For the last year or so, I’ve sort of vanished completely from most of my online friends and hangouts. It’s been a weird year, most noticeably so for what appears to be the death of my sense of humor. I think my total inability to laugh at much of anything started late last year, when one of my tenth grade students was murdered, leaving behind an infant son. It’s something of a challenge to try to teach effectively in a classroom with a desk suddenly empty under such circumstances. A few weeks after that, I was driving to my school to go to work, only to come upon an accident which must have happened not five minutes earlier – a truck had hit a student waiting for a bus, and the child was still pinned beneath the truck. I knew the neighborhood and that bus stop, and I knew that the bus the child was waiting for would have been taking him or her off to one of the local middle schools, so my first reaction was one of relief – the injured child was not going to be one of my students.
When I realized that I was feeling, I fell into a pretty heavy duty spiral of frustration and shame and helpless anger. It felt like I was showing the same attitude I always deplore in other people – only caring about what happens to kids when they’re “one of ours” in some way. It’s the sort of attitude that causes the national media freakout from freakout queens like Nancy Grace whenever anyone does something to a white kid, but completely ignores it when bad shit happens to black kids. A couple of days before the election, in fact, one of the students who attended one of the high schools in the area where I teach was shot, his body set on fire and dumped behind the railroad tracks. Try and find any information on the story – I dare you. I teach in Miami – go ahead and search newsfeeds or Google or whatever. There was nothing on it – a brief in the crimes section, maybe,- because the kids I teach are throwaway kids in this country’s eyes.
I guess I’ve just been feeling hopeless because the things that are important to me don’t seem to be important to any voice that gets listened to on a large scale. And seeing children die over it can sort of take the humor out of things.
So I voted for Obama. And he’s given me Rahm Emmanuel, Arne Duncan, and Rick Warren. It’s an entire slate of people who don’t care much at all for the people and things that I care about. And yet what choice did I have? What choice do I have now? I think I’ve lost teh funny, and I don’t know if it’s coming back any time soon.
So anyway, I felt like I had to say something about the whole Rick Warren folderol, and I started off writing something, and I think it might have been funny at the start, but by the time I was done it felt about as funny as knowing that kids who grow up in poverty show brain function abnormalities similar to stroke patients. But I’m just going to go ahead and stick it under the fold, so that if you want to look at it and try to figure out whether it’s funny or just depressing you can. I just don’t know if I can tell the difference myself anymore.
Letter From A Birmingham Gay Bar
My Dear Fellow Progressives,
While debauching here at Partners, I came across your statements calling my present actions “unwise and untimely”. Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my girlfriends would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and this would seriously cut into our cold honey and vodka sex orgy time. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will (or confusion; I always get those two mixed up) and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I will try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable (and reasonably fabulous) terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in the Democratic party, since you have been influenced by the view which argues that the party is only inclusive for non troublemakers. I have the honor of serving as the president of the “I Hate the HRC” fan club, an organization consisting basically of me and a couple of my similarly minded loudmouthed friends. Some of my loudmouthed friends are actually members of the Democratic party, as hard as that might be to believe. Several months ago, the Democratic party asked the queer community to be on call to vote in favor of their chosen candidate for president. After some small token concessions we consented – mostly because we realized we didn’t have many viable alternatives. So I, along with several of my friends, dutifully lined up in November and cast a ballot for something we were assured would be “change”.
But basically, I am in the Democratic party because the injustice is here. Just as the righteously pissed-off fags of the Stonewall Inn left their cozy dancehall and slashed paddy wagon tires in the sixties, and just as Harvey Milk promised to recruit as many people as possible, so I am compelled to carry the demand for some halfway decent treatment and maybe just a shot at equality to a political party that I honestly don’t belong to. Like Harvey, I must work to spread equality even to people who pretend to be my friends but really wish I’d just shut up.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Happy Fagistan and not be concerned about what happens in the Democratic party. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, zombielike “Beltway consensus” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds – even if we personally find their sexual practices icky.
You deplore the bitching and moaning being directed at Obama. But your whining, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar displeasure for the actions that brought about our bitching and moaning. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that so much bitching is being directed at Obama, but it is even more unfortunate that Obama’s poor political choices over the last weeks have left the actual Left community – the one that cares about real equality for everyone – with no alternative.
In any internet bitching campaign, there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; a brief window of patience where we consider all of the possible reasonable explanations and rationales for the crazy-assed behavior of the person we so desperately want to admire; outrage fueled by cheap beer when we realize we’ve been sold out AGAIN; and the posting of sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek-to-mask-the-actual-depth-of-our-despair-and-anger rants on teh intarwebz. We have gone through these steps in the Democratic party. There can be no gainsaying the fact that rank hypocrisy engulfs this party. The Democratic party is probably the most Heatherish, cliquish, stab-you-in-the-backish organization in the history of humanity. Fags have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the DLC. No other political party in this country has ever promised queers equality to their faces and given them DOMA and DADTwhen their backs were turned. Firing people and kicking them out of their houses because of their sexual orientation is completely legal in the United States, and has been so throughout both Democratic and Republican presidencies. There is no national requirement that prejudice against gays be taken into consideration in sentencing guidelines when attacks against gays take place, unlike those required for many other types of hate crimes. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these facts, homos and their allies sought assurances from the Democratic party. But the latter was found to be consistently talking out its ass, just like it always does.
Then, last November, came the opportunity for people who actually care about justice and equality to lay their cards on the table. In the course of our agreeing to vote for Obama, certain promises were made by the Democratic party – for example, while we shouldn’t be greedy enough to actually expect the right to get married, we could get second-class marriage – err, “civil union” – and pretend that Plessy v Ferguson never happened and we should just be happy with what we got. On the basis of these promises, the HRC stuck its head so far up Obama’s ass that if Obama had happened to be gay, it would’ve been a religious experience for him. Of course, that’s not even worth mentioning, because the HRC will put out for anyone who promises not to call them “butt pirates” to their face. What’s really worth noting is that most of us who have never been satisfied with empty words and hollow promises also lined up to vote for Change. As the weeks and month – just barely one month, mind – went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. Not that most of us actually believed him in the first place, but you’d think he could’ve waited until more than a month after the election to take such a huge, public, smelly dump on us.
As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to post intemperate ejaculations all over the intertubes, threatening to clog up the aforesaid tubes for days. We would present our snarky, childish wit as a means of laying our utter disillusionment with the entire so-called “democratic” process before the conscience of the netizen and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to lay in a good stock of Steel Reserve first. We began asking ourselves “why is it that we bother to vote in the first place?” and “wouldn’t the six hours we spent on a Sunday waiting on line to vote early have been better spent watching ‘Tank Girl’ and masturbating a lot?”. We wondered if our voter’s registration card could be used as a beer coaster. We decided to drunk-blog all night long, knowing that the winter break was coming up and we could kill a hell of a lot of spare time that way without even really trying.
Then it occurred to us that Obama’s inauguration was coming up in January, and we speedily decided to postpone total liver failure until January 20. We knew that it wouldn’t really make any difference, because Obama has already fucked the left so hard and so nasty that he damn well better leave at least a C-note on the dresser for us, but the whole experience has left us so bitter and disheartened that the only possible joy left in our lives is taking potshots from the sidelines – why should we have to give that up to time spent sitting in a dialysis center so quickly? Having aided in this community need, we felt that our bitching couldn’t wait any longer – but that we didn’t have to blow our whole load in one shot.
You may well ask: “Why turn to total cynicism? Isn’t attempting to work within the system for progressive, incremental change a better path?” You are quite right in calling for working within the system. Indeed, this is the very purpose of drunken despair. Drunken despair seeks to create such a crisis and foster such non-participation that a community which coasts on the illusion of general support for its jackassery is forced to confront how little support they actually have. It seeks to so mock the Serious Consensus that it can no longer be taken seriously. My citing the creation of total apathy as part of the work of the reformer may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “apathy”. I have earnestly opposed serious apathy, but there is a type of constructive, reflective apathy that is necessary to point out the total sham our political process has become. Just as Diogenes felt it was necessary to rub one out in the middle of the marketplace to point out how easy it was to be offended by deeds everyone does in the dark but completely sanguine about offenses like slavery done in the light, so we must see the need for cynical gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and homophobia to the majestic heights of of understanding and brotherhood
(Don’t you just know I had to be drunk to type that last bit?)
The purpose of our drunken-blogging program is to create a situation so ridiculous that it will inevitably open the door to the realization of the total untenability of our current system. I therefore concur with you in your call for work within the system. Too long has our beloved Democratic party been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in an unreal system rather than the reality the rest of us live in every day.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action I and my associates have taken in the Democratic party is untimely. Some have asked “why don’t you give the Obama administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new national administration must be mocked about as much as the outgoing one before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Barack Obama as president will bring the Millennium to America. While Mr. Obama is a much more sane person than Mr. Bush, they are both coreligionists, dedicated to the maintenance of second-class gay citizenship. I have hope that Mr. Obama will be reasonable enough to see ignobility of massive, unending insults to queer Americans. But he will not see this without drunken, angry mockery from the good people who were roped into supporting his conservative ass in the first place. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights, period. Not in the last thirty years or so, at least. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Also, oppressed groups seldom actually gain anything worth gaining from those in power – which thusly brings us to our current embittered, endrunked, enhopelessed position. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Elizabeth Edwards reminds us,such people tend to be struck down with cancer by an uncaring, random, heartless universe. And you wonder why I drink? Seriously?
We have waited more than 340 years for our Constitutional and natural rights. The nations of England and Canada are moving with jetlike speed toward creating political equality, but we still creep with horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining the right to visit our dying loved ones in a hospital. Perhaps it is easy for those of you who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “Wait”. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim, when you have seen hate filled citizenscurse, kick, and even kill your gay brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your queer family smothering in an airtight closet of shame in the midst of a shameless society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old foster son why he will never be allowed to be your real, legal son, and see tears welling up in his eyes when he is told that he can’t ever have a real father, and see ominous clouds of inferiority begin to form in his little mental sky, and see him beginning to distort his personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward straight people; when you take a cross-country trip and find it necessary to rent two motel rooms instead of one because the danger of sharing a motel room includes a fag drag; when your first name becomes “faggot” and your middle name becomes “fairy” (no matter how “straight” you act), and your wife is never given the respected title “Mrs.” (because she’s not your wife, after all); when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Faggot, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing quite what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to refuse to take the current political panoply seriously. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Wait – I think perhaps I might be too drunk at this piotn. There’s not a damn thing “legitimate” about that.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my “Liberal” and “Democratic” brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been completely nauseated by the Sensible Liberal. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Left’s greatest stumbling block is not the Republican party or the Freepers of the world, but the moderate Democrat, who is more devoted to “winning” than to justice, who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension, often called “inclusion” or “getting along”, to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who says “I agree with the goal you seek, but I also understand the point of view of people who think you are little more than crazed pedophiles”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s full citizenship; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the fag to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
And seeing as that last bit is pretty much the money shot and I’m almost out of drinkables at this point, I think I’ll save whatever else I might have to say on this topic for my next drunkblogging binge. I hope this missive finds you drunk and happy, as I hope to join you in that state soon.