Nov 18, 2012

Reflections After the Euphoria: US Elections and This And That

Another hiatus in blogging, due to writing pressures and some very rich, rewarding reading. Also, I'm rapturously enjoying retirement of sorts, working as a drama teacher only 1 day a week in a charming Czech village in the forests outside Prague. The rest of the six days of the week, I spend writing, reading, reflecting, praying. I've just finished Madeline Miller's 2012 Orange Prize winning novel, The Song of Achilles, in which she quite consciously chooses - among many options - to frame the tale as a 'gay love story' and the result is fresh, moving and inspiring, especially for gay teens, because the story is told quite naturally, as the  passionate love between two humans who just happen to be boys. I will follow this posting with my own reflections on the novel.  

First a word of thanks to William Lindsey for alerting me to the fact that this blog, together with his own, Bilgrimage, has made it onto a list of "the 66 Very Best Blogs by LGBT Christians in the Entire World", at Fred Clark's Stackvist. I assume that designation was wittily designed to elicit a chuckle, which it succeeded in doing with me. Surely, Fred has not read or seen all of the LGBT Christian blogs in the world, for example the few that do exist in Turkey and Saudia Arabia, not to mention Turkmenistan, Samarkand and China. But it is nice to be included and seeing Gay Mystic on the list gave me an extra spur to keep on blogging on a more regular basis.

I've been following the news these past weeks, first the euphoric reaction by gay folks, including myself, to the US election, which saw four anti gay marriage proposals defeated and the election of the first openly gay, Lesbian senator, and the first US president to openly endorse gay marriage rights. 

However, I did have my misgivings about the level of joy and celebration within the gay community, and it took Chris Hedges at Truth Dig to articulate my own misgivings, or rather my unvoiced question - are we too focused on our own single issue (or double issue, women and LGBT's rights) to the extent that we are blinded to horrendous human rights abuses by the Obama admin that just happen to be off the radar of most Americans. And are we, in our enthusiasm for the gradual success of our own causes, complicit in this act of blindness. All is far from well with the world with the election of Obama, and there are life threatening issues that surpass in moral gravity the issue of gay marriage, gay rights, and even the desperate issue of young gay teens in need of self respect and protection from bullying. It's all a question of proportion, and in much of the euphoria I failed to see much in the way of balance or recognition. Just take a look at GAZA at the moment

Here is Chris at his most powerfully prophetic (keeping in mind his Catholic background):

The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become.

Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to hold the president accountable—although how or when or what this movement will look like they cannot say. They didn’t hold him accountable during his first term. They won’t during his second. They have played their appointed roles in the bankrupt political theater that passes for electoral politics. They have wrung their hands, sung like a Greek chorus about the evils of the perfidious opponent, assured us that there is no other viable option, and now they will exit the stage.

Read the rest of Chris Hedges prophetic diatribe here at TruthDig. 

However, for another view, more dispassionate and perhaps more wise, Noam Chomsky says that if he had lived in a 'swing state' like Ohio, he would have voted for Obama.

“Between the two choices that are presented, there is I think some significant differences,” he said. “If I were a person in a swing state, I’d vote against Romney-Ryan, which means voting for Obama because there is no other choice. I happen to be in a non-swing state, so I can either not vote or — as I probably will — vote for [Green Party candidate] Jill Stein.” (Chris voted Green and urged all his readers to do likewise, regardless of swing states, a highly principled position, but perhaps not as calmly rational as Chomsky's.)

So, seen from the comfortable distance of my terraced apartment on the Vltava River, far from the din and noise that is US culture today, there are causes to rejoice in the clear signs of forward movement for LGBT people which the recent US election evidenced. At the same time, however, its impossible to be a person of conscience and not be profoundly disturbed by the insidious and destructive policies of the Obama rule, which will now continue unabated and unchallenged in any truly meaningful way. And this destructive forward movement dwarfs in importance the significant gains in gay rights; in fact the momentum - towards increased deaths abroad and the undermining of civil liberties at home, threatens to capsize the whole boat within which we all, gay and straight, seek refuge from the storm. Chris is more right than not, but Chomsky, the wise and practical sage, has the last word. 

Terrible things going on as well within the Roman Catholic Church, in a state of implosion that can only wring the heart and which I continue to monitor from afar. A convicted pedophile protector Bishop sitting in at the recent US Bishops' conference, without a word of rebuke or comment, because the men's club will not publicly rebuke it's own. The truly horrendous story out of Ireland of the non Catholic pregnant woman in a Catholic hospital denied an abortion of her already fated fetus, resulting in her death. See Colleen Colcoch's coverage of this story at her great blog, Enlightened Catholicism.  And lastly the absurd, yet inspiring story of the young teen denied Confirmation because he publicly supported gay marriage on his facebook page. In my opinion, this public ordeal and humiliation which the teen and his family are now undergoing, with massive media coverage, constitute his true grace-filled rite of passage into maturity.

Isn't the whole point of the sacrament of Confirmation to 'put on the mind of Christ,' and to have the courage of one's moral convictions and to stand up for what one believes is right? This certainly being the case, this young man has now, publicly at least, surpassed all the other members of his Confirmation class in following the prophetic witness of Jesus, the wandering teacher from Galilee. He has been conformed, through contradiction, trial and witness, into the image of the Crucified. Would that all of us Christians could have so fitting a Confirmation. On the more cheerful side, the local bishop of the Evangelical Catholic Church graciously offered to confirm the boy, a magnanimous gesture that elicited sputterings of rage from the Vicar General of the boy's Catholic Diocese. These sputterings of rage and denial - on all fronts in the RCC - are going to continue for some time, so I really feel it is not too healthy for the spirit to give them too much mind. Though that injunction is not a call to passivity and indifference. But the seeds of change have sprouted and there is no stopping them. See Joan Chittister's great column at NCR as an appropriate sign of hope:

The future of the church: Discernment or intimidation?


Frank said...

Chris Hedges article is a lot of stirring words but offers little in the way of alternatives. For someone "without a country", he has the luxury of being able to criticize the dysfunctional US political system and while his criticism may have merit, it has little practical application for me, here and now as a voter and citizen of the US. Sometimes the lesser of two evils is the only real choice; in this past election, I don't believe we were faced with that, as I believe Obama is basically a decent human being who is striving to move us toward a more equitable society. He is not without his faults and, as all leaders, he must operate within a universe, fraught with evils that he has not created. The world is a complicated place. Power is is a force that has its tentacles choking off every source of sustenance to feed its insatiable appetite. Jesus said the poor will always be with us...conversely, I'd guess, so will the wealthy and the powerful. We are left with making the most moral choices possible, acknowledging that there will always be ambiguities and conflicting values, no matter. So, are we to do nothing? Sit on our hands while the more and more powerful take charge? Not vote at all? Vote for candidates who have no possibility of winning - to make a statement? My vote may be a finger in the hole in the dyke, but maybe my finger helped stem a tide of destruction, at least for now.

Richard Demma said...

Well, I can sympathize with your reaction, since I was also a bit taken aback by the intensity of Chris Hedges' response. This is why I referred to Noam Chomsky's more measured response - which has upset quite a few on the left, actually.

I may have taken too much for granted and presupposed background knowledge on the part of the reader when posting these reflections. I've been reading Hedges for years and he does have practical alternatives and strategies, they were just not outlined in his impassioned reaction to the US election. He's certainly not advocating doing nothing. In fact, he was the driving force behind the legal challenge to the attempt by the Obama administration to introduce a law (The National Defense Authorization Act) which would give the US president absolute power to detain any US citizen without charge, without trial, without benefit of legal counsel - indefinitely! In other words, it was an act attacking the foundational core of the Constitution and the bill of rights = and the Obama admin is still trying vigorously to push it through.

"With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.”
It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties."

A small bit of success was seen last May,

"In a rare move, a federal judge has struck down part of a controversial law signed by President Obama that gave the government the power to indefinitely detain anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial — including U.S. citizens. Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York ruled the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act likely violates the First and Fifth Amendments of U.S. citizens. We speak with Chris Hedges, a journalist who filed the suit challenging the NDAA along with six others, and Bruce Afran, the group’s attorney. "This is another window into ... the steady assault against civil liberties," Hedges says. "What makes [the ruling] so monumental is that, finally, we have a federal judge who stands up for the rule of law."

This one single fact among many reveals to me the true face of Obama behind the tolerant, liberal facade. Hedges is calling -unrealistically, perhaps- for a full scale defection on the part of the liberal class, major non violent civil disobedience in the streets, because he feels that nothing less than a revolution will stem the tide.