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August 28, 2015 9:06 AM

August 28, 2015 7:08 AM

MY NEW HERO

Keanan Sargent

When life gives you bigots, all you need is a bundle of brightly colored balloons and a whole lot of persistence. Keanan Sargent, the 9-year-old son of Wisconsin state Rep. Melissa Sargent, found himself confronted by homophobia at a pride rally in Madison earlier this month. Sargent told The Huffington Post she was marching in the parade with her husband and two youngest sons, and the anti-gay protesters gathered at the base of the capitol building. The homophobic signs bore slogans like “gay sex is a sin” and “sodomy is the same as bestiality.” When her son noticed the signs “were hurting people,” he took a balloon and stood in front of one of them, according to fellow attendee Lars Koch, who took the below photo. When the sign holder tried to move around the solitary balloon, members of the crowd starting handing Keanan their balloons, too.

I’ve always told myself that if I’d had a child, I’d do everything I could to teach him or her to be able to distinguish between right and wrong and to stand up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves. It seems Rep. Sargent has accomplished exactly that, and her son Keanan is a legitimate hero. He didn’t climb a mountain or win a war; he stood up for decency and fair treatment in a way that was nonviolent but very intentional.

It started with Keanan holding his balloons in front of an offensive anti-gay sign. Before long, that misguided hater rolled up his sign and left. Then Keanan moved and did the same to another sign. Before long, the remaining bigots left, defeated by a nine-year-old boy who understood, without having to be told, what the right thing was…and he did it, kindly, politely, and resolutely.

Turns out that when life gives you bigots, all you really need is a prescient nine-year-old boy with a finely-tuned moral compass and the willingness to do the right thing.

August 28, 2015 6:56 AM

August 28, 2015 6:33 AM

A Roman Catholic school in Portland has changed its policy on hiring gay employees following the uproar over its decision to withdraw a job offer to a lesbian. The St. Mary’s Academy board voted for the change Wednesday night. In an email to parents, school president Christina Friedhoff said St. Mary’s is a diverse community that welcomes gay and lesbian students and faculty. The decision not to hire Lauren Brown for a college counseling position became public Tuesday. The move was quickly criticized by students, parents and people throughout Portland, including Mayor Charlie Hales and Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle. Boyle is a major donor to the all-girls school his wife attended. The position offered to Brown has been filled, but the school says it will reach out to her for a possible reconciliation.

Lost in the excitement over the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is the still all too prevalent reality that in most of this country someone could be fired or refused employment simply because of who and how they love. Discrimination against the LGBT community is still perfectly legal in far too many jurisdictions. Those whose only “offense” is their sexual orientation have no recourse but to accept their status as second-class citizens.

Or do they? Every now and again, someone’s presented with the opportunity to reveal a person or institution for their racism, homophobia, and/or generally hateful, self-superior ways. In this case, it’s a arm of the Catholic Church. Think about that for a moment- a part of a church purporting to represent the teachings of Jesus Christ is STILL heavily invested in LGBT discrimination. A reasonable person would have to wonder why a Catholic school- St. Mary’s Academy, and all-girls high school in downtown Portland- is so obsessed with what an adult does behind closed doors. What are they so afraid of…and why do they insist on demonizing those who differ from “normal” people only in their sexuality?

In a society where equality and justice prevailed, people like me could devote our energies to far more positive and prosaic pursuits. Sadly, America isn’t a society where freedom means much, because as long as one of us isn’t free, none of us are. It would be SO much easier to accept and love someone for their humanity; instead we remain trapped in a seemingly inescapable web of hatred, anger, and oppression. Even here in Portland, where we bleeding-heart, Volvo-driving Liberals like to pat ourselves on the back about the Progressive values of our hometown, discrimination can be (and, sadly, still is) a thing.

August 28, 2015 5:56 AM

August 28, 2015 5:45 AM

A Louisiana man claims he’s not racist, but if his community moves forward with a plan to rename a half-mile stretch of road for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he says he will reveal his “racist ways.”…. A clip posted by NOLA.com shows a contentious debate that took place during a St. Bernard Parish council meeting over a plan to rename the stretch of Colonial Blvd. in honor of the slain civil rights leader…. “I’ve never had a racist bone in my body. I’ve worked for a bunch of ‘em, been in their houses, been in a lot of your guys’ houses,” said a bearded white man who was not identified. “But if you keep pushing me I will show you my racist ways.”…. He also said Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, can “go to hell” and “praise the Lord for (Gov.) Bobby Jindal.”

I’ve always wondered why the worst racists always seem to the ones who preface what’s in fact a racist statement with “I’m not a racist, but….” Why would one need to deny their racism before amply demonstrating it? Do they honestly believe that they’re reasonable, rational sorts who merely have strong opinions about the way things ought to be? Do they feel their opinions to be the very epitome of probity and decency? It’s like the old “When they say ‘It’s not about the money,’ you know it’s ALL about the money” argument. If you feel it necessary to proclaim your lack of racism, who is it you’re trying to convince? Do you really think others will take you seriously if you proclaim your virtous nature with enough fervor and volume? Or are you really trying to convince yourself of something that you at some level recognize as dishonest and untrue?

I find it fascinating that so many seem unable to recognize their fervent opposition to naming a half-mile stretch of Lousiana asphalt for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the virulent racism it is. Rather than having the honesty to own up to their intellectual vacancy and unalloyred racism, their arguments are couched in variations of “I’m not racist, but….” It seems they’re the only ones convinced of their purity of spirit.

“I’ve never had a racist bone in my body”…really? Why not just break out the “Some of my best friends are black” argument? Or better yet, why not have the honesty and self-awareness to own up to what you really are…especially when you seem to be the only one incapable of recognizing it?

August 28, 2015 5:33 AM

August 27, 2015 7:05 AM

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate…cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Once upon a time, the late Rodney King uttered a sad request that become famous for being as prescient as it was roundly ignored:

“Can’t we all just get along?”

Simple, almost naive in its plaintive tone, King’s question is one I’ve found myself asking from time to time. It’s a simple question, one we seem unable -or, more accurately, unwilling- to answer. Instead, we’ve chosen to attach ourselves to hatred and divisiveness…and the tools designed to ease their way.

There’s a quote from the Dalai Lama I try to live by: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible to be kind. I don’t always get it right, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I succeed often than not. I can do better, of course, particularly when I’m driving (as Erin can attest)…but I’m working on it. It distresses me that so much of the world seems beholden to negative emotions like anger, rage, paranoia, homophobia, racism, etc.- it’s a very long list. When a person can in all seriousness cling with every fiber of their being to the tools of hatred and argue that an armed society is a polite society (instead a scared $#!&less society), something is horribly, almost irretrievably out of whack.

Love is a choice, as is hatred. Love is easy, requiring little effort or energy. Hatred is a harsh, corrosive emotion that wears on the soul and drags a person to destruction. For some reason, the majority of humanity chooses hatred. That choice becomes self-perpetuating, feeding off itself an able to sustain and grow until and unless a conscious effort is made to change. You’d think by now we’d be sick and tired of bloodshed, division, and intolerance…yet it never seems to end

It’s past time we as a species figured out that we’re better off together than trying to tear one another apart. There really is far more that unites us than separates us. It’s time we stopped giving in to our darker angels and learn to love again.

August 27, 2015 6:30 AM

August 27, 2015 4:58 AM

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

  • George Carlin

I’ll start by saying that I have no way of knowing what actually happened in this instance. I can’t comment on the particulars and details because I don’t know what they are. That disclaimer aside, I found myself reading and re-reading this tweet in an effort to understand. It’s entirely possible that the firefighters in question were indeed rude, crude, and disrespectfully sexually suggestive to Ms. Pace. They may well have been complete jackasses and acted in a manner both unprofessional and offensive. It’s also within the realm of possibility that Ms. Pace is hypersensitive and predisposed to taking things out of context. The firefighters may have been asking her to move her vehicle…or they could have been making lewd and suggestive comments to her. I can’t rule out either possibility- as I’ve said, I’ve no way of knowing…but it did set me to thinking.

One thing I’ve noticed of late is that it seems we as a society have grown to be hypersensitive and quick to take offense. Whenever we run across something that runs counter to our tender sensibilities, we react in anger, claiming to be the aggrieved party. Someone is disrespecting us…and they MUST be held to account. Granted, some of the righteous indignance may well be appropriate, but when outrage is the default (and immediate) reaction, how does one have any hope of understanding where another is coming from?

Collectively, we spend so much of our lives tightly wound, as if we’re going through our daily lives anticipating being offended. It’s as if we feel irrelevant if we don’t have something that we can wax indignant over. Instead of spending so much energy and effort taking offense over something someone allegedly said or did…or didn’t…perhaps it might be useful to take a look at WHY we react the way we do?

I’m not saying that bullies and abusers and/or others who belittle, abuse, and/or otherwise mistreat people be given a free pass. I’m saying that they can’t play whatever game they’re playing if we don’t participate. People like that thrive on reactions; it’s what makes what they do enjoyable for them. If you react, you provide them what they want, and they can move on to their next target/victim with a sense of accomplishment. Deny them a reaction, move on as if nothing happened, and eventually they’ll quit. It’s no fun playing a game when your intended target refuses to take the bait.

Isn’t it time we stop taking ourselves…and our tender sensibilities…so seriously? Isn’t it time we stopped giving others so much power over us? How about ignoring the trolls and getting on with things? Maybe, just maybe, that might solve the problem.

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