Friday, February 28, 2014

Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

The Dalai Lama On The Mindful Revolution

Via HUffington / Here's What You Can Learn From Being In The Same Room As The Dalai Lama

A friend described hearing the Dalai Lama speak in a convention hall as "being in the presence of God." Another friend, who years ago also was in the audience at another big arena, said the feeling of peace that came over her from being so close to His Holiness was a "life-changer."
So when the opportunity to be in a smallish setting with him at a celebrity-studded lunch hosted by the Lourdes Foundation in Los Angeles was offered, my hand shot up.

Here's what I learned from being in the same room as the Dalai Lama:

1) The Dalai Lama has a wickedly contagious laugh that melts hearts and Hollywood egos.
I suspect he wishes it could also melt weapons of mass destruction, but even falling short of that, it's still a joy to hear. He laughs especially hard when he is telling one of his own stories, like the time he was chased by a ferocious dog when he was a small boy. Running from danger is sometimes the best course of action, he noted, and shows wisdom not cowardice.

2) Being the messenger of peace is a hard job. Being the messenger of inner peace, even harder.
And hardest of all may be convincing people that the key to their happiness lies within them, not some place else. The switch to our inner light belongs to each of us. His Holiness says that when one person is happy, it spreads to their family; when the family is at peace, so becomes the community, the state, and so on. To change the world, we must first change ourselves.

3) The Dalai Lama would consider going to the moon with Sharon Stone.
While he may not be alone in this thinking -- and has discussed his weakness for beautiful women before -- he used the occasion of sitting under the space shuttle Endeavour's wing at the California Science Center to answer a question of whether he would ever consider space travel. Thanks, but no thanks, said His Holiness, at least not until it becomes more commonplace. And he turned to actress Stone to see if she wouldn't join him. He stared at the Endeavour hovering over him in its majesty and proclaimed that while it "looks like a solid entity," its successful function depended on many many other things. Like all great things of achievement, he said, there was a team behind it.

4) It isn't technology that is bad -- quite the contrary.
Technology is good. It's when we let it control us that it becomes a bad thing. Technology does not produce compassion. The Dalai Lama does not own a smart phone, nor does he watch much TV -- which we suspect disappointed many of the reality TV stars in the audience.

5) The Dalai Lama carries a toothbrush with him.
His Holiness carries a small orange day bag with him. The contents: several pieces of candy that he offered to share with actress Stone; extra reading glasses; an under-arm thermometer in case the flu bug bites; and a toothbrush kit because, he said, it's important to brush after every meal. He also carries a small clay statue of Buddha, which he wouldn't unwrap even when Stone asked to see it. Everyone needs a strong sense of self, he said. Without it, you are weak. It is from this sense of self that compassion, determination and altruism are born. The flip side of that coin is ego.

6) We chase the wrong kind of wealth.
The pursuit of materialism -- external wealth -- derails our pursuit of inner wholeness -- internal wealth. His Holiness knows monks who live in the most spartan of conditions, surrounded by the barest of necessities and yet they are happy. He also knows many of the world's richest people who are financially able to surround themselves with every trapping that money can buy. And they are some of the loneliest people he knows.

7) People are attracted to the calm, not the storm.
The Dalai Lama has an entourage. People just want to be in his presence. His Holiness says that a calm mind brings inner strength and is essential for good health. Practicing kindness and compassion and learning to understand the roots of anger are the compasses for finding the calm.

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Via JMG: Sen. Patrick Leahy Proposes Freezing Aid To Uganda Over Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has proposed freezing US aid to Uganda over the enactment of that country's brutal anti-homosexuality bill, which was signed last week by President Yoweri Museveni.
“I am deeply concerned by the decision of President (Yoweri) Museveni of Uganda to sign into law the anti-homosexuality bill,” Senator Patrick Leahy, the most senior member of the chamber and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Much of US assistance to Uganda is for the people of Uganda, including those in the Ugandan LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community whose human rights are being so tragically violated,” he added. Washington is among Uganda’s largest international donors. The State Department said that in current fiscal year some $485 million in bilateral assistance had been provided to Uganda with most of the funds going towards health programs, as well as education, food security and military training. The State Department has signalled it is looking at a range of options to respond to the law, while White House spokesman Jay Carney said “we are undertaking a review of our relationship with Uganda in light of this decision.”
With the aid of Western governments and NGOs, Uganda has seen a remarkable decline in HIV infections compared to its neighbors. Some US and European HIV/AIDS activists oppose cutting financial aid despite the latest law. Yesterday a prominent Ugandan LGBT activist begged that aid not be cut, saying such a move would only create a stronger backlash against LGBT people in his country.
Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, has said he does not support aid cuts. ‘We can’t afford to create new victims,’ he said on Twitter this week. ‘We should go after the crazy politicians! Not innocent Ugandans.’ In February this year, prominent Ugandan LGBTI rights activist Abbey Kiwanuka petitioned the Dutch foreign affairs committee to use other ways to persuade Uganda not to make the bill law instead of cutting aid. His pleas were turned down. Edwin Sesange, director of the African LGBTI Out and Proud Diamond Group, said in a Gay Star News comment piece: ‘Aid in various forms helps all ordinary Ugandans, including LGBTI people who we are campaigning for. ‘Therefore the consequences of not being able to access those services financed by foreign aid will directly impact gay, lesbian, trans and bi Ugandans wellbeing.'
RELATED: Sexual Minorities Uganda is the group suing Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via JMG: UGANDA: World Bank Suspends $90M Loan Over Anti-Homosexuality Law

The World Bank has suspended a $90M loan to Uganda over the signing of the anti-homosexuality bill by President Yoweri Museveni.
"We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law," World Bank spokesman David Theis said in an email. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-gay bill earlier this week that strengthens already strict laws against homosexuals by imposing a life sentence for certain violations and making it a crime to not report anyone who breaks the law. The World Bank, a poverty-fighting institution based in Washington, usually refrains from getting involved in countries' internal politics or in issues such as gay rights to avoid antagonising any of its 188 member countries. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, however, sent an email to bank staff saying the bank opposes discrimination, and would protect the safety of all employees.
Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands have also cut aid to Uganda's government and say they will redirect funding to private groups.

Rerposted from Joe Jervis

Via JMG: Updated Marriage Map

The map reflects this week's changes in Texas and Kentucky. Note that a second county in Illinois has begun issuing marriage licenses ahead of the official statewide date of June 1st. Source.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via AmericaBlog: Following the victory in Arizona, a brief look at 2,000 years of gay history

Following the victory in Arizona, a brief look at 2,000 years of gay history

With the defeat of Arizona’s Bill-o-Bigotry, it’s a good time to reflect on the history and future of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Native Americans were fine with gay and trans people

Hundreds of years ago, when French missionaries traveled through North America, they recorded their observations of Native American culture.

Particularly fascinating to them was what physician-historian Dr. Francis Mark Mondimore described in his book A Natural History of Homosexuality as “The Berdache Phenomenon.”

This refers to transgender and gay people within Native American tribes who, far from inciting loathing, were “respected, even revered in some Indian groups.”

George Catlin (1796-1872), Dance to the Berdache. Drawn while on the Great Plains, among the Sac and Fox Indians, the sketch depicts a ceremonial dance to celebrate the two-spirit person.
George Catlin (1796-1872), Dance to the Berdache. Drawn while on the Great Plains, among the Sac and Fox Indians, the sketch depicts a ceremonial dance to celebrate the two-spirit person.

Enlightened western observers were rather aghast. After applying the French word “berdache” to such Indian men and women, they described them as disgusting “sodomites dedicated to nefarious practices.”

Native Americans tended to disagree. Their attitudes toward human sexuality were by stark contrast “relaxed and accepting.” Regardless of sexual preference, tribesman were treated with respect and dignity (including women who, as Mondimore puts it, enjoyed a status that was “much more egalitarian than among their European contemporaries”). Within certain groups the berdache was even revered for a “special connection with the gods and spirits.”

Clearly, the attitudes of Native American “savages,” as our ancestors dubbed them, were infinitely more progressive and civilized than Europeans of the time, and as the “religious freedom” debacle in Arizona shows, they were more civilized than those of many Americans even today.

With respect to the LGBT community, western culture often still genuflects to judgment and ostracism as opposed to compassion and acceptance. (Much debate is still had over whether one’s sexual orientation is a choice, as if that should affect how we treat gay people.) Even Native Americans, hundreds of years ago, with no access to a modern education, were above this cruelty.

And we know the Greeks and Romans had more permissive views than many today

As it turns out, a number of ancient cultures were rather tolerant as well. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans had words for homosexuality, though it was an accepted facet of both societies (reportedly, an actual “gay” identity didn’t begin to arise until the late 1800s, or later). In some ways, bisexuality was a social expectation for Greek and Roman men, within limits (Caesar was reportedly dogged by rumors that he was “gay,” to use the modern construct). It simply did not pose the same moral dilemma for them then, as it does for us now.

Isn’t it strange that while amorous or sexual relations among same-sex Spartans were encouraged (it was thought that men would fight harder beside compatriots with whom they had had intimate relations), Michael Sam’s coming out has been greeted with anxiety by many within the NFL?  The Spartans, as we know, represent the masculine warrior ideal, not unlike the spirit embodied by the game of American football. And yet primitive bigotry makes what should be a non-issue into something the NFL “isn’t ready for,” while a GOP lobbyist (who has a gay brother, no less) claims to be drafting legislation to ban gays from the sport altogether.

Jon Stewart had the final word about that during a recent segment in which he noted the violent criminal histories of several prominent NFL players, whom the league apparently is “ready for.”  A Dallas sportscaster recently noted the same.

When did ancient tolerance become modern animus?

There doesn’t seem to be a historical consensus about the reasons why the change from tolerance to animus occurred, but there is ample evidence to show when. In his insightful work Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe From the Beginning of the Christian Tradition to the Fourteenth Century, historian John Boswell dates the beginning of the transition to the end of the Roman Empire. And, perhaps surprisingly, he explicitly rejects a view to which many likely subscribe: It was not, he thinks, Christianity that fomented the tide of homophobia that came to pervade Western culture.

The reasons for Boswell’s doubts about the origins of modern homophobia are somewhat questionable; Mainly, he seems to think that criticisms by ancient church leaders of homosexuality, viewed within the context of their heedless attitudes toward other Levitical proscriptions, requires the conclusion that it was something more than religious doctrine that caused their homophobia. In other words, Boswell doesn’t think that early church leaders could be hypocritical and sincere, cherry-picking their offenses, which means Boswell probably doesn’t give the religious imagination, modern or ancient, nearly enough credit.

Regardless of the reasons, the fall of the Roman Empire (around 500AD) precipitated the widespread homophobia of the Middle Ages (an era spanning the next thousand years or so). During this period, Boswell describes a campaign of historical “whitewashing” by religious authorities aimed at purging references to homosexuality in Greek and Roman history. Some of the results are downright laughable, and are certain to remind readers of what Darwin called the “indelible stamp of [man's] lowly origins.”

Alcibiades, son of Cleinias. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen.
Alcibiades, son of Cleinias. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen.

Consider, for example, the fate of Alcibiades, a known gay-lover of Socrates, when medieval Christian authorities retrospectively turned him into a “female famed for her beauty.”
In the same mirthful vein is this gem, for which I will use Boswell’s unmolested description:
In a manuscript of Ovid’s Art of Love, for example, a phrase which originally read, “A boy’s love appealed to me less” was amended by a medieval moralist to read, “A boy’s love appealed to me not at all,” and a marginal note informed the reader “Thus you may be sure that Ovid was not a sodomite.”
Use here of the word “sodomite” to degrade highlights the historical persecution embedded in Judeo-Christian tradition. That history is clear and unambiguous, even if the original reasons for the persecution are not.

Back to Arizona

Thankfully, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer took a courageous step in blocking the fanatical advance of the religious right in her state. Because of that we can all celebrate a small victory in a larger, ongoing war, which the forces of progress and human dignity seem to be winning. But where do we go from here?

In a recent Op-Ed, Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman reluctantly concluded that the Arizona “religious freedom” law, SB1062, were it to have become law, would have been constitutional. This is disturbing, but probably (I think) true. The Supreme Court has yet to hold that under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, laws discriminating against sexual orientation deserve “strict scrutiny,” which is the standard of review the Court applies to racial discrimination (but strangely not gender discrimination). The present standard for discrimination against gay and trans people is called “rational basis review” –t hat is, so long as a homophobic law is “rationally related to a legitimate government interest” it will pass constitutional muster.

Needless to say, this is a highly deferential standard. With four conservative Supreme Court justices virtually guaranteed to meet the challenge of any such law, by finding both a legitimate government interest and a manner in which said law is rationally related to that interest, the fate of LGBT rights likely sits in the uncertain hands of Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last June, 2013, leading to a flurry of recent gay rights successes in a number of states.

This is all the more reason for progressives not to wait for the Supreme Court’s false pretense of interpreting the Constitution (which it has almost never done in US history) to result in equal rights for the LGBT community. Gay and trans people have waited long enough.  I would argue that we need a constitutional amendment granting not “the equal protection of the laws,” which is what the Fourteenth Amendment says, but “the protection of equal laws” for all Americans, regardless of race, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. This is the proper choice for a proud and free democratic nation. Patiently waiting for the unelected Supreme Court is something rather more obsequious. (I’ll likely expand on this proposal in a future article.)

With the recent striking down of Texas’ bigoted same-sex marriage ban, the veto of Arizona’s ”religious freedom” bill, and the gutting of DOMA only half a year ago, America is inching ever closer (and ever more quickly) to civilization. Because the ancient Greek, Roman, and Native American cultures, among others, achieved sexual tolerance long ago, I hesitate to call these recent advances “progress.” But sometimes there is progress in regression.

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Via Tricycle Daily Dharma

Tricycle Daily Dharma February 28, 2014

When Pain Happens

We suffer because we marry our instinctive aversion to pain to the deep-seated belief that life should be free from pain. In resisting our pain by holding this belief, we strengthen just what we're trying to avoid. When we make pain the enemy, we solidify it. This resistance is where our suffering begins.
- Ezra Bayda, "When It Happens to Us"
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Via Politics for Moderates / FB:

Via Tricycle Daily Dharma

Tricycle Daily Dharma February 27, 2014

The Necessity of Love and Compassion

There is no denying that our happiness is inextricably bound up with the happiness of others. There is no denying that if society suffers, we ourselves suffer. Nor is there any denying that the more our hearts and minds are afflicted with ill-will, the more miserable we become. Thus we can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion.
- H.H. the Dalai Lama, "Consider Yourself a Tourist"
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Via Global Secular Humanist Movement / FB:

Via Tricycle Daily Dharma

Tricycle Daily Dharma February 26, 2014

Freed from Fixation

Our lack of self frees us from the compulsion to secure ourselves within the world. We do not need to become more real by becoming wealthy, or famous, or powerful, or beautiful. We are able to realize our nonduality with the world because we are freed from such fixations.
- David Loy, "Healing Ecology"
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Via JMG: Judy Garland's Kids To Reunite At Oscars

Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft, and Joey Luft will reunite onstage at the Academy Awards on Sunday for a tribute to the 75th anniversary of the release of the Wizard Of Oz.
Minnelli, Garland's daughter by her second husband, director Vincente Minnelli, is a legendary actress and singer in her own right — she won a best actress Oscar, for Cabaret (1972). The two Lufts' father was Garland's third husband and manager, Sid Luft. Lorna is also an actor-singer, while Joey has heretofore chosen to keep his life private for the most part. Garland's three children haven't always gotten along, but they are said to be on good terms these days and enthusiastic about this opportunity to celebrate their beloved mother in such a high-profile way. THR is told that specifics of what the commemoration will entail have not yet been locked down.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

The Way He Looks - Official Trailer

Via Tricycle Daily Dharma

Tricycle Daily Dharma February 25, 2014

Good for the Ego

We can nod and smile when our ego, like a slightly demented relative who means well, offers its endless array of opinions, judgments, and knee-jerk reactions, but know that our ego is merely doing what it does best: Valuate. More of that. Less of this. I don’t give a shit. Good for the ego. And thank goodness we’re more than just our egos!
- Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi, “Liberation”
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Via JMG: HRC: Recall US Ambassador To Uganda

Via press release from the Human Rights Campaign:
President Museveni sent a clear message today that bigotry and intolerance – which is now further codified into statute in Uganda – trump the rights of LGBT Ugandans. Let there be no room for doubt, this bill could destroy lives and tear families apart. We call on Secretary of State John Kerry to temporarily recall the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda in order to strengthen our nation’s engagement on this issue. A temporary recall will send one of the clearest signals possible that the United States will not tolerate such abuses to any person’s human rights. We condemn the work of anti-LGBT Americans who pressed for the passage of this law. While many now distance themselves from passage of this bill, their work in Uganda helped bolster support and create space for enactment of the legislation. They could soon have blood on their hands.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via Huffington: How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions

 It seems like this election season "religious liberty" is a hot topic. Rumors of its demise are all around, as are politicians who want to make sure that you know they will never do anything to intrude upon it.

I'm a religious person with a lifelong passion for civil rights, so this is of great interest to me. So much so, that I believe we all need to determine whether our religious liberties are indeed at risk. So, as a public service, I've come up with this little quiz. I call it "How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions." Just pick "A" or "B" for each question.

1. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

3. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.

4. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

6. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.

7. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.

8. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.

9. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.

10. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.

Scoring key:
If you answered "A" to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality -- not your superiority.

If you answered "B" to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.

In closing, no matter what soundbites you hear this election year, remember this: Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority. The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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JMG HomoQuotable - George Takei

"Dear Arizona, Congratulations. You are now the first state actually to pass a bill permitting businesses – even those open to the public – to refuse to provide service to LGBT people based on an individual’s 'sincerely held religious belief.' This 'turn away the gay' bill enshrines discrimination into the law. Your taxi drivers can refuse to carry us. Your hotels can refuse to house us. And your restaurants can refuse to serve us. [snip]  If your Governor Jan Brewer signs this repugnant bill into law, make no mistake. We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know–from large corporations to small families on vacation–to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent." - George Takei, writing for his blog.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via JMG: White House Denounces Uganda

Via press release:
Statement by the Press Secretary on Uganda: Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality. As President Obama has said, this law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda, it reflects poorly on the country's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. We will continue to urge the Ugandan government to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world.
Let's hope we also get a statement directly from President Obama.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via JMG: John Kerry Reacts To Ugandan Law: We Are Reviewing US Assistance Programs

"This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights. Ultimately, the only answer is repeal of this law. The United States is deeply disappointed in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. For the four years since the bill was introduced, we have been crystal clear that it blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda’s Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution. Today’s signing threatens a dangerous slide backward in Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and a serious threat to the LGBT community in Uganda.

"We are also deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective. As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.

"From Nigeria to Russia and Uganda, we are working globally to promote and protect the human rights of all persons. The United States will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize vulnerable persons in any society." - Secretary of State John Kerry, in a press release issued today by the State Department.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via FB

“When you realize that eternity is right here now, that it is within your possibility to experience the eternity of your own truth and being, then you grasp the following: That which you are was never born and will never die. . . .” 

― Joseph Campbell

Via Tricycle Daily Dharma

Tricycle Daily Dharma February 24, 2014

Insight into Impermanence

To those whose knowledge is developed, everything within and without oneself, within and without one’s house, within and without one’s village and town, is an object at the sight of which the insight of impermanence may spring up and develop.
- Ledi Sayadaw, “Meditation en Masse”
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Sunday, February 23, 2014

If Republicans Don’t Want to be Compared to Nazis, They Should Stop Acting Like Nazis

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United States of Christ 
We have witnessed a great deal of conservative madness over the past five years, since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. Some of us during the intervening years have wondered where it would end. I was one of those who early on began to compare the Religious Right and the Tea Party to the Nazis. It was not a careless or spiteful comparison, but one based on the evidence of their rhetoric and avowed goals. There is a reason I made the above map resemble the Nazi flag. 

It is no accident that the Nazi cry of Germany for the Germans is echoed by the Republican cry of America for Americans. Once upon a time there were “real” Germans and our own time brought us “real” Americans – the obvious consequence of such claims being that everybody else was an interloper, inferior – the “other.” With a single utterance, people like Sarah Palin, like Hitler before her, was able to delegitimize half of the population. The “other” become parasites attacking the health of the country. This is a claim made by both Nazis and the Religious Right.
Of course, that horrified progressives, to say such horrible things. Godwin’s Law was, of course, invoked (we need a law about the invocation of Godwin’s Law – seriously). But a comparison should not be shied away from because it seems extreme. As I have argued repeatedly both here and elsewhere, the comparison holds water. If somebody acts like a Nazi, we should certainly be able to point out that they are acting like a Nazi.
Which brings us to first Kansas, a state which was driven to the brink of Nazification by Republicans, and then, perhaps in horror of what it had almost done, backed away, and then to Arizona, which is now our first state to embrace Nazism. Sure, S.B. 1062 is not a law until Gov. Jan Brewer signs it, and she says she needs more time, but who, really, needs more time to decide whether or not to oppose Nazism? Other than Ted Nugent, that is.
Many of us saw this coming. We were laughed at. We warned people what the Religious Right wanted, what it intended. As with the Nazi Party in its early days, far too many people did not take the forces of oppression seriously. This tendency to deny unpleasant realities, even while they are occurring, is frustrating to say the least. It is dangerous at the worst: People will not fight back against something they cannot bring themselves to believe.
Believe it. People used to talk about Nazi Germany in disbelief even after the fact. How could it happen? It could happen very easily. It had happened before in human history and there was no reason to believe it would not happen again. And again. It could happen here, too, if we are not vigilant. In state after Republican state, we are seeing what amounts to state-sanctioned violence against the other, from Stand Your Ground laws to Arizona’s S.B. 1062.
The one constant is intolerant conservative Christianity, the driving force of oppression dating all the way back to the dawn of the movement. When conservative Christianity achieved a dominant position in the Roman Empire, the first thing it did was produce the Theodosian Code, which I have warned of here on previous occasions. The Theodosian Code was, like S.B. 1062, a tool of oppression, a collection of laws passed by the emperor Constantine and his successors, “was presented to the empire as a Christmas present in 438.”[1]
The attitude of conservative Christians toward the “Other,” one of, if you can’t convince them, force them, is embraced today by Republican lawmakers. Bishop Caesarius of Arles told his sixth century flock to admonish unbelievers “harshly,” to chide them “severely,” and if this failed, to strike them, to pull their hair, even to forcibly restrain them. In this he was following the advice of John Chrysostom, a Saint, who advised “rebuke” by way of punching the unbeliever: “Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify thy hand with the blow.”[2]
As Sabine MacCormack observes of the infamous Book 16, “In the Theodosian Code…we can document the incorporation of sins into the purview of the criminal code; and as a result, the range of actions surveyed by the law and changed and expanded.”[3] In other words, Book 16 “articulates for the first time in a Roman law code, what religion and what religious practices ‘are to be done and what are to be avoided’; and what was ‘the True Religion.’”[4]
By the 450s, a generation after the publication of the Code, MacMullen argues that the “legal system became wholly an instrument of persecution.”[5] Look at the violence we see today and argue that we are not far from the Theodosian, or in more modern terms, Nazi precipice. As MacMullen makes clear, witnessing did not end with harsh words, or even with fists:
Government too, at the urging of the bishops weighed in with threats, and more than threats, of fines, confiscation, exile, imprisonment, flogging, torture, beheading, and crucifixion. What more could be imagined? Nothing. The extremes of conceivable pressure were brought to bear. Thus, over the course of many centuries, compliance was eventually secured and the empire made Christian in truth.[6]
Substitute America for empire, and you have the dominionist dream for our country and our time. From the top down, the deck was stacked against the other, whoever they might be, from Jews to Pagans and even to other Christians. There are good reasons you don’t see Gnostic churches today on your street corner. Nor more than Christians and then Nazis would abide a synagogue, will conservative Christians abide temples and mosques. Jews and gays were targets of Theodosian Christianity before they were targets of Nazism and finally, of the Religious Right.
The antecedents of the Religious Right’s war on tolerance are ancient. Nazism is ultimately but a way stop on that road, a product itself of all that came before, and the most recent example we have of what happens when intolerance is legislated into law – as is in danger of happening in America today.
[1] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (Yale University Press, 1997), 20.
[2] Michael Gaddis, There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ (University of California Press, 2005), 175, 258 n. 21, citing Caesarius, Sermon 53.1 and Chrystostom, Homilies on the Statues 1.32 (trans. NPNF).
[3] Sabine MacCormack, “Sin, Citizenship, and the Salvation of Souls: The Impact of Christian Priorities on Late-Roman and Post-Roman Society,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 39 (1997), 362.
[4] Michele Renee Salzman, “The Evidence for the Conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity in Book 16 of the ‘Theodosian Code’,” Historia: Zeitscrift für die Geschichte 42 (1993), 362.
[5] MacMullen (1997), 30.
[6] MacMullen (1997), 72 

UPDATE: Civil Marriage Laws Map

Via JMG: INDIA: Law Criminalizing Homosexuality May Be Years From Being Repealed

The Independent reports:
When [in 2009] the Delhi High Court suspended the draconian Section 377 of the Indian penal code which dated from the days of British rule, India’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community thought there was no turning back. Five years on the euphoria has gone. In December, the country’s highest court overturned the lower court’s ruling, once again making gay sex a crime punishable by up to ten years in jail and putting tens of millions of Indians at risk of prosecution or harassment. Last month, that court – which had said gay people in India were just a “minuscule minority” – upheld its decision against an appeal and said it was up to the government to change the law. But there is little chance for that. While senior figures of the ruling Congress party supported repealing Section 377, the leadership of the main opposition party, which most analysts believe is set to secure power in an upcoming election, do not. As it was, the current parliament held its last session on Friday; it could be years before a new parliament amends the law.
With a population of more than 1.3 billion, India has at least 65 million LGBT citizens, if one uses the 5% estimate. That is HARDLY a "minuscule minority." In fact, using the 5% figure, the LGBT community in India is larger than the entire populations of more than 200 nations. Only 20 countries have populations greater than 65 million. Even if you cut the 5% estimate in half, the LGBT community in India is larger than the entire population of Canada.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via JMG: UGANDA: Anti-Gay Bill On Hold While President Challenges US Scientists To Disprove That Homosexuality Is A Choice

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has put off signing the anti-gay bill while he challenges American scientists to disprove that homosexuality is a choice.
A week ago Museveni had insisted that he would approve the legislation, prompting criticism from US president Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton. The US warned that the move would "complicate" relations with Uganda, to which it gives more than $400m (£240m) in aid annually. Uganda dismissed the threat as blackmail but on Friday it emerged that Museveni had done a u-turn and would not sign the proposed law until after hearing from scientists. "I therefore encourage the US government to help us by working with our scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual," he wrote. "When that is proved, we can review this legislation." But he added: "Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody. We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality."
My guess is that Obama's strong denouncement of the bill is working. For now. Ugandan Minister of Ethics Simon Lokodo is very unhappy.
"It is a social style of life that is acquired," he said. "The point is they chose to be homosexual and are trying to recruit others. The commercialisation of homosexuality is unacceptable. If they were doing it in their own rooms we wouldn't mind, but when they go for children, that's not fair. They are beasts of the forest." Lokodo condemned western meddling in Uganda's domestic affairs. "When I heard the US saying they will cut aid, we said fine. Will they be comfortable if we come to America and started practising polygamy? Homosexuality is strange to us and polygamy is strange to you. We have divergent views. When they call me wrong, I will call them wrong. Don't bring it to Africa; keep it there."
Last week Lokodo declared that Uganda shows tolerance to gay people by "not slaughtering them."

Reposted from Joe Jervis  

Via Tricycle Daily Dharma

Tricycle Daily Dharma February 23, 2014

Do Less, Accomplish More

We are born with all the wisdom, playfulness, and imagination we need; we just sometimes need a reminder to return to our senses and get out of our own way. Let go of whatever fears, assumptions, distractions, resistance, and busyness may be hampering you. Allow yourself to think and feel and live that way.
- Marc Lesser, "Do Less, Accomplish More"
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Via JMG: Meghan McCain Slams AZ Hate Bill

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via JMG: BRITAIN: King's Husband Won't Be Queen

The first headline is from the tabloid Daily Mail.  The Telegraph has a less sensational story:
Men are to be banned from becoming Queen or Princess of Wales as part of an unprecedented effort to rewrite more than 700 years of law to prevent unintended consequences of gay marriage. Even a 14th Century act declaring it high treason to have an affair with the monarch’s husband or wife is included in the sweeping redrafting exercise. The order makes clear that a clause in the Act giving gay and heterosexual marriage the same legal effect does not apply to the rights of anyone “who marries, or who is married to, the King Regnant, to the title of Queen”. It also makes clear that were a future Prince of Wales to marry a man his husband could not be called Princess of Wales.

More immediately, the order rules out the possibility of Dukes, Earls and other male peers who marry other men making their husbands Duchess, Countess or Lady. Meanwhile dozens of other laws are to be excluded from the remit of the Act. They include the Second Statute of Westminster from 1285, which deals with inheritance matters, and even the Treason Act of 1351. It makes it high treason to “violate the King’s companion” – meaning the husband or wife of the monarch – or that of the heir. A Government spokeswoman explained that it would still be considered high treason to have sex with a king’s wife – but not his husband.
Britain's anti-gay groups are mocking the changes, of course.
Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via George Takei: Dear Arizona

Dear Arizona,

Congratulations. You are now the first state actually to pass a bill permitting businesses–even those open to the public–to refuse to provide service to LGBT people based on an individual’s “sincerely held religious belief.” This “turn away the gay” bill enshrines discrimination into the law. Your taxi drivers can refuse to carry us. Your hotels can refuse to house us. And your restaurants can refuse to serve us.

Kansas tried to pass a similar law, but had the good sense to not let it come up for a vote. The quashing came only after the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other traditional conservative groups came out strongly against the bill.

But not you, Arizona. You’re willing to ostracize and marginalize LGBT people to score political points with the extreme right of the Republican Party. You say this bill protects “religious freedom,” but no one is fooled. When I was younger, people used “God’s Will” as a reason to keep the races separate, too. Make no mistake, this is the new segregation, yours is a Jim Crow law, and you are about to make yourself ground zero.

This bill also saddens me deeply. Brad and I have strong ties to Arizona. Brad was born in Phoenix, and we vacation in Show Low. We have close friends and relatives in the state and spend weeks there annually. We even attended the Fourth of July Parade in Show Low in 2012, looking like a pair of Arizona ranchers.

The law is breathtaking in its scope. It gives bigotry against us gays and lesbians a powerful and unprecedented weapon. But your mean-spirited representatives and senators know this. They also know that it is going to be struck down eventually by the courts. But they passed it anyway, just to make their hateful opinion of us crystal clear.

So let me make mine just as clear. If your Governor Jan Brewer signs this repugnant bill into law, make no mistake. We will not come. We will not spend. And we will urge everyone we know–from large corporations to small families on vacation–to boycott. Because you don’t deserve our dollars. Not one red cent.

And maybe you just never learn. In 1989, you voted down recognition of the Martin Luther King holiday, and as a result, conventions and tourists boycotted the state, and the NFL moved the Superbowl to Pasadena. That was a $500 million mistake.

So if our appeals to equality, fairness, and our basic right to live in a civil society without doors being slammed in our face for being who we are don’t move you, I’ll bet a big hit to your pocketbook and state coffers will.

George Takei

The original post can be found here

Via Tricycle Daily Dharma

Tricycle Daily Dharma February 22, 2014

Seeing Clearly

What does seeing clearly mean? It doesn’t mean that you look at something and analyze it, noting all its composite parts; no. When you see clearly, when you look at a flower and really see it, the flower sees you. It’s not that the flower has eyes, of course. It’s that the flower is no longer just a flower, and you are no longer just you.
- Maurine Stewart, “Our One and Only Commandment”
Read the entire article in the Wisdom Collection through February 23, 2014
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Via FB:

Friday, February 21, 2014


Your Disco Needs You

Via JMG: Photo Of The Day

Posted to the Facebook page of Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tucson. The restaurant has also posted this: "As a longtime employer and feeder of the gay community, Rocco's reserves the right to eject any State Senators we see fit to kick out. That is all." The photo has been shared over 2000 times and many commenters are vowing to patronize Rocco's.  (Tipped by JMG reader Christopher)

posted by Joe Jervis