“. . . historical events exchange glances with nothingness.”

I have been disturbed—shall I be the gay drama queen I sometimes can’t control?—shaken to the core by actions by two governments half a world apart that seem to me to be identical in nature and in scope.

Al Melvin: does his god say "hate?"

Al Melvin: does his god say “hate?”

.

Both are actions that deny full citizenship in the society in which they were taken, and both are despicable instances of the “tyranny of the majority” which all Americans ought to abhor.

The Arizona Legislature passed a measure on Thursday that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays and others . . .
(“Bill Viewed as Anti-Gay Is Passed in Arizona.” Associated Press. The New York Times. nytimes.com. FEB. 20, 2014. Web.)

Brushing aside Western threats and outrage, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda significantly strengthened Africa’s antigay movement on Monday, signing into law a bill imposing harsh sentences for homosexual acts, including life imprisonment in some cases, according to government officials.
(Cowell, Alan. “Uganda’s President Signs Anti-Gay Bill.” The New York Times. nytimes.com. Feb 24, 2014. Web.)

Both laws were passed at the behest of, the instigation of people who claim to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth who said, “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:35, NRSV).

Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to show that faggots can possibly be better neighbors and better understand the Gospel he was trying to preach than Southern Baptists of Arizona.

President Yoweri Museve: does his god say "search and destroy?"

President Yoweri Museve: does his god say “search and destroy?”

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is the basis of all of the ritual law and the ethical underpinning of the social code by which Jesus of Nazareth lived.

Of course, Arizonans are not living under that law or ethical code. The christianists of Arizona will tell you that their state’s legal code and constitution are based on the book from which Jesus’s words come—because they want to accrue to themselves the moral authority that would result from that basis and thus the political power of that authority—but they don’t understand the historical working of Constitutional rights and legal structures in Arizona or any other of the United States.

Constitutional Law scholar Kenji Yoshino discussed the erroneous assumption that American jurisprudence is based on the bible yesterday in a conversation with Arizona State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Al Melvin, one of the proponents of the idea that the Constitution allows for the discrimination the Arizona law prescribes. Practicing hatred and discrimination, by Al Melvin’s reckoning, is a guarantee of the religious freedom outlined in the First Amendment.

I frankly don’t give a damn who wins that argument. I simply want to ask the question, “Even though christianists in this country have the right, by the First Amendment to our Constitution, to practice their religion of discrimination  against gays—or anyone else (African Americans not so long ago, and Native American Comanches before that, and immigrants who speak Spanish now)—does not their own religion, which they are so desperate to practice, preclude them from that kind of hatred and discrimination?

Fortunately, neither the Constitution nor federal law allows for the kind of hatred they want to practice through discrimination in the name of their religion, and even if Governor Brewer signs the despicably irreligious law, it will almost certainly be struck down by the courts.

When I was a gay boy growing up in Nebraska, I was discriminated against daily. Not through a law giving Mr. Devor, owner of the shoe store where we bought all of our shoes in Scottsbluff and a member of our Baptist church, the right to refuse to sell my mother shoes for me because I was a budding little faggot but through the horror with which our Baptist religion looked upon me (and I did myself, trying to follow the Baptist thought of all of the adults in my life).

I’m not singling the Baptists out here. That is simply the version of Christianity I grew up with and understood as a child. The Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists and Catholics (although we did not really consider them Christians) all looked upon me the same way, in accordance with their religion.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways (I Corinthians 13:11—there, see, I did learn the Baptist religion; I can quote scripture with the best of them—most likely better than Al Melvin).

I am not saying that religion is childish. Neither am I saying Mr. Devor was childish. When I became an adult, I put an end to my own self-hatred learned from Al Melvin’s religion.

I’m sick of explanations.

Life is not a thing, but the way things behave.

Life is not Al Melvin’s hatred, it’s the way his hatred behaves toward me. And African Americans. And Native Americans. And immigrant Americans. It’s also the way my hatred behaves, to make things clear.

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for hatred, for ignorance, and for bullying in the name of Jesus (or anything or anyone else).

Costumes Exchanging Glances, by Mary Jo Bang

The rhinestone lights blink off and on.
Pretend stars.
I’m sick of explanations. A life is like Russell said
of electricity, not a thing but the way things behave.
A science of motion toward some flat surface,
some heat, some cold. Some light
can leave some after-image but it doesn’t last.
Isn’t that what they say? That and that
historical events exchange glances with nothingness.
 

Mary Jo Bang is one year younger than I—another old fart who is tired of explanations.
____________________________
About this poem, by Mary Jo Bang.
Bertrand Russell said, ‘Electricity is not a thing like St. Paul’s Cathedral; it is a way in which things behave.’ And it’s not ‘they’ who say, but Walter Benjamin who said, ‘Things are only mannequins and even the great world-historical events are only costumes beneath which they exchange glances with nothingness, with the base and the banal.’ In September, 1940, Benjamin died under ambiguous circumstances in the French-Spanish border town of Portbou, while attempting to flee the Nazis.
Copyright © 2014 by Mary Jo Bang. This poem [conveniently—synchronously] appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 26, 2014.
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2 Responses to “. . . historical events exchange glances with nothingness.”

  1. Pingback: “The Family” or “The Fellowship” and the death of gays | Sumnonrabidus's Blog

  2. bobritzema says:

    It’s sad to see Christians, of whom I am one, acting this way. They certainly aren’t imitating Christ, who practiced radical hospitality to outcasts.

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