Archive for the ‘Hero’ Category

Hero: The Rev. Tim Meyer

Today’s hero is a Billings minister who speaks out against Christian prejudice.

No need to be bigoted against gay Christians

In response to the Rev. Johnson's Sunday letter, all Holy Scripture is an inspired sound (Genesis 1:3). But when it comes to Biblical interpretation, few if any this side of eternity hear with perfect pitch. While both Hebrew and Christian canons have similarities, their tone and emphases are strikingly and wonderfully different. Johnson seems to believe that the Hebrew writings exist to harmonize with his own tonal preferences. That alone is a sizable error, requiring serious reconsideration.

When love of one's neighbor is of equal importance to love of one's God, there is no quarter for the kinds of bigotry being expressed against our faithful gay sisters and brothers. The ones I know are deeply committed individuals who, by personal observation, serve their communities with passion and their God devoutly. Let those who have perfect Biblical pitch be the first to condemn them.

Tolerance stems from empathy, not sympathy. The difference between those words is clearer in German. In German, “empathy” is Mitgefuehl, or “feeling with” someone. “Sympathy” is Verstaendnis, or “understanding.” Empathy, then, is the ability to live in someone’s skin, to experience harmony in feeling and spirit with another. Sympathy is intellectual. You understand someone’s position, but from the outside.

Tolerating gays means feeling compassion for their humanity. It means realizing that they’re people, like you and me. It means recognizing the personal harm done by the institutionalized hatred set against them.

To be intolerant of outsiders seems to be the antithesis of the spirit of Christ. To me, empathy is Christ’s essential core, it’s what makes him unique in the Bible. His empathy for the outcast, for the outsider is what sets him apart. He challenges institutions that create the insider/outsider dichotomy and urges empathy for the downtrodden.

That the Reverend Meyer used hearing as an allegory for tolerance and empathy seems extraordinarily appropriate. Empathy arises out of awareness. You have to see, you have to listen, you have to feel your surroundings in order to experience empathy.

But there’s a limitation on awareness. No mortal has “perfect pitch,” as the reverend says. And that’s where it gets tricky. We’ve got to remain flexible of mind and change our views when we realize we’re wrong.

Or something.

Anyways, kudos to Reverend Meyer for his courageous acceptance of gays in the face of conservative Christian outcry. It tells me that the reverend's heart is open and loving and not filled with hate and fear.

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Hero: Katie Kane

Yesterday about 300 people protested the war on the University of Montana campus. One of the speakers was UM English professor Katie Kane:

Katie Kane…used her invitation to speak to invoke the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and his speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”

Her impassioned delivery received an equally impassioned response from the audience.

“The war in Iraq is wrong, it betrays the promise of America when it tortures innocent and guilty alike, when it turns our citizen-soldiers into torturers,” Kane said. “The war in Iraq is wrong, it betrays the notion of America when it means that there is no money or will to help the homeless people of New Orleans, Louisiana and Mississippi.
“The war in Iraq is wrong, it overturns the promise of America when it wiretaps Americans and plays fast and loose with our civil rights.”

It is wrong, she said, when “it pollutes and corrupts the dream of America, when it kills some 37,000 Iraqi citizens, when it burns and breaks and wounds the bodies of children, when it takes the lives of over 2,400 American women and men, and wounds and maims thousands more.”

Getting up and speaking at an on-campus political rally is risky business in today's academic environment where right-wing students and ideologues conspire to drive liberalism — and free thought — out of academia. I taught composition at UM and was constantly made aware that students who objected to my politics might register a complaint if I brought up controversial topics in class.

I know Katie Kane: she is a fearless critic of institutionalized thinking and a firecracker. And she's kick-*ss. So if you're a student at UM drop by her office in the Liberal Arts building and flash her the peace sign or give her the thumbs up. Let her know she did the right thing.

Once in a while you run across a thought so well expressed and so meaningful and so f*cking human, it makes you pause, reflect, and wonder why these ideas aren't the ones that make the headlines and protests and hubbub.

Well today I found two in the letters of the Billings Gazette. First, Kenny Stokes:

Like it or not, cowboys are sometimes gay

Vera-Beth Johnson's March 7 letter titled "Hollywood perverts heroic cowboy image" is the epitome of the homophobic and ignorant attitude many small-town and rural people have in our state. Johnson won't see the film "Brokeback Mountain" because, as she writes, "I don't have to lift the lid of a garbage can to know what's inside," but she should see the movie. It may awaken her to the reality that there are gay cowboys, most of whom must remain closeted for fear of professional as well as physical ramifications.

Johnson needs to know that of the thousands of cowboys she and her husband have known, at least 3 percent of them are homosexual. The statistic applies to all races, religions, professions and cultures.

She should know about the International Gay Rodeo Association, which has 32 regional associations throughout the United States and Canada with thousands of gay members who are also "real cowboys" (and cowgirls).

She should visit any major city in the western United States to discover they all have gay bars that cater to cowboys and cowgirls. The Loft, a gay bar here in Billings, has patrons from all over Montana and Wyoming.

As is the case with gay men and women having served in the military, many of those "real" cowboys, the "stalwarts who won the West," were homosexual.

Sort of a simple concept, really. People are gay. Not perverts or degenerates, but people. And people who are tired of being defined, judged and valued solely by the sex of their partner.

Which brings us to Elaine Wesnick's letter:

Gay brother important part of large family

I also read the "Hollywood pervert" letter. My reaction was the same as Teri Riehl's. I have had people tell me that they don't know a gay person. Amazingly, we know the same gay people.

I have a brother, Steve, who is gay. He is one of six in a Catholic family. There was a time in my life when, though I loved him, I seriously wished he were not gay. A person who is gay is not only discriminated against, but is also in danger of physical harm.

Why would anyone seriously think an anti-bullying law that protects our young people would promote a "gay agenda." Does a law forbidding bullying of religions cause people to change religions?

I have now come to realize that my brother is perfect the way he is. Ten years ago he had my mother move in with him, to better care for her. Two of my nieces live with him and his partner while going to school in California. He is an intelligent, caring person. There is a saying in our family, "If we didn't have Steve, we would have had to invent him."

He doesn't need to change at all, but there is room in our judgmental society for change.

Not only are people gay, but some of our best people are gay.

These arguments are so simple because they're true. You can feel it through the core of your body and into your soul. True. Capital "t". T.

Like I always say, if you don't like gays, don't f*ck 'em.

New Hero: Justin Whitaker

Yesterday, Ed Kemmick posted a satire printed in the New York Observer: The Times Gets Tough: A New Public Editor! Meet Ali bin-Zabar. It's pretty inane and through parody declaims newspapers for not printing the Danish cartoons.

In my usual way, I ranted against the hypocracy of editors and bloggers who scream First Amendment over the voluntary suppression of anti-Muslim content but remain mum when it comes to Holocaust denial. It wasn't a very good response.

But this was:

I for one see no reason to publish the cartoons other than to flaunt our right to do so. The same goes with the details of holocaust denials or the graphic evidence presented at a rape trial. Sensitivity has its merits.

On the other hand I am glad for the coverage this issue (along with David Irving’s) has received. I’m a fairly staunch believer in John Stuart Mill’s ‘marketplace of ideas’ where we freely and openly express ourselves and hear others. Thus I think there is a double-standard in play in Europe, allowing these cartoons while not allowing Irving to air his views freely. Holocaust denial is just plain ludicrous (as are creationism, flat-earth theory, and Bush’s ‘trickle-down’ tax cuts), but democracies discredit bad ideas through dialogue, not censorship.

Sadly, some people mistake sensitivity for censorship. Sensitivity leads to creativity (how do I get the substantive point across without going over the top) while censorship stifles it (’say nothing’).

When I move this blog off Blogspot, I'll have to start a Gallery of Heroes…

New Hero: Ozzie Guillen

Ozzie Guillen, manager of the world champion Chicago White Sox, not only blew off the president, he also dissed Alex Rodriguez in an SI article for being wishy-washing on whether he was going to play for the Dominican Republic or for the US in the upcoming World Baseball classic:

"Alex was kissing Latino people's asses," Guillen, who's from Venezuela, said…."He knew he wasn't going to play for the Dominicans; he's not a Dominican!"

I admit I wasn't too keen on Guillen's antics during the regular season and in the playoffs. But I warmed up to him when he missed a meeting at the White House with Bush to go on a family vacation. Guillen never said why felt vacation was more important than a meeting with the U.S. president, but we can guess that the rhetoric from Bush's allies against Guillen's own leader and country had something to do with it…

And dissing the man behind the sissy slap is frosting on the cake.




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