Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “gay”

Disgusting Radio – Roger Ingalls

Last week, while making the usual commute to the office, I was listening to Ronn Owens on KGO and the morning topic was the Boy Scouts. More precisely, the discussion hinged on the Boy Scouts ending their ban on openly gay youths but still disallowing gay leadership. By the time my car pulled into the parking lot, I was so pissed at Ronn that my brain was in overdrive planning a social media campaign to create a massive boycott of KGO.

Normally my political and social views are more or less inline with what Ronn expresses on air. Like many people across the nation, Mr. Owens supports the inclusion of gay youths into the Scouts but he disagrees with the exclusion of gay leaders. I do want to make it clear that my beliefs on this issue are the same as Ronn’s but he pulled a disgusting stunt during the program that really infuriated me.

The Ronn Owens morning program is the typical format. He orally frames an issue, gives his opinion and then invites listeners to call in and give their thoughts. On this particular day, he fielded many calls and there was a variety of opinions on the Boy Scouts gay issue. But it was how Ronn mistreated one specific caller that truly got to me.

A listener calls in and expresses his dislike for anyone gay being accepted into the Scouts, at any level. He apparently believes it will lead to sex and molestation because that’s how gays are. The man cites these outlandish statistics published on antigay websites. He sounded like your typical uber conservative radical. Ronn rightfully challenged the caller on his source of information but then it got ugly. The man goes on to say he is speaking from experience and explains that he was molested as a child and still suffers from it. He’s untrusting and must take medication for anxiety. So how does Mr. Owens respond to this? He laughs, that’s right, he laughs at the guy. I repeat, he was actually laughing while this man was talking about an apparently traumatizing event…it was obscenely disgusting.

We may not agree with someone’s opinion but must we get that disrespectful?

KGO was once a great Bay Area radio station but you can now hear their evolution into numbness as they succumb to the Cumulus puppeteer. Ronn Owens appears to be transitioning to shockjockdom as the station appeases its newly adopted corporate parent.

Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting.

The End of the Melting Pot

The concept of a society being a melting pot is something that strongly resonates for me. My family has never put down roots for more than a couple of generations. I myself have made two major moves and lived in three continents.

The idea that an ethnic group moves to a country and tries hard to become part of that society is a rich element in literature, movies and music. It is a symbol of a country’s ability to be accepting and absorb different people into its social fabric. It sees the intrinsic value of adding another rich layer of culture, food, costume and language.

There is also an oft-irrational drive on the side of the immigrant. After living in Israel for two months, I refused to speak English (it’s amazing what you can stutter through with a hundred words or so). I only listened to Israeli music, and sought Israelis to hang out  with, even though I was often a wall flower since 90% of the conversation passed me by.

When I moved to America, I immediately adopted the local basketball team, becoming a passionate Golden State Warriors fan (never easy – ask those fans who have followed them all their lives). I have goggled tailgaters, researched the Super Bowl party protocol (still more excited about the game than the ads and half-time show), and learned to look knowledgeable when wine tasting. I studiously watched The Daily Show and Colbert, okay – and the Simpsons.

I work with students on the San Francisco State University campus, a rich and diverse community from all over the world. The cultural richness is stunning and the programs offered impressive. There is an impressive statistic for how many students are first-generation to graduate high school and go on to university (I’m thinking 40%, but please correct me if I have it wrong).

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I recently used the term melting pot in front of a colleague who is also an alumna (yes I checked it to make sure!) of SFSU. I meant it in a complimentary way to express how comfortable students feel to openly express their cultural and ethnic roots.

This colleague, a millennial, baulked at the use of the word. She responded that it is derogatory and suggests we all need to strive to be the same, that there is an intense pressure to conform to whatever the dominant culture demands.

It got me thinking. I desired to fit into the culture around me because I wanted to be accepted. But I never lost sight of my roots. I was always the Englishman in Israel and my friends never lost an opportunity to poke fun at my accent, the Queen, or to accept my undisputed authority on the noble topics of soccer and beer.

I understand why the term melting pot is problematic. Often the liquid in the pot is fermented by racist connotations. But melting pot does not have to mean only one soup with only one taste. Perhaps a tapestry is a better term. Many different colored strands weave together to create a beautiful work of art.

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The millennial baulks every time that the ‘adult’ society tries to define it, put it into statistical graphs and research projects. The millennial doesn’t spend time pondering whether s/he is a Jewish American or an American Jew.

S/he is comfortable with multiple identities. Have you ever watched a millennial working on their desktop (it doesn’t work so well on phones)? They have a dozen windows open at any one time and flit from one to another like a humming bird on speed. It is the same with their identity. They are comfortable being Jewish here, gay there, a jock in one place, an intellect in another. It is natural and easy.

But there is a generation even more exciting than millennials following them. A while ago, my youngest son met three classmates at the park. The fathers stood together and looked on. One was Israeli, another Palestinian, a third from India, and the fourth from Pakistan. While the kids had fun on the wooden playground, the fathers fidgeted, discussing the weather, house prices and the 49ers. The fathers are all good men, wanting a peaceful world and a just society to live in for their families. We were all happy to stand there in that park playing fathers.

But what was amazing was that our sons were perfectly comfortable. They played together because it was simply fun to hang out. I am sure they each have an understanding of their roots and often hang out with people of their own ethnic background but do not feel a need to be defined as such.

The biggest problem I feel with the melting pot is that it is/was deemed necessary. The millennials will treat it with vague intellectual curiosity and the next generation won’t even know what it was – like a pay phone or record player.

And that is what gives me hope for a better world.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

The World is Your Facebook – Roger Ingalls

This afternoon I received an interesting email from a friend that contained a PowerPoint presentation showing facts about the world. It proportionally represented the entire population on Earth as if we were only a village containing one hundred people. It made the numbers more comprehensible.

Facebook World

Let’s do something similar and bring the facts even closer to home by making the world our Facebook page. I’d like you to imagine that the only people in existence are also your Facebook friends. The average user has 130 friends. You may have more, or less, but let’s represent the entire human race relative to the average Facebook user. We have demographically shrunk the world proportionally.

Your world, your Facebook:

1)      You have friended all 130 people on Earth.

2)      You are friends with 67 women and 63 men.

3)      Seventy-four (74) of your friends are Asian, 27 are European, 18 are from the Americas (north, central and south), and 10 are from Africa.

4)      You have 43 Christian, 29 Muslim, 18 Hindu, 9 Buddhist and 1 Jewish friend.

5)      While worshipping their God, 60 of your friends live in fear of assault or death.

6)      Fourteen (14) of your friends are gay.

7)      You have 8 very rich friends that control 60% of the world’s wealth.

8)      Poverty hurts 104 of your friends.

9)      Sixty-five (65) of your friends are hungry or malnourished.

10)   Ninety-one (91) of your friends cannot read or write.

11)   One of your friends is giving birth.

12)   One of your friends is about to die.

13)   Only one of your friends has a college degree.

14)   Only one of your friends has a computer.

15)   If you have clothes on your back, sleep with a roof over your head and have food in the fridge, you live better than 98 of your friends.

Proportionally shrinking the entire population down to the size of the average Facebook user’s friendship-reach, did make it easier for me to rationalize the true state of the world. It was a good mental exercise.

I’m fortunate and should be more thankful.

To Our ‘Gay’ President

Dear President Obama,

I have to admit you are full of surprises. As I am sure you are aware from your daily perusal of our humble blog, I am critically supportive of you. I worked for your election, cried when Jon Stewart called the election for Obama as part of The Daily Show and Colbert Report’s special live coverage of Indecision 2008, keeping the live show going a few more minutes in order to announce your/our victory, and praised your Obamacare, even if it was far from perfect.

I didn’t expect you to be so deadly cool and take out bin Laden like you did, when many hawks would be squawking at their roosts deciding if to or not.

Still, you will excuse me if I don’t jump up and down on your decision to support gay marriage, or the tribulations that have followed. You see, Mr. President, you simply did the right thing. That’s it.

I appreciate you having the guts to do it in an election year, but the President should do the right thing. You are the President of everyone – the blacks, the Jews, the Hispanics, the whites, the card-carrying NRA members, the religious and the secular. And you are the President of the gay community. You did the right thing.

So to thank you, here is a song that was brought out when it was difficult to come out as gay in Britain, sung by a singer who is not (I think) gay. But Billy Bragg wanted to be a representative of all progressive people and so he challenged us all with this song.

By the way Mr. President, I chose this version because it features the late Kristy MacColl who tragically died 12 years ago.

Thank you for reading this, sir. Always a pleasure. Here’s to another four years.
Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Political Anagrams by Roger Ingalls

Let’s put the serious blogging aside and make some smiles. Today I want to poke fun at conservative politicians by anagramming their names.

What is an anagram? It is a rearrangement of the letters of one word or phrase to form another word or phrase. A very simple example is rearranging the letters of “Evil” to get “Vile”.

Warning, these anagrams may not be politically correct and some may be a little crude!

Michele Bachmann (Rep. from Minnesota and Presidential Candidate)

Anagram: “Michele Bachmann” becomes “A Calm Bi-Henchmen”. Ironic since she and her husband believe a gay can be prayed straight.

Hench-men: n., a person who supports a political figure chiefly out of selfish interests.

Bi: slang n., a bisexual person.

George W. Bush (43rd President of the United States)

Anagram: “George W. Bush” becomes “Whose Bugger”. The story goes something like this; Little George got caught stealing funds from the church’s collection plate so the preacher held him up by the collar and asked the congregation, “whose bugger?” George’s mother, Barbara Bush, was too embarrassed to claim her own son.

Bug-ger: slang n., a contemptible or disreputable person.

Bug-ger: vulgar slang n., a sodomite.

Ronald Reagan (40th President of the United States)

Anagram 1: “Ronald Reagan” becomes “Adrenal Groan”. An adrenal groan is something Nancy Reagan never experienced while married to President Reagan.

Anagram 2: “Ronald Reagan” becomes “A Granola Nerd”. The President probably didn’t eat granola but his son, Ron Reagan, may have while practicing ballet.

Anagram 3: “Ronald Reagan” becomes “Anal Anger Rod”. An anal anger rod is something President Reagan gave to Mikhail Gorbachev during the USA-USSR Cold War summit meetings. I can see Ronny saying, “take this you communist bastard”.

James “Rick” Perry (Texas Governor and Presidential Candidate)

Anagram: “James Rick Perry” becomes “Scary Prime Jerk”. Rick Perry ignores the separation of church and state, and brings religious prejudice to politics. It is a scary thought that this prime jerk could become president.

Prime: adj., first in degree or rank; chief.

John Boehner (Rep. from Ohio)

Anagram 1: “Rep. John Boehner” becomes “John Horn Beeper”.

Anagram 2: “Rep. John Boehner” becomes “Be Her Prone John”. What a pimp says to his hooker’s client, “lie down and be her prone john”.

Prone: adj., lying downward.

John: n., a prostitute’s client.

Scott Walker (Wisconsin Governor)

Anagram: “Scott Walker” becomes “We Lost Track”. Before flushing him to Hell, Saint Peter asked Gov Walker, “why did you suck up to Big Biz instead of protecting the people of Wisconsin?” A slobbering Walker cried, “we lost track of our constitutional duty.”

Willard “Mitt” Romney (Former Governor and Presidential Candidate)

Anagram: “Willard Romney” becomes “Really Din Worm”. Mitt is a loud mouth squirmy worm.

Din: a jumble of loud, usually discordant sounds.

Eric Cantor (Rep. from Virginia)

Anagram 1: “Eric Cantor” becomes “Erratic Con”. Needs no explanation.

Anagram 2: “Eric Cantor” becomes “Cancer Trio”. Michele Bachmann, John Boehner and Eric Cantor are the Cancer Trio of American Politics.

Sarah Palin (Former Governor and Former Vice Presidential Candidate)

Anagram 1: “Sarah Palin” becomes “Las Piranha”. An Alaskan fish taco.

Anagram 2: “Sarah Palin” becomes “A Plain Rash”. A plain rash is what many Americans get when Sarah speaks.

Anagram 3: “Sarah Palin” becomes “Ah Anal Rips”. What Todd Palin says after passing gas from Sarah’s moose and bean stew, “ah….anal rips.”

Tea Party Nation

Anagram: “Tea Party Nation” becomes “A Potty Inane Rat”. 

Potty: adj., having a muddled confused mind, silly, foolish, illogical, crazy or addlebrained.

Inane: adj., lacks sense or substance.

The “Tea Party Nation” anagram is descriptively on target and a perfect closing to this post. They truly are a senseless addlebrained movement.

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Bi-Sexual Judges Only, No Gays and No Heterosexuals (Roger Ingalls)

Gay marriage had a huge victory last week with the passage of the same-sex marriage bill in New York State. With a fair number of Republicans voting for the bill, the tide may be turning.

California, on the other hand, has been in a legal gay marriage mess – yes we can, no we can’t, yes again but we’re in a holding pattern – the saga plays on.

The California Marriage Protection Act ( Prop 8 ) passed in the November 2008 state elections, eliminating the rights of gays to marry. On appeal, United States district court Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned Prop 8 on August 4, 2010, ruling that it violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution.

The pro-Prop 8ers appealed Judge Walker’s ruling on the grounds that he was in a long term gay relationship. “He may someday want to marry his partner so his judgment could be biased”, they argued. From my point of view, their argument is flawed because that sword cuts both ways.

If a gay judge should recuse himself from a gay-issue case for reasons of potential bias, then a heterosexual judge should also disqualify himself for potential non-gay bias. So, what now? Do we run around asking all sorts of personal questions until we find a bi-sexual judge? This sounds a little silly and it is a slippery slope; white judges can’t rule on non-white cases, black judges can’t rule on non-black cases, a judge with a particular religious view can’t rule on a case involving a different religion and so on. Maybe we should ask the judge if he has an innie or outtie belly-button just in case that has some relevance.

What pissed me off most about the pro-Prop 8ers’ gay bias argument was the lack of intelligent commentary on major media sources about bias working both ways. If a non-gay judge made a ruling on this case would we be discussing the sexual orientation of that judge? The answer is no. Why is that?

Perhaps we’re not as accepting as we think.

Let’s end this on some positive notes. On June 14, 2011, Chief US District Judge James Ware rejected the pro-Prop 8ers’ appeal regarding Judge Walkers’ sexual orientation. Today, June 29, 2011, Rhode Island’s Senate and House passed a civil union bill and the Governor indicated that he would sign it – it’s not a gay marriage bill but it is a progressive step.

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Being Gay – Rhondajo Boomington

As a former fundamentalist, who grew up continually hearing – from the pulpit at church – that “homosexuals make God vomit,” I have a true appreciation for Pride Weekend – and for living in my beloved Berkeley.

Here, people are more likely to judge me for being overweight or for not being independently wealthy than because I am a lesbian. That’s a huge relief.

Yes, of course, there’s still tons of homophobia here in the Bay Area. But at least the norm is not to express it openly.

When I go to North Carolina, people stare at me a lot. When I walk into a restaurant, heads turn, people glance at each other, staring disapprovingly. My hair is too short. I’m not wearing make-up. I’m not dressed in frilly clothes. And I’m not bashing my eye lashes at anyone. Often when I order, the wait staff will say “you’re not from around here – are you?”

My brother has warned me that when I visit, I need to stay within about a 20 mile radius of their town. Else “you won’t be safe if you go any further out.”

I came out to my Mom about eleven years ago, and left it up to her to share – or not share – that information with people in her world.

When I flew home, alone, five years ago on a red-eye,  my brother and my Mom picked me up at the airport. We went directly to my favorite restaurant for breakfast. I almost choked on my country ham when my brother said “well – Daddy told me ‘go pick her up at the airport. If she’s alone – bring her back here. But if she’s got anybody with her, she’s not coming under my roof.'” My Mom’s eyes got big – but she remained silent.

I  took a deep breath. Practiced all that fancy breathing I learned at those Buddhist retreats in Berkeley. I announced that would be staying with my friends, 60 miles away, rather than with my parents. I could see the pain in my Mom’s eyes.

My brother – honestly being earnest said “Now Rhondajo, just calm down. You’re getting worked up over nothing. You know how Daddy is with his dog. He loves that dog. More than anything. But that dog is an outdoor dog – and he is never coming into Daddy’s house.”

I was livid. I did more of that breathing – and practicing non-attachment.  I had flown 3,000 miles to see my family, and didn’t know when – or if – I would be back. By the end of the meal, I told my brother “while I am here, we’re talking about two things. And two things only. Country music and food.” And he took me to my parents’ house.

Given that having a gay child is the ultimate shame, I was more surprised that someone had told my father that I was gay – than I was with his reaction.

So – here in the Bay Area, we will be inundated by Gay Pride this weekend. But, remember, there’s still a lot of prejudice out there. Right now.

When you hear a homophobic  joke, please don’t just pretend you didn’t hear it.

If you have a gay person in your life, give her or him an extra big, warm hug this weekend.

And if you don’t have a gay person in your personal circle of friends – it’s a great time to embrace a bit more diversity.

Happy Pride Weekend!

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RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area and is frustrated that Obama is not liberal enough. She has earned a J.D. and a Masters of Divinity, and  enjoys performing in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist. Contact her at rhondajoboomington@yahoo.com

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