Monday, December 06, 2010

Don't Ask; Don't Tell; Don't Learn

The problem with Don't Ask; Don't Tell is that is promotes a culture of denial. Anybody who tells you the military needs to be educated on how to deal with gays is missing the point. What the military needs is an addition to the Code of Conduct that specificies the following: Sexual activity does not belong on the battlefield, in training camps, on bivouac or on the front porch of a military dorm. It belongs in private rooms with closed doors. What goes on in there, as long as consenting adults are the only ones present, is nobody's business.

When I joined the Army in 1977, gays were not allowed in the military but sexual harrassment was rampant. Women in Basic Training completed the same requirements as the men in their Company. We lived in separate dorms, but the rigorous physical and firearms training was exactly the same for the women as it was for the men.

However, there was one significant difference: being female meant that we were constant targets of unwanted sexual attention. The form it took varied from snide remarks or taunting to physical forms of abuse. I experienced the former, not the latter, fortunately. Still, just knowing that every day I had to deal with the kind of juvenile sexual attention typically reserved for movies like American Pie was a little disappointing. Particularly, since I was supposedly working with the "creme de la creme" of the military (Signal Corps--top secret facility in West Germany--during the infamous "Cold War.")

Here's a sobering fact: According to NPR, “In 2003, a survey of female veterans found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving. And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed.” Here's the kicker: the assaults were not perpetrated by the enemy--most of these women were raped by fellow U.S. soldiers.

I left the military in 1981. Recently, I read that about 25% of our female soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq get urinary tract infections because they are afraid to go to the bathroom at night for fear of being raped by fellow soldiers. That is why I'm writing today.

We need a law, not a philosophical debate. We need to make it a violation of the Military Code of Conduct to be involved with ANYBODY'S sexuality unless invited. We need to codify the wrongness of men raping female soldiers as well as force homophobes in the military to keep their judgments against homosexuals to themselves. As long as sex is left where it belongs, both with regard to gays and women, we can work toward a functional military. That would be my holiday wish.

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Monday, October 04, 2010


Our nation seems confused by the issue of homosexuality. Even Lady Gaga, an outspoken proponent of gay rights, implies that there is a moral component to homosexuality when she asks that we “overlook the moral implications” of it. Unfortunately, she’s asking for the wrong thing: self-proclaimed saviors can’t overlook their beliefs any more than a gay man can think his way straight.

If we want to fight bigotry toward homosexuals, we have to stop letting heterosexuals define homosexuality as immoral. We have to demand that our legislators act based on information instead of superstition. Research tell us that homosexuality is the result of a combination of nature and nurture, just like everything else that is human. We should try to remember this.

NOTE: For the record, and for the benefit of the more imaginative and least educated reader, please understand that when we say “homosexuality” we are not talking about the sometimes bizarre sexual escapades of self-professed heterosexual men in isolation, nor do we refer to any kind of criminal or abusive behavior. These are not the hallmarks of homosexuality; they are the hallmarks of sexual perversion; they are not the same.

What we are talking about when we discuss homosexuality is the organic sexual attraction a person feels as a result of a combination of inborn characteristics and early childhood experiences. Accordingly, unless a crime or some kind of abuse is involved, homosexuals and heterosexuals alike should be allowed whatever sexual experience they, as consenting adults, prefer.

What we need to teach our children (and apparently a whole lot of adults as well) is that homosexuality is no more immoral than being left-handed instead of right-handed and bisexuals are no more evil than those born ambidextrous.

Perhaps our Puritan roots are responsible, but Americans seem simultaneously frightened and controlled by their sexuality. Instead of studying the subject with the understanding that it is natural, normal and healthy to be sexually active; we either treat it like a dirty little secret or go to the opposite extreme, publicly displaying our sexual prowess in a way that belies its inherently intimate nature: internet porn becomes an addiction and giving blow jobs, a competitive sport.

Meanwhile, our continued failure to fully educate our children regarding human sexuality has left too many with the mistaken belief that one must be exclusively masculine or totally feminine; any variation of these absolutes is cause for ridicule if not downright condemnation, or worse. This, despite the fact that sexuality appears to be a spectrum, not a set of two narrowly defined absolutes.

If we want to stop this madness, we need to change the nature of the discussion. At a recent fund raising luncheon in San Francisco, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is actively fighting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was asked how we can make real progress toward Gay Rights. Her answer: “Stop talking about Gay Rights and start talking about Civil Rights.”

Nobody is asking anybody to change their beliefs; only that no one person or group’s extremely personal and subjective beliefs are allowed to strip another of their basic human rights: to choose to serve in the military and/or to marry and raise a family--however unorthodox that family may appear to some.

Lastly, for the “family values” crowd, let’s keep in mind that over-population has been blamed for just about every modern societal problem you can name. Mother Nature/God created homosexuals. Perhaps they have a message for us: The key to family values isn’t making babies, it’s taking care of them.

Homophobes are not taking a moral high ground when they tell you gays don’t deserve the same rights the rest of us do; they are merely advertising their ignorance, fear and lack of compassion. Instead of asking them to “overlook the moral implications” of homosexuality, we need to remind them that Homosexuality is not a moral issue.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Family Values

I heard today that Texas law enforcement agencies decided to cite "the law " as the reason for returning all those polygamist kids to their mommies. I am not surprised. It seemed absurd to me at the time that without a search warrant or evidence of a crime, the authorities were even allowed on the compound—let alone given permission to remove hundreds of children from their homes.

Not that I'm a fan of polygamy. On the contrary, I've read Under the Banner of Heaven, John Krakauer's chilling account of two fundamentalist LDS brothers whose so-called vision from God led them to murder their younger brother's wife and daughter. I was as horrified as the next person at both the murders and the multiple stories of sexual abuse perpetrated by fundamentalist "elders" documented therein. But here's what I'm having a bit of trouble with: no one is citing the extreme emotional and psychological abuse the women and children of these fundamental LDS churches are being subjected to.
Why focus solely on sexual abuse, which is difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute without the testimony of the victims? Why is no one concerned about the emotional/psychological abuse inherent in any organized cult that allows parents to literally imprison their offspring, prevent them from having contact with the outside world and require them to lie to authorities to protect their abusers? Any time a child is born into captivity and kept there, he/she is a victim of abuse. Why aren't we prosecuting them for that?

This behavior is well-documented and could easily provide the evidence needed to arrest fundamentalist perpetrators and rescue these children from their current family prisons. Yet the authorities focus solely on reported sexual abuses, for which they have no direct evidence. Hence, the debacle that recently ensued when dozens of children were uprooted, moved around and then returned to their unholy church--creating a major news event but bringing the abused children no closer to safety.

The only rationale I can find for failing to protect the children of the fundamentalist LDS Church from its elders, and it scares me to say it, is that our society still holds to the archaic and dangerous belief that children are the property of their parents. It is ironic to me that the same people who fight for the rights of an unborn child, seem oblivious to the rights of living children who are imprisoned by their own parents.

We have plenty of proof that over 400 children live in isolation and fear within the confines of fundamentalist camps. Yet Texas law enforcement officials saw no reason to rescue these children until they got a prank call reporting underage sex. Perhaps we should all stop looking for proof of sexual abuse and start working with what we can prove: polygamist fundamentalist sects that bring children into the world and force them to live in a confined environment, without any opportunity for self-development, self-expression or choice of living conditions, are abusive by nature. They should be outlawed. What's more, programs for debriefing their members should be created to assist the victims in learning to live in the real world, where each of us is free to decide how and where we live.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Over Engineering the Democratic Nomination

Hey, can we stop trying to manipulate this process and let people vote for crying out loud? So what if we don't know who the candidate is until the convention. Big deal. We will find out then. This will not be the first time that's happened and I hope it won't be the last.

As for Florida, since when does a Republican majority in the state government get to dictate to the Dems when to have their Primary? As my ex-husband used to say "Who's f*$ing this monkey?"

I have only twice, since this whole stink began, heard anybody on the news mention why Florida's votes are being discounted. Oh they always say it's because Florida broke the rules and held their primary too early, but NOBODY ever says who was responsible for it.

WAKE UP people! The early date for the Florida Democratic Primary was not a decision made by Democrats, it was the result an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the Florida state legislature that forced the Democratic Primary to take place prior to February. And that is what caused Florida to be disqualified. Yes, Democrats also voted for the bill that moved the Primary up, but that's because it was part of a bill that included a much needed requirement to FINALLY require a voting paper trail in future elections. Any Democrat who refused to vote for that would have been tarred and feathered, metaphorically speaking. Bottom line: inappropriately bundled legislation and Republican bullying are at the root of the current problem in Florida.

Knowing this, why doesn't the DNC revoke the ruling that disqualified Florida and allow their votes to count? Because as always, it's not about letting people vote, it's about politicos manipulating others in order to influence the end result.

For the first time in history, we have the technical capability to live by the rule of Democracy. We can create a system in which there is a single vote per person and have it be accurate, not a representative (by delegates or the electoral college) vote, or a hypothetical, based on sampling. But do we attempt that lofty goal? NO. We piss away our time and energy trying to outsmart, outspend and outmaneuver each other. I thought this was a Democracy of the people, for the people, by the people. Obviously, I was wrong.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fear and loathing in Washington

I watched Barrack Obama in horror the other night as he denounced the Reverend Wright, yet again. How many times is he going to do this? And why does this continue to come up? Are the American people so incapable of handling a difference of opinion that we are now resorting to McCarthy era standards of guilt by association?

I watched the controversial Reverand Wright's speeches several times and heard nothing that either surprised or upset me. Of course black people are angry. They were brought to this country by force and under horrific conditions; sold into slavery; abused and neglected and then "freed" into a society that discriminated against them and used them as a scapegoat for all the societal troubles that ail us. I'd be angry too. In fact, not to be angry under such conditions would indicate a lack of humanity.

If we refuse to allow people to articulate feelings of anger and frustration we perpetuate the kind of societal dysfunction that only leads to more anger and frustration. What's more, if we punish those who associate with people whose ideas are not completely in line with our own, we are practicing intolerance to a frightening degree. Is this what American is all about? What happened to freedom of speech? Where is our tolerance? What about honesty?

And why is our time being spent focused on name calling instead of problem solving? Frankly, I think it's laziness. It's the easy story. It does not require spending time and energy to find out what's really going on. Nobody has to research the actual state of our economy, our disastrous health care system or our failing educational institutions to come up with a story. All the media has to do is continually revisit the tape of the Reverand Wright saying "God damn America" and they've got their topic for the day. I don't think anybody but Obama's enemies and the media care one iota about the Reverand Wright. It's his opponent, Hillary Clinton, his potential opponent, John McCain and the lazy media that continue to make this the focus of the Obama campaign.

But perhaps the worst of it all is that Obama played right into it. Instead of saying "shame on you" for making this the issue of the day, he continues to take the bait. Now he's on the road again, once more denouncing the Reverand Wright. His latest ruse is to say that the man he knew is not the man Wright now appears to be. Well, that's a sell out if I ever heard one. How about taking the high road and saying that despite their differences of opinion, he respect the Reverend's right to speak his mind, just as he expects to be respected for doing the same? How about telling us that he will not be a President who lets the media run his affairs? How about reminding us how important it is to tell the truth, even when it's painful? How about acting, dare I say it, Presidential?

I am afraid Obama is going the way of Clinton. Instead of raising the rest of us up, which was my original hope for him, he now appears to be wallowing in the muck with everybody else. His fear of reprisal is controlling his behavior. And when fear controls, fear wins.

I remember the saying "There is nothing to fear, but fear itself." Apparently, it's true. I thought Obama knew that. I guess I was wrong.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Criminal Sex

I've had enough of people who insist that men who pay for sex are bad. On the contrary, if a man wants meaningless sex he should pay for it. I would much rather find a couple of bills on the bed the next day than settle for the promise of a phone call that never comes. At least if I'm left with cash I can buy a new pair of shoes. If all I get is the brush off after giving it up, frankly, I feel cheated.

Men love sex. Some women do too, but here's the difference: Women learn to love it. Men are born loving it.

So if a guy feels he needs something different, whether it’s because he’s a pervert or because his partner isn’t giving him what he thinks he needs that's between him and his partner—not him and the rest of the world. John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and the like didn't fail the American public; they broke a promise to their loved ones to be faithful to their wives. It's nobody else's business.

You might say that as representatives of our country and enforcers of laws, our elected officials should know that breaking laws is wrong regardless of the law in question and regardless of the reason. But why are there laws criminalizing sex between two consenting adults anyway? How can we be so backward that we believe sex is healthy and beautiful if we're making a baby—even one we don't want--but bad and nasty if we're just enjoying it for its own sake? God made the clitoris, didn't he? He must have wanted us to enjoy it.

The twisted logic that causes people to say prostitution should be criminal but it's okay to have sex to make babies, may still be part of most organized religions, but isn't the state supposed to be separate from all that?

If it's not a crime to have sex, why is it a crime to pay for it? If your girlfriend blows you weekly and you present her with a diamond necklace, is that criminal? Maybe Spitzer really liked his $1k/hour call girl—maybe they developed a relationship of sorts. Maybe his wife knew about it and didn't care. We just don't know—nor is it any of our business.

But what is our business is the business of Congress. What we should be trying to do is convince Congress to pass legislation that decriminalizes sex between two consenting adults—regardless of whether or not money changes hands.

In addition to saving us all from being subjected to yet another sex scandal instead of real news, it would improve conditions for clients and service providers alike if prostitution were legal. We could do like the Dutch, in Amsterdam, for example. We could regulate the medical check-ups of sex workers to make sure they are healthy. We could pay reliable business people to manage them to ensure they have fair working conditions and are paid a living wage. It's working quite nicely over in Holland. Why not emulate their system?

Never mind, I already know the answer. If prostitution were legal, Eliot Spitzer's enemies would have to find something substantial to pin on him—and they don't have anything else. The one thing all powerful men have in common is that they want and expect great sex. What's the point of all that power otherwise? Men are not any different now than they were hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Sex sells for a reason—it's what men want.

As long as prostitution is a crime, the rich and powerful will always have a way to bring down whomever they choose to target. As the Spitzer scenario proves yet again, even the best and the brightest are, at the most fundamental level, just looking to get laid. Let's admit it and move on instead of continuing to punish otherwise law-abiding citizens for simply being what they were born to be: horn dogs.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Joining Forces

Apparently, somebody in the Clinton campaign decided to suggest a Clinton/Obama ticket--a suggestion I advocated recently--and one which backfired on a massive scale.

I have, until this moment, believed the right combination would be Clinton/Obama. Now I'm beginning to wonder.

The Clinton machine may have screwed the pooch, as it were, by being the ones to suggest it. It gave Obama a perfect opportunity to discount the idea while simultaneously make Clinton appear ignorant of the facts, and arrogant to boot--the two qualities her supporters have been attempting to pin on Obama. Suddenly, the most experienced candidate seems quite clumsy and the one who appeared to be all fluff and no substance is sounding a lot more substantial.

Maybe we should be looking at an Obama/Clinton ticket? Maybe Hillary should be the one to say it's time to make the ultimate sacrifice, it's time to bring all of my education and experience to supporting an Obama White House? Perhaps her experience and his charisma could combine to form a more perfect union? It's an interesting thought.