Race Based Schadenfreude.

I won’t lie.  I know I’m a terrible person for saying this…

I’m deriving no small amount of joy in watching the racially motivated civic unrest in America.  Mostly I say this because all of it seems to be occurring above the Mason-Dixon line.

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Not Daryl Dixon you schmuck.

 I was born and raised and lived my entire life in what basically lay below the line denoted by the Missouri Compromise…for the historically illiterate, that means “The South.”  Yep.  The drawlin’, ‘baccy chawin, cousin humping, KKK lovin, barefoot, poor, ignorant South.  It often shocks people when I tell them that I’m a Southerner since I don’t have a heavy accent, use big words, and am not racist, homophobic, Republican, or even an Evangelical Protestant.

I’m actually a bisexual, transgender, former Catholic, Progressive, egalitarian from the DEEP South.  Like there are parts of the South that I’m scared to go because it’s so backwoods redneck.

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I’ve seen this guy before….regularly.

I’ll be honest with you.  Yes, the South has racists.  Lots of them.  I don’t think you’ll ever meet a Southerner who won’t admit that.  The South IS racist.  But let’s be really honest.  So is everywhere else in the country.

You see, the type of racism that you think of when you think of the South is that blatant racism, the in your face type.

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Yes, this is a real t-shirt.  And yes, I have seen someone wearing it boldly and proudly in public.  To be fair, it was a rural dirt track…

Over the years, I have had to deal with that legacy as a Southerner.  I would meet people from the North, the West Coast, etc., and I would be asked straight up, “You guys still lynch people down there don’t you?”  I have read book after book about American history, and all of them keep mentioning the racism of the South; slavery, Jim Crowe, Segregation, Plessy vs. Ferguson, on and on.  The South is defined by it’s racist legacy.  Mostly because we’re always reminded of it.  When comedians want to sound like a racist, no matter what part of the country the person is from, they put on an ignorant “Southern Accent.”  As I said, yes, the South does have its racists, and we have a history of racism that we will never escape, but it honestly not that fair.

You see, those fancy textile mills of New England were fueled by slave picked cotton.  Without question, the American Industrial Revolution was financed by that slave harvested cotton.  The money that financed those factories was backed up by money made through slavery.  Many of the largest banks in America such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, etc. were formed from banks that gladly took money from those slave owners.  Insurance companies like AIG and Aetna were formed from companies that insured slave owners property…i.e. slaves.  Not just the South, but all of America was built on slavery.  Sure places up North abolished slavery well before the Civil War, but as late as 1850, states like Indiana said that black children were not fit to be educated in the same schools as white children.

“But that’s the past,” you say.

Yeah, yeah it was, so get off our back then.  But let’s keep this going…

Guess the 10 most segregated cities in America?  Atlanta?  Birmingham?  Memphis?  Nope.  All but one are “Northern Cities”  The city that has the most blatantly racially motivated profiling?  New York City.   A 2012 poll said that 57% of white New Yorkers had no problem with it.  I don’t doubt for one second that if the Chief of Police of Birmingham, Alabama even had a passing thought of instiuting a “Stop and Frisk” system in his city he would be called a racist by the white public media….AND HE’S BLACK! I hate to use Wikipedia, but it seems that most of the race riots since 1980 in the U.S. weren’t in the South.  For as hippie liberal as California likes to pretend that it is, and we all jerk ourselves off about, between Rodney King, Fruitvale, and the passage of that Gay Marriage Ban….well, California…hell every one but the South being called liberal….

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I’m only scraping the scum off the top here.  We won’t get into the Zoot Suit Riots of the 1940’s, the race riots in the North during the Civil Rights movements, the fact that at one time 30% of all white males in Indiana were members of the KKK (even electing a member Governor), there were Klansmen who were in city government in places like Maine, the Klan had a resort in New Jersey, the fact that New York state and California are home to some of the most dangerous White Supremacist groups in the country…

You see, up North and out West, you white folk have had the ability to say, “Oh, but they don’t represent us, we’re not ALL like that…”  Meanwhile your cities are being rocked by protests where racial minorities have had enough of the police brutality, the economic segregation and white flight, the “NIMBY” nature of your lives.  Yankee Racism isn’t that in your face racism like you think all Southerners have.  Yours in more insidious.  It’s that de facto segregationyou have from all your White Flight.  Do any of you remember all that outrage about Mandatory Bussing?  Where you were forced to let all those poor black kids come to your fancy all white schools to give them a fair chance?  All those neighborhoods that quickly lose their value the minute a black family moves in?

Yeah, you guys are racists too.  You don’t actively go out and try to suppress racial minorities, you just don’t want them living near you, working near you (unless they’re mopping your floors or trimming your hedges), or dating your daughters.  That is almost even more dispicable than that KKK style racism you get down South, because you can at least point a finger at it and say, “Yep, that’s racism!”

Instead you hide behind bootstraps and “I don’t mind blacks, I just don’t like black culture.”  You get nervous when you’re the only white person on the subway with some black teenagers, you wonder who that strange brown guy in your gated community is.  You don’t call them “niggers” but you sure will call them “urban” or “thugs”.  But it’s cool…you have a black friend (that you’ve never hung out with outside of work)  You can say it’s about economics, culture, or crime, but it’s still rooted in racism.  You’re just a different type of racist.

That’s why I’m enjoying this.  All the fretting by New England and West Coast limousine liberals, bohemian bourgeois, and so forth about race.  It’s hilarious to see them come to realize that racism didn’t end in 1965, that it’s alive and well and threatening their gentrified neighborhoods.  As a famous black man once said…”Welcome to the real world.”

You know the only difference between a racist Yankee and a racist Southerner?  The Southerner doesn’t check for black people before telling a racist joke.

Trans-Jenner…er…gender…what ever…

My personal take on the Bruce Jenner coming out thing is as follows:

I didn’t watch it.  I didn’t care.  I woke up the next day after it aired and nothing about my life changed.  No one talked to me differently, no one looked at me differently, and I didn’t think about myself differently.

Just another “transgender turning point” among a hundred other daily transgender turning points.

It’s better to burn out than to fade away.

My grandmother passed away today.

She was 95 years old. Living her whole life in Mississippi, she lived through the Great Depression, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Era. Went from seeing horse and buggies on the streets to men landing on the Moon. She worked her entire life with one job at THE telephone company (in those days there was only one), drove the same cars for decades, lived in a quiet modest home. She traveled extensively all over the country as evidenced by her delightfully kitschy “Destination” spoon and plate collections. She knitted her own doilys, crocheted her own afghans, and played the piano. Until she was almost into her 90’s she lived independently, still cooking Christmas and Thanksgiving (I loved her date loaf and cornbread stuffing. She also made home made pudding just the way I make it.)
We would all gather at her house for Christmas and exchange gifts in a tradition that all our families still carry on in our own homes. When my own mother became ill and my father passed away, she let us live with her til we could become settled into our new home, already in her 70’s. Even though I was in my 30’s I still got a $20 bill every year for my birthday from her. I still have almost every birthday and Christmas card she has ever sent me.
Although we always told half-truths and bold face lies about what was happening in our lives so that it gave off the appearance that everything was fine, so that she wouldn’t sit in her rocking chair and worry, this woman was worldly enough to know that things weren’t always kosher, and could be just as sneaky and devious as the rest of us.
Last month she fell in her assisted living home, on her way to fetch herself a Hershey’s bar and a Coke. When she took a turn for the worst, we all rushed to her side, but before I left her, she was asking for her hair brush so she could look nice for her doctors. She said that she had only been in the hospital three times in her life. The birth of her two children and this time when she fell.

She finally passed away today after being attacked by a bear. The bear didn’t kill her, merely weakened her so that the Kurgan could finally take her head.

There can be only one…

No One Likes A Bully.

It’s often hard for me to find a way to be funny about topics that can be deadly serious with people. When I was told by my editor that this month is GLSEN’s “Day of Silence,” I found myself unable to really come up with anything really funny to say about the topic of bullying. I’ve tried several times in the past to write jokes about the topic, but none of them ever seemed to pan out the way I wanted, or just came across not in my cynical way, but in a cruel and heartless one. I’ve probably deleted, erased, or gave up in frustration with this article about six times.
One could have easily given up on the topic and wrote something flighty and silly and completely off topic, but wouldn’t that in a way be ignoring the issue?
There’s really nothing that I feel I can really contribute to the topic that hasn’t been said by more eloquent, or sensitive people, of which by now, you know I’m not. My personality leans towards the dark and cynical, with more than just a touch of vulgarity, and it seems at this point, that part of it comes from my own background of being both bullied as well as a bully in my youth.
When I was younger, I knew something wasn’t “quite right” with me. In that time frame, there was no internet, no TLC or Bravo reality shows, or sensitive personality profiles on Dateline, there was really nothing. As I came to realize that I wasn’t inclined towards the athletic, or to that rough play boys are often want to do, I became frustrated. My brother, being an older brother teased me and tormented me, not for being effeminate, but for being the youngest of the family. You know, older brother behavior. The more frustrated I became with my inability to be like the other boys my age; the more I came to realize I was emotionally sensitive, often jealous of the girls, and often simply feeling out of place, the more I projected it back onto others and onto myself. Soon I became a bully to the kids who were odder than I, beating up on them at recess or teasing them in line because it made the people I wanted to be more like pay attention to me, and think I was even slightly cool. At the same time, I loathed myself. There had to be something wrong with me to not be as focused, as confident, as much of a budding young man as my peers. Anger grew inside me, and a hair trigger of temper developed. By the time I was 13, it was not uncommon for me to be sitting before the principle, negotiating with her to stay in the school with my peers. I’m sure that if my dad wasn’t head of the school board, I would have been thrown out of that Catholic School at least four time that I can remember.
When middle school rolled around, I became even more ostricised, more uncomfortable, and even more frustrated. By the end of the school year, I had to sit in the councilors office during breaks so that I could be separated from my bullies. Had not certain tragic events happened that summer, the next year, I was on my way to a private boarding school; my parents understandably at the end of their rope trying to help me. Instead, I suffered through high school; angry and confused. For as much as I was treated cruelly by the other students, I could be even worse. When I was told that a certain girl began to cry after overheard me making fun of her for being overweight and unattractive on the bus, I simply shrugged my shoulders. Even the people who were my bullies couldn’t understand my cruelty. Later, as I struggled to be part of the “jocks” in high school, already knowing that my gender and sexuality was not the norm, I was part of the group that mocked the not so closeted gay male cheerleader we had in school. Mostly because it made me feel that I wasn’t the only target out there.
Truth be told, I can’t honestly say that I’ve become much more sympathetic or empathetic to people, at least in my personal view of myself. I’m quite easily a cold, unfeeling, and very cynical person at times. That anger and frustration that I attacked myself with and turned on others is still there; I just don’t attack like a petulant teenager. Instead I’ve become a sardonic and biting commentator. I honestly am fully capable of being a world class bitch.
That to me I think is what can be so terrible about bullying. We all know it’s a form of abuse. Psychologists agree that abuse often begets abuse in a never ending cycle. Children who are abused end up becoming abusers. But that’s the easily seen effect. I think what can be even cruller than that, is that it can damage the soul. Between the verbal abuse I received as a teen, along with the sad circumstances of my life, a lot of who I was as a child is gone. I tell jokes, but I don’t laugh like I did. It’s harder to be hopeful, to be able to push myself to achieve, to have a sense of worth. Bullying doesn’t have to cause one to be driven to suicide to kill, it can be just as effective killing the spirit.

What a bummer, right? I promise to be funny next time.

A version of this article originally appeared in the April issue of The Gayly

Indiana via Dresden.

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My God!  What an absolutely stunning example of Baroque architecture!  This church, called the Frauenkirche, is just so gorgeous.  Look at the way the dome soars into the night sky, the contrast of light and shadow over the facades, and the stunning use of off colors like that.  There are some absolutely stunning old pictures of it that truly show off it’s beauty.

Dresden, Denkmal Martin Luther, Frauenkirche, Ruine

Wait, shit, sorry, let me find a better one.

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Oh, sorry, wait…

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Nope…

YMCK TIFF

Sorry, it seems that most of the pictures I can find are all of this beautiful work of architecture blown completely to bits.  You see, the Fraunekirche is in Dresden, Germany.  If you don’t understand what’s significant about that, lemme explain it to you in what for me is a startlingly brief recounting of a major historical event.

You see, in January of 1945, the Allies were concerned about the ability for the Germans to keep fighting back.  The Battle of the Bulge was winding down, but the Nazis were still grinding up tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers at a time on the Eastern Front.  The British came up with a plan to keep the Germans from sending forces to fight the Soviets, cripple their supply lines, and destroy their civilian morale by blocking them from fleeing the front lines.  They would bomb the ever loving hell out of their cities.  From the 13th of February to the 15th, the Allies bombed the hell of Dresden, the last largely untouched city in Germany.  Over 20,000 civilians were killed in the firestorm, mostly by suffocating in their shelters, which they couldn’t leave because of the fires.  The “Old Town”, dating back to the early 13th Century was devastated.  12,000 homes, 22 culturally and historically significant structures, 19 civilian hospitals, 39 schools, the zoo, 19 military hospitals, and the water treatment plant were all destroyed.  The destruction was so bad, that Churchill, who had requested the bombings, distanced himself from them.  The city destroyed in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, was this very city, which he himself was present as a POW for.

Almost immediately, the intelligentsia of the Allies felt queasy about it.  A city that was considered one the most beautiful and cultured in all of Europe was bombed into ruins, for what was no clear purpose.  Formal inquiries were conducted, reviews were performed, and much soul searching was undertaken with a lot of moral hand wringing.  In the end, the Allied leadership cleared their name (of course).  In the end, the Allies had bad intelligence, made a poor assessment of the targets, and ended up not influencing the outcome of the war.  While many historians and legal scholars have called the bombing everything from unfortunate to immoral, to a legitimate war crime, no one ever faced trial or punishment for it.  It wasn’t even the deadliest bombing the Allies would carry out in the war, just weeks later over 100,000 citizens of Tokyo would be killed in the deadliest bombing of all time, including the nuclear bombs.

Why do I even bring this up?  What the hell does this have to do with the title of this?  And why haven’t I even tried to be funny yet?

Simple.

Because sometimes, being evil, immoral, and cruel is the right thing to do.  Going against the basic moral principles we hold dear sometimes yields much more morally acceptable results than if we had stuck them.  But what does that have to do with Indiana?

You see, in Indiana, the legislature passed a law that made deliberate, targeted, and selective discrimination against LGBT people perfectly legal.  And because they did that, people who are moral must now act immorally.  All of us in America; Hell, if not the Western World or even entire world, are taught to believe in the freedom of conscious, choice, belief, and association.  If you don’t like gay people, we can’t force you to like them.  If you want to not believe in a God or Gods, we wont force you to.  You don’t want to be around a particular minority, we don’t require your mandatory teamwork.  That is your choice.  You can even flee to the woods of Montana and write anti-civilization screeds on an old Smith-Corona by lantern light and we wont stop you…until you stop paying taxes of course.  But then again, sometimes we will force you.

We tell businesses they have the right to refuse service, except when it comes to race, gender, or other cases.  How can we say, “You can conduct your business however you want,” but also say, “Except you can’t run it like this,” at the same time?  Simple, we never hold all things morally equal.  On one hand, I feel that a business owner can tell anyone they want to get the hell out of their store, and to keep people like them out.  Its their business, they can run it how they see fit.  They have the right of choice do they not?  Do we not give them a voice in our government by allowing them to contribute to campaigns and lobby congress?  But, at the same time, how is it right that they can exclude entire groups of people because of a belief or ideology?  Just because you are black/gay/Democrat/Muslim, etc. is no reason to have the right of equal access to goods and services that benefit from the protection of the theoretically unbiased populace and government denied to you.  (Holy run on sentence Batman!).  So what holds more weight;  the right for a business owner to conduct his business and affairs by the rights of their own conscious, or the right of equal treatment in the society?  At one time, it was fine to deny service along those lines, that’s what Jim Crow was all about.  The famous lunch counter sit-ins, the bus boycotts.  Those were about the idea that if we are equal in the eyes of the whole, we cannot be unequal in one of it’s parts.  And that’s what is happening now in Indiana and in other states.

In 2013, an small business owner in Oregon refused to make a cake for a lesbian couples wedding because they felt it was immoral.  It was finally determined in a court of law they were wrong.  In the process, they will have to pay fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, their business has shut down, and they have been on the receiving end of public mockery, threats, and harassment.  In Indiana, a pizza parlor was harassed and mocked online, having its online reviews trashed by people angry they said they wouldn’t serve food for a gay wedding, and this belief was legal under Indiana law.  In the meantime, both of these small business owners have had their dreams of owning a business ripped away.  Their rights to think how they wanted, to believe how they wanted, to make their own means, to prosper were ripped away.  They have been bullied by people who decry bullying.  Harassed by people who denounce harassment.  People who demand the right to be free to express who they are taking away the ability for these people to express who they are.  We say often, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it,” to excuse offensive shows, but we demand the right to walk into any random store and purchase goods from a private business.

And you know what?  That’s perfectly okay.

You see, in order to prevent more dead American, British, and Russian soldiers, to free conquered lands from the Nazis who had massacred millions of innocent people, to end the privation and suffering on the home fronts, and bring peace back to Europe, the Allies acted immorally, and killed 20,000 civilians.  At Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Tokyo, tens of thousands died to show the Japanese that we would slaughter them to win peace.  Yes, we moralized these deaths.  Yes, we lied to ourselves.  And most importantly, we acted hypocritically, going against our own values in order to achieve an end.  But those ends were morally more acceptable than the other options.  We had to put one value above another.  A few had to be punished and suffer so that even more could prosper and thrive.

It might offend some of you that I’m trying to say that the bombings of innocent civilians in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, and others is the equivalent of fighting for LGBT or racial equality, but you would be wrong.  By demanding the right to marry as an LGBT person, we are telling whole entire religions…who do have the right to believe how they want, that their beliefs don’t matter.  They have to shut up and deal if they find it immoral.  We are forcing our beliefs on them.  But if we believe all people are equal, we have to ask ourselves, if the idea of being equal is more important than respecting someones beliefs.  Either way, we are telling someone, that their beliefs don’t count.  We do this every single day in our existence.

Some of these decisions of which value is greater are trivial.  “Do I want to screw my co-workers by lying and playing hooky from work, or do I want disappoint my kid by not taking him to the ball game today?”  Some of them are a matter of life or death, “Do I kill this guy here in order to keep him from killing all those other people, when I abhor killing?”  Most of them will be trivial, but sometimes they’re grand.  We do this without thinking or self awareness, which is the problem though.  It causes us to lose perspective.  When we do it, we’re being righteous.  When they’re doing it, they’re being wicked.  In our lives, we will be both.

By stepping back and taking a look at those around us, our history, the circumstances of our world, we can re-adjust our perspective.  What we might believe is someone acting wrong and immoral is merely their being righteous in a way they understand by their own values.  Sometimes we will be able to see, that those actions might on the small scale be immoral, but are moral on a greater scale.

Sometimes, ruining a persons life, breaking a law, killing one person or ten-thousand is the right thing to do.