I LITERALLY WANT TO SCREAM

This morning I looked in the mirror about thirty seconds after I got out of bed. I don’t know why. Well, yes, I do. It’s almost impossible not to in my bathroom. Why that mirror covers most of one wall, I don’t know. This apartment complex needs the Property Brothers to come in and fix things up.

I should have used skin moisturizers before it was too late.

I should have used skin moisturizers before it was too late.

Seeing myself in the mirror these days can be bad for my (mental/emotional) health. I don’t mind being oldish, but I mind looking my age. I’m a gay man who has never once in 70 years applied moisturizer or anti-aging cream to my face. It’s a little late to start now. And I’m still about 30 pounds overweight.

So an unintentional glance at myself in the mirror at 5 AM is startling. Unnerving.

People who know me will probably say, “You don’t look so bad at 5 AM. That’s how you always look.” Which is not helpful.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

The truest aspect of this Robert Burns poem is, of course, its title: “To a Louse.” (Ponder that and you’ll get it.) The gift of seeing myself as others see me might indeed free me from many a blunder. Or not.

I’ve been depressed the last couple of months more than usual. The cause is simple. I’m lonely most of the time. An oldish gay man living alone whose life-long communities of support are gone. No church (during my last few years as a church organist the purpose was more social/communal than religious). No full-time employment with an office in the hallway with other grown-ups’ offices. No family close by. No partner (not even a lover).

This is not a paean to loneliness or depression, or a self-pitying cry for help. Or any of those other psycho-babblish diagnoses someone might impose on what I want to say.

Richardson, Texas, public schools

Richardson, Texas, public schools

I have every reason to be a grouch. The experience of loneliness becomes more difficult and maddening as one gets older than it was naturally in one’s youth. So just grant me that. I have every right to be grumpy. It goes with the territory.

What I am most grumpy about is arrogant foolishness, that is, foolishness masquerading as correctness (political or otherwise).

donald trump and all the other members of his “party” who want to be my President. No thanks. I don’t want someone with a fourth-grade school-yard mentality and vocabulary maintaining any authority over me whatsoever. No one who literally believes a fertilized egg is a human being has any right to tell me or anyone else what to do; they can believe whatever nonsense they want, but I don’t want them forcing their religion on the rest of us.

Most of all, I don’t want a President who literally believes (literally, as in the authentic meaning of the word―”it is actually true”) that white men who speak English are better than anyone else―women, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, gays―you know the list.

Carly Fiorina is one of those people who literally believes a fertilized egg is a person. That’s OK. Let her believe what she wants as long as she doesn’t force her religion on the rest of us. But you know, of course, that she is the victim of fourth-grade bullying as much as any Hispanic child born in the United States of parents who are here without documentation. She’s the only one of the myriad “debaters” who is referred to by only her first name. We have Chris Christie, Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush, and tagging along while the boys play is Carly. Just Carly. (And, also in another lineup, just Hillary.)

A friend emailed me that he hoped African Americans in this country would take Ben Carson as a role model. So do I. There’s only one problem with that. My response:

When you know personally and have daily contact with an 18-year-old black man from the inner city (any inner city)―as I do―then I will say you have standing to make comments about Ben Carson’s story as an inspiration for black people. That’s exactly the same as saying, “I wish Nelson or Jay Rockefeller’s stories―being BORN billionaires–would inspire white people.” The institutionalized racism that destroys black lives barely touched Carson because when he excelled in school “there was resentment from his classmates at the predominantly white school.” (http://biography.yourdictionary.com/ben-carson.) All of the black students I tutor who are having an easy time academically went to “predominantly white” schools. ALL of them. Most black students I tutor who went to a predominantly black inner-city high school struggle academically, and if they were not athletes being used by the university for its own glory, most of them would not be there. If they were, they would succeed only by an enormous effort most college students can’t imagine. Carson―by the luck of the draw―went to a high school that provided an education.

I realize how ridiculous I sound. This is so close to “but some of my best friends are Jewish” mentality that I literally want to scream at myself.

So be it. I’m an oldish faggot who has never used skin moisturizers, so I’m allowed to be grumpy. All I want is for someone who is using our “political” process for personal aggrandizement to be honest, to be fair, to “get real.” Look themselves in the mirror when they are at their worst. See themselves as (some) others see them, not their sycophants.

Dallas, Texas, public schools

Dallas, Texas, public schools

“. . . religion . . . a matter . . . in which no other, & far less the public, [has] a right to intermeddle.”

A scary place?

A scary place?

Marlise Muñoz is the latest victim of an insane and deadly religious war in the United States.

“Conservatives” (that is, apparently, those terrified of science) are waging a war in this country that is every bit as sectarian and brutal, and—where they win the war—results in a despotism every bit as un-Democratic and cruel as any these same “conservatives” claim to hate in countries where “Islamists” are in control.

When I was in junior high school (1957-1960), we lived in the house at the corner of the northwest city limits of Scottsbluff, NE, the corner of Avenue I and 30th Street. All of the land between our house and that corner was vacant. The First Baptist Church was eventually built there. I don’t know where the city limit is now. There’s a shopping center to the west across Avenue I from there, and houses cover the hillside to the north, so I assume the city limit has succumbed to the Nebraska small city version of urban sprawl.

From our yard, we could see St. Mary’s Hospital (Roman Catholic) on the hillside north and east perhaps half a mile away (at an extension of Avenue B). We lived there for 5 years, and I never once was closer to St. Mary’s than our yard.

My brother and I had our tonsils removed at the Methodist Hospital downtown on Broadway. I remember that overnight stay well. And I remember being taken there many times to visit friends and acquaintances.

. . . in which no other, & far less the public, had a right to intermeddle. . .

. . . in which no other, & far less the public, had a right to intermeddle. . .

But St. Mary’s was a mystery—because it was Catholic, and we Baptists had no reason to associate with it. I remember a few times my father, the Baptist preacher, had to go there to visit a parishioner. When he came home, it almost felt as if Mom wanted to fumigate him.

Besides the obvious historic animosity of Baptists toward Catholics, Mom had a (fairly sound?) reason for not wanting anything to do with St. Mary’s Hospital. After all, she explained, if a woman was delivering a baby and there were compilations, the Catholics would let the mother die in order to save the baby if it came to that.

This was well before Rove v. Wade and before the Catholics and Baptists joined in their un-Holy Alliance to declare religious war on the rest of us.

The late Marlise Muñoz and her husband Erick Muñoz of Ft. Worth became casualties in that religious war. Her brain died from an apparent embolism last November, but—because she was pregnant—her body was kept alive on machines until two days ago, kept alive against her prior stated wishes and the wishes of her family. Kept alive by the religious laws of the State of Texas.

The political struggle over abortion is a religious war. The Catholics, most Baptists, and other “conservatives” are hell-bent on forcing their religious belief on the rest of us. A “conservative” victory in the religious war carried out in the Texas legislature made it illegal to discontinue life support on a pregnant woman—even if the woman was brain-dead. Saving an unviable fetus in a situation that could be described only as cruel and inhumane for the family of the mother is a victory in the religious war.

That a human being, Homo sapiens, has a soul is 100% a religious belief. One hundred percent. It does not matter whether or not I personally think I have a soul, but if I did, it would be 100% a religious belief.

100% religious.

The belief that the soul is somehow “created” the moment a human sperm enters a human ovum is also a religious belief. “Conservatives” can show us all the ultra-sound pictures of all the fetuses they want, and they have proven nothing. Nothing.

Except their 100% religious belief.

100% religious.

I do not mean in any way to say that reproductive rights are not a struggle for women’s rights (which “conservative” women seem to be willing to give up for the sake of the religious war). Reproductive rights are absolutely about women’s rights. But the basis of those rights is as much in the Constitutional declaration that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” as it is in the right to privacy or any other right.

It is 100% a religious right.

Every time the Congress or some state legislature passes another restriction on abortion, they are passing a law respecting an establishment of religion. They are using the power of the majority to force their religious belief on all of us.

As a matter of public policy—that is, an establishment of religion—those who believe in the human “soul” cannot constitutionally force their beliefs on the rest of us.

That they have done so is sectarian violence not unlike the sectarian violence that is tearing Syria apart, or the victory of one sect over all others in Iran, or the official and legal banning of religion in China. It is the same. It is forcing the view of one religion onto everyone else.

It is mindless, violent, and un-American.

Jacquielynn Floyd of the Dallas Morning News summed it up pretty well.

But the freakish, dystopian hell superimposed on [Marlise Muñoz’s family’s] loss was an inhumane synthesis of factors outside their control: obscure and misinterpreted law, cover-your-butt bureaucratic paranoia and hysteria surrounding reproductive politics (Floyd, Jacquielynn. “Marlise Muñoz case was about bureaucracy, politics — and cruelty.” dallasnews.com. 27 January 2014. Web.)

“Hysteria surrounding reproductive politics.” The Christianist majority’s war on the religious beliefs of the rest of us.

Which, for the time being, they have won. They have imposed their religious will on the nation as surely as His Eminence Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei imposes his religious will on Iran.

1813 May 31.  (Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush).  “…the subject of religion, a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his maker, in which no other, & far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.”

George Mason, "father" of the Bill of Rights

George Mason, “father” of the Bill of Rights