Archive for August 2016

BUSH THE DIVIDER

At this late juncture in a long life, it must be observed that this country in 2003 is much more divided now than at any time in my memory. The bulk of the blame goes to George Bush whom the Supreme Court anointed as president. Bush caters to the basest elements of the Christian faith. When he signed the bill recently on so-called partial birth, his audience included Jerry Falwell, the most obnoxious preacher in captivity anywhere. Along side Falwell was Cardinal Egan of New York who has barely escaped so far, the law in Boston which resulted in the resignation of his former boss, Cardinal Law. There were two strident right-wing radio personalities reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh in the Bush photograph. In another photo opportunity, Bush was surrounded by Congressional legislators which caused the Newsweek writer Anna Quindlan to observe that there was not a womb in the house. In all of Bush’s bowing to his religious supporters, there were no African-American people, no Jews or representatives of the Hindu or Muslim faiths. This, my friends, was a show exclusively for his right wing Christian followers. And this was the candidate who preached that he would unite fractures in the American body politic.

When Anna Quindlan says there was “not a womb in the house,” it might also be pointed out that no veteran sits at the highest levels of government, let alone a combat veteran. What Bush knows about war must have come from movies. He doesn’t read books or newspapers, so his idea of combat comes from Hollywood, I suppose. Sad, sad business.

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Interesting one! Not a real essay from the looks of things — I wonder if this was the start of another piece, a letter, or what. God knows what Pop would have to say about Trump. Maybe he’s a unifier, in that people of both parties are starting to see his insanity for what it is, and come together in opposition?

S O D – O – M Y

Once in a great while, the United States Supreme Court issues a decision that causes a good deal of public controversy. At the end of its 2002 – 2003 term in June, a six to three ruling was published having to do with sodomy. It ruled against a Texas statute barring sodomy.

This essay is not devoted to the intricacies of sodomy. Quite to the contrary, it intends to deal with the bleatings of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court jurist, with Pat Robertson, the television evangelist and a string of other characters who hold that miscreants violating the Texas law against sodomy ought to be severely punished.

This old essayist, a straight man with no deviances except glaucoma and baldness, believes that the ruling striking down the Texas statute was long overdue. The debate about that ruling is what this essay is all about. But the title of the essay posed a great problem.

In the Spring of this year, it seemed to me that the antics of Rick Santorum, the junior Senator from Pennsylvania, deserved some comment. Santorum is the third ranking Republican in the Senate, so some people actually listen to his words even though what passes for thought with Santorum is really an illusion. He has no original thought processes of his own, as far as I can see.

In the Spring the Supreme Court of the United States was considering Lawrence et al. v. Texas involving imposition of the Texas law barring sodomy. Santorum got into the act late in April, 2003 with the thought that he deplores homosexuality and he also deplores the privacy doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1963, which struck down a ban on the use of contraceptives, even by married couples. Santorum wants everyone to play by his antediluvian rules which would not only do away with contraceptive devices but with Planned Parenthood and similar organizations as well. Because of Santorum’s quaint views on sexuality, it was first proposed to call this essay, “More Catholic Than The Pope.”

A little later in the Spring, on June 26, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on Lawrence et al. v. Texas which struck down the Texas laws on sodomy. This set off a monstrous firestorm by right wing conservatives. The ruling came out as a six to three vote. Conservatives had reckoned that the vote would be at least five to four to uphold the Texas law. The response of conservatives when the ruling came down was marked, as you might imagine, by excesses. A member of the Family Research Council said that the court would now not even bar sexual relations “between a mother and an adult son.” In other instances, the conservatives said that under the new Supreme Court ruling, people had the right, among other things, to be involved in bestiality. That struck me as silly in the extreme. Perhaps the right wing folks envisioned sexual relations between humans and bears or horses or between humans and ducks and dogs. Several commentators invoked bestially as one of the drawbacks to the new Supreme Court ruling striking down the Texas sodomy law. I still had no title for this essay. I really could not use the title of “Don’t Be Beastly” for the serious essays that I might attempt to write. I thought then that Pat Robertson might provide an appropriate title.

In the middle of July, 2003, we have a comment from Pat Robertson to which we must all pay close attention. Pat runs the Christian Broadcasting Networks 700 Club which is a device for calling attention to himself and for his own fundraising purposes. Less well known is Pat’s partnership with Charles Taylor, the dictator of Liberia, in mining operations for diamonds and gold. Pat has offered millions of words on the “700 Club” broadcasts, but he has yet to say a word about his partnership with Dictator Taylor. As you might imagine, Robertson is one Republican who is anxious for United States troops to impose order in Liberia which Bush seems reluctant to do.

This past week, Robertson started a 21 day “Prayer Offensive” directed at the Supreme Court because of its ruling on the Texas sodomy law. On one of his broadcasts, good old Pat said that the ruling “has opened the door to homosexual marriage, bigamy, legalized prostitution and even incest.” I’m lost. What does a law striking down sodomy in Texas have to do with bigamy, or homosexual marriage or legalized prostitution or incest? I’m afraid old Pat has involved a string of non-sequiturs here.

But that is beside the point. The object of the 21 day “Prayer Offensive” is to get three of the six Justices of the Supreme Court who had voted to ban the Texas law, to retire or to resign or perhaps to die. I suspect that Pat and his followers can pray as hard as they can for the next three weeks and the vote on the Supreme Court will not change. The Supreme Court Justices are in adjournment until October.

I couldn’t change the title to a “21 Day Prayer Offensive” because Robertson made no sense. And so, by default, it has been elected to call this essay SOD-O-MY. The hyphens are mine to make it easier for full fledged right wing conservatives to spit out the word sodomy. So SOD-O-MY it is.

My Merriam-Webster dictionary gives a very chaste definition of sodomy. It says, “Copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal: unnatural copulation with a member of the opposite sex.”

As I said, this is a very chaste definition of sodomy. It is one that could be used in monasteries or in a nunnery or possibly in a home for retired Protestant preachers. Without arguing the point, I suspect that millions, or perhaps billions, of happily married people and lovers throughout the world may practice “unnatural copulation” and do so with innocence and great joy. So much for the Merriam-Webster Company which publishes dictionaries in Massachusetts, the home of the Red Sox, book banning and Cardinal Law.

What we have here are two gay men named Tyron Garner and John Geddes Lawrence. These two men lived together in Houston in an apartment. There is no evidence whatsoever that these two men engaged in blatantly homosexual behavior in public. All things considered, they went to work every day and shopped for groceries the way everyone else does. Their main offense was that they were gay and the Texas authorities set out to punish them. Being gay in Texas is an occasion for calling the cops.

In 1998, the cops broke into the Garner-Lawrence apartment and arrested the men in their bedroom because they were allegedly “performing a homosexual act.” Obviously, the arrests happened in Texas so they were convicted. They elected to appeal the convictions to higher Texas courts which, as you might expect, upheld the law. In 2003, some five years later, it wound up in the Supreme Court.

In spite of all the fuss made by Texas legal authorities, Garner and Lawrence were only fined $200 with no jail time. It might be argued that their case was a matter of much adieu about nothing.

Newsweek Magazine in its July 7th issue, says the Supreme Court decision was really just catching up to public opinion. In 1986, only 17 years ago, the Court in Bowers v. Hartwick, had upheld a Georgia anti-sodomy law. At that time, 25 states had such laws. Some 17 years later in 2003, only four states banned sodomy between homosexuals. Curiously, there are nine other states with laws that are rarely enforced, barring sodomy between any sexual partners, whether married or not.

Now we return to our hero Senator Rick Santorum who was active in the run-up to the June decision. He was the subject of an article by Cathy Young in the April 28, 2003 edition of the Boston Globe. Cathy Young quotes Santorum as follows: “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.”

Among other similar statements, Santorum goes on to say that he has “nothing against anyone who is homosexual,” but he has a great problem with gays acting on their sexual orientation. In short, Santorum says homosexuality is alright provided it is kept invisible. In the same interview with Ms. Young, Santorum believes the state should be able to jail people for having the “wrong kind of sex” in their bedrooms. Santorum has not told us what is the right kind of sex. Would it have to do, for example, with priests taking advantage of altar boys?

Finally, he tells Ms. Young that he sees nothing wrong if states should ban birth control. He explicitly believes that it is the proper role of government to curb “individual wants and passions.” Remember, we abandoned the title for this essay called, “More Catholic than the Pope.”

And of course, Santorum deplores the right-to-privacy doctrine established by the Supreme Court in the 1963 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling, striking down a ban on the use of contraceptives even by married couples.

That’s what Rick Santorum thinks, and remember, he is the #3 Senator among Republicans in the Senate. While he may be the third ranking Republican in the Senate, most observers consider Santorum as something lighter than a light weight.

In the history of the English language there is a perfect term to fit Santorum and his light-weightedness. It refers to an insect, an ant, who flits from one object to another and never ever makes an impact. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the proper term in this case is pissant or piss ant or piss-ant. They say such an insect or person contributes nothing of importance, an insignificant person.

My mother, who was born in 1882, used pissant regularly. And she was a genuinely religious person. She used it to describe someone who today would be called a complete jerk. I believe pissant and jerk accurately describe the junior senator from Pennsylvania, the Honorable Rick Santorum.

The decision in June when the Supreme Court ended its session for this year, has stirred up impassioned protests from the right wing. The New Yorker Magazine in its July 7, 2003 issue commented on the fuss as follows:

With surprising firmness, the Court struck down the remaining laws against sodomy thus bringing the United States to where Canada was a generation ago. Those laws in Texas and other states, had rendered it a crime, until last Thursday, to make love in the way that, for anatomical reasons, are gay folks’ sole option. It was a strong, solid decision, six to three, with only the hard core right – Antonin Scalia, joined by William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas – dissenting. In his dissent, Justice Scalia accused his colleagues of having ‘signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda.’ And what is that so-called agenda? Daisy chains on the church steps? Compulsory drag shows at school assemblies? ‘Eliminating the opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct’ seems to be Scalia’s own definition? No, it is worse than that. Just like in Canada, some of these people want to get married.”

So gay marriage is somewhere at the root of right wing objections to the Court’s ruling? Hard to believe, but that is one of the main objections causing all the agony.

So let’s see what Scalia had to say in his impassioned dissent. On Page 21 of Scalia’s dissent, Scalia says, “State laws against bigamy, same sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices.” Bowers was the case in 1986 when the Court upheld Georgia’s anti-sodomy law.

Notice that Scalia said “adult incest” and “bestiality.” And now do the conservatives wish to outlaw fornication, masturbation and adultery? And Nevada, a Bush stronghold, has legalized prostitution in several cities. Does that have to go as well?

On page 25, Scalia adds to the list of crimes by saying, “States continue to prosecute all sorts of crimes such as prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity and child pornography.” I am a careful reader of the New York Times and the Newark Star Ledger and the Boston Globe when I can get it. I can’t ever recall someone being charged with adult incest, adultery and obscenity. Maybe in the New York–New Jersey area, we must live in a virtual snake pit and we have to thank Scalia for bringing these matters to our attention. And once more, I am troubled by Scalia’s pointing to “adult incest.” If two 15 year olds are involved in an incestuous relationship, does that mean they are not involved in Scalia’s prohibition against “adult incest”? What is adult incest? Is it the sainted Rudy Giuliani being married to his cousin?

On page 26, Scalia throws a blanket over all sin by preaching against, “fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality and obscenity.”

On page 27, Scalia again rails against, “adultery, fornication, adult incest” and laws permitting homosexual marriage.

A CONFESSION BY THE ESSAYIST
Scalia is absolutely right. Now that he was on the losing end of the Lawrence decision, I must say that I now have an urgent desire to fornicate with a beast, such as a New Jersey bear. If the bear wishes to marry me, that would cause me to be guilty also of the crime of bigamy and polygamy. Scalia is right again. But if the bear were a male, perhaps that would be the first same sex marriage to take place in New Jersey. Just like Scalia said. I hesitate to make this confession, but I am quite certain that Scalia will feel better knowing that a New Jersey liberal has capitulated to his dire warnings. And once the bear and I are married, we probably will indulge in adult incest. Scalia was right on every count.

Now that I have made my abject confession, my spirits are greatly improved and I can tell you what other right wing critics have had to say.

Neil Lewis of the New York Times did a round-up of responses by some outspoken right wingers. Jay Sekulow (Chief Counsel to the American Center for Law and Justice), a group founded by Pat Robertson, says that the affirmative action and the anti-sodomy decision by the Court “reflect a political approach to the law that we deplore. It was a grand slam homer for the other side”. When the right wingers complain about a “political approach to the law”, they have it backwards. Don’t they remember the Supreme Court ruling that gave George Bush the Presidency by a 5 – 4 vote and some mystical justification by their hero, Justice Scalia?

Neil Lewis quotes the affable Jerry Falwell as saying that, “This is probably as bad a day as the court has had on social issues since Roe v. Wade. They put the right to privacy ahead of respect for community standards for morality that have prevailed for many years.”

At least Falwell did not immediately complain about bestiality, fornication and adult incest. Is he a closet liberal now?

Then Neil Lewis quotes Ken Connor, President of the Family Research Council as saying the decision was “a classic judicial activism arrogance.” He quotes Connor as saying that the decision, “Opens the door to bigamy, adult incest, polygamy and prostitution.” Sound familiar? And then he quotes Connor as saying that the decision opened the door to sexual relations “between a mother and an adult son.” That’s what Connor said. On one hand Connor railed against bigamy, polygamy and prostitution, and then he turned to a mother having relations with an adult son. What about a teenager? And what about an illicit relationship by a father and a daughter? Is Connor unconcerned about juvenile incest?

Then there is a final word from Jerry Falwell. He says that the courts may now approve bestiality, prostitution and the use of narcotics. When I made my confession about messing around with beasts, I forgot to mention that since the Texas law on sodomy was struck down, I had smoked dozens of marijuana cigarettes and had popped about 150 narcotic painkillers. All because of striking down the Texas law. That is what did it.

Before we close up shop, we must hear from the Attorney General of the Great State of Alabama, William H. Pryor. His nomination to the Federal Appeals Court has set off a storm of editorials about his views on religion and the law. In a recent brief, Pryor argued that sex between homosexuals would open the door for legalized, “necrophilia, bestiality and even incest and pedophilia.” I am greatly pleased that he opened up a new front with his assertion that necrophilia and pedophilia and bestiality would result if homosexuals made love. (Small note. My chaste dictionary says that necrophilia is, “obsession with and usually erotic interest in or stimulation by corpses.” Remember, you heard the warning here first.)

All of the right wingers cite bestiality as one of the outcomes of the Court’s June decision. As a practical matter, if the beasts were bears or buffaloes, how would an ordinary low life reprobate like me tell the difference between male and female beasts? Or are the conservatives saying that liberals like me would take a unisex approach? I will have to do some more research before I am able to take full advantage of the freedom now found under the Supreme Court’s decision.

Finally, we come to Bill Frist, the Republican leader in the Senate. He is so aroused about the Supreme Court decision that he wants to see a Constitutional Amendment against gay marriage. Very few people have responded to Frist’s efforts, but he thinks it of great import to guard against gay marriage such as obtains in that suburb of Hell, Canada.

In the final analysis, Frist ought to know that this country was founded on the principals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Being married to an amiable spouse would seem to fit under what our founding fathers had in mind. Frist should read the Declaration of Independence. If homosexual couples wish to avail themselves of those rights, who is Bill Frist to tell them nay. My hope is that his constitutional amendment dies a sudden natural death.

My feelings on this whole question of sodomy agrees with that of the New Yorker Magazine where they say that the law in the United States is now similar to Canada after the lapse of a generation. It is about time. And on the greatly feared issue of gay marriage, it will have absolutely no effect on anyone except the gay couple. If gays and lesbians want to establish their relationships through marriage, they have my best wishes.

Now before we close up the SOD-O-MY essay, there is one other urgent matter to deal with. On July 14, 2003, Pat Robertson appeared on his 700 Club broadcast with eyes tightly closed and with his fists clenched to announce his 21 Day Prayer Offensive. While you have been reading SOD-O-MY, time is slipping away from us. The 21 day Prayer Offensive will soon run out of time.

I believe there must be some divine inspiration to Robertson’s Prayer Offensive because it expires on August 4th, which happens to be my birthday. Robertson’s people tell me the August 4th termination date was not an accident. Pat himself found a citation in the Book of Ezra which requires the prayer offensive to reach its climax within the first four days of harvest time, which is, of course, August. My first name is that of the Old Hebrew scribe of Jerusalem. Obviously, this is a matter of Biblical prophesy. I find that inspirational just as Scalia’s reading of the law now permits me to engage in previously forbidden conduct with bears or orangutans. We all have Texas to thank for giving us the Lawrence case.

E. E. CARR
July 24, 2003

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It never ceases to amaze me how Republicans can be simultaneously so in favor of “small government” but also so tenacious at trying to regulate people’s bedrooms. Also, the sexual slippery slope arguments are always just so excellent — all roads lead to gay sex with animals.

It’s been pretty soundly established that some of the loudest anti-gay-rights voices over the years have come from deeply closeted people. I wonder if the dudes who somehow find excuses to shoehorn bestiality into all these discussions are similarly closeted? I can honestly say I don’t think nearly, nearly as much about sex with animals as all these legislators seem to.

These are the same guys and gals currently freaking out about transgender people and bathrooms. Are they all just horribly repressed? It would be sad, except they have power, so it’s scary.

BITS AND PIECES — I’M EVERYBODY, AND MUSIC – AS BAD AS…

Perhaps it is fair to say that every essay writer – or the writer of any commentary – will encounter items not long enough for an essay, but which are still appropriate for some recognition and some observations. Some of these left over thoughts may be a remark or it may be a slightly longer series of developments or events.

And so to acknowledge these odd pieces, this old essayists has already published three “Bits and Pieces” stories covering a wide variety of subjects. Currently, my desk is overflowing with odd items which need to be recognized. It is proposed to lead off “Bits and Pieces – Part 4” with a little baseball story which came back to me after a reminder from a nephew who still resides in the suburbs of St. Louis, the home territory for the Carr clan. It is called, “I’m Everybody”.

I’M EVERYBODY

On Sundays in Spring, Summer and Fall, there were some young ballplayers who comprised a team in a semi-pro league which played in Fairgrounds Park in St. Louis.

Most times we were not paid. In those cases where the players were paid, they would receive at most about five dollars for a game or games on Sunday afternoons. The fact that it was called a “Semi-Pro League” was as much for the players to brag about as it was to play for pay like the major and minor league ballplayers did. The time was 1939, 1940 and 1941 when this country was deep in the grasp of the Great Depression. At the time, I worked in filling stations in suburban St. Louis. In most work weeks, as the youngest attendant, it fell to me to put in 6 or 6½ days per week. Whenever I could get off on Sunday afternoons, it was my intent to play baseball.

The owner of the club that I hooked up with was Gus Borbein who operated the Borbein-Young Auto Parts Service in North St. Louis. Gus was a rough hewn character who was not always aware of the rules of polite society. Gus was an action figure. Subtlety was nowhere in his make-up. If a play went against his team, Gus would stand up and shout. He did not say, “Kill the Ump,” but his language and gestures left no doubt about his feelings. Generally speaking, Gus gave his players $5 for a game or games on Sunday afternoon. There were weeks when he told us that he had had a bad week, so his players played for less than $5 or nothing at all. That $5 salary may seem like chump change today, but at the time my salary at the filling stations averaged less than $18 per week. So the money earned from Gus Borbein’s ball club was very welcome.

There were no fancy uniforms. Some of us had uniform tops left over from high school clubs. The point to be made here is that there were no uniform shirt fronts to sew the name of our team on as the St. Louis Cardinals or Browns had. In short, the announcer who shouted our names and positions into a megaphone would use whatever name the owner of the club gave him.

Gus liked to emphasize that he had all kinds of automobile parts. So one week we might be introduced as the Borbein-Young Leaf Springs. The next week, it might be Inertia Starters. The announcer balked when Gus wanted us to be introduced as the “Lock Nuts,” which were new at that time.

Now we come to France Laux, the sports announcer for radio station KMOX. Laux and Johnny O’Hara, from station WIL, would often interview players and record their voices for use on later radio broadcasts. In the case of France Laux, he would feature such interviews on his program called “Stars of Tomorrow,” I believe.

His interviews were all pretty much the same. He might say, “Here’s a good looking ballplayer. Let’s find out who he is.” The ballplayer was asked to remember a couple of lines like, “Hello everybody. My name is Joe Jones.” I never thought anyone could mangle those two lines, but our center fielder could – and did.

The centerfielder was a ball hawk and a pretty good hitter. My recollection is that he was Vernon Ludloff. When France Laux turned on his recording machine, he said to Vern, “And who is this star of tomorrow?” Vern replied in a loud voice, “Hello Vern Ludloff. I’m everybody.” Laux laughed so hard that I don’t remember if they ever did it over.

This incident, now over 63 years old, was of no great consequence, but it supplied me with a title of a Bits and Pieces essay. After all these years, I still snicker when the thought enters my mind, “I’m Everybody!”

MUSIC – AS BAD AS ADULTERY OR APOSTASY

This old essayist does not consider himself an expert on the various religions that are practiced throughout the world. On the other hand, a good bit of the music that has been composed has some reference to religion. It seems to me that such music is pleasant to hear even if one does not agree with the religious lyrics.

But there are two entries that have no use whatsoever for music in any form. It is opposed on religious grounds. The ban applies to every kind of music be it rock and roll, jazz, opera or dance tunes. It may be that dancing to music presents two mortal sins in the two faiths in question. The first is the Taliban in Afghanistan. The second is the Wahabi sect which prevails in Saudi Arabia. These are very stern faiths. Hatred seems to be an integral part of both the Taliban faith as well as in the Wahabi sect.

Both of these faiths consider music of any kind as evil as adultery or adherence to Christianity or the Jewish religions. This sort of evil often calls for the death penalty.

Now in some cases where music is played with unintelligible lyrics and with the male performer being nude to the waist, and with no form to the so called music – there is a tendency to agree with the Taliban or with the Wahabis. But to say all music is beyond the vale and will cause adherents of the Islamic faith to spend eternity in hell is quite incomprehensible to those of us who love music.

Have they ever heard a composition by Verdi or Rossini, or by Rodgers and Hammerstein or by Gershwin? I suppose that sort of Western music is considered decadent and evil in Afghanistan and in Saudi Arabia, so kill the musicians and send them to hell! It may be that John Ashcroft would feel at home in both places.

If the Jews would join in singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers” in Afghanistan or in Saudi Arabia, it might provoke some interesting results. Or perhaps, if the Baptists and Catholics would join in chanting, “Kol Nidre” on the eve of Yom Kipper, it is possible, but not likely, that the Arabs in question might develop a burning desire to go to Jerusalem. And if the Episcopalians can forget their debate over a homosexual bishop in New Hampshire, they could join in the songfest as well. My mother would insist on singing every verse of “Amazing Grace” to everyone, Jew, Christian and all the varieties of the Islamic faith. But being executed is a terrible price to pay for a little music.

E. E. CARR
12-25-03

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There’s something pretty adorable about the “I’m everybody” line. Maybe he was just being profound! Or maybe he was setting himself up for stardom by casting himself as the everyman. But most likely he just got nervous on the radio — makes a good story either way.