Author Archives: Joe

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces.

Pic of the Day


Fear and Loathing in Washington

George Stephanopoulos said, “But away from the rituals of Washington, alongside the elation of [Donald] Trump supporters, there is deep anxiety, anger, and fear.” There is a lot of fear associated with the coming presidential election. Opponents of Donald Trump fear that if he is elected again, the United States will cease to exist as we know it. Trump will continue to sew anxiety, anger, and fear in his supporters and bring an end to this nation as we know it. His disregard for the rule of law will continue unabated if he wins and Republicans remain in control of the Senate. All norms associated with American democracy will cease to exist if we continue to be governed by a self-centered, egomaniacal tyrant wannabe. For the Republican Party, the only thing they care about is the continued accumulation of wealth and power.

If you watched any part of the Republican National Convention (RNC), you were probably struck by the expressions of fear that permeated the proceedings—namely, the fear that any failure to re-elect Donald Trump would result in the collapse of the American experiment if not the dissolution of civilization itself. Words to that effect were spoken many times; Trump himself, accepting the nomination said, “This election will decide whether we SAVE the American Dream, or whether we allow a socialist agenda to DEMOLISH our cherished destiny.” (The capitalization is original to the transcript.) Throughout the RNC, speakers argued that Trump would restore “law and order” and make America a safer country than Biden. Republicans focused more on what they call a bleak future under Democrats rather than on the record of Trump’s actions over the past four years because the record for Trump is so disastrous. There is nothing to praise, no matter how much they lie. 

There is no doubt Donald Trump plays on the fears of his audience.  He is a professional and highly-accomplished fearmonger who uses vicious and incendiary rhetoric in a pitiful attempt to generate support for his pathetic campaign. Trump will shy away from no outrageous claim to stoke the fires of terror in his followers. He majors in drama, paranoia, and conspiracy theories. He divides the world into “good guys” and “bad guys” and wants everyone to know that he alone can protect us from the “bad guys.” Trump is an egotistical, pompous, arrogant man who lacks subtlety and blurts out mistaken ideas. He is insulting, vindictive, and angry. Trump and his supporters use fear as a deliberate strategy to get religious but ignorant people to stand with the Republican Party, to get them on their mailing lists, and to motivate them to open their bank accounts and support that fear. Evangelicals and other conservatives support Trump because they want to be on the inside wielding power no matter the cost.

Democrats are struggling with their own fears. Following the Democratic National Convention’s underlying theme of unity over division, Joe Biden’s acceptance speech called on Americans to consider the gravity of this election, which he painted as one of the most consequential in history. Biden began his speech saying:

Ella Baker, a giant of the civil rights movement, left us with this wisdom: Give people light, and they will find a way. Give people light. Those are words for our time. The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division. Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness.

If we look at the last four years, there is so much the Republican Party should be ashamed to admit happened under their watch. There are just too many items to list, but here are some of the reasons Trump is uniquely incapable of managing crises:

  • His White House is always in a state of chaos.
  • He thrives on conflict.
  • He values loyalty over competence.
  • He distrusts expertise and experts.
  • He can’t tell the truth; everything must always be “great” or “tremendous.”
  • His relentless need to attack opponents renders him unable to unify the country.
  • His lack of empathy for problems not personally affecting him.
  • His penchant for conspiracy theorizing.
  • His relentless and pathetic need for compliments and affirmation.
  • His top priority is never what’s happening to the country, but instead how it makes him look; how will it affect his reelection chances.

When Trump was running for president in 2016, many warned if he were elected, he would cause disaster (some even said nuclear war), but there was another group, perhaps even larger, who said, “Sure, he’s kind of a joke, but why not give him a shot? What’s the worst that could happen?” Now we’re finding out the worst that could happen, and he still has at least four more months in office. Some might believe Republicans are right to spread fear, but I argue they aren’t it just causes instability. The same people might ask: but what about the terror of the unknown such as the fear of the economy collapsing, the lawlessness running wild, the pandemic, devastating hurricanes, rampant wildfires, other disasters on a biblical scale? Well, now we know. At the 2016 RNC, Trump proclaimed, “Nobody knows the system better than me which is why I alone can fix it.” Now, Trump finds himself in what Biden called in his DNC speech, “one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced.”  Biden pointed out we are facing: “Four historic crises. All at the same time. A perfect storm. The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the ’60s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.”This doesn’t even consider the problems the United States has faced over the last three and a half years, but Trump has failed to answer the call for leadership. 

Arthur Eddington, the English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician, once said, “The pursuit of truth in science transcends national boundaries. It takes us beyond hatred and anger and fear. It is the best of us.” This is only true if you believe in science, which the Republicans seem to disregard. Conservatives throughout history have always held science in suspicion. They simply can’t deal with hard facts and truths. They prefer to use hatred, anger, and fear to get people to follow their agenda. Trump and his supporters have denied the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have denied the evidence that supports the use of masks to protect others. They have denied climate change as it ravages our planet. They refuse to face the cold hard facts of science. Instead, they bring forth the worse in humanity: willful ignorance. The Ukrainian-born author and poet, Vironika Tugaleva, said, “Peace and love are just as contagious as anger and fear. Your mindset affects the people around you and perpetually changes the world. The question is what kind of world are you creating?” When we go to vote in November, we should ask ourselves what kind of world are we creating? What kind of world are we voting for? Is it a world filled with light, love, hope, and unity, or is it a world of darkness, hatred, anger, fear, and division?

Biden summed up his DNC speech by quoting Irish poet Seamus Heaney: “History says don’t hope on this side of the grave, but then once-in-a-lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme.” Biden concluded the speech saying:

This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme. With passion and purpose, let us begin — you and I together, one nation, under God — united in our love for America and united in our love for each other. For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment. This is our mission.” May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here, tonight, as love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation.  And this is a battle we will win, and we will do it together.  I promise you.

Will the United States vote for unity and harmony? I hope so. Or, will Americans vote for darkness, hatred, anger, fear, and division? I pray they don’t. I pray we can heal this nation. I pray we can work to end the racial strife that exists. I pray we can put an end to the homophobia that permeates this country. 

As Albert Einstein said, “Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.” Thankfully, most Americans are not fools. Currently, the majority, nearly 53 percent, of Americans disapprove of Donald Trump. Dorothy Thompson, the “First Lady of American Journalism,” was expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934 because they considered her offensive for speaking the truth. She said, “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” I want to end with another quote by Thompson who described Hitler in the following terms: “He is formless, almost faceless, a man whose countenance is a caricature, a man whose framework seems cartilaginous, without bones. He is inconsequent and voluble, ill poised, and insecure. He is the very prototype of the little man.” If you didn’t know this quote was from 1934 about Adolf Hitler, who does it sound like she is describing? A 2017 ABC News/Washington Post poll asked respondents: “What ONE WORD best describes your impression of Trump? Just the one word that best describes him.” Some of the most common words that respondents gave were incompetent, arrogant, idiot, egotistical, ignorant, racist, asshole, and narcissistic. The words Trump opponents use to describe him now have become much more colorful and graphic in nature, but the same sentiments are still there. We have a court jester instead of a president, and on election day, he needs to hear his own words loud and clear, “You’re Fired!”


Pic of the Day


No Internet

My internet was out all last night, so I’m only able to do a short post from my phone. Technology is great until you don’t have it.

“I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.”

— Isaac Asimov


Pic of the Day


Sodomy

In May 2020, the U.S. Department of Education released its updated campus sexual assault regulations under Title IX. The law prohibits sex discrimination at federally-funded institutions. Schools were given only until August 14, 2020 to adopt compliant policies and procedures while Betsy Devos and the Department of Education (DoE) spent the last three years drawing up these new Title IX regulations. In 2017, the DoE withdrew the Obama Administration’s guidance documents on the subject; a year later, it issued a lengthy notice of proposed rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act. This was the first full rulemaking on a major Title IX issue since 1975, and the only one ever dedicated to sexual harassment. It is not without controversy. What do you expect from a Secretary of Education who is neither an educator nor an education leader? The woman has NO experience in public education, never even attending a public school.

Sexual assault is a serious issue on college campuses, but it was not initially addressed in Title IX; however, the Supreme Court did address sexual assault, but only in discussing whether an institute of higher learning receiving federal dollars could be held responsible. In 2011, the Obama Administration issued a lengthy “dear colleague letter” spelling out the many measures schools must implement to “end any harassment, eliminate a hostile environment if it has been created, and prevent harassment from occurring again.” Still, the Trump Administration withdrew the “dear colleague letter” to reframe Title IX. The 2016 Republican platform devoted an entire section to Title IX charging that the Obama Administration’s “distortion of Title IX to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse contravenes our country’s legal traditions and must be halted.”

So, what are the issues with the new Title IX regulations? The general outline was laid out in the November 2018 proposal. Its central feature was a return to the framework established by the Supreme Court in 1998-99. No longer would schools have broad responsibility “to take effective action to prevent, eliminate, and remedy sexual harassment” by “changing the culture.” Now, the focus was on schools’ responsibility to address cases of serious sexual misconduct. Simultaneously, though, the new rules have gone far beyond the Supreme Court in establishing what constitutes harassment, what schools must do to identify and adjudicate cases of misconduct, and the remedies they must provide to victims of such misconduct. As a result, the new administrative regulations are less radical—and more demanding—than the DoE’s critics often suggest.

What forms of harassment require a response from educational institutions? Under the new guidelines, the following are considered forms of sexual assault: rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object, fondling, incest, and statutory rape. While the Supreme Court held that harassment must be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” to trigger Title IX, the Obama Administration pushed schools to address harassment before it “becomes severe or pervasive” to prevent the creation of “a hostile environment.” Schools are now to address the incidents, but are not expected to address the culture that causes such incidents. The entire matter is very complicated (if you want to read more, you can read this article from InsideHigherEd.) I was asked instead to read my university’s new policy and comment on it.

I immediately noticed the definitions of sexual assault and its archaic language. It differentiates between rape and sodomy.

Rape is defined as penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the victim’s consent. Sodomy is defined as oral or anal sexual intercourse with another person forcibly, and/or against that person’s will (non-consensual), or not forcibly or against the person’s will in instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of age or because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity. This is what I don’t understand: Why is the federal government requiring separate definitions of rape and sodomy? Both are defined as forcibly or non-consensually having the victim’s vagina, anus, or mouth penetrated with another person’s body part or sex organ. I don’t see the difference. Why must the two terms be spelled out? In my opinion, the use of the word “sodomy” is intentionally using homophobic language.

Sodomy is a word that has been demonized as a weapon to promote intolerance against gay people which is the main reason for my objection. The word promotes negative stigmatization, prejudice, and discrimination to practices such as anal or oral sex which have been associated mostly with the gay community. The term is sometimes even replaced with “crimes against nature.” Originally, sodomy was derived from church law designed to prevent nonprocreative sexuality anywhere and any sexuality outside of marriage (in some cases, any intercourse not in the missionary position between a man and a woman). Historically, the term has been used as a form of discrimination against gay men.

Though sodomy has been used to refer to a range of homosexual and heterosexual “unnatural acts,” the term “sodomite” usually refers to a homosexual male even though the real meaning is nonprocreative sex. The term is derived from the Biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Christian churches have referred to the crimen sodomitae (crime of the Sodomites) for centuries. The modern association with homosexuality can be found as early as AD 96 in the Jewish historian Josephus’ writings. Sodomy, in historical biblical reference, probably did not even pertain to homosexuality, but the acts of bestiality and female and male castration for sexual slavery. The story of Sodom’s destruction and Abraham’s failed attempt to intercede with God and prevent that destruction appears in Genesis 18–19. The connection between Sodom and homosexuality is derived from the described attempt by a mob of the city’s people to rape Lot’s male guests. Some suggest the sinfulness for which Sodom was destroyed might have consisted mainly in the violation of obligations of hospitality which were essential according to the original writers of the Biblical account.

In essence, the new regulations are forcing educational institutions to use derogatory and homophobic language to differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual sex. The DoE is forcing colleges to violate Title IX, a law passed to protect people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX covers students and employees at these institutions. Therefore, the new policy contradicts the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. 

Aren’t we supposed to be past using derogatory and discriminatory language such as sodomy in our laws? If you include anal and oral sex in the definition of rape, why is it necessary to also include sodomy and give virtually the same definition? Am I the only one who finds the term “sodomy” offensive?


Pic of the Day


Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis
By C. Thomen-Brown

I am not here to be your label;
To fit inside your box

I am not here to change my colors;
To a hue you understand

I am not here to accept the comfort;
You offer from behind your protective glass

I am not here to be pinned against your wall;
My body on display

I am not here to be wrapped up in your blankets of security;
Which reek with your fear of the different and unknown

I will shed your perfectly maintained preconceptions;
Breaking away from your claustrophobic cage

I will burst forth as a mosaic of colors;
Every unique piece creating the beautiful whole of my wingspan

I will stand shivering and bare;
For the world to see

And I know that I am free;
Moving from the water to the sky
To fly.
To grow.
To be.

Vermont Pride was virtual this year, as were most pride celebrations. That meant even the Pride Magazine that Vermont Pride publishes and hands out each year was also virtual. The above poem came from their Prize Zine 2020. I really liked the poem and wanted to share it with you, but I know nothing about the poet C. Thomen-Brown. When I tried to search for more of their poetry, the only person I came across was an independently licensed clinical social worker named Camille Thomen-Brown at the Vermont Center for Anxiety Care located in Burlington, Vermont. I am guessing that this is the same person who wrote the poem. It was just such a lovely poem about being yourself and embracing your diversity.


Pics of the Day


Musings

Sometimes, I have something on my mind, and I think it will make a good post. When this happens, and I can do so, I sit down and write the post out. Occasionally, once I get it written, I decide that I don’t want to post it. I have a few posts like that saved on my computer, but I doubt they will ever see anyone’s eyes but mine. I sometimes go back to them and reread them and edit those posts, and sometimes I do end up posting them. Rarely, I go back to a post I’ve decided not to post and then post it later.

Lately, I have had the political situation of the United States on my mind a lot, so I have written several politically-oriented posts. However, I feel like I am beating a dead horse with the vote for Biden themes. Yes, I want you to vote for Joe Biden, and I think my American readers are likely to do so. Quite frankly, if you are reading this blog and are even contemplating voting for Donald Trump, you are in the wrong fucking place, and I hope you leave and don’t come back. If you have a gay friend or family member and are voting for Trump, you don’t actually care about that person. You are homophobic, and that’s the end of it.

I also write about my health a fair amount, but I know people get tired of reading about my headaches. We won’t even get into my diabetes or high blood pressure, among the other things that I need to improve about my body. Sometimes, I guess it does seem like I am whining too much, but at the end of the day, this blog is where I write down my thoughts. If you have thoughts about what I write, you are always encouraged to leave a comment.

I have also ranted about people not following guidelines to keep others safe in this pandemic. You can only tell people to wear their masks so many times. My university has been very strict about wearing masks, and we currently have zero cases. My Texas friend is not having the same luck with her college. While they have rules, no one is following them, and no one is enforcing the rules. It’s Texas, what do you expect? My parents are not as cautious as they should be either, and I won’t even get started on my sister and her family. 

I haven’t talked much about work lately. I am still working mostly from home, but I am going into the museum two days a week. Last week, it was four days because issues mainly of the fact that I live the closest to the museum. Because of this, I am expected to go in for emergency needs and for things that “won’t take long.” Being on call all the time is trying my patience because I am not paid to be on call every waking minute. My boss and I will talk on Wednesday when we will be the only two working. It won’t matter because he will say, “We will do better and be fairer about who comes in at off times.” He always says he will “do better,” but he never does.

So, those were my thoughts last night. I had not planned to write this much. I had only planned on talking about having a post ready but not wanting to post it. My back-up plan had been to discuss Vermont Virtual Pride, which was this weekend and last week. They created a program called Pridestream, which was broadcast on the local CBS affiliate. It was hosted by François Clemmons, who was Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Clemmons is gay and was born in Alabama, and also like me, he ended up in Vermont. After retiring from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he became a professor at Middlebury College. 

I am usually a fan of what the Pride Center of Vermont does, but this pride was a bit of a disappointment. It was supposed to feature both local and nationally-known recording artists, activists, and phenomenons, including performances and appearances by Jonathan Van Ness, Big Freedia, Low Cut Connie, Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield, Dwight & Nicole, Be Steadwell, Marjorie Mayhem, pineappleCITI, Amber & Lucy Belle LeMay, Maddy Jameson, Unnecessary Inventions, tip/toe, and more. They featured them all right, but I just can’t say it was entertaining. Thankfully, it only lasted an hour. Hopefully, next year’s pride celebration will be back to normal. Anyway, I had hoped to talk about how good the Pridestream was, but I’m afraid I can’t. 

Hopefully, this coming week will be better than last week was. If it turns out to be worse, I might explode on someone. I am reaching my boiling point with my coworker, and my constant headaches aren’t helping my temper. I am almost always irritable lately, and I don’t like being irritable. I want to be happy and things to go smoothly.