“Almost Sunrise”: two Iraq war veterans walk across America to raise awareness of “moral injury” from combat

Almost Sunrise”, directed by Michael Collins, written with Eric Daniel Metzgar, aired on PBS Independent Lens and POV Monday Nov. 13.  The film depicts a journey of two Iraq war veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, on foot, across much of the country (from Milwaukee to Santa Barbara), to raise awareness of veteran PTSD and suicide, and particularly with the psychological issue of “moral injury”. That concept refers to the idea that when in combat soldiers engage in behavior that would be criminal or otherwise morally reprehensible in civilian settings.

But of course one of the points of international terrorism (especially some associated with radical Islam) is to blur or eliminate the distinction and vulnerability between civilian and military combatants.

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The men gather support, including from those who find that some veterans’ families don’t get full benefits, as after suicide.   There is a home with a family of an affected veteran with a “no media” sign on the front door.

In Colorado they reach an ashram run by an unusual Catholic priesthood.  They explore some other forms of spirituality. In Utah, they go through some of the familiar scenery.

The film was funded by Kickstarter.

The film was accompanied by two shorts.  One of them, “Voices of Resilience: Insight from Injury”, by Veterans Trek and Pacific Islander.  The film presented a support group in Hawaii, where there seemed to be no VA hospital (Pearl Harbor notwithstanding). But there followed  panel discussion about the effect of a volunteer Army which almost seemed to beg the question of returning to conscription (including women, and making the now settled question about gays [don’t ask, don’t tell as repealed in 2011] and less settled issue of trans solders morally [aggravated by Trump’s tweets] relevant). The film said we have a warrior class of a small percentage of the people waging a war on terror of unprecedented length. It is also a problem that civilian citizens act as if military and foreign policy should not be their concern.

The program also presented a very short animated film “Tom’s War” where Tom visits the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.

Name: Almost Sunrise
Director, writer:  Michael Collins, Eric Daniel Metzgar
Released: 2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2017/11/13
Length:  98
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Thoughtful Robot Productions, PBS POV
Link:  official PBSofficial

(Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 12 noon EST)

Nathaniel Frank’s encyclopedia history of LGBT marriage equality

I’ve covered some of the argumentation about gay marriage in a review of a film about it here July 5.  But an encyclopedia-like book like Nathaniel Frank’s “Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America” (2017) can cover a lot more detail than a documentary film or video. Still, this particular issue seems to have both sides talking at or past one another, playing with the subtleties of language itself, like in “Paul’s” Youtube videos.

I have to admit  some distraction.  I had to finish reading the last chapter on Obergefell and then the philosophical Epilogue (Arnold Bax-like) just as the news exploded this morning with Donald Trump’s edict by twitter banning transgender troops from the military.  Different topic (I’ll come back to the military thing soon with another post) – and indeed a marriage with a transgender person can turn into a straight marriage but without the possibility of procreation, exactly like a heterosexual marriage when the woman is past menopause.  I guess that shows partly why tying marriage to procreation gets so problematic.

At the very beginning, Frank says that marriage law is important by indirection:  logically, those who are not married or do not have the benefits of marriage can be excluded from some of society’s benefits as a consequence of mere logic.  In fact, that generally describes how things were in my own life in a world that (until very recently) where being married usually meant having minor dependents that one had sired – but it didn’t always mean that.  And single people and same-sex couples have always had dependents.  But someone without dependents can find his life disrupted by the needs of others anyway – as I found out with my own eldercare situation. There is a “dynamic imbalance” in life (like in a chess position, say a Sicilian) between having fewer responsibilities and more disposable income, and at the same time being less welcome in some situations,

The debate over “gay marriage” has become sometimes interchangeable with “gay rights” or “equality”.  Or let’s say “the right to marry” is a tricky idea.  As a logical matter, anyone has the same “right” to marry a consenting adult member of the opposite gender (when gender is binary), but not the same capability to procreate or even enjoy penetrative heterosexual activity in a relationship.  Frank talks about discussions about marriage as early as 1963, and then about the Baker case in Minnesota in the early 1970s.  Frank also explains how marriage became a focus (among gay “activists”) as to whether gay people should assimilate (and share risks and responsibilities, including serving in  the military) or resist. Did liberation mean walling off the outside world and creating your own (like in the East Village and the Ninth Street Center, with its polarity theory, in the 1970s)?

Indeed, overseas, “gay marriage” as been illogically comingled with gay rights in general, as in Nigeria with its draconian law in 2013.

Frank indeed covers the history of gay rights in general, including Stonewall, Anita Bryant, the Moscone-Milk assassination in San Francisco in 1978, the Briggs Initiative in California that could have banned gay teachers (1978), the AIDS crisis and Reagan’s indifference, the sodomy law litigation (Hardwick v. Bowers in 1986 and Lawrence v. Texas in 2003), and the history of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military.  In the 1990s, particularly in Hawaii, debate on gay marriage for its own sake as a marker for personal equality in general, started to develop, even as cases like Romer v. Evans (Colorado Amendment 2) grew.  Then, of course, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, under political pressure.  Frank presents the 90s as more negative for gay people than it really was for me. Frank gives many side anecdotes that are important for other issues:  Dan Choi and don’t ask don’t tell as a valued Arabic translator needed for intelligence purposes; the fact that one of the important marriage cases involved a person who died of ALS;  the male couple in Florida who took care of foster kids with HIV.

Then , in the 2000s, the cascade of litigation started, with Massachusetts in 2004, leading eventually to Obergefell, with many steps along the way.  These included the idea that you could encourage the states to go their own way and experiment first, before solving it federally, although then you had the Full Faith and Credit issue (to be resolved in Obergefell).  Along the way came Gavin Newsome’s marriage day, and then the whole Proposition 8 saga in California.

Frank has a few juicy quotes that show how gay marriage became a cover for a bigger question about hyperindividualism and sexuality.  On p. 236 he refers to the risk that the “gradual transformation of marriage from a pro-child societal institution into a private relationship designed simply to provide adult couples with what plaintiffs say is personal fulfillment.  It was a sinister echo of the old canard that homosexuality was primarily about indulging individual selfishness, while somehow heterosexual pairing was about contributing to the greater good.”  When was this canard actually stated?  Is the greater good to be found in protective courtship and doting?  It strikes me that this is like a three-lane highway in Virginia (indeed, Marshall-Newman, 2006): it can be more challenging to raise adopted kids in a same-sex relationship that survives a few decades of aging than a conventionally heterosexual one with biological children.  If marriage is expanded to include relationships with no penetrative complementarity, will heterosexuals decide that it isn’t important to marry before having kids?  Indeed, the record so far is that gay marriage does not encourage heterosexual divorce or discourage heterosexual marriage.  (Baseball player Bryce Harper beamed his Mormon heterosexual wedding celebration on Superbowl Sunday on Facebook.)    Later, on p. 349 (in a chapter on Obergefel there appears, “While defenders of gay marriage bans in 2015 did all they could to avoid appearing anti-gay, the notion that letting gays marry would transform the institution from being ‘child-centric’ to ‘adult-centric’ fit squarely in the tradition of demonizing gay people as selfish and indulgent, and gay rights as the triumph of a narcissistic culture over a responsible and temperate one committed to the common good.”

In 2010, Nathaniel Frank had published “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America” through St. Martins, about nine months before Congress approved the gradual dismantling of “don’t ask don’t tell”, the certification of which was completed in September 2011.

Related post on my “Do Ask Do Tell Notes”.

Legacy movie reviews about Proposition 8:  “The Case Against 8” (2014); “8: The Mormon Proposition

Author: Nathaniel Frank
Title, Subtitle: Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-06774737228
Publication: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 441 pages, hardcover, 16 chapters, Epilogue
Link: Author

(Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 2 PM EDT)

A new (updated) Permission Seeker’s Guide for writers, artists, filmmakers

I recently received a sample legal guide by Joy R. Butler, “The Permission Seeker’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle”, with a long subtitle, “Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions”, second edition, published by Donohue.

When I wrote my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book in the mid 1990s, I considered the idea of formal rights clearance for quotes I wanted to use, and there is a whole legal infrastructure of law firms in New York and Los Angeles to do this.  But, as an entry self-publisher, I lacked the scale to do this.  So I simply kept my direct quotes short (editing them down at one step) and well within any reasonable implementation of Fair Use.  (I did consult with at least two attorneys, pro bono, one of them very high profile, familiar with the whole area of “don’t ask don’t tell” at the time.)

Joy’s handbook is general purpose in nature, intended to advise content originators ranging from independent bloggers and musicians to producers of independent films for the established festival and commercial marketplace.  In six parts and 29 chapters, its sections are written in straightforward prose and numbered as if a formal legal document.

I think an underlying problem is that there is an enormous range of purpose that people have when they create and publish media.  The most common motivation is profit and sales to consumers in the conventional economic sense. Much of the system around intellectual property law does presume that artists and writers may need to make a living and provide for others (families) off their work.  Much content is tied to publicly traded media companies who rightfully believe that they have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the property of their investors, sometimes encouraging litigation that on a smaller scale of common sense, may seem counter-productive and frivolous. At the other end, there are the self-made “pundits”, for want of better word, who may have wealth accumulated from other sources and who simply want to be known for their critical views, for example, of the results of our highly partisan politics.  They may not care about economic return the same way.  This sets up a lot of tension in the legal system.  At the other end, there are also “trolls”, in copyright, trademark and especially patent areas, who set themselves up as specialists in collecting legal penalties for others, rather like companies that buy bad debt to collect on it pennies to the dollar.

Some of the areas are of more direct concern than others.  I notice her comments in 14.1.2 about linking, deep linking, and framing (normally embedding videos).  It is true that in the early days of the WWW, some corporate content providers tried to require permission to link, especially deep link, to their content on rather poorly conceived theories of consumer confusion and illiteracy—but by 2000 or so, courts had established the idea that hyperlinks are essentially like attribution footnotes in a term paper or thesis.  Electronic Frontier Foundation has written that embeds are essentially just hyperlinks – but that begs the whole question of consumer perception and literacy (which would matter more to trademark and branding than any other area).  Generally, with YouTube embeds are quite simple.  If a video author allows embedding, presumably it is OK (from a copyright perspective) to embed it anyway.  If an original video was illegally pirated and posted, and then later embedded, usually Google takes the video down after getting a DMCA request and embed just stops working.  In some cases, video authors have not realized bloggers really do embed their videos, and mark them private when they discover this. It seems practically unheard of that the blogger gets sued for linking or embedding infringing material, but I suppose it could happen, if there was an aggressive troll looking for possible targets. I do think bloggers should pay attention to whether a source or video looks legitimate and legal before linking to them   For example, it is better to link to a video marked as posted by CNN than from a copy posted by someone else.  I do find that embeds disappear and when I check I discover that YouTube account has been terminated under a “3 strikes rule” for multiple copyright complaints, but there seem to be no consequences for the blogger.

Likewise, it is quite common for people to embed music videos on Facebook, Twitter, Google-Plus, and the like.  I do this a lot with classical music.  Sometimes these videos go dark from copyright claims.  I make it my own ethics policy to purchase a legitimate CD copy of a classical work I really want (like Rattle’s recent recording of a completed Bruckner Ninth) and particularly any substantial new work from any of several young classical composers whom I know personally (mostly in New York and LA).  In one or two cases, I have tried to urge artists I know to put their work up on Amazon for legitimate sale.

The author provides some useful discussion of whether or how recipes and detailed handbook instruction or lesson plans can be copyrighted. Generally, facts cannot be copyrighted.  Some television news outlets say that their stories cannot be “reproduced, redistributed or rewritten” but they cannot stop novices from re-reporting facts in their news stories and giving proper attribution (by links). She also discusses tattoos (and that would probably extend to temporary marks like DuoSkin). It would sound as if similar considerations would apply to chess openings and endgame problems (and similarly for other games, like Go, even card games like Poker).

I did not see discussion of Creative Commons issues (like using Wikipedia pictures).

Joy also provides description of how Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor work, similar in purpose (downstream liability shielding) for different problem areas – defamation-privacy-publicity vs. copyright.

I have read somewhere that it is possible to be held liable for linking to defamatory content, even if litigation for secondary linking seems to be very rare in practice. In fact, Joy mentions this possibility in 8.2.1 in discussing repetition in “communicating” a defamatory statement to the public, which need only be to one other person besides the subject (as in a Facebook account with full privacy turned on) to be viewed as “published” in the narrowest sense of the law.  The concepts of “per se” and “per quod” in defamation can be important.

Her discussion of music rights is interesting.  A composer in NYC once blogged that all composing involves some copying.  How many composers have been inspired by the way the Beethoven Ninth opens?

I generally am quite careful with posting video with much disco music in bars, because some music owners seem to be quite picky and trend to use trolls, and there is not a lot of value in hip-hop music that sounds so repetitious (my opinion, at least).  But I see people videotaping disco all the time when I go out.

In Section 13.3, she covers “citizen journalism” for some special topics, like photographing police activity and the First Amendment.  I think citizen journalism can raise some other issues ironically for lack of normal commercial purpose, a concept I heard a judge call “implicit content” in the COPA (Child Online Protection Act) trial that I attended in Philadelphia one day (as a sub-plaintiff) in late 2006.  That turned out to be important in at least one “online reputation” issue when I worked as a substitute teacher from 2004-2007, which I have covered elsewhere.  In an environment where the Internet is so easily misused (for cyberstalking, bullying, sex trafficking, and terror promotion) by less well-meaning users, some people in political power may see citizen journalism as gratuitous.  Ironically, as we know from the fake news (related to defamation), hacking and Clinton email problems, some of these issues had a shocking and major effect on the 2016 elections.

The book does cover the possibility of domain names, served up as first-come first served, conflicting with trademarks, and the ICANN domain dispute procedure does not always prevent trademark litigation (trademark dilution as a legal concept was strengthened by a law in 2005 under Bush).  Again, domain names are often set up for expressive purposes, which can come into conflict with other interests who want to use the same name to make money and employ people (even give them health insurance) with real profits.  Autarky actually means something in the content world to some people.

Author: Joy R. Butler
Title, Subtitle: “The Permission Seekers Guide Through the Legalm Jungle: Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions”
publication date 2017, Second Edition (complimentary copy mailed to me for review)
ISBN 978-0-9672940-7-0
Publication: Donohue, 449 pages, paper, 29 chapters, indexed, numbered sections
Link: author blog

(Posted: Friday, June 16, 2017 at 3:45 PM EDT)

 

“Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight”: thorough history of gay psychological culture (2nd edition)

I received by mail a review copy, an “Advance Uncorrected Gallery”, of the second edition of the book “Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight”, by psychiatrist Loren A. Olson, MD, with a Foreword by Jack Drescher, MD The first edition had been published in 2011, with Karen Levy, by the InGroup Press. The new edition is due from Oak Lane Press on April 1, 2017.  The review copy was supplied by FSB Associates.

The book is monumental in its coverage of the cultural, moral, and particularly psychological history of “the gay community” and particularly of the value of gay men born in earlier generations. The author was born in 1943, the same year as me, even before the “Baby Boomers”. So, like me, he is a “Traditionalist”.

The book at first focuses particularly on gay men who have married and had children, and then “come out” in mid-life or later (and move out from “living straight”, often leading to divorce and custody issues). Olson introduces the acronym MSM, “men who have sex with men”, as not always synonymous with “homosexual” or “gay”.

Olson covers he vitriolic anti-gay societal attitudes immediately after WWII, that loosened in the late 1960s, leading to Stonewall. He notes that earlier generations had accepted homosexual men without naming them as such. But in the early 20th Century, the idea of eugenics became somewhat popular, along with the idea that sexuality (even to the point of considering masturbation and fantasy) should be completely dedicated to create and raising “better” future generations. We can certainly connect that with fascism. Olson presents McCarthyism (in line with the hypocritical FBI director J. Edgar Hoover) as a “conflation of cowardice, homosexuality, and treason” in an era of pinko-phobia (my own take). He also relates this to his own upbringing in Nebraska (he practices in Iowa), where his mother implied that a boy who couldn’t manually start a lawn mower was a sissy. He traces the gradual change in attitudes up through the 1990s (living through the AIDS epidemic) and mentions the 1982 movie “Making Love”, as dramatizing the issue of a married man’s coming out.

Olson covers the issue of intergenerational gay relationships. He shows surprising candor in discussing the body image problem for gay men (sometimes it becomes “body fascism”), but maintains that a certain subset of young adult gay men are attracted to older men, even when overweight, bald, and hairy. The term “chubby chasers” gets mentioned. He describes the physiology of male sexual arousal, and relates it to age: young men have the greatest testosterone levels from about age 15 to about 30, with some variations; after about 35 or 40, most men drop off slowly. He does discuss the opportunism of pharma on this. He notes that men who come out later in life, after marriage, would not have experienced being “in the market” when their bodies were likely to be perceived by some people as the most “desirable”. He notes that agism has more effect on women and gay men than on straight men (even after divorce); men tend to care more about the visual satisfaction that their partners provide than women do, but then again, not always.

He also discusses the moral and legal issues concerning illegal relations between some men and underage teens. He distinguished between pedophilia and pederasty, but he might well have introduced “ephebophilia”. Since this book is in final revision, he might have the opportunity to discuss the “fall” of provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos over the latter’s reported videos on this matter (my further comments).

The last two chapters do discuss briefly recent advances in gay history: the end of “don’t ask don’t tell”, and the Supreme Court victories in gay marriage. He also discusses hate crimes from enemies who remain, especially the horror of the attack on the Pulse disco in Orlando. He also mentions the arson at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973 (film review Feb. 16).

He also discusses the needs of gay seniors, often living alone, with widely varying degrees of independence and health. Many were prudent enough three decades ago never to become infected with HIV. He notes that never married gay men and women, especially, as they get older, are more likely to wind up taking care of other relatives, out of filial piety. He does provide some discussion of genetics, epigenetics, and gender expression and sexuality. A gene that makes a male brain predisposed to more sexual interest in other men would reduce births fathered by homosexual men, but might increase childbirth from women with the gene, and therefore result in a net gain in population.

He also has an interesting mathematical definition of self-esteem,, as a reciprocal of the difference between the ideal self and actual self.

My own take needs to be mentioned. As I have written before, I “came out” a second time, in 1973, after a listless but interesting period of heterosexual dating without sex. In my novel, “Angel’s Borther”. I introduce a 40-year old man, still at the end of his biological summer, married with children, with a day job as a history teacher but also as a covert intelligence agent, who is suddenly sent to the site of Auschwitz where he meets a mysterious, precocious male college student with whom he falls in love. Previously, he has avoided homosexual activity (partly out of “public health”) except for some “rite of passage” sessions when in college, which he feels need some sort of culmination.

Mentioned In the book:

Met Life’s Study “Out and Aging: The MetLife Study of Lesbian and Gay Baby Boomers” (link)   (2006) And sequel “Still Out, Still Aging” (link) (2010).

Author: Loren A. Olson, MD
Title, Subtitle: Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight
publication date 2017/4/1, second edition (first ed. 2011)
ISBN 978-0-9979614-3
Publication: Oak Lane Press, Des Moines, IA; 286 pages, paper, 9 roman; Foreword, Preface, Introduction, 12 Chapters, Endnotes, indexed
Link: Publisher, author

(Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 5:30 PM EST)

“No More Heroes”: Jordan Flaherty argues for mass movements and against individual right-sizing; saviors think they are better than the people they help

Remember how all the episodes of “Smallville” on WB started with Remy Zero’s song “save Me?”, back starting around 2001? (just before 9/11).  For years we were treated a cleancut extraterrestrial-born and alien but very attractively human teenager Clark Kent using his “powers” (manipulating space-time around himself as if he were an Alcubierre drive) to save people.  And except when influenced by red kryptonite, he was always a great person, almost Christ-like, an angel.  And he is European-white (although one of his best friends, in whom he first confided that he is an alien, as if he were “coming out”, is black).

Or, more recently, in 2012, I watch a short film video at a local church of teenager running a mission at Double Head Cabbage in Belize.  A tall blond high school teen, who looks like he could toss no-hitters now for the Washington Nationals, lets kids, mostly of color, climb all over him.  This is an experience in bonding with people who look “different’ from you and are maybe less fortunate, at least economically and with infrastructure.  The intimacy in the film is rather unprecedented.  It belongs in DC Shorts (a short film festival), I tell them.

Or, in September 2015, at a National Book Festival sponsored by the Smithsonian at the Washington DC Convention Center, journalist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn present their books “A Path Appears” (also a video series) about how to help people, both in rural Appalachia and in Africa.  Kirtof also promotes a video, KONY, about a Ugandan warlord.

So now we have this book by Jordan Flaherty, “No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality”, challenging the whole premise of global do-goodism, that you can make your karma better by volunteering to help others, on your terms, when you get to look good and impress the people you help that you’re really better than them:  you’re richer (like Trump, or Zuckerberg, or Bill and Melinda Gates), whiter, taller, bigger, stronger, smarter, have a higher IQ, more gifted, more desirable.  You get to rule the world.  “They” do as you say.  Of course, you’ll be benevolent.  You’ll take care of everybody.  As Trump says now, everybody can buy insurance again, because I say so.  (I don’t think Trump had better try to deport real aliens.)

Flaherty loads up his book, especially the first eight chapters, with examples of self-serving “generosity”, going back to European colonialism and US manifest destiny, even the “we are the world” globalism of the 80s. He quickly gets to the topic of nearly mandatory volunteerism, as when (p. 25) he mentions George W. Bush’s call for every American to commit to two years, or 4000 clock hours during the rest of your life, to community service.  (I also remember Bush’s saying at Ohio State about that time, a person without responsibility for others is truly alone).   Some of his most telling examples center around New Orleans after Katrina (and even New York after Sandy), both with the ineffectiveness of hit-or-miss volunteer trips, and with the pretentiousness of Teach for America.  I was rather shocked at the degree to which teachers had to deal with the most intimate aspects of kids’ lives.

We tend to talk about “giving back” as something to get our karma right, become right-sized, and go back to feeling we individually “deserve” what we have.  It’s as if life was about getting a grade or accumulating non-monetary “life points” (a term killer James Holmes actually used).  Authoritarian politicians can easily take advantage of this idea.

In fact, consider Maoism in the 1960s. where Communist China forced intellectuals to “take their turns” becoming peasants.  I can remember those on the Left in the early 1970s (like the People’s Party of New Jersey) who used this example to argue that Chinese Communism was ideologically purer than Soviet style.

Flaherty wants us to realize that, as pastor Rick Warren argues in “The Purpose-Driven Life”, that it “isn’t about you.”  (He doesn’t mention Warren, but he should.)  It’s about your tribe, your team, well, no, its about the people, your mass movement.  He wants people to join up, become like Eric Hoffer’s True Believers. The mass movements will make things right for your group, especially if you’re among “people of color” or, less often, LGBTQ (or maybe both).

He traces the history of the Occupy movement (which Steven Bannon trashed in a 2012 film, reviewed here Jan. 9, “Occupy Unmasked”). He builds up Black Lives Matter (without mentioning the factual problems particularly with Michael Brown’s narrative that led to Ferguson) and takes the usual offense at “all lives matter” which is actually more demanding than it sounds.

Flaherty, when describing how to “change” (and shake off the moral liability if inherited privilege) says, “Instead of shaming people for their mistakes .. .appreciate and lift up principled action when you see it.” (Catalyst Poject).  Then, “This transformation demands moving from individual focus to collective action. Instead of asking ‘How can I be the single best white antiracist activist with the sharpest critique, most specialized language and busiest schedule?’ ask ‘How can I find ways to bring more and more people to social justice work, from lots of entry points, to grow vibrant mass movements?’” In other words, win converts, not just win arguments.  In fact, recruit people.  Pester them until the sign up. Well, there’s a contradiction in that, because that sounds like trying to save them.

I do recall a time at an MCC campfire in June 1979 in Texas when a particular guy into saving souls put his arm around me in a prayer and considered me one less able than others as someone special who needed saving.  Wow.

Clark Kent, in Smallville, used to say, I’m not special, I’m just different.  But Clark didn’t try to create a mass movement. But he didn’t need to.

Curiously, Flaherty poohs traditional efforts at gay equality, like gay marriage and the “right” to serve openly in the military (e.g. oppose “don’t ask don’t tell”) as accommodating “neoliberal violence”, by emphasizing individual station in life as the most important political objective.

But once the “people” get control with their mass movement, what kind of a world do they forge?  Without individual egos and meritocracy, people don’t accomplish much.  Flahety would have people surrendering all and living in moneyless or shared income intentional communities, maybe after a period of revolution, expropriation and collective moral purification.  It’s true that people who have the most to lose will take the fewest or smallest risks for changes that benefit others, but they may also take the least risks in stepping up in individual circumstances (as in Chapter 6 of my DADT-III book).  That’s the “Rich Young Ruler Problem”.

Author: Jordan Flaherty
Title, Subtitle: “No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality”
publication date: 2016
ISBN 978-1-84935-266-6
Publication: AK Press, Baltimore; 248 pages, paper (e), 11 Chapters, endnotes, indexed
Link:  author site

(Posted: Monday, January 16, 2017 at 11:45 PM EST)

“The Source”: oratorio by Ted Hearne, based on career and “wikileaks” of Chelsea Manning — Bush’s and then Obama’s wars

The Source” is a 62-minute chamber oratorio by Ted Hearne (b. 1982),  libretto by Mark Doten, first premiered at the Next Wave Festival at the Chamber Academy of Brooklyn in 2014.  There are seven instrumentalists.

There are 13 poems or songs, with iconoclastic titles and texts, based on US military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2005 to 2010.  Much of the material comes from the “Iraq War Logs” and “Afghan War Diary” and incorporates materials from formerly classified military communications leaked by Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning,

Some of the material even comes from tweets, such as when another soldier Lamo debates whether to turn Manning in.  Some songs depict violent events, such as an IED explosion (the first song) and others depict political negotiation and even the question about moderate Islam.

The last song is “I encrypt as much as I can”, where Bradley/Chelsea characterizes him/herself as “very intelligent” and “very effeminate”, as if curiously elitist given the tone of today’s culture wars.

The music is angular, with voices in clear, parallel harmonies and rather simple chants.

The work has been performed at the Disney Center by LA Opera in Los Angeles. https://www.laopera.org/Source   The New York Times has commentary here.

This is the sort of idea that gets commissioned these days.  My own compositional taste is for large post-romantic, broken into miniatures sometimes, but still more in the tradition of classical instrumental and symphonic music that I grew up with (Schoenberg and Berg sound post-romantic to my ear now, but that’s as far as I got.

This work really ends quietly, with Sprechstimme of spoken voice only, “I opened up the computer and just talked.”  No wonder Donald Trump says “No computer is safe.”

One would imagine this work as choreographed, too, so that it is full chamber opera.  But for that matter, the 10-movement, massive two-piano suite “Shy and Mighty” (2007), by Timo Andres, ought to be choreographed, especially for the East Village.

The work is available on CD from New Amsterdam Records (NWAM071), which I purchased on Amazon (easier than Bandcamp).  The composer’s official site is here.  The cover has a frazzled picture of Kabul against the mountains.

Wikipedia picture of Kabul.

(Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2017. at 9 PM EST)

“Soldier of Change”: A gay Army officer lives through DADT, repeal, and the fight for marriage equality even in the military

Book review:

 

Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement” (2014), by Stephen Snyder-Hill, with a Foreword by actor George Talei, is one of the most contemporary and thorough and up-to-date books on the history of the military gan ban and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, taking it through the repeal in 2011, told as a personal account by an Army captain who was eventually able to marry his male lover and legally hyphenate his name in Ohio.

Hill (born about 1970), raised near Columbus, Ohio,  first joined the Army in 1988, seeking skills and a career, and wound up fighting in the Persian Gulf war in Iraq and Kuwait (recall Matt Damon’s 1995 film “Courage Under Fire”). He recalls being “asked” if he “took it” when joining, and “lied”.  After the war, but while he was still on active duty, President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” was introduced. He was honorably discharged in 1996 and went to college and eventually became a medical dietician.

After 9/11, he re-enlisted and became an officer, rising to Captain, in food service.  He became part of Operation New Dawn in Iraq in 2010 until President Obama began to withdraw troops from Iraq (which we can speculate as to whether that made way for ISIS, but Hill never goes there). During his long second stint, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, starting with a law at the end of 2010, and “certified” by September 2011. (my posts are here (look at December 10, 2010 and September 20, 2011).  He asked a pointed question online of socially conservative Senator Rick Santorum (“It Takes a Family”, his 2005 book) in the 2012 GOP presidential debates, and help fight for the repeal of DOMA by participating in litigation, and then fought for equal benefits for same-sex spouses in the military.  He ran full circle.

He really covers a lot of ground.  Back in Ohio as a civilian, he had dealt with “change your sexuality” probes by evangelical Christians (I recall the group “Love and Action” in the 1990s).  In the Army, he faced constant intrusiveness from other soldiers over the lack of girl friends, and the culture of sharing so much (like letting people borrow cell phones during his second stint) made civilian expectations of privacy impossible,  Back in 1993, recall, the main arguments against lifting the ban had been the lack of “privacy” in military living, and in the idea of “unit cohesion”.  The privacy issue was often viewed in terms of seeing other men nude, as in showers, and noticing differences (circumcision, or traits like body hair that could be related to race), but the real problems is that tightly cohesive units don’t respect privacy the way gay singles who live alone or in privatized relationships expect. Hill makes the valuable point that sexual cues from gay men in intimate environments are only picked up by other men with gay identity (although I personally think more men “notice” than he wants to admit.)   But the unit cohesion argument ran into another Waterloo;  it had been used before, in 1948 when President Truman integrated the military by race (as in the HBO movie “Truman” with Gary Sinese).

I’ve never bought the “identity politics” idea of “gay rights”.  I think that sexual orientation is a more complex issue than race (and more complex in many ways than gender identity).  Colin Powell had gone into this point in his 1990s book “My American Journey”. A more logical comparison would be to “religion”, because the practice of religion is “behavior” more than it is “genetics” or “biology”.  The question in my mind was always, why did others make my sexual orientation their business, but one answer used to be, they expected me to participate as a “male” as “part of the group” able to protect women and children, sometimes.  That was a bigger part of the issue when I was growing up (in the 50s and 60s) than it is for young men today, at least more affluent young men.

The need for absolute legal and nominal equality in his marriage and personal relationships may seem over the top.  But consider, that to walk in others’ shoes sometimes and really belong to the larger community, one needs to be recognized as fully an equal.  Hill often mentions be thanked for his service and exposure to sacrifice by people who did not recognize the inconsistency of their own attitudes (and sometimes even, as he says, irrational group hatred).

It’s interesting to me that Hill’s narrative is different from mine in that he did not actually deal with conscription as I did (in the 1960s). But he mentions that the Army relented on enforcing DADT when it needed people deployed, and in fact, before DADT, the military often simply avoided bringing up the topic – to the point that the politicization of gender issues in the military under Clinton only added to people’s desire to “ask”. Back in the 1960s, in fact, the Army stopped “asking” on draft physicals, fearing people would use the ban to avoid Vietnam.

Hill mentions SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network), now called Outserve, and talks about meeting the parents of Barry Winchell, murdered in a hate crime on base in 1999, at a dinner in 2012, which I attended.  In fact, I attended all the dinners from 2003 to 2012 except 2011, when I had the flu but had made the donation for the ticket. That year I had to use other people’s YouTube to cover the event on my blogs. I remember the menus, ranging from vegan to “Cornish game hen”.

Hill’s book (like Daniels and Le Blanc, June 23, 2016) will be important ammunition if the Trump administration, with Mattis as Secretary of Defense, wants to erode the gains for non-straight men and all women in the military.  Mattis’ own book (Dec, 7) had questioned the national security implications of “social experimentation” in the military, but, as Hill says, it is all too easy for this ruse to hide animus.

Author: Stephen Snyder-Hill
Title, Subtitle: Soldier of Change
publication date: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61234-697-7
Publication: Potomac Brooks (University of Nebraska Press); 198 pages, paper, 15 roman, 22 chapters with Foreword and Epilogue
Link: author;  Advocate

(Posted: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 6:45 PM EST)

“Mad Dog” Mattis: “Warriors and Citizens”: how distinct should the military be from civilian society?

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Author: James Mattis, editor
Title, Subtitle: Warriors and Citizens: American Views of our Military
publication date 2016
ISBN 978-0-8179-1934-4
Publication: Hoover Press, 360 pages, 11 chapters, hardcoer and Kindle, indexed, endnotes each chapter
Link: official site


President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of former Marine Corps general James Mattis (“Mad Dog”) for Secretary of Defense has drawn attention to the book which he just edited, “Warriors and Citizens: American Views of our Military”. Perhaps it is fitting to review this book on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

The book has essays by various contributors, including Rosa Brooks, Lindsay P. Cohn, Matthew Colford, Thimas Donnelly, Peter D. feaver, Maj. Jim Golby, Jim Hake, Tod Lindberg. MacKubin Thomas Owens, Cody Poplin, Nadia Schadlow, Kiro Schake, Alec J. Sugarman, Benjamin Wittes.

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The last essay, “Enduring a Civil-Military Connection” is co-authored witk Kori Schak, and it pretty well summarizes the basic moral paradoxes that American civilian society and leadership must face in managing its military. In some ways, the tone and even some of the arguments remind me of my own writing, particularly in Chapter2 (about the military draft during Vietnam) and Chapter 4 (about the military gay ban, into the early years of Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”). Mattis is said to have read almost every book ever written, so maybe that includes mine.

Mattis insists that the civilian public understand that the military world is very different in many ways from the customary civilian society: it is responsible for winning wars against enemies who don’t play by the same rules. It needs personnel who bond together in “unit cohesion” in a warrior culture, as offensive or personally problematic as “warrior values” are to many civilians. Several of the other essays mention the early days of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. One mentions that President Clinton lost the initial round in Congress (to Sam Nunn, influences by Charles Moskos) even when he controlled the House. Another essay criticizes Colin Powell and others for threatening to resign over Clinton’s plans. One essay notes well the resistance of many American campuses to allow ROTC and military recruiters, and traces the history particularly at Stanford. (It’s interesting to remember that Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard when the ROTC controversy was all over campus; something he would have known about during the year before he started Facebook.) Mattis does not call for overturning the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” or blatantly refuse to allow women in combat, but he does suggest that the civilian leadership will need to defer more to military leadership when facing an asymmetric enemy with such horrifying values (although we can wonder if ISIS is more terrible than Nazi Germany, whom we faced before). He (as do several other contributors) discusses the cost of an all volunteer military (which, remember, President Kennedy had said in 1961 would become an “all black Army) but he does not take up the possibility of reinstating a draft nor does he take up the opposite idea of abolishing the Selective Service System. He also says that American civilians don’t grasp what it would be like to lose a war, although we did “lose” the Vietnam war, as political support failed after 1973.

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In fact, one of the reasons why the “military ban” matters (and why I re-entered the debate in 1993) is that war can affect civilians who are used to peace and separation from geo-politics. Someone who excluded from “duty” or risk-sharing due to a purported or speculative character defect may well experience loss of opportunity in other areas of life. Furthermore, cherished ideas like freedom of speech (and on social media as we know it know) can be undermined by necessary government reactions to an enemy that places ordinary civilians in the crosshairs as if they were combatants (unwilling but somehow complicit).

Along those lines, Colford and Sugarman, “Young Person’s Game: Connecting with Millennials”, suggests that ROTC or service academy graduates could serve alongside civilians in areas like the CIA or NSA (they already do), or in community activities like teaching disadvantaged youth. That’s actually an idea that is important in a retrospective early chapter of my novel draft “Angel’s Brother”.

Lindberg discusses the public reaction to some movies, especially the reaction of the Left to “American Sniper” (2015), even inovling Michael Moore, before mentioning some other movies, like “Mister Roberts”, “South Pacfiic” (the likeable Joe Cable is killed), “Catch 22”, “The Caine Mutiny”, “The Naked and the Dead”, “From Here to Eternity” (my parents’ favorite), “Mash” (with all the gore), and of course “Patton”.

Brooks notes the earlier attitudes toward the draft, that men were fungible (an idea of George Gilder in “Men and Marriage” (1986)), but young women were more vital to keeping the family or tribe going — almost feeding the “demographic winter” argument that the alt-right likes today.

Several authors note the Clausewitz belief that war, politics, and civilian society in practice are more like a continuum, with blurred boundaries.

(Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2016, at 3:45 PM EST)

New guide for evangelical Christians with “gay friends”, an odd use of the phrase “Do Ask, Do Tell”

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Author: Brad Hambrick
Title, Subtitle: Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk
publication date 2016/3
ISBN 978-1-941114-11-7
Publication: Cruciform Press, 124 pages, paper
Link: Publisher

“I don’t notice men’s bods.” A young coworker, whom I had usually beaten in lunchtime blitz chess games, said to me one morning back in 1972, before my own “Second Coming (out)”.  He, although engaged to marry “traditionally”, was already becoming a plump butterball.

You don’t hear men deny they feel same-sex attraction, or “SSA”, today as much as they did then.  But denial or recognition of SSA (not the Social Security Administration) is a cornerstone idea of this curious little book “Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends”, by Brad Hambrick.

The title uses the same wordmark that I use for my own book series (now three), which had originally been motivated by the history of the (now repealed) “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military. I’ve never thought that a politically charged word moniker like this should be monopolized commercially (like the name “Trump”, perhaps).  But this work is written to sell to a narrow niche audience – evangelical Christians, and is laid out as a handbook, with spaces to enter notes. Curiously, it ends with a sketch of a dialogue for a Christian’s responding to a gay friend’s asking him to come to the friend’s future same-sex wedding.  That could make a “ten minute play” (a concept in some small towns, like a summer festival in Chestertown, MD) or a short film.

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I’ve seen niche “handbooks” for gay rights before.  In the 1990s,, there was a pair of books, with red “Do Ask, Do Tell” buttons on the cover (but not part of the title) by Bob Powers and Allan Ellis, two guides on sexual orientation for managers, and then family.  I don’t personally write this way, because it seems to pander “baby talk”, but maybe my own saying that sounds a little contemptuous of meeting “real need”.

First, let me credit the author for some political libertarianism.  He says that some behaviors that religion regards as immoral according to scripture should not be legislated as crimes (and indeed Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 made sodomy laws unconstitutional). He also gives a short biography of Alan Turing, recognizing Turing’s accomplishment (probably saving western civilization from Nazism) and laments how the British government subsequently treated his homosexuality in 1952, with chemical castration, leading to Turing’s suicide.  He seems to understand that Turing had his own unusual kind of personal charisma. S I hope he is contemplating voting for Johnson-Weld in 2016.

He also volunteers the disclaimer at opposing an association with homosexuals is not his own personal “hill to die on”, to use a (Vietnam-era) military metaphor. One wonders why anyone would expect this of him.

For the rest of this review, I would like to play the role of that “friend” in his book, somewhere between what he would call “Christian” and “non-Christian”.  As I indicated in a review of Bass’s “Grounded” on Sept. 4, I don’t experience Christianity in a personalized, emotional way of many evangelicals, but match it up with physics and cosmology.

Hambrick views men with SSA (and probably lesbians and transgender) as “suffering” because of the “fall”.  He also spends a lot of space in the middle of the book analyzing some scriptures.  Most pastors know that even within denominations, various churches or synods interpret specific scriptures differently.  The Baptist denomination exists largely over the interpretation of adult v. child baptism, and with the denomination in the US there has always been major divisions over political questions (beginning with slavery and race). Within Christianity, there are many ways of viewing homosexuality that mainstream scholars view as academically defendable.

I can understand that people want to find guides for behavior and attitudes in specific scriptures. One way to comprehend this is to realize that with secular intellect alone, one can rationalize almost any social or political system according to what one otherwise fantasizes he wants to do.  One can even, with secular thinking, rationalize fascist values, which brings up the question of the actions and caring needed from all of us to support the value of all human life in the future – although life that does not yet “exist” (not yet conceived, as with far future generations or lineage) does raise a philosophical question of its own.  On the other hand (as we see with radical Islam) authoritarian religious dogma can be handed down in such a way as to justify horrible behaviors, too.

But my own SSA does not unfold as “suffering” but as an enticing, self-completing world of fantasy or alternate reality.  The “suffering” came from the ostracism and discrimination early in my adulthood – being thrown out of William and Mary as a freshman in November 1961 for telling the Dean of Men that I am gay, and then undergoing “therapy” at NIH in 1962 while the Cuban Missile Crisis raged “on the outside”.

Evangelical Christians have been concerned with scriptural admonitions about the expression of sexuality, but I can provide a perspective on “what people want” from a practical perspective.

I think that Hambrick is right, that male homosexuality can be a mixture of biological influences and imprinting of cultural values.  It’s more common for second sons to be gay, and this could happen because of epigenetic womb influences (but not because of Original Sin).  In some cases the younger son is actually physically stronger than the straight older son.  But I am an only child, so that doesn’t apply to me.  I was frail and fell behind my peers physically.  So I tended to equate the combination of both smarts and physical presence and various secondary sexual characteristics as equivalent to “virtue”.  Again, this is rationalism for its own sake.  But that “imprinting” led to my awareness of sexual arousal in the presence of a small subset of young men.

So what did people really want from me?  Well, for one thing, my being an only child highlights one aspect of my circumstances: I was likely never going to experience sexual intercourse with a female and give my parents a lineage.  The family would die with me, for all eternity.

What we call “homophobia” is a sliding phenomenon, rather like referred pain or vague nausea in neurology.  It’s a combination of concerns about the welfare of the family, tribe or herd, considered as a whole, not about the individual.  “Tribal” cultures facing external threats indeed are more likely to follow authoritarian leaders, religious teachings, and impose invasive rules on the behaviors of their members, “for the good of everyone.”  As societies get richer, the need for mediating individual tastes and behaviors becomes less. But societies can lose sustainability  and particularly resilience.

At its heart, objection to homosexuality has a lot to do with a perceived threat to procreation for the group.  There is a fear that less secure males will decide that it is not important to have children, if homosexuality is acceptable.  That seems to be driving the anti-homosexual propaganda law in Russia (that has a dwindling population problem).  There is also a fear that women will get the idea they do not need to receptive to men.  When I was a young adult in 1972 and had already tried some passionless heterosexual dating, I was aware of the desire to “have” a family life, but I did not recognize an inherent personal value in fathering and raising my own children — in fact, I may have harbored some “reverse eugenics” in my own thinking. I had no grasp of the intimacy that could be required to tend to an expectant spouse, and remain erotically interested in her (for a lifetime) despite constant physical appearance changes.

The “demographic winter” argument has been articulated in the US among some socially conservative circles, such as by Philip Longman in his 2004 book “The Empty Cradle“, who has even written that childless adults (probably LG often) are “too preoccupied with themselves” to want or need their own children, but then it becomes harder to become socially relevant to others in times of real need.

There is also a fear that, in a smaller group, homosexual males will “scope” other men and make other men conscious of themselves.  This was a concern (along with unit cohesion) in the early days of the debate over gays in the military (a mix or privacy and unit cohesion concerns), but over time it tended to fade, partly because soldiers are better educated and society as a whole is “richer”.

The idea that everyone should be expected to confine their personal experience of sexuality to traditional marriage (“until death do us part”, with openness to procreation, the traditional Vatican idea), could be viewed as an “equalizer” of sorts, even if this idea seems to be a paradox. Society might be viewed as more stable and meaningful to the otherwise disadvantaged if everyone is exposed to some of the same risks of responsibility for others. But that mediates the meaning of marriage, as much more about the community than just the couple itself.

Conservative writer George Gilder had expressed some of these ideas in a couple of now forgotten books, “Sexual Suicide” (1973) and “Men and Marriage” (1986).  Gilder regarded (young) men as largely fungible (fodder for conscription) outside of marriage with kids, and presented women as inherently “sexually superior” to men because they don’t have to prove themselves by “performing”.  It’s pretty heavy stuff.  But he dismissed homosexuality with a phrase “the perils of androgyny” as if transgender did not exist. Gilder coined a term that describes my own psychological strategy, “upward affiliation“.  That is, it is a “fatal flaw” in me that I don’t find emotional value in bonding with people who need me for adaptive purposes.

Gilder’s writing also suggests a certain herd effect in the supposed self-discipline and “opportunity cost” involved in men’s restricting sexuality to procreative marriage. If everyone else can be counted on to honor the the same rules, then the committed, life-long marital experience has more psychic value.  But that also suggests the “Pharisee” problem:  preoccupation with rules and order for their own sake, as a source of meaning and sometimes a sense of superiority to others in a social hierarchy.

The “herd effect” and public health concerns (about gay men) leveraged by the far right in the 1980s when AIDS exploded have been largely forgotten.  But I’ve documented all of this in a few specific postings from a “McCarthyism” label on my “Do Ask So Tell Notes” blog:  1, 2, 3.

 

“Citizen Lobbyist” documents 2004 transgender activism in Congress

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Citizen Lobbyist” (2005), by Timothy Watts. Is a 58-minute documentary tracing a few days of lobbying by members of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.  It’s all filmed in Washington, with a session in Senator Lugar’s office, on the Metro (in the days before Safe Track, about when “Five Lines” was filmed), and a closing section at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial near the Lincoln Memorial.

I often talk about “citizen journalists”, so it’s natural to ponder the role of the “citizen lobbyist”.

The main point of contention is that the regular “gay establishment”, especially HRC (Human Rights Campaign), doesn’t seem to have the backs of transgender people, at least in 2004.  HRC is viewed as willing to throw transgender under the bus to get ENDA and hate crimes bills passed for “normal” gay men and women.  The film maintains that over 50% of transgender people are unemployed.

The first lobbying session happens on April 30, 2004, which is ironically the day that I started substitute teaching.   These are the time just before gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts after the Goodridge decision . The lobbyist point out that anti-gay violence often increases after gay political victories, and anti-trans violence is out of proportion to other crimes.  Anti-gay violence is reported to have increased particularly after the Lawrence v. Texas ruling on the 21.06 Texas sodomy law in June 2003.  There is a narrative a murder of a trans person in Washington in 2002 where police didn’t even leave any tape to close off the crime scene. While the woman relates that story, a passage from what sounds like the Symphony #8 by Shostakovich plays in the background.

In the scene in Lugar’s office, a woman-to-man transgender man explains that he is heterosexual now, and he enumerates the possible mathematical combinations of sexual identity components. But a transgender woman frankly supports the “blurring of genders” and “gender queer” in public consciousness (a bordering on identity politics).

The section at the Vietnam memorial gives a number of transgender people talk about their issues wityh “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, still in place at the time, and also some relate their experiences serving in Vietnam, or even as drill sergeants (even at Fort Jackson).

Let me come back to the difference between journalism (which demands objectivity) and lobbying (which demands loyalty to the constituent group and often must honor partisanship).  I value my own independent voice online as a “journalist”, and I would have to give that up to work publicly to support another group’s agenda or in various conflict-of-interest situations, which would force me kicking and screaming back to identity politics.  I don’t need to pay someone else to speak for me, but if I had to make a “real living” like most people as a huckster, I’d have to.

The film is posted by the Center for LGBT History and Archives.

(Posted Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)