Catching Up…

I always think about posting to this blog late at night just as I’m falling asleep.  Of course, once awake, I lose the brilliance that was last night’s inspiration and this is the result.

To catch up:

The blog was initially begun as a way for family and friends to keep track of me while enrolled in the doctoral program. I was promised that I’d have little time to eat or sleep, let alone correspond with other humans on the planet.  Well, that was certainly true for the first two years, but this year that has been less so.  Thus, less blogging.

The reach of the blog has expanded and allowed me to connect with heretofore unknown relatives, and that has been the very best part of posting here. (Waving to my “new” Hall cousins!)

The year is almost ended and it’s been quite a year. My first novel was published to good reviews.  I even got my first royalty check recently…I was paid for my writing! Oh my gosh!

I was advanced to candidacy in the doctoral program and just yesterday began (after passing IRB requirements) the research phase.  I even have a graduation date and tie: May 24th, 6:30 pm. Sweet.

Another semester of teaching has come and gone, quite quickly this time around.

Then there’s the surgery.  Back surgery was successful, though not without its trauma.  I have lingering paresthesias in the left leg below the knee and including the foot.  The “drop foot” (a result of nerve damage from the surgery) gets significantly worse when I am out and about for any length of time.  On the positive side, my walking is much smoother and, unless I’m excessively tired, you cannot really tell there’s damage.

Things I’ve learned this year:

  • Nurses should be revered above all others.  The middle-of-the-night freakout’s for post-op patients are made better by a kind word and a warm hand.

  • Doctors should be very careful about overmedicating patients.  I fell asleep on two separate occasions with food in my mouth.  I was so severely overmedicated that they brought in a respiratory therapist because they thought I was having breathing problems. I was, but that was because my body was asleep!

  • True friends are those who will go through anything with and for you. Cherish them.

  • It’s all about love, everything else is just rhetoric. Go Navy (<– link. Those are words I never thought I’d say.)

  • I’m sure I learned more, but at the moment, I’m out of bullet points.

Today: writing, some last Christmas shopping, lunch with the great Tammy at the WB, and then cleaning house for visiting family.

Tonight: More relaxing reading.

Merry Christmas, Good Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, Good Kwanzaa, and/or Happy Holidays (or days off) to all and sundry.

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GCLS, A Celebration

Home from GCLS for this year. GCLS is the Golden Crown Literary Society, a nonprofit that celebrates and promotes lesbian literature (fiction and non) and poetry. It is also an annual gathering of friends old and new and an opportunity to network and renew acquaintances. It is through my association with GCLS that the wonderful Bella Books will be publishing my novel next spring and the organization has had a tremendously positive impact on my life.

Some of the highlights of the weekend below…enjoy.

This was at the bottom of the blog but I wanted to be sure it got seen by you folks. This is a little compilation from the karaoke fun we had on Friday night. Honestly, this was a complete blast.

Flying into storm.

Lightning about 1/2 mile off of our wing as we landed. They closed the airport for 45 minutes after we got in and wouldn’t even let the baggage handlers go out.

Mercedes realizing that Karin has named a character for her.

Our group for the Thursday afternoon reading.

Coffee chat with Karin, Dillon, and Georgia. Note that Dillon had to sit *right* in the middle!

Post dinner, enroute back for the awards dinner. Those nutballs!

Sheryl, Ellen Hart, me. Love Ellen's scarf! Ellen, it turns out, is Sheryl's long lost "hobby twin." The two love all the same things!

A very dapper MJ and me.

It's a photo frenzy! Ellen and Karin taking pictures of each other and...well, you get it.

Sheryl teaching Ellen to pose like Lady Gaga

Our table. Me, Sheryl, Line, Becky, and Beth.

KG MacGregor and Becky. Great picture of them both.

Dillon Watson's TWO Goldies...best Debut Author and Best Contemporary Romance. Rock it!!! Buy Keile's Chance at Bella Books today!

Us. Fun.


Good On Ya, Meredith!

I’ve checked for an official Meredith website and was unable to find one so thought I’d leave a little note for her here. Will she read it? Most likely not.

I felt every jitter of nerves you were probably feeling, Meredith, during your announcement on the Today Show this morning. I know how hard it is to say those words out loud. I’m sure your palms were sweating and your knees shaking. I’ll bet you had second, third, and 1,000th thoughts right up until the camera turned to you. Internal and external debates aside, Meredith, you executed fantastically, with grace and style. I thought you were tremendously brave.

It is one thing to come out to yourself. Another to your children. And to your family. But to make an announcement like that to the world…that takes sheer guts (and a nearby bathroom).

Matt Lauer. Well, I was impressed. I can say with heartfelt gratitude that it was not Ann Curry doing the interview. I couldn’t have stomached the false intensity of the contrived ‘lean forward, rest your hand on the guest’s knee, gaze deeply into her eyes, lower your voice, and ask…”how does it feel?”‘ Nope. That would have sucked. Matt was great.

The interview, if you missed it, can be found on YouTube here.

For those who will read this and start the usual whinge of “nobody ever comes out with, ‘I’m straight'” news…suck it up. Nobody has to come out as straight, it’s an assumed norm, with anything else being perceived as the “other,” with the ‘other’ being connotatively construed as wrong. (If any of those words confused you, look them up.). As Meredith said in her interview, she was putting a personal face on the issue. This is a woman who represented a generation to many of us, and iconic ideal. If she can be a lesbian an loved, why can’t we all?

I went to a Hallowe’en party this year and met Alice’s Queen of Hearts. Fabulous costume designed and made by the wearer, also a wonderful (male) fourth grade teacher. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think we’re teaching your kids in the grade and high schools/colleges/universities. Are we recruiting? Absolutely not. Are we everywhere? You bet your ass we are. Don’t like it? Tough. Live with it.

If you don’t like lesbians, don’t sleep with one. Same goes for gay men. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person.

What you did today Meredith was well done, indeed. Thank you.


McCarthyism Rears its Head

So. I signed.

For the five of you who regularly read this blog, refer back to yesterday’s post. Basically, any civil or public employee in the state of California must, by state law, sign the following “Loyalty Oath:”

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”

What’s my objection? Are you kidding me?

A loyalty oath? Where the hell are we living now, Communist China?! What’s next? “I have not now, nor have I ever been a member of…”

How about that “morally straight” bit in the Boy Scout oath? Will that slip into my HR paperwork sometime soon too?

I have a moral issue with signing something that requires, under thread of up to 14 years imprisonment, me to defend a constitution that is currently denying my human rights.

I’m gay. I can’t legally marry.

Oh wait. I did get legally married last summer, but only because we took advantage of a legal window. Those not lucky enough to do so are screwed. And if you don’t think filling out the government’s tax forms are hellish because of that, think again. Do I check “Married” or “Single?” But that’s an issue for a different day.

I met with the VP of HR today who insisted that this “comes from the state.” Funny thing is, I’ve worked for two other public institutions before, a Cal STATE U and another Community College. Neither of them put forward this form for me to sign – despite that requirement in the state constitution.

Sigh.

But, as I said, high morals don’t pay the mortgage. I’ve called my union rep, I’ve contacted Lambda Legal.

I’ve signed the effing form.

I signed it with the following objection noted on it (and that was signed by the VP of HR):

“Signed under protest – moral objection. Only signed as condition of employment.” (Keep in mind I still have a half-cast on my arm, so can’t really write a novel on the thing.)

I’m fairly certain that my civil rights (as in Civil Rights Act of 1964) have been trashed here. If I objected on religious grounds I’d have some legal footing, but because I’m objecting on moral grounds I’m in a bit of a morass of grey. How funny is that? Religious objection: OK. Moral? Not so much.

The more I think and write in this the angrier I get.

What am I looking for? I don’t want millions. I don’t want to own the state of CA (who the hell would?). I don’t want publicity. I want that damned form taken out.

My compromise is that I have modified an addendum filed by a UC Berkely professor and printed it to submit to HR. It follows:

ADDENDUM

It is my belief that the State Oath of Allegiance is a disgraceful document and its requirement deeply disturbs my conscience.  Its history and motivation are authoritarian, antidemocratic, totalitarian, fascist, and antisocial. Under no circumstances would I have accepted its condition for employment had I been informed in advance.  Finally, it seems to me a matter of logic that the Oath is self-contradictory in that it is inconsistent with numerous “inalienable” rights expressly guaranteed in both the California and United States Constitutions.

1. DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES AND THE OATH

The text of the Oath and its requirement for employment at [Edited] College are profoundly disturbing to my conscience.  I take them as an affront to the rights of every citizen and antithetical to the principle of academic freedom.  They must be viewed in the context of the long and ignominious history of the various loyalty oaths and “red scares,” the wartime internment of Japanese-American citizens, and other attacks on citizens’ rights that stain with everlasting shame both Constitutions to which so many people today remain required to swear loyalty

No less than the threat of a perjury charge “punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not less than one nor more than 14 years” under Section 3108 of the California Government Code looms over anyone whose scruples interfere with his or her willingness to “take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” Simultaneously, my livelihood depends on my affixing my signature to ideas repugnant to me, and, had I been informed in advance of this requirement, I would have absolutely never considered employment with the aforementioned institution, or indeed, any California institution requiring this form.

It is a principle of democracy and of human freedom that the state derives its legitimacy from the population, and that it is granted power only to that extent.  The converse—that citizens be granted full rights only by proclaiming loyalty to state power—is, I think it is clear, diametrically opposed to the whole of the democratic tradition.  The definition of fascism is “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation . . . above the individual” (Merriam-Webster 1998). Coercion not only of behavior but also of beliefs through the threat of imprisonment or other forms of state violence is an expression of the totalitarian mentality at its most extreme.

I feel the Oath pits me against an ominous and pernicious category of unnamed, undefined “domestic enemies.”  The implication that I place myself into this category by resisting the Oath is unmistakable to me.  This Oath and its predecessors—and its analogues in societies unflattering for ours even to be compared—have been very effective at dividing the populace and intimidating and isolating conscientious, honest, law-abiding dissidents.

Consequently I strongly believe that the Oath articulates an explicitly fascist, explicitly antisocial vision.

2. CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES AND THE OATH

Article I of the Constitution of California guarantees the following: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights.  Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy” (Section 1).  “Every person may freely speak . . . his or her sentiments on all subjects. . . .”  This guarantee necessarily includes the right freely to hold beliefs (Section 2). “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed,” obviously including my deep moral beliefs as described in this Addendum, cited as a “liberty of conscience” (Section 4).  “A person may not be disqualified from entering or pursuing . . . employment because of sex, race, creed, color, or national or ethnic origin” (Section 8).  It is in my view, then, clear that the Oath and its requirement deny me my freedom, attempt to deprive me of property and livelihood, violate my privacy, attempt to legislate my beliefs under threat of imprisonment, and threaten to deny me employment on the basis of creed, thus repeatedly and directly violating, to the letter, numerous specific rights guaranteed by the same document that contains the text of the Oath (Article XX, Section 3).

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, of course, guarantees every citizen’s right to freedom of “religion,” again including the beliefs discussed above, and “freedom of speech,” obviously circumscribing freedom of opinion.  It is in my view obvious that the Oath violates these rights.

My objection to the oath is on moral grounds. I cannot in good conscience swear to support and defend a constitution which continues to discriminate against a portion of the population. By declaring gay marriages “equal but separate” under the law, the Supreme Court of California has legalized discrimination, a violation of both Article I of the US Constitution, and Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which states (in part): “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Finally, it must be noted—must be insisted—that human rights are intrinsic and inalienable; they are emphatically not granted by governments through constitutions or any other means.  To repeat, our political ideal is the precise opposite: governments are granted any and all rights and power by the assent of the governed.  Nonetheless, in my opinion the Oath contradicts itself in its own terms as it cannot be consistent with rights explicitly guaranteed by both constitutions which it apparently seeks to protect.


So…Controversy of a Sort…And it’s Just My First Day.

Well, when I’m not working on the doctoral stuff I’m teaching. I was hired at a local community college last week and classes begin today.

During my HR session the other day I was presented with a State of California Affidavit form – basically an oath stating that I would support and defend the constitution of the State of California. I asked the HR folks about it and was told it was optional, so I told them I was opting out of signing it.

This morning HR just called and the Vice President of HR wants to meet with me at 1pm today, regarding my refusal to sign the form. When she asked if it was a religious reason I told her that “No, it’s political. The State of California is denying me my constitutional rights to equality; therefore I’m not going to sign the form. I am serving the students of California, not the State.”

So…now I have a meeting.

If it becomes a condition of my employment I will sign it, but I will also make a notation on it stating that I’m signing it because it was made a condition of my employment. High morals won’t pay the mortgage.

Tonight: First classes at aforementioned CC, more reading for the EdD.


Activism, Apathy and the Futile Pursuit of Happiness

I know, it’s been far too long since I’ve blogged, and I’m sure the five of you who regularly read this are now onto bigger and better blogs. Oh well.

We have entered into a new Dark Age.

For the first time in my life, I am ashamed to be an American. I would happily move to Canada or any other country that has stepped beyond the new Dark Age and understood and accepted the fact that who my heart chooses to love does not make me a bad, evil or undesireable person.

I was delighted when Barack Obama won. I believed in his message of hope and change, “Yes We Can.” Then he announces that he’s asked Rick Warren to give the invocation to his inauguration. I’m sorry, I’m with TammyLynn on this one. Barack, if you’re going to have Warren up there to be a “voice for open discussion” then, as she says, you damned well better have some of those cowards with the pointy white bedsheets on stage too. They offer other voices and certainly cause discussion. Bastards.

Oh, and let’s talk about Prop 8. I just saw “Milk.” I, like so many of the post-Stonewall generation am woefully ignorant of my own cultural history. I knew of the “Twinkie Defense” and in an abstract way knew that it was related to a murder case. I didn’t know that it was about the murder of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk. I also didn’t know just how close Prop 6 was  to our own Prop 8. My God, even the wording of the right-wing arguments was the same! “Protect families”. What the hell is wrong with you people?

How are my CIVIL RIGHTS interfering with your family? How the hell is my LEGAL RIGHT to live and love as a citizen of this country (to which I proudly served in the USAF and have faithfully paid my taxes for more than 20 years) fucking with your family? How? Now the people who put Prop 8 on the ballot want to nullify those marriages that were performed between May and Nov. 4th. I have been married to my partner of nine years for a total of 126 days. Have you felt the tremors? Has your family fallen apart? Yeah, I thought not.

Rick Warren considers homosexual behavior the same as he does incest and bestiality. His is the outlook of ignorant and medieval thinkers. I wish upon Rick Warren and his bigoted, thoughtless, mindless, lemming-like followers a gay son. A lesbian daughter. A flaming, flamboyant, sexy-as-hell queen. A solid, athletic, hair slicked back butch.

I am a product of my generation. I am a consumer. I have more than one iPod, I have a Mac laptop, and I spend money at Christmas. I don’t know how to be an activist. I was born in the late 60’s, a child in the 70’s and a teen in the 80’s. I really don’t know how to start a grassroots movement.

But I feel it is time to do as Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein: follow the money. I think we need to take a page from Harvey Milk’s book and hit them where it counts, in the checkbook. Not for a day – that ‘s useless. Not for a week – that’s a token. But for good.

Support gay-owned businesses, support gay-friendly (openly…as in, they have a sign that says they proudly welcome gay business). Boycott anyone…anyone…who is not or does not. For good.

Look at business statement. Look at company statistics. Shop your conscience. Get it done. Make your money work for a cause.

Tonight: trying to figure out how to make a difference.