Our Best Selves

People talk about things in such a black and white way.  Let’s use the hot button topic of climate change as an example.  There’s a lot of talk on both sides of the issue about how the other side is ignorant and “our way” is the best way.  Our truth is the only truth.  Bullshit. 

The climate is changing.  We can all agree on that.  What is also true is that there are many factors that are causing the climate to change.  There is a cycle, we’re in it.  The sun influences it as well.  And… the way we live, how we pollute, also affects it.  It’s not any one thing.  It’s all things together, contributing.

My point isn’t to start up a debate here about climate change.  My point is to say that, as with all things, black and white thinking gets us nowhere, but divided. The truth, as I’m always saying about little life things, is in the middle.  Parts of both are true.

We’re such a landscape of extremes.  Putting our dukes up, getting our feathers ruffled, pointing fingers, talking trash.  So many people talking trash.  And here’s the thing about that.  Talk trash in your own homes, or out to your friends, but do it amongst yourselves.  You don’t agree with something, fine, don’t agree with it.  You think something or someone is stupid, fine, think they are stupid. Keep it to yourselves, or your circle.  I don’t want to hear it unless you’re my wife, or friend, or family member and we’re having a debate or discussion or bitch session in person.  

I hate to say it, but people make themselves look bad.  They don’t show us anything about the person they are deriding, they show us their own backsides.  I get the frustration with how things are.  I do.  I get being disgusted, upset, angry even.  I get that.  But c’mon people.

I used to work with at-risk kids.  I did the job well.  I did it for a long time.  I had many talks about bullying, about common decency, about respecting other people because we don’t know their stories, or why they believe what they believe.  About how we aren’t always going to understand another person, but they are people just the same, with hopes and fears and upsets we know nothing about.  So be respectful, be kind, be generous of spirit.  Be your best selves.

I’ve tried to say this in many different ways on this and my other blog.  I have.  I’ve tried to say it and know I’m shouting in the wind.  People are passionate, they feel they must say something.  Anything.  They feel they can.

But I guess I’ll say this again as well.  Would you talk like that in public?  To actual people?  Would you call names and talk down to and be disrespectful to people in person.  If so, I guess it’s not surprising you’d do it in public on social media.  But if not, if you wouldn’t call people names or use derogatory slurs, then what makes you think it’s OK to do it on Facebook?  

I want to believe we are all people who love and want happiness for ourselves, our friends, our families, and our neighbors.  I want to believe we are all, most of us, kind and caring people.  

Not one of us has all the answers.  To think our way is the only way… well, that’s arrogance.  And isolating.  And just… sad.

The truth is in the middle, people.  Right there, in the middle.  Life is never black and white.  Look at your fellow humans with love, with kindness, and with the understanding that you don’t know someone, or why they think and believe the way they do.  Everyone has a story.  Before calling names, why not ask?  Why not try for understanding?  

Be our best selves.  We can.  It’s possible.

To use a Star Wars reference, because why not, stretch out with your feelings.

from Tumblr https://breakopenthesky.tumblr.com/post/189493019026

Our Best Selves

People talk about things in such a black and white way.  Let’s use the hot button topic of climate change as an example.  There’s a lot of talk on both sides of the issue about how the other side is ignorant and “our way” is the best way.  Our truth is the only truth.  Bullshit. 

The climate is changing.  We can all agree on that.  What is also true is that there are many factors that are causing the climate to change.  There is a cycle, we’re in it.  The sun influences it as well.  And… the way we live, how we pollute, also affects it.  It’s not any one thing.  It’s all things together, contributing.

My point isn’t to start up a debate here about climate change.  My point is to say that, as with all things, black and white thinking gets us nowhere, but divided. The truth, as I’m always saying about little life things, is in the middle.  Parts of both are true.

We’re such a landscape of extremes.  Putting our dukes up, getting our feathers ruffled, pointing fingers, talking trash.  So many people talking trash.  And here’s the thing about that.  Talk trash in your own homes, or out to your friends, but do it amongst yourselves.  You don’t agree with something, fine, don’t agree with it.  You think something or someone is stupid, fine, think they are stupid. Keep it to yourselves, or your circle.  I don’t want to hear it unless you’re my wife, or friend, or family member and we’re having a debate or discussion or bitch session in person.  

I hate to say it, but people make themselves look bad.  They don’t show us anything about the person they are deriding, they show us their own backsides.  I get the frustration with how things are.  I do.  I get being disgusted, upset, angry even.  I get that.  But c’mon people.

I used to work with at-risk kids.  I did the job well.  I did it for a long time.  I had many talks about bullying, about common decency, about respecting other people because we don’t know their stories, or why they believe what they believe.  About how we aren’t always going to understand another person, but they are people just the same, with hopes and fears and upsets we know nothing about.  So be respectful, be kind, be generous of spirit.  Be your best selves.

I’ve tried to say this in many different ways on this and my other blog.  I have.  I’ve tried to say it and know I’m shouting in the wind.  People are passionate, they feel they must say something.  Anything.  They feel they can.

But I guess I’ll say this again as well.  Would you talk like that in public?  To actual people?  Would you call names and talk down to and be disrespectful to people in person.  If so, I guess it’s not surprising you’d do it in public on social media.  But if not, if you wouldn’t call people names or use derogatory slurs, then what makes you think it’s OK to do it on Facebook?  

I want to believe we are all people who love and want happiness for ourselves, our friends, our families, and our neighbors.  I want to believe we are all, most of us, kind and caring people.  

Not one of us has all the answers.  To think our way is the only way… well, that’s arrogance.  And isolating.  And just… sad.

The truth is in the middle, people.  Right there, in the middle.  Life is never black and white.  Look at your fellow humans with love, with kindness, and with the understanding that you don’t know someone, or why they think and believe the way they do.  Everyone has a story.  Before calling names, why not ask?  Why not try for understanding?  

Be our best selves.  We can.  It’s possible.

To use a Star Wars reference, because why not, stretch out with your feelings.

from Tumblr https://breakopenthesky.tumblr.com/post/189493019026

What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do

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Photo by TJ Parker

Dawn oversees percolating coffee
and the new wreckage of the world.

I stand before my routine reflection,
button up my sanity,
brush weary strands of hair with pomade
and seal cracked lips of distrust
with cocoa butter and matte rouge.

I ready myself once again
for morning and mortify.
Stacking poetry and bills in a knapsack;
I bundle up hope (it’s brutal out there).

For a moment, I stand with ghosts
and the framed ancestors surrounding me.
I call out, hoping she can hear me
over the day-breaking sirens—
hoping she’s not far away,
or right down the street,
praying over another dead black boy.

How will we make it through this, Ms. Brooks?

Hold On.

When she held a body,
she saw much worse than this.
I know she was earshot and fingertip close to oppression.
She saw how hateful hate could be.
She raised babies, taught Stone Rangers,
grew a natural and wrote around critics.

She won a Pulitzer in the dark.

She justified our kitchenette dreams,
and held on.
She held on to all of us.

Hold On, she whispers.

Another day, when I have to tip-toe
around the police and passive-aggressive emails
from people who sit only a few feet away from me.
Another day of fractured humans
who decide how I will live and die,
and I have to act like I like it
so I can keep a job;
be a team player, pay taxes on it;
I have to act like I’m happy to be
slammed, severed, and swindled.
Otherwise, I’m just part of the problem—
a rebel rouser and rude.

They want me to like it, or at least pretend,
so the pretty veils that blanket who we really are—
this complicated history, can stay pretty and veiled
like some desert belly dancer
who must be seen but not heard.

Hold On.

We are a world of lesions.
Human has become hindrance.
We must be stamped and have papers,
and still, it’s not enough.
Ignorance has become powerful.
The dice that rolls our futures is platinum
but hollow inside.

Did you see that, Ms. Brooks?
Do you see what we’ve become?
They are skinning our histories,
deporting our roots,
detonating our very right to tell the truth.
We are one step closer to annihilation.

Hold On, she says, two million light years away.

She’s right.
Hold On everybody.
Hold On because the poets are still alive—and writing.
Hold On to the last of the disappearing bees
and that Great Barrier Reef.
Hold On to the one sitting next to you,
not masked behind some keyboard.
The one right next to you.
The ones who live and love right next to you.
Hold On to them.

And when we bury another grandmother,
or another black boy;
when we stand in front of a pipeline,
pour another glass of dirty drinking water
and put it on the dining room table,
next to the kreplach, bratwurst, tamales, collards, and dumplings
that our foremothers and fathers—immigrants,
brought with them so we all knew that we came from somewhere;
somewhere that mattered.
When we kneel on the rubbled mosques,
sit in massacred prayer circles,
Holding On is what gets us through.

We must remember who we are.
We are worth fighting for.
We’ve seen beauty.
We’ve birthed babies who’ve only known a black President.
We’ve tasted empathy and paid it forward.
We’ve Go-Funded from wrong to right.
We’ve marched and made love.
We haven’t forgotten—even if they have—Karma is keeping watch.

Hold On.
Hold On everybody.
Even if all you have left
is that middle finger around your God-given right
to be free, to be heard, to be loved,
and remembered…Hold On,
and keep
Holding.

~ Parneshia Jones

After 10 Minutes on Facebook

I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and now I have to write a blog post.

Oi!  I can’t take it.  Politics, division, divisiveness, people being crappy, showing their dark sides, thinking it’s funny.  It’s not.

I don’t care who you support.  I have my opinion, know what I’m going to do come November.  I expect you do too.  Why must we, over and over, post things on Facebook that are cruel character assassinations of candidates.  I mean on both sides.  I just saw it from both sides.

If you post, post something that includes facts, reflects your educated opinion, or supports your position in a classy way.  What’s with all the personal attacks?  Where did common decency go?  When did it become OK to publicly deride someone?  Sure, public figures sort of open themselves up for criticism.  So, criticize them intelligently.  I’m so sick of the memes showing one candidate or another with some intended to be cutesy, but isn’t, superimposed quote or other additions.  My God people.

We are better than this.  Our culture, with social media, has sunk so low that people think this crap is funny, when in fact it’s bullying behavior.  What are we teaching our kids?  That it’s OK, if you don’t like someone, to post something terrible about them, disparaging about them, out there for the world to see?  That it’s OK to make fun of other people?  That just because you don’t like someone you can publicly humiliate them?  Because every time something like all the ridiculousness I just saw is posted, that’s what you’re saying to your kids.  That it’s OK to bully, to deride, to act like a total ass, to treat others with disrespect.  And then, later, when your kid posts something about someone because they don’t like them, what are you going to say?  No no, you shouldn’t do that.  I guess that’s just a case of do as I say, not as I do.  We need to teach respect, kindness, love.  We need to be teaching you can disagree in civil way.  You can not like someone, but you don’t have to make fun of them, and in fact you shouldn’t.

If the goal is to get people to change their minds politically, you’ve missed the mark.  What you’ve accomplished is showing you can be mean, you can be nasty, you’ve shown your lesser self.  I don’t want to see that side of you.

Again, you don’t like someone, fine.  You don’t like them.  Feel the need to plaster your feelings all over Facebook… fine.  I’d rather see what you’re up to today, get a little photo of your shoe or your workspace or your beautiful smile, but if you must post something, if you just have to dip your toe in the cesspool, then be smart, be kind, be classy about it.  Simply post a status message saying… I support this person, and this is why.  Or, I don’t support this person, and this is why.  Re-post an article you think makes a good point.  Keep the slander, the meanness, the jerkdom out of it.  Would you?  Could you?  Will you?  Won’t you?

Crap, I’m slipping into Dr. Seuss… that’s how serious this has gotten.

I guess it’s just so tough to go on social media and see posts from people you love that turn your stomach.  That make them seem different than the people you thought they were.

Elevate.  Rise above.  Be the people I think you are.  Please.  I can’t take it.  I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and I had to write this post.

10 Word Review – The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth

p12492641_b_v5_aaFascinating. Workings. Inside. Viewpoints. Access. Personal. Candidates. Documentary. Pace. Yes.

What Kind of Eyes Do You See With?

Eisenhower QuoteI happened to be looking at quotes this morning, which is something I occasionally do, and found this little gem.

I’ve never been a huge Eisenhower fan, and to be honest, I don’t really know too much about him.  He was a two term president, a conservative who also happened to be against McCarthy, for civil rights and inclusion, and ultimately pretty good a foreign policy.  He adhered to a policy of moderation and cooperation as a means of governance.  Yeah, you got me, I just looked him up and that last bit is a direct quote from Wikipedia.  I just read a bit about him and turns out he was an interesting guy that somehow gets overlooked when we mention presidents.  Probably because he came after Truman, and World War II, and before Kennedy, who garnered a lot of attention.

What strikes me about this quote is how relevant it is today.  We find ourselves in an era of bitter rivalry, and one might even say hatred, toward our fellows.  Our political system is a prime example of this.  Hate, fear, finger-pointing, and a general culture of unkindness seems to prevail.  Individuals, and I see this all the time on Facebook, love to post hurtful, finger-pointing comments full of ridicule and scorn.  Nowhere in that is a thought toward commonality, togetherness, kindness, or even an idea toward actually working a solution to our many problems.  It’s all about how the other guy is an oaf or an idiot or simple-minded.  Sadly, it’s the same behavior I saw so many times while I was working with at risk kids.  People who post these inflammatory things are bullies.  They wouldn’t call themselves that, no.  They would say they are passionate about their topic of choice and are attempting to push change.  They are wrong, just as people who try to bully have always been wrong.  One does not get their way by pushing, cajoling, shoving, and name-calling.  Name-calling… I’m appalled.  Adults, people I know, do this.  It’s like we’re back on the playground again.  Ridiculous.  Arrogant.  Shameful.

If you are a passionate person about, well, anything, the way forward is to promote an idea, not knock someone else down for an opinion that differs from yours.  Find what you feel are solutions and put those forward.  Create ideas or support causes you feel are worthy and promote those.  Stand up and state what you believe in, without saying that someone who believes differently is an idiot.  They aren’t, they just don’t agree with you.  And their not agreeing with you is OK too.  Differing ideas bring different looks at a problem.  We have a lot of problems, we need a lot of looks.  If you must comment on the “other side”, do so by posting actual, honest and real, events or circumstances that happened that you don’t agree with.  Then, comment on those with integrity, and an eye, again, toward solution.

I’m so tired, can you tell, of the trend toward mass posting these ridiculous saying and quotes about how liberals are this or that or tea party members are this or that.  Blanket statements that do nothing to enrich the world.  Mean quips and vicious comments about “those people”.  You know what?  I’m those people, and my mom is those people, my family is those people, and my friends are those people, on both sides.  Before you post something of that nature, think of people you know, picture their faces, and decide if you would say whatever it is you are about to post right to their face.  If you would, well then I guess you aren’t really a friend of mine because true friends of mine aren’t mean.  Friends of mine are kind.  I will, to borrow a phrase, accept no substitutes.  Everyone, and I mean nearly everyone, is entitled to a measure of respect. You choose who you are.  You can rise, be kind, elevate.  Or you can degrade, denigrate, and wallow in the muck.

As Eisenhower, whose quote started this whole little stand on the soap box, said…  “we must avoid becoming a community of dreadful hate and fear” and as the character Lindsey Brigman says in the movie The Abyss, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and…  he sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”  I love that quote.  It’s stuck with me.  We see what we want, we create our world based on what we see and what we do.  We have to be better, for the world and for each other.  If we show a general disrespect for people we don’t even know, we disrespect ourselves, our children, our neighborhoods, our larger communities.  We have to look with better eyes than that.

I’m Gay

Yep.  It’s true.

I have never written a serious blog post about being gay.  I mean, it’s part of who I am, but it isn’t all there is to me and I am not defined or labeled by it.  To me it’s sort of like talking about what color eyes I have.   My eyes are there, but I don’t spend hardly any time thinking about them, let alone talking about them.  But…  I am gay.  It’s not all that I am, but I am, and I have something to say about it now.  I think it’s time.

For years I had no idea I was gay.  I dated guys in high school and into my first year of college.  Had a serious boyfriend during most of that time.  I didn’t know anyone who was gay, never saw anyone on TV or in the movies who was gay besides the occasional annoying totally stereotyped male, and even those guys were few and far between.  In my home when those characters showed up on TV derogatory comments were made by my step dad.  Though he didn’t have that sole role.  When kids at school happened to talk about someone who was gay, or someone they thought was gay, that person was called queer.  Most of the time the person being called queer wasn’t even gay.  The term was just used to put someone down.  I heard it a lot in the halls, never in reference to me, but I heard it a lot.  I never liked it, or it’s use, just as I’ve never liked any derogatory term said to anyone in pretty much any context.  Even still, when I heard it I didn’t think it might pertain to me.  Had no clue.  When you don’t even really know of a thing how can you know you are that.  It wasn’t even in my realm of possibility.  Then… suddenly and unexpectedly I met someone in college.  And even still, even then, I didn’t know.  I just thought I liked that particular person.  You know, I’m straight, it’s just that I happen to unexpectedly fall in love with a woman.  I even lied to my Mom when she asked me about it when I was 18.  I lied because I hadn’t even really asked myself that question.  Had no clue about myself.  That lie was the first in a long line of lies.  Lies to myself.  Lies to family and friends and pretty much everyone I loved.  I didn’t really know, or look at that part of my life seriously until I was into my 30’s. Am I or am I not.  I finally realized I was.  Had always been.  That realization made a lot of things from my life make sense, fall into place.  A sort of ah ha.  And yet, still I lied, at least for a time I did.  But let’s go back a bit… back to the younger confused me.  Those lies took their toll.

Let me tell you why a gay person lies.  We lie because we are sure no one will love us if we tell the truth.  We don’t love ourselves very much some of the time during the early years of knowing we are gay because we, frankly, don’t want to be, so the thought process goes that certainly no one else will love us either.  Especially when society, and my time was the 80’s and 90’s, was still not welcoming, open, accepting.  My step dad didn’t have the monopoly on bigotry and the atmosphere during the 80’s (when the AIDS epidemic hit) and 90’s was not kind to gay people.  So not only was I afraid people in my life wouldn’t love me, that they would reject me just for being me, but that I could also be hurt, physically.  Not by family or friends or people I knew, but by the mysterious and threatening other people.  Those people out there somewhere who, if they found out, would hurt me.  There was always a fear.  Fear of so many things.  And a total wish that I wasn’t gay.  Believe me, when people say it’s a choice, I get angry.  If the people who say that would think for a second, they should realize something important, and that is why would anyone choose to be gay.  It’s harder.  It’s sometimes unsafe.  And frankly, having to live your life looking over your shoulder some of the time, not being able to hold hands, or look too gay in public in some places, is hard.  It can wear a person down.  Having to actually think about things like those, things like safety or being found out, things like I hope no one in this particular setting realizes I’m a big ol’ gay.  (That just made me laugh, but seriously… we think about it.  We have to.)  And when I say we all go through periods where we think to ourselves we don’t want to be gay, usually early in our lives or the process of knowing we are gay, it’s that we don’t want to be different.  When you’re young, and even not so young, the last thing you want to be is different than your peers, your family, your community, your culture.  Young people, and old alike I guess, all want to fit in.  Want a place.  Knowing your gay, when faced with so much obvious hate in the media, in communities, in our own towns and neighborhoods is a thing no one wants to face.  When I realized I was gay a bit of sadness happened for me.  I didn’t want to be different.  I wanted to be like everyone else.   And I knew life would be a tad more difficult… sometimes a lot more difficult.  So at first most of us lie.  Mostly to ourselves I think, out of a weird self protection and denial, then because we are panicked that if the people we love know they will stop loving us, and we lie in certain situations, still, because if we are openly gay in some places we could die.  No joke.  That’s part of the out and out vitriol that’s out there for gay people in some places.  It’s part of the culture that has jailed and beaten and ridiculed and cast out gay people for decades.  And before someone says you can feel you are gay, but you could choose not to be by just living a “normal” straight life, here’s what that would be like just a bit.  Say you are single and someone introduces you to a person they feel is right for you.  You have no connection with them at all.  You feel they are nice enough, and that maybe you could even be friends, but you have no interest in dating them.  Or you might even detest them.  Then say that you are told that’s the person you have to be with.  You have no feelings of love for them at all, but you have to be with them in order to be accepted by your family, your friends, your community.  Take a second to imagine what it would feel like to be living that lie.  To be living a completely inauthentic life.  Trapped.  Forced into something you feel isn’t right with every part of your being.  Now magnify that feeling of being forced to be with someone you don’t care for by about 1000 times.  That doesn’t even come close to it.  Being forced to be anything other than we are is soul crushing.

When I finally decided to be free, to embrace who I was, I decided to tell people in my life.  I did not want to hide.  I wanted what everyone wants, a partner in life, to be a family with someone.  I wanted that and I didn’t want to lie to anyone anymore, I couldn’t.  They would either love me, because seriously, I was the same person, or they wouldn’t, but I had to be in my truth, as the saying goes.  There were some obstacles to my telling people when I originally wanted to, circumstances beyond my control, but I eventually just had to tell.  Had to be honest and open.  Plus, by the time I told everyone I had already met someone.  I didn’t want to have another secret relationship, changing pronouns, talking vaguely about how I went out with a friend, etc., etc., etc.  Hiding.  I didn’t want to hide.  So I started the process of telling people, of coming out.

First I told Mom, who cried not because I was gay, but because I hadn’t felt like I could tell her earlier in life.  She hugged me, asked if the person I was with was Karen (they had already met when I’d brought my “friend” to an art show we attended together), and then said she’d liked her a lot.  I then had dinner with Kev, my brother, at a Thai place.  I told him and he said, uh… yes, of course you are and I love you.  My being gay didn’t change anything for them, but my telling them changed everything for me.  And all the people I told in the next month or so changed everything as well.  I was suddenly free and gaining momentum.  It was like the sun was shining on me for the first time in my life.  I felt truly connected, grounded, real.  I felt honest and true.  I continued by telling everyone at my job (all of whom were my friends as well), and the domino effect happened.  Within a couple of months everyone in my life knew.  My Mom, right after I told her, insisted on calling many of the relatives and telling them herself.  She asked me beforehand of course, but she was adamant that she make some of the calls.  I loved this because she wanted to be the one to call so she could let them know that she was OK with it and that they should be too.  She ran interference.  Mom rocks, just sayin’.   My grandparents, my Mom’s parents, were awesome.  My grandma’s quote as relayed by my Mom, “It’s about time”.  I love that.  After the tidal wave of talks and chats and dinners a weird thing happened… everyone, with only one exception, accepted me.  They all loved me, and they didn’t care.  And even if some were a tad weirded out in the beginning, they quickly came to the realization that I was the same person, Tam.  Just because I was also now gay Tam didn’t mean I had somehow fundamentally changed who I was.  Not every gay person is lucky like I have been.  Some tell their truth and find rejection and hostility from their families.  My heart aches for them.  It’s the very thing each gay person fears when they come out and for some it’s a startling reality.

I think it’s easy to say that something you don’t understand is wrong.  I think it’s easy for people who don’t know anyone who is gay, or at least they don’t think they do, to judge, be angry, or even be frightened.  Especially when they might be taught that fear by their parents or their communities or their places of faith.  I think we hardly ever see the boogeyman, and that’s what makes him scary.  In my experience people change when they have more knowledge.  They change when they have a better understanding.  They change when they are around the things they think they hate and then find they maybe don’t hate them as much as they thought they did and more than that, maybe they don’t hate them at all.  We do better when we know better.  I believe this.  Karen I usually find that when people meet us, as a couple, and maybe at first are cautious or unsettled by the fact that we are gay, they soon come around.  We’re pretty likable.  On a good day we can even be a tad charming.  We make a good team.  Plus we are genuine and nice and compassionate and open.  When people are around us we may start out as gay Tam and Karen, but we always end up just being Tam and Karen.  Not a gay couple, just a couple.  And when that shift happens for people gay becomes less scary, less evil, and less threatening.  It becomes not quite such a big deal as it once might have been.

Here’s the deal… I’m living my life.  Just like everyone else.  We go to the grocery store, have barbecues with our friends and family, go to our grandsons little gym graduations, take him swimming at the Y, work during the day and watch the same televisions shows as a lot of other people at night.  We take our dogs for walks, are preparing for retirement as best we can, we go to the movies, support our local university teams at games, plan dinners, drink coffee, and make contributions to charities.  We fill the bird feeders at our house, water our neighbors plants when they go out of town, take out the garbage every Sunday night, and when we each got sick we took care of each other.  We are a family, together.  And our being a family is no threat to anyone else.  We are living our lives.  We are nice people, treat people well, and we love to laugh.

We also pay taxes, more than other couples in fact because we can’t file as married.  We pay into social security but can’t get the same benefit of getting each other’s social security in the future if we wanted to.  We pay property taxes and state tax and gas tax and on and on.  We pay everything we’re supposed to, and trust me our tax bill is big every year, and yet we are not afforded the same rights and privileges for the money we pay.  Not exactly fair.  But it’s our life, and it goes on.  It went on even when we each got really sick, separately, and had to provide all kinds of paperwork, faxed by our attorney, to the hospital so the hospital would have it on file in the event we had to make decisions for each other.  Legally married couples don’t have to do that.  They say they’re married, that’s good enough.  They don’t have to stop in the middle of all the intensity of just being with their partner in the hospital to deal with making sure they have all the proper paperwork that proves they can be there.  Trust me, in a time of crisis the last thing you want to have to do is call the attorney to get paperwork so you can talk to your spouse’s doctor and not be asked to leave the room.  I stayed with Karen for a week when she had terrible pneumonia.  She was in critical condition.  I slept and ate at the hospital and I didn’t leave her side.  I helped her in and out of bed, talked to her nurses, discussed her situation with her doctor, cared for her.   She stayed with me for that first month I was in the hospital, leaving me for only one night during that entire time, and every week I had to go back after, without a thought that she would do anything else.  She actually worked from the hospital while at the same time caring for me, talking to my doctors and nurses, and trying to sleep every night on a small air mattress on a tiny bed in my room.  The hospital staff, on each of those separate floors, knew us by name, treated us well, and were very kind.  But we had to get our paperwork in order first, not so they would be nice, luckily I think all of those people would’ve been nice to us without the paperwork, but it was what the hospital wanted for same sex couples.  And luckily we already had the paperwork done.  I can’t imagine not already having it and having to get it done during those times.  What a nightmare.  We were, like any couple who loves each other, frightened and a bit lost each of those times.  Having to get all that extra paperwork didn’t help.

It’s strange to me how, just because of who I love, I can be seen as wrong or bad or somehow really different.  Our lives are so normal and regular, and believe me, that’s what we want, and what most gay people want, to have a regular life.  In fact our lives are so regular that in our day to day it doesn’t much occur to us that we are gay.  You know, we don’t go around saying to ourselves we’re gay.  In fact Karen and I joke with each other once in awhile… we’re gay?, really?  We are of course, but the point is that we don’t define ourselves like that.  We see ourselves as any other family.  Our families and friends see us just like all the other families that make up our larger group.  I’m Karen’s sister’s and brother’s sister-in-law, her parents daughter-in-law, she is my Mom’s daughter-in-law and my siblings sister-in-law, not the gay sister-in-law.  Everyone we meet and get to know eventually sees us as just another couple they know, not a gay couple, a couple.  So it’s strange and awkward for me to think there are people out there who don’t like me for just loving who I love.  People who don’t want me to be able to marry.  Honestly, why do they care?

Here’s the thing about marriage…. which I guess was my point in talking about all of this to begin with.  If an individual is a religious person, I get that maybe according to their interpretation of the bible they may feel marriage isn’t OK for gay people.  Church rules, personal interpretations of the bible, or whatever it may be.  But if that’s the case then simply don’t let gay people get married in their churches.  What’s wrong with letting other churches decide differently?  What’s wrong with letting other pastors decide that marrying gay people in their churches is OK?  Also, if someone feels like by letting gay people marry the world would go to hell, well frankly, that isn’t your call.  If they would read the bible there’s an important tenet that says judge not lest ye be judged.  Meaning do not judge others, that’s for God, not them.  If they really feel like I’m going to hell because I’m gay, which I don’t believe by the way, then I don’t think that’s supposed to be their call either.  I think God is supposed to decide, be the ultimate decision maker.  I believe it’s also a part of the rules that you should not act as if you know God’s heart and mind.   That would be presumptuous and vain, right?   It’s a sin to think you can speak for God, make decisions that are supposed to be God’s decisions.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.  Love they neighbor and all.  Right?  How can love be wrong?  And what does my loving someone have to do with anyone else?  So why should it matter if I can marry the person I love?  Who does it hurt?  Why does that matter to anyone but me?  Me and my family that is.  I think my Mom would love to attend my wedding.  She would love to walk me down the aisle.  And if she did, why would that matter to anyone else?  What does it hurt?  I, for the life of me, don’t get it.  And before someone says wait just one second, if we allow gay marriage then it will spread throughout the land, everyone will start doing it.  C’mon, that’s ridiculous.  Straight daughters or sons are not suddenly going to marry someone of the same sex just because they can.  It’s absurd to think so.  Maybe a gay daughter or son will, but legalizing marriage for gay people will not spur on a rash of non-gay people marrying same sex persons.  That thought just makes me laugh.

I don’t know why social politics have become such a part of the national landscape in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Separation of church and state anyone?  Not legislating things that should be personal.  We’re supposed to be a world leader, forward thinking, on the right side of what is just and civil and, well… right.  What happened to that?  It would be so refreshing to look at the candidates in any  race and not have to wade through who is for or against me.  Because, believe me, that’s what I’m doing right now.  I’m looking at the candidates and saying to myself, they are either for me or against me.  I see people I know supporting the candidate who is totally against letting me get married and I think to myself why?  It makes me sad.  I’m sorry, but it does.  I know there are differences in belief about economics and education and how this country should be run, I get that and respect differing opinions, but to me this is personal.  Very.  Because trust me, on this side of things it looks exactly like the same old things… anger, hate, and fear.  It looks like exclusion.  It feels like discrimination.  It feels like I’m being treated as “them”.  You know “them”.  They have worn different faces throughout history, but they have been very much the same.  Regular people that for some reason have been considered less than, not equal, not worthy of laws to protect them, of laws that include them.  So yes, for me it’s personal.  I can’t legally marry the woman I love, which hurts no one by the way, because someone somewhere thinks I’m not worthy of that.  It disgusts me, as all discrimination has and does disgust me.  Because you know what, I am the same as everyone else, and no one should have the right to dictate who I love and who I can marry.  My mind boggles at the sheer amount of money spent on stopping me from being able to marry.  It’s unbelievable really.  All the money that could be spent on other things… education, the environment, revamping some of our systems that are actually broken.  I’m not broken, don’t try to fix me, or put the fix on me.  Stop trying to legislate my life.  I want to ask the people who keep putting forward these bills who they think they are?  How arrogant to think you know what’s best for everyone else.  How completely egotistic and pompous.  Why not spend those millions and millions of dollars on something really important huh?  We aren’t going away.  You can’t wish it or legislate it or control it.  As the saying goes, you can’t hold back the tide.  Though some are still trying to.  Let’s get out of the business of social politics as talking points and parts of agendas and let’s get back to working on the real problems.  I, in my little life, am not one of them.

Ideally I want to live in a world of acceptance and love.  I want for all the hate and fear and hard feelings to fall away, on both sides.  I want to not have to worry about holding Karen’s hand when we walk down the street in some places.  I want for us to pay the same taxes as everyone else.  I want to not be the subject of so much discussion.  I want to legally marry the woman I love, family and friends present, and I want for my wedding to be a regular everyday thing.  Not a gay wedding, just a wedding.  Because in the end, I am gay, but really I’m just the same old Tam.

The Family Think Tank

My feeling of hope, good, and that something magical just happened have not diminished in the days since the inauguration.  In that vein I’d like to post here a couple of e-mails I, and the rest of my family, received from one of my uncles, and then a response written back to him by one of my aunts.  They are posted down below the next paragraph.  Take a gander now if you like.  I love you guys.

NOTE:  I’d like to say something briefly to all those I know and love who might be a bit less than enthusiastic about this current political turn of events… and you know I’m a positive girl, so bear with me.  I tend to see the good in things, the upside, the sunshine.  I’m also quite the liberal, as you all know.  And I have some people in my life who are, shall we say, in almost direct opposition to my political beliefs.  And you know what… that’s OK.  And in fact, it’s a good thing (yeah, there I go seeing the positive again).  This place we live, love, and cherish, was built on the ability of it’s citizens to have an opinion.  It was fought for and founded so all voices could be heard.  It’s our basic freedom.  Equality of voice.  So I embrace your opinion, even though I usually disagree with it, and I say… that’s alright.  It’s OK for us to disagree.  You know I love you.  I know you love me.  We respect each others opinion enough not to try and change it.  We know we can’t.  We don’t talk politics much, and that’s OK too.  I’m tired, and I think many of us are, of the us and them mentality here in this country.  I’ve occasionally bought into that myself, and I’m trying to be done with it.  None of us can know what the next 100 days, or 1000 days, will bring.  We can’t know it.  We can all only move forward in the ways we can.  Do the best we can to forge a better place for ourselves and our world, in our own individual way.  I know, despite our differences, that we all hope for the same things, really.  We hope things get better.  We hope we keep our jobs, our homes, our incomes, our security, a way of life each of us has made for ourselves.  We all hope, as we do every day, and every year, that the people we love will be safe and healthy, that our children and their children (two or four legged) grow and live and are happy.  We hope to be happy.  It is our commonality.  It is the place where we all meet in the middle.  So, we don’t have to agree on how we all think we, as a country, can best get there.  But we can agree that we want to get there.  To security.  To personal peace.  To a healthier world, whatever each of us thinks that means.  To happiness.  I love my family and my friends, as a whole.  Every part of you, every one of you, to the last.    That’s all.  It’s simple.  I am filled with hope right now, and that hope is for all of us.

And now… on with the thoughts of my most eloquent uncle and aunt… they’re worth a read.

On Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 5:57 PM  I am compelled to write about the events of this day……..Barak Obama today is the President of the United States of America………To me and many many millions of Americans and to hundreds of millions people around the world there is a renewed sense of hope and optimism. A sense of fairness and humanity that has been woefully absent for so many years in our leadership has now finally returned. As in the heady times of John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington I feel as do so many millions of others that anything is possible; that at long last a feeling of brotherhood, direction and true sense of caring is once again the truth of the day. I am not disillusioned by the naysayers, the doubters, the “glass is half fullers”, the “negatoids”; those who do not want a Black man, a man of hope and positiveness to succeed. I know that there would be some if not even many who would say that those who think like me are Pollyannas. And I am under no illusion that one president can really have the power to effect much in the way of positive change. But perception can be such a powerful thing……. This is not about black, brown, red, yellow or white….It is about a Man who has such faith and hope in the American experience, the American sense of hope, justice and goodness. These American ideals have been allowed to spoil, flounder, and fall fallow over these past years. Our new President has and will revive these powerful positive attributes of which our national psyche is so capable of and I believe allow us to march into the future with a sense of purpose like never before. Shame on those of you who are not willing to give this new Chief Executive a chance. He is our new leader and we must give him our support. What a boon to our country in the eyes of the rest of the world if we all could do that, and what a blow to our detractors and those who would try to destroy us. Obama’s ascendancy to the pinnacle of American power is the absolute best proof to the rest of the world that America is still the cradle of opportunity. A citizen of our country can realistically aspire to anything. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives, and what a great day indeed!!!!!……..Richard

Dear Richard, Thank you for taking the time to put yourself out there and express your feelings on this momentous occasion. I wanted to reply right away last night when I read your remarks, but thought I would take a few hours and let my thoughts settle in and settle out. I listened to the inaugural remarks of our new president four times yesterday. I couldn’t get enough. You are right. It has been a long dry spell where hope and inspiration lay inert and dormant in our national psyche. Listening to Barack Obama’s words felt like cool spring water on the parched lips of our collective thirst. I think that is what struck me about the address and the historic nature of the event in full. I have never in my lifetime witnessed the magnitude of inspiration that this man invokes. It was like John Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” speech on steroids. Men, women, and children of every hue, thinking collectively as Americans that we can do whatever we set our minds to. Finally, I am proud to be an American again. I don’t feel we have to apologize to other countries for the ineptitude and disregard for other cultures that we saw cultivated in the previous administration. We can raise our heads and say….yeah man, Obama is OUR president!! We know the tasks set before us will not be easy. Our economic issues and the conflicts around the globe……Obama made manifestly clear that there is much work to do. But it is a matter of will…..our will. All we need is a leader who can take us there with resolve and regard. With Barack Obama as our new president we are going to surprise ourselves in what we can accomplish. But you know, I don’t think we will surprise our new president. He has high expectations for us. Susie

Will.I.AM Sums It Up

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me… and I’m feelin’ good, to once again quote Nina.

I woke up this morning changed, the world around me changed as well.  It’s almost as if my eyes see more clearly, my heart beats more deeply, my mind is more open.  And what’s great about this feeling is that I know I’m not alone in it.  I look into peoples eyes and they look back at me, hopeful.  They look back with joy, with possibility.  There is the feeling that a collective sigh has risen from this place and spread across the world… a sigh that says… finally, at last.  We can breathe.  We can reach out and know we might find a hand or hands reaching back.  We are no longer afraid.   We have said yes, instead of no.  We can, at last, hold our heads high and be proud.  Love has replaced suspicion and doubt.  Peace has replaced unease and anxiety.  All because one beautiful, inspiring, electrifying, genuine, good man has stepped forward, taken the lead, and reached out his hand in expectation to us.  He’s said… I’m ready, come along with me… we will change ourselves, we will change our country, we will change the world.

I’ve included below the text of the inaugural address in it’s entirety.  It’s beautiful.  Words from a poet who believes what he says… who means what he says.  This is a wonderful day.  It’s the first day of a new beginning for us all.  A new beginning for the world.

My fellow citizens:  I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers … our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Today, Nina Says It Best

The Lyrics pretty much sum up my elation today. It is, definitely, a new dawn, a new day, and I’m feelin’ good!

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Reeds driftin’ on by you know how I feel

(refrain:)
Its a new dawn
Its a new day
Its a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom in the tree you know how I feel

(refrain)
Its a new dawn
Its a new day
Its a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, dont you know
Butterflies all havin fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done
That’s what I mean

And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me

Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

(refrain)
Its a new dawn
Its a new day
Its a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good