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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Truth About Thanksgiving

While many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, many Native Americans do not. Most of the Thanksgiving story is constructed from a set of myths which not only don't match the historical record but which also hide some of the more shameful facts about colonial America.
According to Native organization, Oyate, among the myths that are taught to our children are included the following:

1. The claim that the first thanksgiving occurred in 1621 is a myth. In fact,  First nations people have always celebrated Harvest Feasts of some kind. Here in the Southeast, the Seminole, Cherokee, Muskogee peoples among others celebrate the Green Corn Festival.

2. The claim that the first colonists who celebrated the "first thanksgiving" were pilgrims  and innocent refugees seeking "freedom of religion" is a myth. In fact at the time of their landfall, many Native Americans had already been enslaved and brought back to England and the early colonists had already determined that these people were heathens and not a part of God's Kingdom and therefore candidates for extinction. They did not think Indigenous peoples deserved religious freedoms.

3. The claim that early settler found corn is a myth. The truth is much more sinister. Not only did the colonists steal corn stores from Wampanoag peoples storage areas and houses but they even raided Indigenous graves for corn and jewelry, leaving the bones of their dead scattered in their looting.

4. The claim that Squanto chose willingly to become a special friend and guide to the colonists is a myth. He was one of the only surviving members of the Wampanoag village of Pawtuxet that had been wiped out by earlier English incursions in the area. He had been held captive for years and taught English.

5. The claim that the colonists invited the Indians to the feast and fed them and that they became great friends is a myth. In truth, the feast was "crashed" by the Wapanoag who heard gunshot and were suspicious of the the colonists, came to check it out and then saw the meager feast of the English and decided to contribute to it. The Wapanoag would have brought the lion share of the food as they were much better equipped to feed themselves than the colonists. Rather than leading to peace, these early meetings led to massacres on the part of the English. In 1637, the Pequot suffered the loss of  700 of their members in a massacre against unarmed men, women, and children, when colonists attacked them in their sleep and burned them alive.

For many First Nations peoples, "Thanksgiving is a time of mourning, a reminder of genocide and the theft of Indian lands.

When will America tell the true story of her origins? When will she admit wrongdoing, make amends, learn from her mistakes, and institute reparations for all she has done in the name of racism and greed?

We are waiting....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lets Stop Recognizing Straight Marriage

After prop 2  passed in Florida and then prop 8 in California passed I toyed with the idea of no longer recognizing the marriages of my straight friends. I was sick of the double standard and wondered how to take a stand. I tried referring to my friend's wife as his girlfriend but he didn't get it. He thought I was joking.

When people- usually presumptuous straight males- ask me if I am married, I tell them my country does not guarantee my right to marry despite my being a citizen. This usually leads to some confused responses, with the most popular reply being, "what country are you from?"
Same country as you, bozo! We do what we can......alas. These verbal protests may seem trivial but I think they make a difference. Silencing has always been an important part of homophobia so every time we speak back and speak out we come closer to defeating it.

In a  recent Huffington blog I read, Evan Derkacz,  wrote about his decision to no longer recognize any marriages until Gay marriage is recognized. Reading his blog gave me renewed resolve to continue to do the same. But I think we should ALL do it! 

Are you ready, people? Remove the words: wife, husband, spouse, and fiance out of your vocabulary. They don't exist. Replace them with girlfriend, boyfriend, lover, companion. You could even try out "roommate" for kicks...for all the couples involuntarily closeted by their parents.

If we could get millions to do this, then the same straight people would hear it over and over again. If they got to feel what it was like to have the legitimacy of their union questioned over and over, it might sink in!

We can only hope!

Lets all try it and see what happens.  Spread the word!

Come back to this blog and comment  on what happens.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama's Cabinet: Should we be Worried?

As the days go by, news keeps coming out about Obama's latest cabinet picks. And it is a bit surprising, disappointing some say. Among the concerns being voiced; why so many former Clinton admin vets? Why so many insiders? Why Hillary Clinton? Is this change?

I, for one, was shocked he was considering the avowed sexist Lawrence Summers for Treasury Secretary. If he picked him that would have been a big slap in the face to all the feminists who voted for him.

Now it appears his pick for Attorney General (Eric Holder) may be a cause for concern. Did he really support the Patriot Act? All for domestic spying? Is that change?

Among the troubling items on his resume are included: the fact that he served as Deputy Atty. General for the Clinton Admin, the fact that his law firm is currently representing the banana company, Chiquita in Columbia, and most disturbingly, he was part of the legal team in 2005 that secured re-authorization of the Patriot Act. This according to
 award-winning reporter,  Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now."

On the up side, he will be the first African American appointed to the post. But is he the only African American available? 

Weren't we all hoping Obama would rid America of the legacy of the current administration by getting rid of  some of its most shameful blows to American dignity- including Bush and Ashcroft's programs to torture foreign prisoners and to spy on American citizens?

Human Rights activists are decrying Holder's connection to Chiquita International, the parent company of Chiquita Banana which was accused of  spending 1.7 billion in funding to Colu
mbian death squads that murdered labor activists.  Reports indicate the US Justice Dept. went after Chiquita for their role in these murders and they hired Holder to defend them.

The change we need? I don't think so. Why is Obama appointing a man like this to his cabinet? Should we be worried about who else he will appoint? I for one would like to know what his rationale is in appointing such a man?

I believe in Obama and want to believe these choices make sense. Do they? Can someone explain them to me?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wanda Sykes Comes Out

We must all come out in support of gay rights!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Are We Post-racial or irredeemiably Racist: Why Did Marcello Lucero die?

It is Wednesday night and I have just spent the day with some wonderful students at Keene State College in New Hampshire. The small college town is quaint and homey, full of victorian architecture and local-run businesses. The chilly 40 degree weather is dry and crisp and refreshing after months of Florida's heat.

I gave a talk/performance in philopoetics today at the University to an audience of college students, faculty and administrators on American identity in this "post-election of a black man" moment in history. I wanted to start a dialogue on racism in America by asking whether or not we think we are moving beyond racism or just becoming  more conscious of our racism

So many news reporters have hailed the election of Barack Obama as a indication that "the times they are a changin'" arguing we have overcome racial discrimination.  Meanwhile we have seen an explosion in overt racist behaviors and acts. The amount of hate speech generated at McCain/Palin rallies alone was shameful and frightening. And yet many people are full of hope about our racial future. The mobilization of people campaigning for Obama was truly diverse, transcending traditional race lines, generational divisions, and even political parties in some cases.

The rhetoric of many includes the hope that we are becoming a post-racial society- that true equality for all Americans may actually be around the corner- that the fact that we elected a Black (or biracial) man signals the fall of racism and the end of discrimination.

But at the same time there has been a rise in racist hate speech and now racist violence.
In Long Island, Equadorean Marcello Lucero was beaten to death by 7 white teenage boys for being Hispanic. They went our looking for A Mexican to beat. They found an Equadorean but that was close enough for them- they beat and stabbed him to death. 

A few months ago in Texas, a 16 year old Hispanic boy was beaten and sodomized by two white teenage boys who claimed the hispanic boy was trying to kiss a white girl. In that community racist Klan literature has been circulating for months in response to Obama's bid for the presidency.

Race-based hate crimes went down between 2007 and 20o8 according to the FBI which would tend to support those who contend racism is on the way out. Unfortunately hate crimes against gays and lesbians have gone up. Maybe we are entering a post-racial but iredemmiably homophobic society?

Was Marcello's death an abberation or a sign of regression in race relations? One of the attorneys for one of the murderers claims his client is not racist because he has friends at school who are minorities. Unfortunately stories are now coming out that the gang of attackers may have been involved in other incidents in which they harrassed and intimidated others. They're not racist though.

Racism has a tendency to morph. Before the Civil rights movement many white people were unapologetically racist I know because I have people in my family who were  like this (some still are). My white grandfather for example had a derogatory term for every racial group and used them liberally. He frequently and openly complained about all of the negative attributes of nonwhite people. He did not try to hide his racism.

Nowadays that behavior is frowned upon. Racists have gone underground. They are careful about what they say in mixed company. They publicly claim to be non-racist. They are down-low racists. Most of their friends are white and are racist but they don't think they are racist or they don't think anything is wrong with having the views they have as long as they don't air them publicly.

So there are people like my good friend's husband who is very racist (he has argued for example that all Muslims should be exterminated because they are all terrorists) but had recently argued that he is not a racist because he has on occasion allowed Black people to eat at his house. He knows he is not supposed to admit to being a racist but nobody listening to him for any length of time would consider him anything but a racist.

Since November 4th, I have experienced some kind of racist even almost every day.  I live in Florida- its the south- but I reside in a democratic county. But after four years living here there appears to be a spike in racism. People are becoming outspoken and rude.

I would like to believe that Obama's administration will improve race relations in the United  States but I cannot agree with newscasters who want to believe that racism is over just because we elected a Black man as our president.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A More Perfect Union: Nation-Wide Protests for Gay Rights

Although there is not much being reported on the issue,  and reports have undercounted the size of the crowds, thousands of protesters throughout the country are coming together in outrage over the passage of several anti-gay amendments and propositions last Tuesday.

The most famous and most damaging proposition (Prop 8) was passed in California, a state where the courts had previously ruled that their constitution did not discriminate on the basis of gender or sexuality and thus that all Californians had the same right to marry the person they chose. Prop 8 would undo the previous gains.

Other propositions, such as Prop 2 in Florida were preemptive strikes against gay rights which outlawed gay marriage before courts had a chance to hear cases of this nature. 

People have been taking to the streets -in Los Angeles,  San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and all points in between- EVERY DAY SINCE THE ELECTION in the thousands. Now people are protesting all over the country: 

Cambridge, MA;
Phoenix, AZ; 
New Orleans, LA: 
Jacksonville, FL; 
New York, NY, 
Boston, MA;
Cleveland, OH;
Lubbuck, TX;
Atlanta GA; 
Fairbanks, Alaska; 
Detroit, MI; 
Billings, MT; 
DesMoines, IA
Jackson, MS
Orlando, FL;
Albuquerque, NM;
Omaha, NE;
Grand Forks, ND
Denver, CO, and many more....

To find a protest near you, visit Join the Impact website:
( or 
the blog by Queers United:  (

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Smiling and Crying, Part II: The Hope of Obama, the Shame of Homophobia

We had not even recovered from celebrating Obama's victory on Tuesday when the bad news came early Wednesday that indeed all of the homophobic propositions in the country had passed. How did this happen?

Is homophobia the last frontier for civil rights activists? Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, and even California? all passed anti-gay propositions and ammendments in Tuesday's election. What is wrong with straight people? Wouldn't their time be better spent trying to figure out why they are such abysmal failures at making marriage work for their own community rather than trying to keep people in other communities from getting married?

It is a shameful day for us all. We finally have a president we can be proud of but we continue to have a government that legalizes discrimination against minorities.

The people of California have taken to the streets every day since the election. I cannot praise them enough for their dedication and their perseverance. I wish we Floridians were as dedicated. But we are fighting much more of an uphill battle here in the South.

Until Gay people have the basic right to love whom they love and to form legally recognized bonds of marriage when they chose, we cannot claim to hold as self-evident the truth that "we are all created equal" nor can we claim that our country protects "our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Obama campaigned as a supporter of gay rights but not of gay marriage. I understand why he thought he had to do that, politically, given the 2004 election...but I hope that when he is in office he will get behind the gay marriage movement. It would be so inconsistent with his overall message of unity and equality not to!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Smiling and Crying: Obama Elected President

All day Tuesday I couldn't stop smiling. As I shuffled between phone-banking, sign-waving, and tallying canvasser doors knocked, I could not suppress my overflowing joy.  I knew Obama was gonna win. I could feel victory in the air.  As I sauntered round the campaign office, ever in search of a new more interesting task (security gave me more than one look of concern), I could not help smiling. When cranky old people got mad at me for calling them to ask them if they had voted yet and proceeded to complain in very loud tones about how many !*&%#!!! Obama people had called them this week I just smiled and apologized for bothering them. Secretly I thought to myself, "WOW, we sure are working hard to be calling everybody three times a day to remind them to vote!"

Then I would share the juiciest dialogues with my campaign mates- two middle-aged Puerto Rican sisters (phone-banking in both English and Spanish) and a young African American fellow (phone-banking in both English and French-Creole) and we would all laugh. Nothing and no one could get us down.

Similarly, when I was out sign-waving on a downtown street corner next to grim-faced McCain/Palin supporters, no amount of offensive chants or shouts by passing cars could sink my mood. One nasty McCain supporter even mooned us with his big hairy butt. Gross. Who wants a constituency like that?

At one point a McCain supporter who had smiled at us and pretended to be civil quickly lost his polite veneer with a racist comment in response to one of our chants. When a young ( and quite happy!) Puerto Rican man in the Obama camp began chanting, "We're going to the white house!" the white racist McCain supporter replied, "to clean the windows." 

It was shocking but it didn't deter us. We got louder, changed our chant, shouted over them and kept on smiling.

All day I just kept breaking out in loony grins. When at the end of the night, CNN finally called the election for Obama I was incredulous. Really? Really? Is it true? Is this really happening? I flipped all the channels. MSNBC, CBS, even Fox called it for Obama. Then I knew. Hope. Real Hope. And after I stopped smiling I cried. 

Tears of joy. I watched Jesse Jackson cry and I cried some more. I saw Oprah cry and cried some more. I called my sisters and cried some more. I saw thousands of strangers of every age and race crying and smiling in Chicago, Atlanta, Times Square. I smiled for the next hour right through McCain's surprisingly articulate and honorable concession speech. 

Then Obama gave his acceptance speech and I found myself crying again. 
For Martin. For Malcolm. For Medgar. 
For Goodman and Cheney and Schwerner. 
For John and for Bobby. 

For all of who have suffered for so long..... A Change Gon' Come!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can!: A World of Hope Unites Behind Obama

I am so full of joy and hope now that I feel I could put my own small torch down now and go in peace knowing that Obama will carry a larger one for the world. We have a true leader. Finally. A man of peace, a person who truly loves his fellow human being, who  transcends differences to bring people together, who unifies and inspires so many.

But of course Obama won't let us put our little torches down. He wants us to work with him, to help him change this world for the better and we are so eager, so willing to help him. So many of us have spent our entire lives trying to change the world, trying to make it a better place. We are so pleased finally to have a leader who will encourage us in this endeavor, who will lead the way in this endeavor, who will join us in making change.

Long live Obama! 
The world is new again! 
We are a country filled with hope

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why You Must Vote: What is at Stake in this Election

As we approach the last 24 hours of voting, I urge everyone to be patient, put up with long lines, and miss work and school if you have to, in order to vote. This election is too important to miss. So much is at stake. 
I have complied  a preliminary list of 11 things that are at risk in this election.

What Is At Stake:

1. American Soldiers. Literally.
Obama plans to end the Iraq war as soon as possible. McCain has pledged to continue th
e war indefinitely, in pursuit of an elusive and undefined "victory." America has been down this road before. Remember Vietnam? Many soldiers died. We won nothing. The outcome of this election will determine how many more American soldiers sacrifice their lives unnecessarily. Since McCain has consistently voted against social programs for veterans, the high rates of suicide found among returning veterans as a result of insufficient mental health assistance, will continue and more veterans  will also die under McCain.

2. Grandma and Grandpa/Mom and Pop:
McCain plans to privatize social security and to reduce medicare and medicaid. This m
eans voting for McCain  may seriously impact the lives of seniors, most of whom rely on these programs. Obama is opposed to privatizing social security and has promised to secure
social security for seniors.

3. The Economy (aka your savings):
McCain plans to keep spending 10 million/month on Iraq despite the huge Bush deficit. He is opposed to social spending to help those suffering in this economic crisis. He wants to offer billions of dollars we don't have in tax cuts
 to corporations and oil companies. The economy is already in the dumpster. We can't afford to spend this kind of money any more. Bush and the Republican congress have spent the most money, built the biggest government,and created the largest deficit in the history of this country. In order to dig this economy out of the gutter, we need to stop spending our taxpayer dollars on war, subsidies to oil companies, and corporations. Obama will end the war and the huge defense expenditure. He will also stop giving tax breaks to oil companies and give them to us instead. He will not start new wars without exhausting diplomatic channels first.

4. The Very Sick 
McCain's health plan will not provide enough funding for people who are actually sick and uninsured. Nobody with a serious disease, with heart disease, liver disease, cancer, etc has medical bills under $5,000/year nor can insurance be bought to cover these conditions for only $5,000. If you are healthy, then McCain's plan might work out for you. Obama's plan will provide insurance coverage for everybody, including the very sick, including those with pre-existing conditions.

5. Our Standing in the World
Since Bush has been in office our standing in the world has seriously declined. His Bush Doctrine- starting wars with people you imagine might one day be a threat has cost us the respect of most of our allies and most of the world. McCain supports the Bush Doctrine. Obama supports diplomacy as a first resort and war as a last resort. McCain wants to fight wars and label people as terrorists. His whole persona is about "fighting," as is evidenced in his campaign speeches. Nobody likes a bully. As a country we can't keep acting like a bully in the world. Our reputation cannot 
tolerate more of this behavior.

6. First Nations/American Indians
Obama is committed to tribal nation building and h
onoring federal treaty obligations to First Nations peoples. He has voted for increasing funding to the chronically under-funded Indian health Services, and supports the rights of tribes to ensure the economic sustainability of their nations through fishing, hunting, energy and gaming enterprises. McCain, despite serving on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has voted against or failed to support various health, housing, and educational programs for Native Americans and has, according to tribal leaders in New Mexico,  made openly anti-tribal sovereignty comments. Palin's record in Alaska is profoundly anti-Native. Meanwhile, more than 100 tribal leaders (including the largest nation, the Navajo) have endorsed Barack Obama.

7. Your Paycheck
As long as corporations are rewarded for sending jobs overseas, and as long as unions are under siege, workers in the United States will continue to see a decline in wages, loss of 
jobs and decreased benefits. Obama is endorsed by all of the unions (including the plumbers union- that's right, the real Joe the plumber is voting for Obama) and is committed to improving worker conditions. Obama is also committed to ending the wage gap that unfairly causes women to be paid less money than men for doing the same job. McCain has voted against ending the wage gap.  Since Obama's tax cut will also decrease your taxes if you make under $250,000, your net take home pay will be larger under him.

7. Women's Lives. Literally.
Every year 1400 women are murdered by their husbands and boyfriends. Obama co-sponsored the Violence Against Women A
ct, designed to make it more difficult for men to assault and kill women and easier for women who have been battered to get assistance. He was also the chief sponsor of the victim's Economic Security and Safety Act which protects victims of domestic or sexual violence in their request for leave from work to seek medical and legal assistance. He was also the chief c0-sponsor of laws passed to increase penalties for repeat domestic offenders and to to increase penalties for those committing battery near a domestic violence shelter. He was also a co-sponsor of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act of 2005, a bill to protect children from known sex offenders, a law expanding the rights of victims of sexual assault, and a law to make date rape drugging a crime of aggravated battery.

McCain voted against the Violence Against Women Act, voted against legislation requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims, and has sponsored no bills to protect women's lives.

Women are also dying in large numbers from undiagnosed heart disease. According to the America Heart Association, women are almost twice as likely as men to die after their first heart attack and yet are often undiagnosed as a result of the fact that 80% of all medical research is done exclusively on men.  Obama has supported legislation providing funding for the Center of Excellence in Women's Health and is committed to encouraging research into gender and health disparities. McCain has voted consistently against women's health. He has voted 125 times against bills for women's health.

9. Your Taxes
Unless you are rich or a corporation, you will get little or no tax break. McCain's tax plan will give $4  billion in tax breaks to corporations and oil companies (This number has been CNN fact-checked)

10. The Supreme Court/ Your Privacy Rights
Three of the four liberal judges currently seated on the supreme court,  are either very old or talking retirement. If McCain gets into office, he will likely replace these with conservati
ve judges making the Court entirely conservative. If elected, Obama will not be able to tilt the Court in a new direction. McCain has promised to overturn Roe V. Wade if given the opportunity. If he is elected, women will lose the right to choose and this will result in numerous deaths of women, as was common before Roe V. Wade. McCain's court may also render decisions taking away other privacy rights of Americans and given McCain and Palin's commitment to mixing religion with government will likely begin to infuse their evangelical Christian views into our government.

11. The Planet Earth/ Animals
Obama has pledged to stop drilling, stop subsidizing oil comp
anies, stop importing so much foreign oil and begin to develop alternative energy sources like wind and solar power. He is committed to reducing the greenhouse effect and increasing emissions control. He has plans to provide federal subsidies to auto companies who develop fuel-efficient cars. McCain wants to "drill, baby drill" regardless of the negative impact oil drilling has on our environment. He has voted fro drilling in wildlife refuges where animals in d
anger of extinction live. He wants to develop more nuclear power and does not think the risks of nuclear contamination of our planet are worrisome (despite Chernobyl or Three-mile island). He thinks we should begin offshore drilling despite reports of the harm this will case sea life, subsidize oil companies, and and fight wars with any country that challenges our access to middle-eastern oil.

McCain received a "zero" on his League of Conservation Voters 2007 scorecard of senators and congressmen, where 100 indicates voting with the environment every time and zero indicating a vote against the environment every time. He has a well-documented voting record in which he has consistently supported Big Oil and has voted against renewable electricity, energy efficiency standards, and green tax incentives. Despite his claim to fighting against global warming, he has refused to support global warming solutions that do not  include a big role for the development of nuclear power, regardless of its risks.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Veterans do Not Support McCain Because He Does Not Support Them

Time and again John McCain has voted against veterans. He has voted against healthcare for veterans, education for veterans, social services for veterans. He voted to prevent POW/MIA investigations. If you don't believe me, watch the videos pasted below, made by veterans.

He is running on this "American Hero" platform, claiming the fact that he is a veteran qualifies him for the presidency. But if he has treated his own fellow veterans so shabbily, how willl he treat old people? Working people? Sick people? How will he treat you?

If you aren't rich like him, if you aren't a corporation, his voting record would indicate your needs are not high on his list of priorities.