A Bit of Perspective: My Response to Memorial Day Patriotism

Yesterday, I got into a very frustrating argument on a gay social-networking site on the validity of supporting war and supporting Memorial Day. Despite that I have relative and friends who have served in the American Armed Forces, I do not support war ideologically or spiritually and I am a vocal anti-war advocate, especially when it comes to celebrating memorials of war. I think that remembering and honouring the dead is fine, but there are no national holidays for remembering war victims, only people who fight in wars. 

My frustration with patriotism especially comes from this, I had many people on the website calling me names and saying I was disgusting for not respecting the dead. I have respect for the dead. I do not respect the war they fought in. I refuse to memorialize war. Patriotism goes hand-in-hand with white patriarchy and heterosexism in the United States. People who are seen as unpatriotic for their dissent are labelled traitors. Apparently I am a traitor. Despite this, I still firmly believe that peace is patriotic, and dissent is also patriotic.

One man tried to end the conversation by accusing me of “not caring about the deaths of hundreds of Chinese and Jews”. I assume this person does not know I am Jewish. It enrages me as a Jewish man when White Christocentric Americans use the Holocaust as a justification for war. The United States not only took its time when coming to the rescue of Europe’s Jewry, but it also sent back boatloads of Jewish refugees when they came seeking asylum. It is insulting to victims of the Holocaust and other genocides to use their suffering as a justification for war. Where is America’s Memorial Day for Yom ha-Shoah, where is America’s Memorial Day for the Nanking Massacre? It is also insulting to use genocide as an example to insult people with differing opinions from yourself…especially when espousing how WW2 was justified by saving the Jewish people but conveniently forgetting the slaughter of close to a million Japanese civilians in the American bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Another point that I want to emphasize is that the people calling me out, one self-described Libertarian even calling me a fool, were all White biological men. I believe that their sexual orientation is irrelevant in this case. Your sexuality or gender identity does not excuse White privilege. All these men have the privilege of occupying the upper echelons of our society especially as White men who have been to college. Education is a privilege and they used their privilege in an attempt to silence me. With this privilege comes power, and it is men like them who continue to perpetuate the interlocking systems of oppression in our society that hold women, people of colour and GLBTQ persons hostage. War and patriotism perpetuate these systems of oppression and I find it sadly ironic that these gay men continue to support them, erstwhile preventing true liberation.

(Ed. Note: I am currently reading Elizabeth Ammon’s Brave New Words: How Literature Will Save the Planet. She underlines how liberalism and academia have failed social justice. This, combined with White privilege in writing history from a White perspective and the privilege of succeeding as White people in higher education also fail social justice. I encourage you to read her book.)


UPDATE: The Ron Frashour Case

So, according to the Oregonian, lawyers for the city of Portland are arguing that the reinstatement of Ron Frashour, a Portland police officer fired in 2010 for using excessive force on an unarmed black man, Aaron Campbell, who then died from his injuries, would violate many statutes. These include but are not limited to violation of the city charter, the state constitution and also the national constitution. I am very pleased with this news and I hope that the city can continue holding up its decision to fire Frashour. He does not deserve to be reinstated. 

This would be an amazing step towards justice in our city because Portland has had a history of reinstating racist killer cops after they are removed from service. This would be the first time an arbitrators reinstatement decision is ignored and fought. 

For example: In 2009, Portland police officer Christopher Humphreys shot an unarmed 12-year old black girl with a shotgun at close range, on her own doorstep. He was suspended by the city commissioner but later reinstated after the Portland Police Association staged a rally and announced a no-confidence vote taken against the city commissioner and the chief of police.

In 2005, Portland police officer Scott McCollister shot Kendra James, a 21 year old black female and left her handcuffed and bleeding on the street to die. An all White jury found McCollister not guilty of excessive force and he was reinstated after arbitration. 

These are just a few examples of why our police force is out of control and needs to be stopped. They have a history of killing unarmed people of color or people with documented mental disorders and disabilities. And they get away with it.

(Ed. note: Thanks to the Portland Independent Media Center organization for continued vigilance and information on the history of Portland's racist killer cops.)


Mouthrape (Or, a parable of dating bullshit)

I just read an amahzing amazing piece by Phaedra Starling called “Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guys guide to approaching strange women without getting maced”. It comingled with the conversation last Saturday at a house party I was having about bad kissers. My particular contribution to the story was a meet up a few years ago at my fav NW bar, MuuMuus for some drinking and dinner. Nothing big. To be honest, I wasn’t really into the guy. I was doing what Drea DeMatteo’s character in Broken English refers to as “duty dating.” Dating so I don’t lose the magic touch, lolz.

Anyway, this brother and I were having dinner and some good conversation. I’m still not feeling any sparks and I’m good and sloshed and it’s getting late. Time to go. We go Dutch, (as being queer still doesn’t have a dating designation for who pays what and all that shit) and head out for a ciggy before parting.

Here’s where the trouble starts: the guy wants a kiss goodnight. Yeah, okay. Whatever. No biggie. I do my duty, without any sort of extra oomph, you know? Then he grabs me by both arms, and he’s really a lot bigger and taller than me and tries to whisper sexily “You can do better.” RED FLAG MOTHERFUCKER. Not sexy at all. We kiss again, this time with me not so much kissing as limp and waiting for it to be over. This dude doesn’t get it. He didn’t take any of my signals. I had god-only-knows-how-many texts from him over the next week. Now, I wasn’t being a bitch or anything but I making myself clear and was NOT into him. Some guys just can’t read the writing on your walls.

Anyway, this article really rang true to me, despite not being a girl. I think it can be applied to homosexual queer relations as well. Here is what you need to know (edited for us queers):

Because a (queer) man who ignores a woman’s (queer man’s) NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well. So if you speak to a woman (queer man) who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message.

And what is that message? Well, that you don’t respect boundaries or rights. Hopefully this just means you’re a bit ambitious or not too clued in on social cues. In other words not a rapist, but who really knows? 
Stay safe, kiddies.


A Manifesto of Validation of My Self

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. I’m too White-looking or middle-class for brown folk, but I’m too queer/brown/Political/supersites for Whiteys. I guess that’s the fallacy of thinking you’re special in America.

Scratch that. I don’t know why I am so into navel gazing lately…it’s like I think I am saying something profound. To be completely honest, it ain’t really profound to anyone except to me. I used to dream about making this stupid blog into something amazing, changing peoples minds and shit…pero en el fondo I don’t really know if I am even touching anyone.

So here’s my manifesto, for me, inspired by Zac Slams.

A Manifesto of Validation of My Self

1.     My ethno-racial/sexual/gender identity is on my terms, not yours. I choose to identify myself a certain way so as not to be blotted out by heterosexism, racism, classism, regionalism and other interlocking systems of oppression.
I do not need to explain myself to you. Ever. I will embrace my Otherness and use it as a tool for my protection, validation and revolution.

2.     Si yo elija hablar en español y tu no entiendes, eso no vale nada. El español es el lenguaje de mi corazón, de mi alma. No me importa un carajo si tu no entiendas lo que digo, ademas probablamente no quieres escucharlo. That is no excuse, however, for racism.

3.     I have the right to say/express what I think/see/feel. My opinions, whether they are right or not, are just as valid and important as yours. I have the right to be heard, despite our society’s attempt at quelling those of us that speak out.

4.     I choose to live. I have a right to life. I will not let myself be co-opted/colonized/erased/assaulted/raped/molested/attacked ever again and I will defend my body and my self with force if necessary.


Brown (a poem)

They say to me,

“You’re not really brown, you know.”
Or,  “I thought you were White.” and
“Oh, well you don’t look
(insert: Latino, Spanish, Jewish, Arab, Middle-Eastern, BROWN.)

I know what my skin looks like:
café au lait, with too much lait

Brown isn’t a skin colour,
Brown is an experience

Brown is being told
To speak English

Brown is being called a terrorist on the train
When someone confuses your yarmulke with a kufi

Brown is people mispronouncing your name
Every fucking day

Brown is being afraid security is gonna be called
 When you’re browsing the aisles

Brown is being told to go back to where you came from,
When your apartment is just a block away

Brown is being assaulted in public,
With everybody watching

Brown is being scared of walking alone at night,
Of airports, the police, your own neighbours

Brown is being told
Your experience doesn’t matter

Brown is an experience.
I am brown.


Driving Miss Gaga

"Are Latinos supposed to be grateful that a white superstar, born of privilege, included a racist shout out to our community? Not all Latino ladies are 'cholas' in the barrio, some of them are teachers, writers, engineers and nurses and doctors." -- Robert Paul Reyes

A while back I wrote an article praising the Estonian technopop artist Kerli Kõiv because she represents what I think a true musician should be: modest, compassionate and real. For juxtaposition I am going to talk about Stefani Germanotta better known as Lady Gaga.

I have remained silent for the most part in my dislike of Lady Gaga. I am not a fan of attention-seeking stunts or high fashionistas. I am especially not into mainstream American pop music and Lady Gaga is arguably mainstream.

My real beef with her though, is her privilege. She is from a wealthy background (she used to party with Paris Hilton), she is conventionally attractive, and she is cisgendered, White and skinny. Her inability to accept any of this is troubling.

Somehow there was some kind of rumor that Lady Gaga came from a poor background and that she made herself from nothing, this is patently untrue. In her wikipedia article she is quoted as having said that her family came from modest means and that her parents worked for everything. Her private school upbringing and matriculation to the exclusive Tisch School of the Arts at NYU say otherwise. I have heard the argument before, about parents working hard. My parents worked hard, my dad put himself through medical school on scholarships and crappy cleric positions, but that doesn't mean my sister and I grew up with little means. I have no problem accepting and deconstructing my class privilege.

Another issue with Gaga's privilege is her racism. People hailed her single "Born This Way" as the newest "gay anthem". Hold up, what? I gotta wonder, have these people even read the lyrics: "YOU'RE BLACK, WHITE, BEIGE, CHOLA DESCENT

Excuse me, but that is racist. It is tacitly agreed that using the word "Oriental" is about the same as using the word "Negro" and wholly inappropriate. Political correct-ness aside, this was a stupid word to use in a song dubbed progressive. Orientals are rugs, not people. (Ed. I understand that she didn't use the word "Oriental" precisely but she did truncate the word to fit her rhyme, she refers to races in this line so arguably the word "orient" was referring to "Oriental" or Asian. So STFU.)

Furthermore, the word "chola" is problematic too. The term was originally used as a designation for people of mixed or pure Amerindian descent in the racist classification system of colonial Latin America. The word presently has come to refer to "low income Mexican-American families in the United States" or "Latino gangsters". (see Wikipedia article here). Miguel Perez, of Chicanos Unidos further elucidates in this article. Basically, Gaga is relegating all Latinos to this designation of poor and criminal.

Also, what is this beige bullshit? I guess that's my category.

I just want people to see Lady Gaga for who she is. She is not "weird" or unattractive, that is her makeup and clothing. She is skinny, she is White and she dresses as our society prescribes for her biological gender. What is special about 

It's easy to be angry with all of this, but in the end it's like my boyfriend said this morning,“When we're talking about Lady Gaga and Madonna, we’re not talking about women; we’re talking about clothes and makeup.”

(Ed. note: Also, see Lady Gaga's "Little Monster" fans respond to Miguel Perez's article Warning! Very triggering.)