Choose Life

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the death of a former student this week.  She was 28 years-old, super creative, smart and hard working.  More importantly she was one of those people who was just a bright light in rooms where too often we’re surrounded by dim bulbs.

This is not to exalt my student into a deity.  It was just that her essence seemed to radiate outwards and make people feel good.  This was confirmed to me in the last few weeks where dozens and dozens of people posted similar testimonies online.

Some people really do seem this big and full of life… she was one of them

My student was not ill nor was she the victim of a crime.  Her death was apparently an accident, and, as a young white woman, it was unsurprisingly not at the hands of law enforcement.

This observation is not meant to be snide or timely. It’s more to put it into a 2020 shorthand that can be most easily understood given the reality of what we’re all living through right now.

Loss is loss but death is death and life, such as it is, is life.

Yes, you may write that down.

Roger that, Chairy

Loss hurts, loss makes you angry, loss can overtake your every waking hour and loss can take a lifetime to heal, if it ever fully does.  Of course, the truth is it never quite does, nor do you really want it to.  The loss, whether you like it or not, becomes a permanent part of the ever-evolving imprint of you.

What you choose to do with the loss is your own business and your own decision.  But if it’s true loss there will be a scar, visible to others or not.  To expect this not to be is to pretend your face in middle age and old age will look exactly the same as it did when you were 28 years old.

That statement alone brings up all kinds of images to me of my lovely former student whose face will now never change.  But it is also a reminder of the luxury of aging and the opportunities it can afford if you make it past 28 years old.  Most of us spend so much time wishing or trying to believably look frozen in our late twenties as time rolls on that we forget the true cost of what it is to actually do so.

This brings us to life and death.

It might not sound cheery but, trust me, it is.

Coexisting

Anyone who has managed to navigate deep loss and come out the other side, no easy feat, can tell you that there is no real choice in the matter despite how he/she might have been leaning in any given moment.

However crappy life and the current events that accompany it may seem, it still beats the alternative of trading places with that person whose time was cut so drastically short and for whom a tiny part of you will always mourn.

Watching tens of thousands of people line up in the streets of most American cities and towns demanding racial justice and shouting that Black Lives Matter these past two weeks is both powerful and enraging.  But the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans (Note:  Now about 67% of us) say they support both the cause and the demonstrators is encouraging.

Powerful art right in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Still, even more discouraging is the irrefutable truth that an endless daisy chain of non-white families will continue to sacrifice a loved one to systemic racism and law enforcement right before our eyes, live on our screens, unless we get over ourselves and what passes for our lives at this particular touch point in time.

Despite two weeks of nationwide demonstrations the latest public sacrifice happened Saturday morning in Atlanta to 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, an African American male, father, sibling and child.

Yet again

Mr. Brooks was asleep in his car at a Wendy’s parking lot when police approached, woke him up and spoke to him for a while before putting him under immediate arrest for no pressing crime.

A scuffle ensued and they pulled out their taser gun to shoot but Mr. Brooks grabbed the taser away, turned and ran in the opposite direction on foot, only to be shot dead in the back at point blank range.

They never got to the almost nine-minute knee on the neck public police execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis several weeks ago that ignited the current ongoing national uproar. Instead Mr. Brooks’ very public death mirrors the more commonplace executions of youngish people of color by law enforcement that the American people have been out in the streets demonstrating against in the name of George Floyd to begin with.

How many more faces will we need to add to this? (New Yorker cover by Kadir Nelson)

This latest iteration of “disruptors” standing directly on the Atlanta interstate blockading traffic as buildings crumble in fiery protest across the city are what pass for the principal signs of life in that area.

Meanwhile, the rest of the city and country reels in a sea of loss, none more so than the family, friends and children this latest “incident” leaves behind.

In this current scenario, of course Mr. Brooks is cast against his will as death, his being the latest in a very specific epidemic that merely serves to remind us of all the many iterations that came before it.  Not to mention the many other memories of loss and death that surface for those of us living through this modern day dystopia unrelated to him or his family.

A sign for our time

One could argue, of course, that to choose this kind of life on the streets of America is to not choose life at all but rather one long infinity of prolonged pain leading into our masse eventual death.

Yet as the body counts rise and the mourning pain deepens it might help to remember that the one cool constant thing about life is you can still change your mind.  Meaning that you always have the choice to do it a different way until death comes knocking, or rather, barreling through your door.

Unlike Mr. Floyd, Mr. Brooks and the many other ageless faces of those who’ve touched our lives whose choices were taken away long before their time.

George Harrison – “What is Life”

Hello Lady G

There is only so much a white guy like me should weigh in on in regards to Black Lives Matter and the coast–to-coast protests regarding the very recent public execution of George Floyd via the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

Us white people could say a lot, and many of us have as we’ve lent our support and voices to nationwide (and international) street protests, but even more important is LISTENING and really HEARING.

However, if you happen to be a white GAY guy like me, there is something you most certainly can and should weigh in on.  And that’s the outing of Lady G.

No not LADY GAGA, who happens to have a new album (Chromatica) out now, but LADY G.

Make that a HELL NO

Who is Lady G?

Well, pretty much the opposite of Lady Gaga.

Lady G is a pseudonym for a longtime U.S. senator from South Carolina at the top echelons of power in this country (Note:  Chair of the Judiciary Committee and a frequent golfing companion to Electoral College President Donald J. Trump. And no, it’s not Tim Scott, South Carolina’s junior, and only OTHER, senator).

Oh no.. I’m shocked.. can’t believe it…

Lady G is also, more importantly, someone who has consistently and vociferously publicly denied being homosexual while very consistently and very vociferously voting and advocating AGAINST every major piece of legislation/law in support of the LGBTQ community for the last two decades.

Lady G voted:

  • Against same sex marriage, compared it to polygamy, said changing marriage would be only to suit the gay agenda and that, most importantly, it was against the national interest.
  • For the Federal Marriage Amendment (Note: To enshrine in the US Constitution that marriage be between a man and a woman) because a handful of liberal judges in Massachusetts should not be able to change the definition of marriage for the rest of the country.
  • Against including LGBT people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, claiming it was unnecessary.
  • Against same-sex couple adoptions, because to change the adoption laws to recognize same-sex couples, would be not consistent with our state (South Carolina).
  • Against including LGBTQ people in the federal hate crimes bill, proclaiming there was no need and it would ultimately divide America.
  • Against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because there was no groundswell of opposition to it within the military. (Note: And later criticized its repeal, arguing it would cause an increased risk of casualties).

We could go on and on and on but click here for more info.

Yep, we are with you Gaga

Some of the above is what spurred a gay adult film actor and sex worker (nee escort for hire) named Sean Harding to several days ago post the following on Twitter:

There is a homophobic republican senator who is no better than Trump who keeps passing legislation that is damaging to the lgbt and minority communities. Every sex worker I know has been hired by this man. Wondering if enough of us spoke out if that could get him out of office?

Since then at least two other sex workers have personally come forward to Mr. Harding with corroborating stories about the senator that go back for years.   Not to mention Mr. Harding and the Lady G moniker began trending on Twitter.

Cue Pence clutching his pearls…

Many more sex workers have also posted online about similar encounters with Lady G but, like Mr. Harding, they are a bit frightened to come forward because they all signed NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) about their encounters since the Lady is a very experienced attorney.

Yet in the truth telling age of sex workers like Stormy Daniels, Mr. Harding and his colleagues are in the process of hiring legal representation in order to unmuzzle themselves and speak their truths.  The latter would presumably include giving specific and indisputable details of their encounters with their said client.

So — what is their end game?

To expose this senator for the hypocrite that he is and get him voted out of office.

Time’s up… for both of you

See, if Lady G were not in such a public and powerful position to continue to do so much damage to a community he claims to NOT be a part of but clearly IS a part of, there could be a debate about things like a right to privacy.

But when a person of power is instrumental in passing and arm-twisting for legislation that publicly criticizes, condemns and denies rights most specifically TO that community, all bets are off.

Unlike people of color, there are those in the gay community who can hide their identities, publicly blend in and actively participate in the repression of that which they would ideally choose not to be in the name of career or some twisted sense of self-loathing morality.

Certainly they have a right to do this.

In the same way that those in that repressed community have the right to speak out and fight back against that said repression.

This is not to equate this fight to what is currently going on in our streets in the name of Black Lives Matter.  It is simply to point out that nothing will change if we continue to sweep hypocrisy under the rug and fail to speak truth to power.

Lady G was once far ahead in the polls for reelection in 2020 and is now polling dead even (Note: Even pre Mr. Harding’s tweet) with the competing candidate from the Democratic Party.

Take down time (amazing photo from Mother Jones)

Ironically this person is a Black man who has never held public office but has an impeccable and extensive resume in both the private and public sector.  He is the current associate chairman and counselor to the DNC and his name Jaime Harrison.

Mr. Harrison is the former head of the South Carolina Democratic Party, a political science graduate from Yale University who went on to receive a law degree from Georgetown University, a former high school teacher, a former leader of a non-profit (College Summit) that helps low income youth find a path to college and a career, and former director of floor operations for Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC)  (Note: A longtime Joe Biden confidante) when he was Minority Whip of the House.

In addition to his current duties at the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Harrison has in his more recent past even co-taught a course at the University of South Carolina with Matt Moore, a political rival but also his very good friend who happens to be the chairman of South Carolina’s Republican Party.

Go Jaime Go!

Prior to and all during his campaign Mr. Harrison has consistently stated that he doesn’t see his message to voters in the traditional progressive vs. conservative/ Democratic vs. Republican mindset but instead notes it’s really going to boil down to right vs. wrong.

Of course in the long run, that’s what it always boils down to – whether you’re a sex worker, politician or voter.

Lady Gaga (ft. Ariana Grande) – “Rain on Me”