Friday, April 29, 2011

Saturday Video

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by mallox

Yippe, You Can't See Me (But I Can You)

ALONE in the
clouds all blue
Lying on an eiderdown, yippee
You can't see me but I can you

Lazing in the foggy dew
Sitting on a unicorn no fear
You can't hear me but I can you

Watching buttercups cup the light
Sleeping on a dandelion too much
I won't touch you but then I might

Streaming through the starlit skies
Travelling by telephone
Hey ho here we go
Ever so high

Alone in the clouds all blue
Lying on an eiderdown, yippee
You can't see me but I can you

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Uneasy Intersection Between Sex, Morality, Abortion, and Racial Typcasting

In an essay submitted for a college class, a young woman recently wrote about her sexual relationship and resulting pregnancy with her high school band director. Though she changed some of the details and names in her paper, enough autobiography was left intact that statutory rape charges against the man have been filed. Various news agencies, websites, and blogs have pursued different angles when presenting the details of this case. The story found within the link posted above treats the accused like a common criminal, inviting us to view him in the worst possible light, while simultaneously encouraging our sympathy for the victim. If this were a clear-cut case of non-consensual sexual assault, then this approach would be more appropriate and justified. But as we learn more, and confront different perspectives of this multi-layered story, the truth itself begins to drift into grey area territory. Separating facts from bias might as well be our eternal homework assignment.

To begin, statutory rape laws are designed to protect innocent children. As we know, it is thought that even older teenagers are not emotionally and psychologically mature enough to know the implications and consequences of sexual conduct. It's a paternalistic statute, likely designed by men, but as is true with so much regarding human sexual behavior, we often find ourselves with a foot in two supposedly mutually exclusive camps. This story follows a very familiar script. The story linked above shows a creepy, seemingly unrepentant mug shot of the accused. Its routine placement prefaces another instance of violent, dangerous men preying on women. Watch one of the 24 hour news channels for a few hours, regardless of the time of day, and you'll see at least one such story just like that.

Complicating the issue is this quote, taken directly from the student's essay.

"It was as if he wanted me as bad as I had him that entire year," the student wrote. "I drove home wide-eyed and full of energy. Who in their right mind would ever believe that I had almost had sex with our band director?"

Here we see evidence of the virgin/whore dichotomy so injurious to young women. There is no in between available. She can be cast in terms of wide-eyed, innocent victim, which is a script present in some news reports of this situation. Or, the door can be opened to show that there was a highly consensual aspect to this relationship, no matter how inappropriate or illegal it may have been. What is not in debate here is the basic moral character of the band director. I myself find it hard to excuse sleeping with two separate students, lying about the exclusivity of their relationship, impregnating said student, then ditching her. That facet of this story isn't technically illegal, but it's extremely sleazy, reprehensible behavior. The word my father would use, in typically Southern fashion, is sorry. And by sorry, one means deplorable or worthless.

Yet, to me, the sexual offense noted here is not nearly as offensive as the implication. We've already seen advertisements and billboards equating abortion in women of color to genocide. The woman in this case has linked her own tragic circumstances to a medical procedure, projecting her own hurt and anguish onto it. She has every right to choose her opinion, but I also have every right to say that not every woman's experience with abortion is like this.

'I lay on the cold table with my legs propped up watching the doctor prepare to give me a sonogram. "Can I see it?" I fearfully asked the doctor as he pulled my baby up on the screen.

He said no. I guess that was best. If I had seen the shape of the creature I was about to kill I probably would have freaked and walked out of Planned Parenthood. A few seconds passed and the doctor said he had found it.

My seven-week foetus was down in the lower part of my stomach on the left side. I still feel like he was hiding in there - his little ass probably knew what was coming.

The sound of the vacuum still rings in my ears almost three years later.'

That anti-choicers have latched onto this confession and statement of regret as some means of justifying their own cause is not surprising, but neither is it appropriate. I can emotionally associate a bad breakup with a particular song, but that doesn't mean that the song becomes corrupted and terrible as a result. Male and female friends of mine who went through awful divorces have projected their own hurt towards their children, but this doesn't mean that the children are the source of the problem. A classmate of mine in college got pregnant at a young age, kept the child, and mentioned, guiltily, that she is filled with anger when she sees the resemblance of her ex reflected in her own child. Let's not confuse bitterness and spite with some greater proof that abortion is evil and wrong.

Like so much about human behavior, there are many nuances present here. I've chosen to avoid addressing the racial aspect, because it has the ability to be the most explosive. And I'm not even sure it's really relevant. Already, internet comments posted to websites have implied, and sometimes directly asserted that this is typical behavior in a rudderless, amoral African-American community. I'm not getting anywhere near that debate. I'd rather focus instead on a topic I introduced earlier in this essay. Here is the inevitable Wikipedia citation.

...some sex-positive feminists do not consider all consensual activity between young adolescents and older people as inherently harmful, and there has been debate between feminists about whether statutory rape laws are misogynist. Their argument is that statutory rape laws were made with non-gender neutral intentions and are presently enforced as such, with the assumption that young pubescent women are naive and nonsexual and need to be protected. Sex-positive feminists with this view believe that "teen girls and boys are equally capable of making informed choices in regard to their sexuality",and that statutory rape laws are actually meant to protect "good girls" from sex.

In "Sex-Bias Topics in the Criminal Law Course: A Survey of Criminal Law Professors" 24 U. Mich. J.L. Ref. 189 (1990), it is said: "Other feminists are opposed to or ambivalent about strengthening statutory rape statutes because such protection also precludes a young woman from entering a consensual sexual relationship, to which she may be competent to consent. These feminists view statutory rape laws as more controlling than protective -- and of course part of the law's historic role was protecting the female's chastity as valuable property".

This circumstance reveals how difficult it to determine fair punishment when historical precedent gets in the way of enforcement. Some Feminists reject marriage for similar reasons, because the practice often implied that a wife was his husband's property. Regarding statutory rape laws, some women under the age of consent may possess the maturation necessary to make their own decisions for themselves. The real issue here is whether or not any arbitrary measurement will ever suffice for all people. And, if it does not, what metrics can we use to modify and keep up-to-date laws usually designed with good intentions? The choice is ours as to whether we see the spirit of the law, or the letter of the law.

Thinking Today of Those Who Are Suffering

Yesterday, a powerful tornado, perhaps as strong as an F5, tore through large sections of West and North Central Alabama. Fortunately, the twister tracked north and spared my parents. But it did not spare thousands of people who are without power or homes today. And it did not spare the nearly 200 people who lost their lives. If there is any silver lining to be found, storms this powerful and massive are extremely rare. I'm fortunate in that I no longer live in a part of the country where tornadoes of any size are frequent.

EDIT: Here is video of the Tuscaloosa tornado.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Health Update

Yesterday's Urologist visit revealed that I likely have two epididymal cysts. The largest is outside my right testis, while the smallest is outside my left. The process by which these cysts (also known as spermatoceles) were detected (which involved hands sheathed in rubber gloves) was equal parts humiliating and painful. So, a scrotal ultrasound will be performed next week, to determine conclusively what exists and to determine whether what is detected needs to be surgically removed.

Here we go again.

Birtherism: The Newest Lost Cause

Now that Birtherism has become the latest cause célèbre in the public consciousness, it has progressed from a half-mad conspiracy theory to a half-baked political platform. Once the sole purview of the reactionary Right, questioning Barack Obama's American citizenship is now the stock in trade of would-be-politicians and public figures. But now, having embraced this fabrication, they will live or die by it. A long, ignoble history of similar conduct exists, particularly when an outright fallacy is believed by enough people that cynical opportunists seize fast to it to increase their own power. I could cite any number of examples from history, but I'll focus my attention on two.

Conquered peoples, or at least defeated peoples have a way of perpetuating and substituting legends and myths when the truth is too painful to admit. The Dolchstoßlegende, or stab-in-the-back legend insisted that the German army lost World War I due to the betrayal of its own citizens, not opposing armies. Fact and scholarship prove that this was a colossal lie, but the proud German people, who believed themselves nearly invincible in the field of battle did not willingly accept the reality. And before someone calls Godwin's Law, I will say no more on this subject.

Most appropriate for the 150th anniversary of the conflict, I note that I myself grew up something of a believer in the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. The kind of complete destruction brought on by four years of destructive war could only be softened away by romanticism and a deliberate disregard of the facts. Denial is a powerful force in the minds of men and women, and when it becomes collectively embraced, it is powerful still. Those who are natives of the Southern states refuse to let the conflict go, while those in more Northern localities often cannot understand why such an emphasis is placed upon an epoch they associate more with history books. History is written by the victors, but the defeated never forget. So it doesn't surprise me a bit that the epicenter of Birtherism is the South.

Pro-Confederacy writers James Ronald Kennedy and his twin brother Walter Donald Kennedy wrote a book entitled The South Was Right! In its conclusion, they give voice to a few notions that may sound surprisingly familiar.

The Southern people have all the power we need to put an end to forced busing, affirmative action, extravagant welfare spending, the punitive Southern-only Voting Rights Act, the refusal of the Northern liberals to allow Southern conservatives to sit on the Supreme Court, and the economic exploitation of the South into a secondary economic status. What is needed is not more power but the will to use the power at hand! The choice is now yours — ignore this challenge and remain a second-class citizen, or unite with your fellow Southerners and help start a Southern political revolution.

Birtherism, then, goes well beyond simple dislike of a black Democratic President. Some may have latched onto its most incendiary element, but the underlying philosophy is much more complex and reaches back years into the past.

The historian David Goldfield describes this Neo-Confederate attitude which

"...[explains] that the War of Northern Aggression was not fought to preserve any union of historic creation, formation, and understanding, but to achieve a new union by conquest and plunder. As for the abolitionists, they were a collection of socialists, atheists, and "reprehensible agitators."

It may also not surprise to know that Neo-Confederate attitudes are also often heavily critical of the Republican Party.

Conservative columnist Alan Stang, in a Southern Mercury article, "Republican Party: Red From the Start", sees a communist conspiracy in the Republican party of the mid-19th century. He alleges that the 1848 revolutionaries in Europe were communists and that some of these revolutionaries came to America after the failed 1848 revolution to perpetrate some type of communist agenda in the United States. Stang states:

"...Lee and Jackson did not fully comprehend what they were fighting. Had this really been a "Civil" War, rather than a secession, they would and could have easily seized Washington after Manassas and hanged our first Communist President and the other war criminals."

I am somehow reminded here of those offensive signs displayed by Tea Party protestors, the modern day John Birch Society. And as I alluded to earlier, the defensiveness, aggression, and sloganeering seeks to cover up a larger concept. Denial is, after all, a defensive reaction meant to obscure a painful truth.

Historian Alan Nolan refers to the Lost Cause as “a rationalization, a cover-up”. After describing the devastation that was the consequences of the war for the South, Nolan states:

“Leaders of such a catastrophe must account for themselves. Justification is necessary. Those who followed their leaders into the catastrophe required similar rationalization. Clement A. Evans, a Georgia veteran who at one time commanded the United Confederate Veterans organization, said this: "If we cannot justify the South in the act of Secession, we will go down in History solely as a brave, impulsive but rash people who attempted in an illegal manner to overthrow the Union of our Country."

But if we are to attack the true source of this mistrust and paranoia, we must pursue the great tap root. Public mistrust of government leads to conspiracy theories and encourages people to believe that the official line is, in fact, a complete lie. If Wikileaks is any indication, our government and other world governments lie to us everyday. Their secrecy is nonsensical and predicated on its own mistrust, regardless of how the powers that be may argue to the contrary. These prevarications of theirs are not simply white lies designed to protect national security or to aid diplomats at the bargaining table. Rather, they assume that the people as citizens have no ability, nor need to process and understand the state of affairs that currently exists.

But in this assumption, they fail to understand that Pandora's Box has already been opened. That which is needed to regain the faith of the average citizen is increased transparency, within the limit of reason. The Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and Watergate all eroded public confidence in its own government. These events destroyed confidence in all Americans, regardless of their party identification or ideological persuasion. In a prior time, I don't think rampant, unfounded speculation that questions, in all seriousness, whether or not the President of the United States is truly an American citizen, would have even taken hold.

If I could propose a solution, it would begin with a drafting of a new contract with the American people, one that doesn't only advance the legislative aims of one particular political party. It would reach beyond well-meaning, but overly simplistic promises by a President who swears he will not lie to us. It would not stop at passing new laws, or even amending the Constitution, if such a thing could even be done. Reducing conspiracy theories to the domain of History Channel programming and those who pass out handwritten manifestos outside bus stations requires courage. It's a courage that states that the average American, regardless of level of education, skin color, class, or socio-economic status can be trusted. Until this is honestly advanced, expect more of these idiotic folk tales.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Scarecrow

The black and green scarecrow
as everyone knows

Stood with a bird on his hat and straw
everywhere he didn't care

He stood in a field where barley grows

His head did no thinking, his arms didn't move
Except when the wind cut up rough and mice ran
around on the ground

He stood in a field where barley grows

The black and green scarecrow is sadder than me
but now he's resigned to his fate
'cause life's not unkind, he doesn't mind

He stood in a field where barley grows

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Easter says you can put Truth in a grave, but it won't stay there."- Clarence W. Hall

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Comprehensive Look at Sex Work

On this Easter Sunday, I reflect that among the followers of Jesus were sex workers. In the Gospel of Matthew, an particularly telling exchange takes place between Chief Priests and Elders who have questioned Jesus' very authority. In response, he tells a parable, which concludes, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." Though much has changed between now and then, this statement still has the power to shock and offend.

The Obama Administration made a recent decision in which the Justice Department will no longer seek to prosecute cases of Adult Obscenity. The political figures objecting to this decision comprise the strangest of strange bedfellows. Though most are conservative Republicans, five are liberal Democrats. Though these Democrats differ from Republicans in their objections considerably, I still believe that their criticisms are incomplete without looking at the complete picture.

The specific target of the now-closed Obscenity Prosecution Task Force was hardcore pornography. The liberal Senators who signed onto this letter took a sex-negative stance regarding pornography as a whole and attached it to a belief that women in pornography are the targets of violence and degradation. In response to these assumptions, I'd like to instead examine an even more scandalous issue, sex workers and those who frequent them.

I haven't written about this much on this topic because I've never known quite what to say. However, a recent discussion with a Friend who has worked to end human trafficking provided me enough of a context to speak with some authority. There is, I recognize, a distinct difference between human trafficking and sex work, but her job put her in contact with both.

When Feminists often speak about sex workers, what often doesn't get mentioned are those who use their services. If the names of clients or johns are mentioned, these people, usually men, have been recently charged with a violent, felony offense. Condemning such acts committed by those who have purchased sexual favors does not happen nearly enough. Reading like a scandal sheet, they make their brutal point well, but they also neglect the larger picture. It is true that one can see the misogyny still present among us when we cruelly smear and belittle those who toil in a particularly ancient profession. But it is also true that this unnecessary hatred and venom also turns on those who visit sex workers.

While in my early twenties I read a book by the title of My Secret Life. It is a documented history of a well-to-do Victorian-era gentleman's numerous, obsessively noted dalliances with what in those days would have been considered women of ill-repute. One can only imagine how many pounds he spends in the course of one lifetime seeking sexual gratification. As literature, it is not particularly high quality. The anonymous author rambles, spends much time discussing unimportant details, and repeats himself on a frequent basis. But beyond this, it is a fascinating portrayal of sexual mores in a time when anything resembling public sexual expression were routinely suppressed. It is a look behind the curtain of that which was deliberately hidden and the secret world in which he lived. And in particular, it shows the ways that class divisions, guilt, and shame reinforced what was sexually acceptable and what was not.

Then, as now, sex work is considered the domain of the working class, the borderline criminal, and the chemically addicted. Most American movies, at least, portray sex workers alongside scenes of great urban poverty or as secondary characters present in the larger criminal underworld. Those who admit to visiting sex workers are assumed by association to be part of this shadowy universe of shady characters. But in reality, men of all social classes and moral purity purchase sexual services, and it should also be noted, this exchange is far from exclusively heterosexual in orientation. I'm even certain that women visit male or female sex workers as well, though convention assumes that this is not nearly as commonplace as is with men.

We may even sympathize with sex workers in ways we do not for those who visit them. While it is often factual that sex workers select their line of work based on prior trauma, dysfunctional upbringings, chronic illness, and drug addiction, this is not always so. But making our assumptions as we are apt to do, we then typify those who solicit such services as morally bankrupt, deplorable human beings, or targets of ridicule. But, in all fairness, not every interaction between client or john ends with charges of first-degree-murder or even with some sort of debasing objectification. When violence towards sex workers is documented in the news, inevitably phrases from the person on the street corner end up being reported. These phrases include "she had it coming to her" or "she should have known better". When men are exposed for seeking sexual services, it's regularly considered a sign of complete hypocrisy, stupidity, or immorality. Many a politician, notable figure, and even religious leader has been felled by these same scornful invectives.

One can debate the legality and the morality of the practice at some length. On the record, I think it should be legalized, but that's all I want to say about it. For now, I'm not seeking to introduce an argument on the subject of whether or not it's acceptable for someone to attain paid sexual services while in a committed monogamous relationship. What I am seeking, however, is that we might someday inhabit a world where sex work didn't have the social stigma it currently holds. Our own personal sexuality is what is being judged here. And, oddly enough, as sexual expression grows more prevalent, a corresponding change in attitudes towards how we attain sexual gratification is not. It's entirely acceptable to be symbolically sexual, but not acceptable at all to be truly actualized as a sexual being.

What motivates sex workers to pursue their vocation is also misunderstood, often attached to words like "sleazy", "disgusting", and "deplorable". My Friend once spoke to a sex worker who believed that her purpose in all that she did was completely altruistic in nature. She was providing a basic need to men who were lonely and seeking what she considered to be a natural release. This may have been something of a rationalization on her part, and I could debate her underlying assumption as well, but she nonetheless noted that most men she encountered while on the job were not unkind. Most were very matter-of-fact about it. They wanted something, she provided it, money was exchanged, and most of the time these men were never seen, nor heard from again.

If sex work is one step above grave robbery, then one wonders how it could have persisted this long. To look at sex work objectively, it must be examined clearly in the light, not in the dark corners where it has long been banished. Complicating our desires to humanize a profession long thought to be sub-human is that sex work is still illegal in most parts of the United States, though arresting those involved in the exchange is not an especially high priority for most law enforcement. Stripping away centuries worth of fear, anxiety, and societal disapproval takes time.

The colloquialism "nervous as a whore in church" exists for a reason and articulates well the attitudes still existent. Only briefly are we yet able to see sex workers as fully human, and that humanity usually only shines through when tragedy and spectacle overshadow the scandalously mundane. But if advancing the rights of sex workers is to be more than a niche concern to a specialized audience, we must as a society confront our automatic impulses which illustrate how easy it is to heap scorn without contemplating the lives and opinions of those engaged in the practice.

Saturday Video

Friday, April 22, 2011

This Year's Girl

See her picture in a thousand places
'Cause she's this year's girl
You think you all own little pieces
Of this year's girl

Forget your fancy manners
Forget your English grammar
'Cause you don't really give a damn
About this year's girl

Still you're hoping that she's well spoken
'Cause she's this year's girl
You want her broken with her mouth wide open
'Cause she's this year's girl

Never knowing it's a real attraction
All these promises of satisfaction
While she's being bored to distraction
Being this year's girl

Time's running out
She's not happy with the cost
There'd be no doubt
Only she's forgotten much more than she's lost

A bright spark might corner the market
In this year's girl
You see yourself rolling on the carpet
With this year's girl

Those disco synthesizers
Those daily tranquilizers
Those body building prizes
Those bedroom alibis

All this, but no surprises for this year's girl
All this, but no surprises for this year's girl
All this, but no surprises for this year's girl

A Public Service Announcement for Everyone

In between accusations and instances of legitimate wrong there lies something beyond. The "me" in this is not necessarily the person now striking the keys. Its application is deliberately broad.

Don't take yourself too seriously
There are precious few things worth hating nowadays,
And none of them are me

I was only trying to say how things used to be
'Til we grew up and we all went our separate ways
Looking for our own paths to immortality.

This is how I thought I'd start my song
And it seems a little silly when I think of it
But now I'm so far along

And no one really wants to know that he's wrong
That his ears can't really hear or he's blind a bit
Or that he's really weak when he thinks that he is strong

Now I'm in the middle and I just don't know
If I'll make it any further if the words don't flow
When you live in silence any sound is dear
But for those who don't, take heart because the end is near

This is the ending of my song
It has made me blind and deaf and weak but most of all
It shows you that I'm wrong

For you see it's really twice this long
And if I should die tomorrow it will carry on

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Where I Am

I'm over at Daily Kos today, building my publishing karma.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This Room Is A Waiting Room

This room, it's a waiting room
And we've been here for years

And there's nothing wrong
But a break just never seemed to come

So we wait to see
what happens now
that the end has been and gone

In here
there is nothing left to say

In here
There is nothing left to do but wait

And we think it's alright
And we hope it's going to turn out fine
'Cause neither one of us has got the strength enough
The truth is hard to take

This room, it's a waiting room
And we've been here for years

And we think it's alright
And we hope it's gonna turn out fine
'Cause neither one of us has got the strength enough
The truth is hard to take

And neither one of us has got the sense enough
The truth is hard to take

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

God Is Alive, But Not Where You'd Expect

The arrival of Holy Week always finds me in an odd place. Quakers don't formally celebrate holidays. This is a residual aspect of the Puritanism that shaped some of our beliefs. Though Friends would seem to be as far away from radical Calvinism as possible, it nonetheless formed the backdrop of our formation. We were, in the beginning, another radical Protestant sect straining to be recognized. In keeping with this tradition, as the thinking goes, every day ought to be sacred and holy. Even worship on Sunday, or as we often call it, First Day, is not intended to be the pinnacle of the week. Worship should not be relegated to the walls of the Meeting house and exists even in the yawningly banal. Nevertheless, I still miss the pomp and circumstance of the Church calendar and the progression of each holiday. As I've written before, I was not raised a Friend.

And on that note, I find today that I am actually in partial agreement with Joe Scarborough. Though his latest op-ed column in Politico has an understandable conservative slant, I find it difficult to disagree with several sections.

Thoughtful leaders like Keller, Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner believe that politics should be left outside the doors of the church so spiritual leaders can focus on preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead of sponsoring glorified political rallies. At the same time, they are moving away from defensive doctrines and instead focusing on the things Jesus said would assure his followers a place in heaven: antiquated concepts like feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and bringing hope to the hopeless.

It is a powerful message that may stem the decline of religion in America. While religious attendance in the United States has been down over the past few decades, the long-term trends are positive.

I would also argue that as religion has been less valued by some on the left, other aspects of belief have been substituted. An issue I have with my own Meeting is that certain controversial political issues are routinely advanced by members with a kind of religious zeal. The passion and indignation are present, but instead of condemning Pharisees, they'd much rather condemn the Republican Party or its latest polemicist. Even spiritual refugees cannot escape the formative issues of their past. Nor can we, really.

Scarborough notes,

I have personally been heartened by what I have seen in churches like Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the heart of Manhattan. Keller keeps showing up on the Times’ best sellers list while filling his Upper Westside congregations with young believers every week. (When I attend Redeemer, I am excited to see that I am one of the older members in the congregation.)

It is important to note the contributions of young adults of faith and I am thankful that Scarborough does. George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, was younger than me when he first began his ministry. He was my current age, thirty, when his frequent preaching began to attract a following. Fox felt that no church, nor religious leader spoke to his condition, and for a time wandered across England in search of what he so desperately sought. His example reminds me of my own struggle to find myself and my religious identity.

...Fox left [his hometown] in September 1643, moving toward London in a state of mental torment and confusion. The English Civil War had begun and troops were stationed in many of the towns through which he passed. While in Barnet, where he was torn by depression (perhaps from the temptations of this resort town near London), Fox would alternately shut himself in his room for days at a time, or go out alone into the countryside. After almost a year, he returned to Drayton, where he engaged Nathaniel Stephens, the clergyman of his hometown, in long discussions on religious matters. Stephens considered Fox a gifted young man, but the two disagreed on so many issues that he later called Fox mad and spoke against him.

I do not invite a comparison here, for obvious reasons, but perhaps a parallel is warranted. Jesus himself was thirty when he began his own ministry on earth, eventually perishing by way of crucifixion three years later. Regardless of how we view faith, religion, or belief, it is important that we note the contribution of passionate visionaries who are very often young adults. From my informal discussions with others, many similar names are often mentioned who also qualify. Our Western perspectives about age and maturity complicate this realization. We have a love/hate relationship with the concept of youth, and our reservations on the subject, I find, are usually personal rather than philosophical.

My own calling lies along similar lines. Bringing community and faith to others in my age group has been a labor of love and a successful one. When I moved here to Washington, DC, some two years ago, my spiritual insecurities suddenly were no more. No longer was I seeking, seeking, seeking. Though this revelation contained no burning bush, nor roadside conversion, nor walk up Pendle Hill, emulating Fox I nonetheless knew that God intended that I might bring people together. In all that I write, do, and organize, I draw strength and guidance that never once wavers. I did not choose the path. The path chose me.

God could not be more alive for me. Unlike Scarborough, however, I am naturally not going to characterize the divide between belief and unbelief in ideological terms. The wounded often have good reason to be suspicious. If I am critical, it is merely because many people have lost an ability to contemplate mystery, Divine or otherwise. I think, therefore I am? Not really. God continues whether or not there is a me involved or not. I may be able to judge the impact my words make on someone else, but do I really? Each of you who read this column will respond in a slightly different way. It is slightly egotistical to assume we have total control of other peoples' perceptions or that ours are unique and different in every possible way. There will always be overlap somewhere, for all of our belief in individualism.

The statistics cited in the Politico column are helpful to a degree. My own skepticism lies with how numbers are frequently manipulated to supplant an argument. Without understanding the methodology behind them, I'd be reluctant to cite them as basis for any larger conclusion. But like the author, I do think that religious leaders need to be less concerned with outward appearances and more concerned with inward purity. One of the reasons I believe that the Church and State should be separated is that, to me, their intentions are fundamentally at odds with each other.

A Christian model applied to the business world, for example, might win the label of radical socialism, and might well prevent the spread and greater growth of Jesus Christ, Inc. When individual profit is far less important than using financial assets to fully fund needed efforts to end poverty, then this does not bode well for anyone's bottom line, at least in the beginning. Driving the moneychangers from the temple doesn't make good business sense. And then there's that problematic passage about how difficult it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But this doesn't mean that these lessons can't be or shouldn't be applied to our secular lives.

My own existence is split between what I do for this world and what I do for the next. It would seem then that focusing on the teachings of Jesus Christ, should we be so inclined, would involve a kind of personal understanding that we've often called morality. Without morality, we have, at best, an intellectual rendering of the world that satiates our brains but neglects our heart. Brains are important, but hearts even more so. Though we may have been hurt or injured, we cannot disengage from the greater dialogue. If we do so, we will break ourselves down into smaller and smaller groups. Most world religions came to be in times of strife and uncertainty. We have a phenomenal ability now to gain understanding, while the world lain before us feels unsettled, uncertain, and uncomfortable.

Monday, April 18, 2011


This is a slight re-write of the Lily Allen song, "LDN". "DCA" being the generic airport term for National Airport, which is the most centrally located airport in the DC area.

Riding through the city on my bike all day
'Cause I never even got my license.
It doesn't get me down and I feel okay
'Cause the sights that I'm seeing are priceless.

Everything seems to look as it should,
But I wonder what goes on behind doors.
In the gutter something glistens, and I wonder what I'm missing
But I see that it's really a crack pipe

You might laugh, you might frown
Walking round this old town.

Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why
Would I wanna be anywhere else?
Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why
Would I wanna be anywhere else?

When you look with your eyes
Everything seems nice,
But if you look twice
You can see its all lies.

There was a little old lady, who was walking down the road
She was struggling with bags from Giant.
There were people from the city having lunch in the park,
Yes, it all seemed harmless and buoyant.

Then a kid came along to offer a hand
But before she had time to accept it
Hits her over the head, doesn't care if she's dead
'Cause he's got all her jewellery and wallet.

You might laugh, you might frown
Walking round this old town.

Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why
Would I wanna be anywhere else?
Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why
Would I wanna be anywhere else?

When you look with your eyes
Everything seems nice,
But if you look twice
You can see its all lies.

Life, yeah that's city life, yeah that's city life,
Yeah, that's city life.
Life, yeah that's city life, yeah that's city life,
Yeah that's city life.

Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why
Would I wanna be anywhere else?
Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why
Would I wanna be anywhere else?

Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why
Would I wanna be anywhere else?
Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why
Would I wanna be anywhere else?

When you look with your eyes
Everything seems nice,
But if you look twice
You can see its all lies.

When you look with your eyes
Everything seems nice,
But if you look twice
You can see its all lies.

More Good News

Here's something else I've been processing. A combination of hypogonadism, plus whatever testicular issue, ovary or otherwise is present, means that I am likely sterile. In some ways, this isn't terribly surprising. Perhaps this is some evolutionary safeguard, ensuring that my DNA can't sully the waters of the gene pool. There's a strong argument to be made that it would be selfish to bring a child into the world with a large likelihood of having several chronic illnesses.

But the mind still conjures up strange thoughts. It thinks about irresponsible human beings who still manage to procreate. It touches on the paradoxes and ironies of life, and the discrepancy between refined thought and biological imperative. We can intellectualize birth, child rearing, and the act of sexual intercourse, but the process itself continues regardless of how we view it. The door is closed. There is no question of waiting for the proper time anymore. But there's a sense of certainty present too, that has been so elusive in other areas of treatment and diagnosis. This is my answer.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Inner George Fox or the God in Everyone

I have wrestled and gone a full twelve rounds with my own angel in writing this. How does one express indignation, hopefully of a righteous quality, in a fully Quakerly sense? Am I making too much of this? Am I making not enough of it? Will my words wound, rather than correct? Discerning that, yes, this needs to be said, I have proceeded. But seeking to spare feelings, I have sought anonymity and vagueness whenever possible as regards specific details.

My life seems to take one of two leadings these days. While following the first leading, I channel my inner George Fox. Something is wrong here! This is not the way it needs to be! How dare you! I become very consumed with setting people right. Perhaps I may even border on self-righteousness. On the second path, I am more diplomatic. I give people the benefit of the doubt. Seeking that of God in everyone, I strain and search for that very thing. Or failing that, I keep in mind what Elvis Costello noted. "Oh, I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused."

This weekend, the life of a Friend in both senses of the word was formally memorialized. Two weeks before, he died suddenly while exercising. He was not yet thirty. The suddenness of his death was a complete shock to many of us, myself included. The family wished that we might incorporate Quaker worship into the Memorial Service. Though held inside a Catholic church at a Jesuit University, the service was a blend between Catholicism and mainstream Christianity, though most of it was filled with vocal tributes from those who knew him in life. Ten separate speakers (I counted) were featured, after which the service was to conclude with fifteen or so minutes of unprogrammed worship. I know this because the suggestion was my own, albeit with the feedback of many Friends who gave wise council.

I now need to pull back slightly from the narrative to provide an adequate back story. Those of you who know anything about Washington, DC, culture know that Georgetown University has long had a stellar academic reputation. Along with this reputation comes a lofty, patrician attitude of old money and older connections. When my friend chose to enroll, he was in effect following in a well-established family line of high achievers. Yet, he was probably one of the most self-effacing, modest, unprepossessing people I have ever had the great fortune to know. The most profound irony of all was that in death, only in death, I realized that his talents and skills held no bounds. The phrase Renaissance Man is often overused, but in this context, it could not be more suitable or fitting. He had the money, the name, the pedigree, but never once made mention of it in any of our conversations.

Attitudes of some of those gathered indirectly and sometimes directly contradicted my Friend's memory. For whatever reason or another, many of those who were previously scheduled to speak all had some greater connection to Georgetown. This was to be expected, I suppose, considering the location of the service. When it came time for silent worship, I was literally praying that it would be truly silent. I was hoping that it would not turn into, as so many Memorial Services become, a popcorn meeting, with a hefty dose of verbal competition mixed in to the meld. My intention in arranging this portion of the service, writing most of the description that explained unprogrammed worship to those in attendance, as well as relying on the sound advice and experience of other Friends in so doing was to make sure that those who were not Quaker might really get a chance to see the virtues of silent worship.

My Friend attended a local Friends' school for high school, and former teachers may have decided that silent worship meant their right to voice their own private, unscripted eulogy. Predictably, what transpired wasn't very silent. I don't think ten seconds elapsed before someone was on his or her feet, talking again. Fifteen minutes or so later, the Father leading the service made a wise decision to bring worship to a close after the fifth speaker finished speaking. Whether by intention or design it had turned into Friends School v. Georgetown. Nothing anyone said was objectionable, except by the fact that this was specifically meant to be worship, with a correspondingly heavy emphasis on silence. That fact was printed clearly inside every order of service.

And once again, here was my inner George Fox, this time channeling Jesus.

"When you pray, don't be like hypocrites. They like to stand in synagogues and on street corners to pray so that everyone can see them. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward."

But then I think to myself, "You're really being too harsh." Perhaps they got caught up in the moment. These speakers did have very moving things to say about him and his family, after all. Maybe it didn't go as planned, but it was a still a lovely service. One can't control everything. And that is true. It was a very moving, very thoughtful tribute to a life taken too soon. Those who spoke clearly were trying to speak about the dearly departed, not themselves, though sometimes even in speaking of others we are still speaking honestly of ourselves.

It's not what was said that bothers me so much. It's factionalism, rivalry, subtle one-upsmanship, and self-importance that gets to me. It's people who might take no small offense that I do not doff my metaphorical hat in their presence. Once there was an unwillingness to put on airs and dress up speech to perpetuate hierarchy and inequality. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

My Friend lived this example and many others. But if his life speaks from beyond the grave most, it is in this verse of Scripture from Proverbs: "Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor".

Quote of the Week

Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.- Proverbs 29:23

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday Video

We got have peace
To keep the world alive
And war to cease.

We got to have joy,
True in our hearts
With strength we can't destroy.

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There's no choice.

We're begging save the children
The little ones
Who just don't understand

Give them a chance
To breed their young
And help purify the land

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There's no choice.

And the people in the neighborhood,
Who would if they only could,
Meet and shake the other's hand,
Work together for the good of the land.

Give us all an equal chance,
It could be such a sweet romance.
And the soldiers who are dead and gone,
If only we could bring back one,

He'd say "We've got to have peace"
To keep the world alive
And war to cease

We got to have joy
Ture in our hearts
With strength we can't destroy

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There's no choice

And the people in the neighborhood
Who would if they only could
Meet and shake the other's hand
Work together for the good of the land

Give us all an equal chance
It could be such a sweet romance
And the soldiers who are dead and gone
If only we could bring back one

He'd say "We've got to have peace"
Aah - hah, we got to have peace. Let Let the world know it

Peace, peace, peace
Aah - hah, we got to have peace

People please hear us (people please hear us)
Through our voice the world knows
There's no choice

And the people in the neighbourhood
Who would if they only could
Meet and shake the other's hand
Work together for the good of the land

Give us all an equal chance
It could be such a sweet romance
And the soldiers who are dead and gone
If only we could bring back one

He'd say "We've got to have peace"
Lord, we got to have peace

Let the people say it

Peace peace peace
We got to have peace

Friday, April 15, 2011

To A Hero

Dear President Lincoln,

I imagine what the world would have been like had you been able to serve out two full terms. It could only have been for better. 146 years ago today, an assassin's bullet took your life, but not your memory. You have been an inspiration to me both by your example and in your eloquent rhetoric. I wish they made more politicians and statesmen like you.

Gender Possibilities

Though it's been a while since my last extended update, I've been sharing with you the course of my treatment. Specifically, I was diagnosed with hypogonadism in November. Treatment has taken many twists and turns in nearly nine months' time, and the most recent discovery has left me frustrated and weary. I'm tired of being sick, plainly put, and I want to be well. Though this is embarrassing to admit, as I mentioned briefly earlier in the week, I discovered very recently a lump next to my right testis. My PCP correctly diagnosed it as being caused by Testosterone Replacement Therapy, which has continued steadily since hypogonadism was discovered. Now it is off to the Urologist to determine precisely what it is and is not.

Because the root cause of my condition has still yet to be determined, I've spoken with patients, professionals, and other knowledgeable people to see if I can get some answers myself. One such person e-mailed me yesterday with an amazing story that, if it were true for me, would explain so much about who I am. To preface, she now identifies as female, though for years she considered herself male. She is also intersex.

Some years ago, she noticed the same phenomenon herself. A mysterious lump appeared quickly when she was given high levels of testosterone. Conventional testing didn't reveal much, but on the off-hand chance, she convinced the doctor to try a particular test only rarely used in such circumstances. When the results came back, they were shocking. It wasn't a lump. It was, in fact, an OVARY. For certain intersex individuals (but not all) a diagnosis of hypogonadism and its resulting treatment manifests itself this way. Unfortunately, her ovary contained cancerous cells, which required the organ to be surgically removed along with a lengthy regimen of chemotherapy. She stressed repeatedly that this likely wasn't going to be the case for me. But it's still worth checking out and a little concerning, too.

I'm going to resist the temptation to read too much into this. A part of me would love this to be true, minus, of course, the cancer. It would be medical confirmation of why I am genderqueer, which I admit I still very much desire. I recognize I don't need physical proof to know what I am, but I've felt like a complete freak of nature for so long that I crave, for once, an irrefutable, biological answer. I'm more or less generally comfortable with my sexual orientation. But on issues of gender, I'm still the rawest of raw nerves. So much else with my life, regarding health woes, has never been satisfactorily explained by modern medicine. It would be nice to point to something definitive like this and begin to draw some sensible conclusions.

But I wouldn't know how to go about telling other people, except for those most likely to be readers of this site. I'm not sure how my parents would take it. And, more importantly, how would I define myself? At the moment I'm uneasily straddling the male/female divide, allied with both, but devoted singularly to neither. I recognize that there aren't any "rules" with gender identification, but where does one find the balance? I should note that there are so many combinations of conditions that can be classified as being intersex. Yet again, I ask myself the same thing I've done for the whole of my life. Who am I? Who am I, really?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mother Earth

With just a dollop of echo.

You may highhand me all the time
Never go my way
But dirt is waiting for you
There's a debt you have to pay

I don't care how great you are
Don't care what you're worth

'Cause when it all ends up
You're going to go back to Mother Earth

You may own a city
Get all the girls
You may have an aeroplane
Fly it all around the world

I don't care how great you are
Don't care what you're worth

'Cause when it all ends up
You're going to go back to Mother Earth

You may play the race horses
Even on a track
You may have enough money, baby
To buy anything you like

I don't care how great you are
Don't care what you're worth

'Cause when it all ends up
You're going to go back to Mother Earth

You may highhand me all the time
Never go my way
But dirt is waiting for you
There's a debt you'll have to pay

I don't care how great you are
Don't care what you're worth

'Cause when it all ends up
You're going to go back to Mother Earth

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Equal Pay Requires Specific Strategies

An occasion marked perfunctorily, but rarely beyond it by much of the media, yesterday was Equal Pay Day. The day was so named to underscore how far into the calendar year it takes women to equal their male colleagues regarding income, which is well over four months. Even when mentioned at all, few networks felt it necessary to spell out precisely how this inequality manifests itself, nor wished to show the persistent adversity faced by women who challenge established ways. That would have required in-depth analysis and a panel of talking heads, which may have shed some light on the topic, though not necessarily. Accordingly, it is a bit of an understatement to reduce the challenges that face women by referring to one, singular glass ceiling. In reality, there are many glass ceilings. Some of them are higher than others, and each of them has to be shattered in different ways. Every industry has its own standards and historical gender makeup, and so strategies to equalize income between men and women will need to reflect this.

Listen to the lives and stories of women, and one can accumulate a wealth of anecdotal evidence to prove the discrepancy. Some state that the pay gap is mythological, little more than propaganda, but I have encountered too much proof from those with whom I have spoken to believe that. Ann Friedman, Executive Editor of GOOD magazine, spells out the numerous pitfalls that make for treacherous going for women, especially those who only aspire to make what they are worth. It is an article as enlightening as it is completely disheartening and discouraging.

Noticeably absent, however, from anyone's synopsis of the problem are any attempts at proposing a solution. By now, the problem has something of a name, though we may differ slightly as to what to call it. Sexism is an element that cannot be denied, certainly. Privilege may be an even larger piece. Let it be known that I've never been a fan of quotas or mandatory hires, for any reason, simply because they tend to be polarizing and only invite resentment. But it seems to me, to my own eyes, that the process of inclusion begins when men who have never before considered the notable contribution of women to the workplace sing a different tune. This requires revising many preconceived assumptions.

Don't get me wrong. I've noticed the subtle flourishes underway at this time. Even at the center of all that is ruggedly and unapologetically masculine, that being sports journalism, changes have been made. ESPN, for example, has made more of an effort to incorporate women into its broadcast and highlight analysis. Commentators who have made blatantly sexist comments have been swiftly fired. And at other networks, women have at last made their way from sideline reporter/eye candy to the broadcast booth during men's sports. For a long time, this was a right granted only to women who covered exclusively women's sports. I myself noted an ABC broadcast last fall of a college football game between the University of Alabama and Duke, wherein a female broadcaster was prominently featured. This would have been unheard of not long ago. Indeed, it was the first time ever for the Crimson Tide that the booth had not been all-male, though when it was noted in print form, not much in the way of celebration or conviction was heard.

Predictably, the same tired comments followed afterward. Many Alabama fans were dismissive, if not incredibly hostile to her presence. I admit that the experience was different than what I was used to, but neither did I think she had no right to be there. What I myself observed afterward were the same remarks routinely levied at female police officers. "Not tough enough." "Not knowledgeable enough of a man's world." "Has no right to be there." Know also that I am not picking on my favorite team and home state. One would and could easily find these objectionable opinions across the country. I have also heard them inside gyms, on public transportation, and at restaurants.

For a long time, the discussion of how to assist marginalized people or groups has bogged down around the question of primary responsibility. For example, should men take an active role in helping women achieve equality in pay, or should this be the responsibility of women alone? I myself am inclined to believe that without the support of male allies, any movement intended to bring about gender equality may well never get off the ground. My personal belief is that male allies should begin the process, but should then step aside once it is healthily underway. The Civil Rights Movement, if you'll pardon the comparison, did have significant white support behind it, though it is notable that those out in front were African-American. I'm sure that there are others who may disagree with me, and I welcome their perspectives. It is by putting our heads together that we can find a way to reach the ends we seek.

The world in which we live often reminds me of a family, though it at times is a dysfunctional one. As I write this, I am reminded of similar remarks Hillary Clinton made about the Democratic Party in 2008 after conceding the race. For as many words of disgust and disappointment I hear, few ever say that they're leaving, never to return. I'm afraid that we're stuck with us, friends. We're stuck with us, regardless of how we identity or with whom we regularly associate. This is true for me in my religious life, my activist life, my Feminist life, and every other instance where I routinely associate with different people who share a common interest with me. No one said the process would be easy, but it demands that we first table our petty grievances, regardless of who said what first and who started it. Once we get ourselves, each of us, in order, then we can move towards the ambitious goals we seek.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This Is Not Good

Today, during a checkup with my Primary Care Physician, a testicular cyst was discovered. So, I'm off to yet another specialist, this time a Urologist. It is thought that Testosterone Replacement Therapy contributed to the development. I will likely be scheduled for an ultrasound to determine the nature of the abnormality.

I tell you, this just isn't my year. When I first heard the phrase "toxic masculinity", I never thought it meant this.

I Miss the Point, I Miss the Point

I usually avoid reverb and echo when I record on the multitracker, but it seemed fitting here, somehow. Ideally, this song should probably be played on an electric, but doing so on this format is a pain. This isn't the most elegant version I've recorded, so I may totally redo it later. I'm just pressed for time this morning.

She was underwhelmed
If that's a word
I know it's not, 'cause I looked it up
That's one of those skills
That I learned in my school

I was overwhelmed
And I'm sure of that one

'Cause I learned it back in grade school
When I was young

She said: "You is funny,"
I said: "You are funny,"
She said: "Thank you,"
and I said: "Nevermind,"

She rolled her eyes
Her beautiful eyes

The point is not the grammar
It's the feeling
That is certainly in my heart
But not in hers

But not in hers
But not in hers
But not in hers
But not in hers

We were talkin' about people that eat meat
I felt like an ass, 'cause I was one
She said: "It's okay,"

But I felt like I just ate my young

She is obviously a person with a cause
I told her that I don't smoke or drink
She told me to loosen up on her way to the L.C.

She skips her classes and gets good grades
I go to my courses rain or shine
She's passing her classes while I attend mine

While I attend mine
While I attend mine
While I attend mine
While I attend

She wrote out a story about her life
I think it included something about me
I'm not sure of that, but I'm sure of one thing:
Her spelling's atrocious

She told me to read between the lines
And tell her exactly what I got out of it
I told her affection had two Fs
Especially when you're dealing with me

I usually notice all the little things
One time I was proud of it, she says it's annoying
She cursed me up and down
And rolled her Rs
Her beautiful Rs

She says I'm caught up in triviality
All I really wanna know is what she thinks of me
I think my love for her makes me miss the point

I miss the point
I miss the point
I miss the point
I miss the point

Doctor's Visit Today

I may have time for an update later in the day. Or not.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Victim: A Film Review and Personal Anecdote

Victim cover

I regularly think about the movie Victim, which was the first English language film ever to mention the word "homosexual". Released in 1961, it captures a time where male homosexual conduct was criminalized in the United Kingdom, meaning that rogue blackmailers were free and able to extract money and concessions from gay men. Not wishing to risk the social scandal as well as the possibility of jail, queer men paid whatever was asked and kept silent from fear. In this film, the victims of this ring are confronted with photographic evidence of their lovers and partners. Mellville Farr, a well-respected barrister (lawyer) who is otherwise happily married to a woman has, some time before, befriended a young gay man, Boy Barrett, giving him periodic rides home in his car.

This time, Barrett approaches Farr in tears. The young man has stolen a substantial sum of money to pay off the blackmailers and, when the theft is discovered, is sent to jail directly before his trial beings. Petrified of being outed, he will not say why he stole the money, though the police have their own suspicions. A photograph taken of Barrett and Farr in the car together sends the young man into a panic. Unwilling to reveal Farr's name and identity, Barrett hangs himself in his cell.

Melville Farr, the attorney, takes it upon himself to try to uncover who is behind the blackmail. He tries to speak with many victims, most of whom are completely unwilling to say much about it. In a segment that always seems to be at the back of my mind, Farr confronts several closeted gay men at an apartment. They are curious to know why he has involved himself in a matter that most heterosexuals would have avoided altogether.

Putting two and two together, one of them proclaims that Farr must himself be queer, else he would have no reason to be this persistent. For this, Farr punches him in the face, knocking the man to the ground. After apologies are made, one of the men gathered there who knows him well makes further light of a particularly suspicious college relationship between Farr and one of his close friends. The man hints strongly that the two must surely have been lovers, but Farr stonewalls. Alluding to Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey, another man notes that "I thought you were unconscionably put out. Now I see it's the rage of Caliban upon seeing his reflection in the glass."

In the meantime, Farr’s wife Laura finds out about Barrett’s death and confronts her husband, demanding he tell her the truth of the situation. In the heated argument that ensues, it turns out that this was not the only instance where Farr had been involved in a same-sex relationship. Before their marriage, it seems that Farr’s relationship with the college friend mentioned earlier ended when the friend subsequently killed himself shortly after the relationship dissolved. Farr told Laura about this before they married, promising that he no longer had such urges. In the most emotionally wrenching scene of the entire movie, Farr screams out that, if the truth must be known, the reason he was in the car with Barrett was because he wanted him, romantically, sexually, or otherwise. Learning of this, Laura leaves their home.

Victim has a happy ending. Eventually the blackmailers are discovered and shut down. Farr reconciles with his wife. The portrayal of bisexuality in the film leaves me a bit unsettled, because it cuts very close to my own experiences. By this I don’t mean the infidelity aspect, but I do mean the shame, guilt, and desire to refuse to acknowledge a very important part of oneself. In the film, bisexuality is unintentionally equated with some kind of weakness of character, much like an addiction or another chronic disease, one that flares up from time to time. And yet, for someone heavily closeted, as Farr was, it’s very easy to see same-sex attraction in these terms. I myself have felt similarly to this, though I have not believed that being queer meant that I was sick or somehow unhealthy, but rather that I’ve tried to suppress and bury those thoughts because they’ve often brought up painful memories and associations.

Analyzing Victim in detail shows how much progress has been made, which is worth celebrating. This film did a great deal of good in finally getting legislation passed that decriminalized homosexuality in the UK. Before, the work of blackmailers and shadowy elements was either largely unknown to the public, or rarely acknowledged because of strong social taboo. It also speaks to how restrictive, repressive legislation can lead to great evil when the organized crime that benefits from it is allowed to flourish. This was true in the United States during Prohibition, when the business of transporting illegal alcohol led to the rise of the Mob. Before we try to legislate morality once again, I hope we’ll think about the unintended consequences of our thoughtlessness.

This Will Be Our Year

If I look tired in this video, it's because I am. The original song changes keys halfway through, but I decided to keep it simple. And, just to do something different, I modified the original ending to stretch out the last few notes.

The song is dedicated to those who have been so supportive for the past several days. And, it is an injection of hope and optimism into what has been frustrating and problematic.

The warmth of your love's
Like the warmth from the sun
And this will be our year
Took a long time to come

Don't let go of my hand
Now the darkness has gone
This will be our year
Took a long time to come

And I won't forget
The way you helped me up when I was down

And I won't forget
The way you said "Darling, I love you"
You gave me faith to go on

Now we're there
And we've only just begun
This will be our year
Took a long time to come

The warmth of your smile
Smile for me, little one
And this will be our year
Took a long time to come

You don't have to worry
All your worried days are gone
And this will be our year
Took a long time to come

And I won't forget
The way you helped me up when I was down
And I won't forget

The way you said "Darling, I love you"
You gave me faith to go on
Now we're there
And we've only just begun

This will be our year
Took a long time to come

And this will be our year
Took a long time to come

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Washington Post Obituary

Published today, 10 April 2011.


A graduate student at Georgetown University, died suddenly on April 4, 2011 while working out on a treadmill at the Yates Field House. There was no prior known health condition, and the cause of death has not yet been determined.

Evan North was in his fourth year at Georgetown, having in 2009 obtained a Master's degree in Global, International, and Comparative Studies, and in 2010 passed his doctoral qualifying examination with a "high pass." His special interest was modern economic history. He had written theses on the history of Spain's most prominent manufacturing company, and the role of Harry Dexter White in the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, and had just begun working on a dissertation on the evolution of the Federal Reserve System. He was greatly enjoying teaching and research under the direction of his advisor David Painter and other faculty mentors, Joseph McCartin, Michael Kazin, and Katie Benton-Cohen.

Evan North was born at the Stanford Hospital near Palo Alto, California on November 23, 1982 and lived his early years in Woodside, California. After elementary school at the Nueva School in Hillsborough, California, he spent a year at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, and then finished high school at Sandy Spring Friends School in Sandy Spring, Maryland. Evan graduated with honors in history from Harvard University in 2005. He toured the red rock canyon country of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah writing for the Harvard "Let's Go" student guidebook series.

Following his graduation from Harvard, he returned to Escalante, Utah, to work through the summer and fall as an assistant wilderness guide. He then came back to the Washington, DC area, where he lived and worked on Capitol Hill. He played the leading role of Dr. Thomas Stockmann in a production of Henryk Ibsen's play, "An Enemy of the People." He sang bass with the Thomas Circle Singers and was active in a Quaker youth group. His interest in the history of science led him to construct a website,, portraying the thinking leading to Johannes Kepler's insight that earth and other planets revolve around the sun. Evan loved exploring the rural areas around Washington, especially hiking the trails. He was accomplished in skiing, swimming, kayaking, and single-scull rowing. He combined intensity of scholarship, a love of nature, and a passion for teaching and helping others.

History Department Chair Aviel Roshwald is quoted in the Georgetown newspaper "The Hoya" as follows: "Evan was such a valued member of the department, much loved as a friend by many of his fellow graduate students and held in deep affection and respect by the faculty. He was a truly humble person of great talent and with a passionate thirst for knowledge, which he also imparted to his students in classes where he taught as a TA."

Evan North is survived by his mother, Diane Tarantino North, now living in Flat Rock, North Carolina after residing many years in Brookeville, Maryland; by his father, D. Warner North, of Belmont; California; his grandmother, Margaret Peters North, of San Francisco, California; numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.

A memorial service will be held at the Dahlgren Chapel in Georgetown University at 10 a.m., Saturday, April 16. A funeral service will be held at the Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley, California on April 30. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, contributions will be welcomed for the Evan Armstrong North Memorial Fund, at the Georgetown University Advancement Office, PO Box 571253, Washington, DC 20057-1253.

Quote of the Week

"My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go".- Oscar Wilde

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Friday, April 08, 2011

Divining Our Grieving

Last night, in memory of a Friend who died suddenly, shockingly earlier in the week, we held a small Memorial Service for those who knew him best. (Quakers do not use the word "funeral") One Friend in attendance noted that, in addition to the worship, there is a certain group therapy aspect present. I agree. Yet, I think this is quite understandable and necessary. It's a part of the grieving process. Each of us manages coming to terms with tragedy in different ways, but there is also something very human present that augments the purely religious aspect of the event.

After an hour or so of food and conversation, it was time to worship together. And at this juncture, I am reminded of the nature of silence and its supreme importance in our style of worship. In our face-paced, instant gratification, overstimulated society, sustained silence for any reason, at any time is increasingly rare. When we encounter it, we are often unsure what to do with it, or for that matter, ourselves. But beyond a exercise in Spiritual aestheticism, it is from silence that we seek God and his guidance. Each Friend reaches the Divine by a different way, but we are nonetheless all gathered together, seeking and searching. The Spirit is mysterious and because of it a strong element of mystery is also present in unprogrammed worship. Indeed, it will always be present within us and among us.

I'm reminded of an joke I heard in reference to the city of London in the UK. As the joke goes, you might be from London if you last heard silence in 1974, and when you did, it scared you to death. The same is true for many large American cities and others in the world. Where I live in Washington, DC, there's always some low-level hum of activity going on outside, regardless of time of day. Frequently I am interrupted by fire trucks, police sirens, or traffic passing by on the busy avenue in front of my home. Silence to me is often a relief, but I've also begun to question whether I should modify my definition of that which is silent. I can see the extraneous noises outside as anathema to my own spiritual discipline, or I can accept their presence and perhaps even incorporate them into the meld. True silence is increasingly rare, and one must travel farther and father to find it.

There are times, I must admit, where sustained silence is a challenge. When I became a Friend, this was my experience and observation at first. The Meeting where I became Convinced (converted) was primarily silent. Vocal ministry was rare and infrequent. Spending an hour in relative silence had been previously unfathomable to me. Now, I squirmed in my seat. My mind raced. After a time, I felt extremely bored. Sometimes I caught myself nodding off. And I was thankful for any break, anyone's vocal ministry, anything other than silence! I was grateful for those things, whatever they might have been, that allowed me the ability to focus on something else for a time.

Last night, however, could not have been more different. Our silence could not have been more active. The intensity of those gathered in a circle around me transformed this supposedly passive, dull silence to vibrantly active worship. I cried, I reflected, I sought God's comfort. Thirty minutes or so passed before any of us dared to offer any words. And in that time, I was neither bored, nor anxious, nor inclined to wish in desperation that I might hear the sound of someone's voice. The energy in the room was copious and powerful. Sometimes silence speaks louder than any word the human brain can conjure. There is a sound of silence, but unlike the Simon & Garfunkle song, it is not the sound of inaction and impotence. Rather, it is the glow of the Inward Light, where we share our leadings and enrich each other with our ministry.

The Formal Announcement


(Nov. 23, 1982-April 4, 2011)


April 16, 2011

10:00 a.m.

Dahlgren Chapel

Georgetown University

37th and O Streets, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20057


The family requests that, in lieu of flowers,

donations will be welcomed for the

Evan Armstrong North Memorial Fund

at the Georgetown University Advancement Office,

P.O. Box 571253, Washington, D.C. 20057-1253


Free parking is available on campus

in the Southwest Quadrangle Garage.

Campus Map:


For more information contact the

Office of Campus Ministry: (202) 687-4300.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

And in the Middle of Negotiations, You Break Down

Dedicated to our squabbling Congress and government leaders.

You never give me your money
Your only give me your funny paper
And in the middle of negotiations you break down

I never give you my number
I only give you my situation
And in the middle of investigation I break down.

Out of college money spent
See no future pay no rent.
All the money's gone, nowhere to go.

Any Jobber got the sack,
Monday morning turning back.
Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go.
But oh that magic feeling nowhere to go.

Oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go

Evan North's Memorial Service, Georgetown

I've noticed some recent hits from Georgetown and from those who have Googled Evan's name, so I thought it might be helpful to post the date and time of his Memorial Service.

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown University
10:30 a.m.

There will be a reception in Riggs Library following the service.


EDIT, as of Noon Eastern Time.

Evan's Memorial Service at Georgetown has been pushed back a half hour. It will now start at 10:00 am, NOT 10:30 am as originally scheduled. The date and location still remain the same.

Additionally, I have a few more details to share about the service itself. Though it will be held in a Catholic church, the service will incorporate Quaker worship, Catholic worship, and Ecumenical worship styles. I will be sure to post additional details here as I become aware of them.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Today's Recap

Today in its entirety was spent planning Evan North's Memorial Service. It will be held on the campus of Georgetown University not this Saturday, but next. The family wishes to keep to one service for now, rather than have a separate Quaker one, but it will nonetheless feature elements of Quaker worship. I've been in contact with Evan's mother, cousin, and a Catholic priest who is spearheading the effort. His family has been remarkably helpful and gracious, especially under such horrible circumstances.

As a co-clerk of Friends Meeting of Washington's Young Adult Friends group, it is my responsibility to do this. And, as a member of Ministry and Worship, I also am obligated to help arrange the Memorial Service. The unofficial rule of Ministry and Worship is that if you know the deceased, the task then becomes your primary responsibility. I've accomplished a good bit today, and shouldn't have quite as much to do tomorrow. I want to do this for him and his family, but the work is also a constant reminder that Evan is no longer with us. Still, I am sure that I have done the very best job I could.

I received the nicest compliment ever from Evan's mother. Yesterday afternoon, to let the rest of the Meeting know, I wrote a brief eulogy of his life and what he meant to us. His mother was finally able to read it and, in an e-mail, let me know how touched she was. This is why I've worked so hard putting everything together. Comments like these make me understand why people work together in times of crisis. I hope I am worthy of her praise.

We Young Adult Friends who knew him best are meeting for silent worship tomorrow evening. It will be good to see everyone in person who I have not seen since we learned the news. To the best of my knowledge, everyone is coping well. I'm fairly certain we will have a healthy turnout. Tragedies like these are inexplicable and unfathomable, but it is for us the living to carry on. My foremost prayer is that this will bring us closer together.

For a Friend

I was going to play this on the guitar and sing, but I can't get all the way through it without breaking down. Please accept the original instead.

While riding on a train goin’ west
I fell asleep for to take my rest
I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon
Where we together weathered many a storm
Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn

By the old wooden stove where our hats was hung
Our words were told, our songs were sung
Where we longed for nothin’ and were quite satisfied
Talkin’ and a-jokin’ about the world outside

With haunted hearts through the heat and cold
We never thought we could ever get old
We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one

As easy it was to tell black from white
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right
And our choices were few and the thought never hit
That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split

How many a year has passed and gone
And many a gamble has been lost and won
And many a road taken by many a friend
And each one I’ve never seen again

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
That we could sit simply in that room again
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat
I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that