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A message to troubled gay teens: It gets better, but you gotta help it along

October 10, 2010

We’ve all been shocked, angered, and saddened by the recent suicides of gay teens like Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi and high school student Justin Aaberg of Andover, Minnesota.

From all across the nation and around the world, messages of compassionate solidarity have poured forth, many of them through writer Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign.

There has also been an escalation of the debate about how society, and schools in particular, should handle the issue of bullying. We may disagree about the particulars, but I think there is widespread consensus that the kind of society we’d like to build is not one in which pathological harassment—especially among children—goes unnoticed.

Read more…

Obama endorses Manhattan mosque

August 14, 2010

We will escape the topic of the ‘mosque row’ eventually, I tell you, but for now must stop in to report that after a period of careful silence on the issue, US President Barack Obama has strongly endorsed the construction of Cordoba House, a community center and mosque planned for Park Place in lower Manhattan, two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center towers destroyed in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The BBC News reports:

Mr Obama acknowledged “sensitivities” surround the 9/11 site, but said Muslims have the same right to practise their religion “as anyone else”.

“Our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable,” Mr Obama said.

Since a New York developer announced plans to build a 13-storey Islamic community centre and mosque about two blocks from the former World Trade Center site, prominent Republican politicians and a host of conservative pundits have attacked the project.

Some relatives of people killed in the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 are also opposed to the plan. . .

. . .[Obama] told the group of US Congressmen, government officials and foreign dignitaries that America’s tradition of religious tolerance distinguishes it from “our enemies”.

“Al-Qaeda’s cause is not Islam,” he said, “it is a gross distortion of Islam”. Read more…

NYC mosque highlights tensions, prejudice

August 11, 2010

Much in the news has been the controversy over Cordoba House, a mosque and interfaith religious center planned for Park Place in lower Manhattan. The facility is to be built near the former site of the World Trade Center towers destroyed in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The monument to terrorism?There has been dissent among  the families of some victims of the tragedy, and many Americans say the building of a mosque so near a sensitive area is at best in poor taste, and at worst a defiant “triumphalism,” to quote former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R).

In conservative America, there is widespread belief that all Islam is bent on the destruction of the American way of life, on the conquest of the US and the world. And historically, Islam is an aggressive religion: it rose out of western Arabia early in the 7th Century and within a hundred years had spread, mostly through warfare, across the peninsula and far beyond.

This, though, is hardly unique among the Abrahamic religions. One has only to open the Old Testament to discover divine commands of genocide; the entirety of European colonialism was carried out in the language of Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant. Any religion can be distorted into a pretext for violence and conquest. Read more…

I want to be a liberal activist judge if I grow up.

August 8, 2010

Courthouse gone gayWell, not really. But I sure am glad someone in the federal judiciary pointed out some teensy problems with California’s Proposition 8.

Not because of any crazy dream I may have of a Church of God minister somewhere in America waking up one day and realizing that the lesbians who run the dairy farm down the road are his existential equals. More like, because maybe this might help preclude the possibility of a referendum ballot measure declaring that rape is non-consensual sex between a black man and a white woman. All it takes is 52%, apparently. Read more…

Judt on the Middle East ‘peace process’

August 8, 2010

Recently deceased historian Tony Judt described the peace process in Palestine thusly in 2003. Looking back from 2010, as far as I can tell, he was really onto something:

The Middle East peace process is finished. It did not die: it was killed. Mahmoud Abbas was undermined by the president of the Palestinian Authority and humiliated by the prime minister of Israel. His successor awaits a similar fate. Israel continues to mock its American patron, building illegal settlements in cynical disregard of the “road map.” The president of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.” Israelis themselves grimly await the next bomber.

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China floods and landslides displace 12 million

August 8, 2010

Gansu Province, ChinaOn the heels of landslides in Pakistan described as the product of that country’s “worst deluge in 80 years,” China’s Gansu Province has experienced floods and landslides which have so far left at least 127 dead, 2,000 missing, and forced the evacuation of some 12 million people, or roughly the population of metro Los Angeles. And this is only the newest tragedy in an ongoing pattern of weather-related disasters in central and southern Asia. The Guardian reports: Read more…

Why health care should be a fundamental right, not a luxury.

August 7, 2010

The US government, I’ve heard it telled, is founded at least in part on the principle that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ought to be guaranteed its citizens.

Among many of those who decry any semblance of a comprehensive, socialized single-payer health care system, there seems to be, apart from a fear of the federal government’s incapability to efficiently administrate pretty much anything (there is more than a smidgeon of truth to this as things stand, I’ll grant), a characterization of socialized medicine as an unfair redistribution of wealth. Why should *my* taxes go to pay for *that guy’s* appendectomy? or what-have-you. Just more taxing and spending. And so on.

The “moral majority” in the US has been historically built largely upon good old-fashioned Scots-Irish values of self-reliance. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though it has its dark side. A little more of that kind of thinking would do many of us some good, myself included. So the conventional wisdom among many goes something like this: honest, hard-working folks ought to be able to buy their own damned insurance. If you need a “handout,” you need to get off your butt and get a job. Et cetera, et cetera. Read more…