has-been bigot like Bork? Because I believe the only real concern in the US Presidential election this year is who will control the US Supreme Court. If Bush is re-elected we will certainly see a more Bork-like court for a generation or more, a court that will throw out legal protections for womens' rights and put the rights of property above the rights of individuals. Kerry won't do much better in most policy areas than Bush, but at least he won't try to destroy two generations of judicial advances.
What's Normal Again?
Carl Zimmer's scientific blog, The Loom, is always an excellent source for up-to-date biology news and theories. After a recent break, he is back with an intriguing piece on the state of current genetic studies on human DNA, specifically the search for the "original" Adam and Eve from whom we derive our stuff.
I was aware of the African Eve hypothesis that indicated all of our mitochondrial-DNA derives from a single female who lived in Africa about 200,000 years. But I was not aware of a similar search for the history of the male Y-chromosome. Research in that field suggests that the "Adam" of the Y all men currently carry lived about 60,000 years ago. Of course the story is a little more complicated than that, and Zimmer does a wonderful job of making clear the current work.
One intriguing aspect of this research is that monogamy seems an unlikely possibility for "normal" humans throughout most of our history. Polygyny, in which two or more women have children with a single man, seems more likely.
"Scientists have proposed that humans have a history of polygyny before (our sperm, for example, looks like the sperm of polygynous apes and monkeys, for example). But with these new DNA results, the Arizona researchers have made a powerful case that polygyny has been common for tens of thousands of years across the Old World. It's possible that polygyny was an open institution for much of that time, or that secret trysts made it a reality that few would acknowledge. What's much less possible is that monogamy has been the status quo for 50,000 years." [emphasis added]Add this to the fact that there is now a mass of research on homosexuality in non-human animals, and one can easily understand why many of us treat Bush and Ashcroft's assertions that only monogamous relationships between one man and one woman are "normal" with the contempt that all bigoted remarks deserve.
The Vile Far Right
Rosie O'Donnell and her partner Kelli Carpenter O'Donnell have gone into the cruise business. Specifically, they are offering a cruiseship programme for gay and lesbian families. It sounds like a fine and positive idea to me. Not, however, for the far-right.
On a depraved mail-list called Stop_Liberals@YahooGroups.com, the blood-thirsty bastards are calling for their death and worse! One fine upstanding member of the community, known as anti-liberal-warblogger asks if:
"anyone have a torpedo?"Steve Kite is more philosophical:
"I dare not think of how this angers God! --- LIBS R EVIL ANTI AMERICAN BABY KILLERS"This is the typical presentation of "family values" from the far right.
On a similar note, one correspondent on the list wrote this about the Marriage Amendment currently before Congress:
"As far as I'm concerned if you don't support this Amendment you are as bad as the terrorists and are trying to destroy America!!!"Don't you just love reasoned debate!
Knowing that their big issue -- foreign policy and security -- has gone down the toilet in the bloody sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Republican Party has decided to "change the subject" in the words of one senior organizer. They will try to change the subject to that of the Federal Marriage Amendment, the first attempt to exclude a segment of the population through the Constitution. They believe, as Paul Weyrich says in this New York Times report:
""Ninety-nine percent of the president's base will unite behind him if he pushed the amendment. It will cause Mr. Kerry no end of problems."Not a bad political ploy, I guess, in the heat of a campaign. However, of more interest to me is the way the far right-wing is planning to use this issue to purge the Republican Party of gays and lesbians.
"As for the gay Republicans whose votes Mr. Bush might then lose, Mr. Weyrich wrote, "Good riddance."As for gay or gay-friendly Republican legislators:
"Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group, said, "Social conservatives are looking at this issue so we know who needs to be educated on this issue or removed if that is possible."Scary McCarthyist stuff.
I suspect the public in November will find it a whole lot easier to just remove Republicans of all sexual orientations.
Time To Move On
Conservative commentator Max Boot has written a very sensible op-ed piece for the "Los Angeles Times" today. In it, he says that conservatives should give up the fight against same-sex marriage.
"Traditionalists have tried to put forward various nonmoral arguments against gay marriage, but none is particularly convincing. They argue, first, that we shouldn't tamper with thousands of years of tradition that holds that marriage is between a man and a woman. But 141 years ago we tampered with an equally old tradition: slavery. Their second argument is the slippery slope — first gay marriage gets legalized, then polygamy, pederasty, incest and who knows what. But this kind of reductio ad absurdum can be applied to just about anything. If liquor is legal for adults, why not for children? Society always draws the line somewhere."More interestingly, I think, Boot suggests another reason for acquiescence that I haven't heard before: perhaps marriage will disappear altogether if heterosexuals get the chance to enter merely "civil unions":
"Since the ultimate concern of conservatives is to preserve the institution of marriage, they would probably be better off caving on gay marriage rather than acceding to the most popular alternative: civil union. Gay marriages won't affect straights. But if civil union laws were to catch on, as Jonathan Rauch argues in his provocative new book, "Gay Marriage," many heterosexuals would probably eschew marriage altogether. That would be worse for society than seeing Rosie O'Donnell get hitched."