Dear King Inc. (makers of Candy Crush, and all other crushes),

My cousin Wayne told me to get ahold of you because he says you’re a decent company that’s done a lot of good for dudes like me, so here goes nothing. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of your online games. My girlfriend is always yelling at me for being on my phone but, like Wayne says, sometimes we men just want to come home from work, sit in our semi-clean boxers, and not talk about our feelings. Am I right?! (INSERT: Fist-pump).

I love playing your soul-crushy, blood-diamond-diggy, endangered-species-punchy games. They’re real mind blenders and I’m sure are keeping me sharp and fertile. But Candy Crush is the best. For serious, you’ve got to tell me how you come up with all of those snazzy scenarios? The strategies you must have to create in your lab just to get us players through the mazes of nougat and jellies? Genius! It’s all I can think about! I dream in red jelly bean, striped peppermint, purple gumdrop. When I lie down to play my synapses start firing like I’m fighting rabid insects or terrorists: left green blob to middle gum drop—COLLISION; bottom lemon to top orange— BOOM; corner cherry to perpendicular grape—DESTROY; side blueberry to side strawberry—KILL, KILL, KILL. So many possibilities, I could just burn a flag thinking about it. And when I get those three gold stars at the end of each level, I know my life, including the premature balding, the clogged toilets, and my second divorce, has all been worth it.

But here’s the thing; most recently this game of yours is keeping me up at night. Playing it feels UNREAL, like you’re riding on a double rainbow, or tasting that first drop of sweat you get when you’re cutting up bacon to put in your Hamburger Helper. I mean the graphics alone…they’re fucking wild—like firm, round, succulent, throbbing breadsticks. Problem is, I’m stuck solid on this one level and I can’t get out and it’s making me sick. My girlfriend tells me the game is all luck and that I need to get over myself. But we all know what she’s really thinking: the more time I play your games, the less time I have to talk about marriage number three. Am I right? (INSERT: head nod). Yeah dude, I know you’re probably thinking: Jerry, is she the one? Sure! Maybe. I mean, I don’t really have much time to think about her, because I’m still stuck on level 19606.

You got to know me, that I’m not that guy—the dick who complains. I once found a human eyeball in my Big Slop at the diner and all I asked the waitress for was a refill. But I’ve been stuck on this level for six months now and it’s got me really messed up. And before you say it, yes, I’ve been proactive. I’ve already Facebook friended every person I know for additional lives. I also Facebooked my girlfriend’s friends, her dead mother’s friends, and even made a separate account under the pseudonym “Ripe Cherry” so I could hit up all of the recommended friends of friends of friends Facebook sends my way. It’s just not enough!

I started Candy Crush by promising the girlfriend I’d never spend any money on it—you know, for extra lives, or gold bars, or black donut holes of death—super candies that can annihilate all of my enemies. And I am a man of my word. But I have dabbled with a bit of online buying. Who cares, right? That’s what third credit cards are for. I mean, that holiday fund was just as much mine as it was hers, and I can stop playing whenever I want to. I want to spend my hard earned money on something hard won. Besides, that kidney dialysis treatment I just got told to have is only one doctor’s suggestion, and I’m a gambling man.

I know in my heart it’s the chocolate’s fault. You know, those brown squares that invade the screen? I’m sure you created those little bastards for a reason that you all think is super important to the mathematics of the game, and I respect that, I do. But I want to talk to you about the dangerous mental health concerns that lie beneath the chocolate square. First the facts: since they were introduced around level 100, my personal health has been, well, touch and go. I’ve become a tad paranoid. Like take the other day for instance: I came home to our place early, hoping to take a dump and play some Candy Crush in peace, when I saw cousin Wayne jumping out of our bedroom window, naked. I know what you’re thinking: Relax Jerry. It’s Wayne. He’s your cousin, man! But my mind went right to no good. It wasn’t until my girlfriend kindly explained to me, that Wayne had just been there trying to fix her plumbing, that I calmed myself. Can you believe it? I almost freaked on Wayne, the one guy who has been trying to help my girlfriend out. What is wrong with me? There’s more, too. Lately whenever I play any level where the chocolate shows up I experience the following physical symptoms: dry mouth, heart palpitations, rashes, painful boils, extraneous haemorrhoids, sleep apnea, chest pains, and minor erectile issues. I have no appetite for the morning wheat germ smoothies my girlfriend makes me and Wayne on the nights he sleeps over to keep her company while I play; some of my pubic hair is falling out; I can’t see out of my left eye. And I can’t shit.

The problem? There’s no logic to your chocolate; they act like my herpes, showing up all unannounced just to be an asshole, and even more so when I’m already losing, kicking me right in the balls.

I’ve had to take a leave from work. My girlfriend has set me up with a private room in the attic, you know, to make it easier for me to play, but it’s going to shit. Now when I’m trying to play chocolate overtakes everything. My mouth dries up and I can’t keep fluids down. The walls of my room start coming closer and closer, and the chocolates keep growing, popping up everywhere like my ex-mother-in-law. It’s like I’m being eaten alive. I see my mortality melting. EAT THE CHOCOLATE a little voice inside me says. DON’T GET MARRIED it says, too. WAYNE IS NOT A PLUMBER I hear, as the cocoa bites ingest the screen, faster and faster, swallowing the jellybeans, towering chocolate squares on top of chocolate squares like a diabetic Trump Tower. Candy Crush needs a trigger warning, or a cheat button.

Wayne says it’s all in the wrist, but what does he know? He’s only on level 16. Clearly these chocolate pieces are dangerous for me, toxic even. My girlfriend thinks your game might be giving me an anxiety disorder. She thinks I should get a 1 million dollar life insurance policy that names her as the sole benefactor, you know, in case something should happen to me. Wayne agrees with her, but I dunno. Is it possible I might just be overreacting?

Thank God my girlfriend has been really patient as of late. Since she’s a pharmacist’s assistant she’s been giving me lots of little pills, and has been cooking me delicious meals while I play Crush all day. And even though they taste a bit funny, like sour metal, she’s a catch. She even has stockpiled rat poison and arsenic in the kitchen next to the condiments just in case we develop a pest problem, which Wayne says is super likely since he’s been helping us with my girlfriend’s plumbing. I’m so lucky she puts up with me. Oh look! Here she is with my dinner now. What’s that, that you’ve sprinkled on top of my meat, honey? A new kind of salt? You’re so wonderful. Yes, I’ll keep playing now. Love youuuuu! She’s so supportive, always cooking for me. Wait. Uh oh, here come the chocolate squares. I can feel the dizzy spells coming on. AH! TAKE A BITE OF FOOD. My heart is starting to pound. Oh shit!! I. just. can’t. breathe. This game is killing me!

Sincerely,

Getting Candy Crushed

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Losing Indigenous Knowledge: The Risk of Bill C-626

bad statsDuring this heated election race between Harper, Trudeau, Mulcair, and May there has been much debate over reengaging the mandatory, long-form census. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s that long form that your parents probably filled out for you (as mine did) when you were a kid. It asks mundane questions  about income, family size, and all that stuff, but it is used (and at times abused) by researchers all over the world when they are creating a narrative about specific populations.

Following the admitted disaster of 2011’s voluntary and shorter National Household Survey (NHS), the current Federal Government has been urged repeatedly by activists, statisticians, and researchers alike to rethink Stephen Harper’s decision to get rid of the long-form census. They have claimed that for the sake of good data, they need the old census back. Stephen Harper, however, is not interested in reputable, or fair data.

At the time the NHS was released in 2013, I was working as a researcher for an Indigenous organization in Toronto. At first, the pitfalls of the NHS were laughed off with a cynicism that comes from a history of people’s ignorance about Indigenous life. Of course the NHS was a joke, we shrugged. The previous long-form census from Statistics Canada in 2006 thoroughly misrepresented and screwed up any information about urban Aboriginal culture, so why would this survey prove any better? Statistics Canada was clearly in the back pocket of the government back then, and was still there today. Why bother even fighting for a longer version of the same shitty surveys that obliterate ethical considerations when talking about marginalized communities? evangelismstat

But, during a walk throughout the downtown core, visiting the Indigenous social service providing organizations I represented, I immediately got why the NHS and its repercussions weren’t a joke. With the highest population of homelessness, incarceration, foster care, and unemployment in Canada, the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people I worked alongside on the streets of Toronto sure weren’t laughing.

To their credit, Statistics Canada admitted that a lot of their data concerning Indigenous people was inaccurate. They seemed genuinely baffled by the large “non-response rate” of our most marginalized populations, but did little to question their research tools or practices. Here’s an example: While the NHS reports that there are just 19, 270 First Nations, Metis and Inuit people living in Toronto, 2012’s Toronto Aboriginal Research Project (TARP) report found that there are close to 70,000 Aboriginal people in this city. How can Statistics Canada account for this discrepancy? It can’t.

When it was announced how the NHS was created and disseminated, it became clearer why the data the NHS published was careless. While the TARP Report was conducted by Indigenous scholars and agencies in Toronto who used community-based approaches and cultural contextual knowledge to get their information, from its inception, the NHS did not consult with Indigenous communities. And the NHS was not properly advertised or promoted. Shocker. Non-status people were not included in the survey, Metis were forgotten, and Indigenous people who were homeless at the time (couch surfing, or street living) weren’t even accounted for.

The reasons the NHS failed so many Indigenous people across Canada are easily understood. How to make amends is not so easy.

The statistics gleaned from these census reports may seem boring and arbitrary to the general reader. But this data can effect the lives of entire populations for years to come. Federal, Provincial, and Municipal funding relies upon these numbers to allocate important resources to diverse populations. For instance, if a community hub wants to apply for city funding to build transition homes for Aboriginal street youth, this community organization must first prove the presence of homeless Indigenous youth in their area. The NHS listed entire communities in Toronto by population, and yet many of these areas were reported to have no Aboriginal people living their at all. This is preposterous, and yet the data remains untouched. If urban Indigenous communities are not properly represented by the census, money and important social resources will be lost, as will histories, languages, and lives.

bad-statisticsIf the goal of research remains to ensure Canada’s economic and political power globally, we’ve already missed the point of ethics. Research shouldn’t set out to prove itself at any cost. It must begin with the desire to know a truth, even if the answer isn’t going to make a country wealthier, more powerful, or a scholar publishable. Academics, researchers, and activists might have the best of intentions when wanting to unpack the lived realities of Indigenous peoples, and statistics are one potential way of beginning this journey. However, the path to ethical statistics does not begin in a classroom. And research cannot be done in a government boardroom, or in a laboratory, without deep consultation and respectful connection.

It’s high time we realize we have to listen to what Indigenous people can and have been teaching us all along. All research starts with trust and transparency, and no research can be reliable without the respect of those being talked about. The long-form census appears to be a better choice; however, it may simply be a case of the lesser of two evils. When it comes to culturally sensitive work, the traps the NHS fell into are also those which the long-form census simply blows some dust off and reconditions. More needs to be done to ensure that First Nations, Metis and Inuit people living in Canada are made the leaders and partners of their own research initiatives, and any Federal government must understand that knowledge is a gift to be shared, not taken.

If we can create a census where lives are valued and stories are listened to, we might actually learn something worth calculating.

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Is Canada Ready For a Bearded Man? (What The Globe and Mail Failed to Mention)

So, I submitted this article to The Globe and Mail and they agreed to take it. I was so surprised anFuck_Proroguing_by_ThreeEyesWormd excited, because it would mean my thoughts on the Harper government would be heard–with some humour sliced in there for fun. But the editor who took my piece failed to mention they were going to edit the fek out of it, taking out the parts that I am most happy with (i.e. the political stuff!), and the parts that make this thing an argument! It’s my own fault. I expect nothing more from The Globe, but it still saddened me.
I’m totally cool with people not wanting to hear my satirical take on the upcoming election. I’m even fine with the Globe and Mail wanting to sell more papers, and even changing my title. I’m fine with the hundreds of comments calling for my head because they presume I’m something I’m not. That’s all par for the course. But what saddens me is that the paragraphs I wrote, the ones that made the argument that no one cares about Mulcair’s beard except the people who care enough not to vote for him because of it, were left out; that Stephen Harper has got to go; that he’s terrifying and a human rights monster; that we need to get him out in any way we can, and if that means Mulcair shaves his flipping beard, so be it.

So here’s what I wrote, word for word, if anyone wants a laugh and a bit of a howl!

———-

Is Canada Ready For a Bearded Man? 

I am an NDP Prince Edward Islander. The island is very much a two-party province that switches from Liberal to
Conservative in the same way our farmers rotate their crops. The NDP voter is treated like a curious butterfly: pretty to look at, but dead within days of their birth only to find themselves pinned to some child’s school project. But the times are a changing and pigs are flying. ‘Anyone But Harper’ campaigns are cropping up in once largely Conservative towns, and a member of the Green Party was recently elected on PEI. More importantly, my Liberal voting father and I finally agree on two key political points: Canada is in need of a government change. And Thomas Mulcair needs to get rid of his beard.

In the western world, there is an axiom in politics about facial hair that goes something like this: if you have a beard, you will not be elected. It’s more than a superstition; it’s a fact. In the history of Canadian politics, only two Prime Ministers had beards—Alexander Mackenzie in 1873, and MacKenzie Bowell in 1894. However, neither were elected by the people; they were both appointed Prime Minister only after resignations and deaths. Similar hairless track records plague the US and the UK, and it’s not simply beards that get unwanted attention. Stephen Harper has used Justin Trudeau’s luscious locks as a means to suggest that while the young man has “nice hair,” he is clearly too baby-faced to take on the grown-up issues. Following suit, the Liberals have released a video that pokes fun at the Prime Minister’s obsession with Trudeau’s hair, but this public dispute raises real questions about the seriousness of voters’ inclinations towards facial profiling.

The hipster may be here to stay, but the fact remains that many people don’t trust men with beards to run countries. Why? There are a plethora of reasons, some which are so negative and discriminatory that I won’t even give them value by mentioning them. Those who actually believe horrible stereotypes about minority groups and overgrown facial hair surely won’t be voting NDP anyway. Likewise, the stalwart NDP voter is generally someone who dismisses ludicrous excuses for hatred and ignorance. I’m speaking here to the fence-sitter who usually votes Liberal, but who is considering voting NDP in October in order to unseat Stephen Harper. This voter is who we need to pay more attention to.

Some feminists have admitted that they see a white man with a beard and immediately think he is aggressive or sexist. Other voters have argued they find beards untidy or lazy, or that they immediately think about hippies, free love, and communism. Liberal voters might trust bearded men to chop wood, write screenplays, and play in bands, but making decisions about wars and national economic programs are tasks they believe are best left in the hands of the cleanly shaved. Is this reasoning warranted? No, of course not, but really is now the time to try and fight that battle?

The reality of the situation is that Stephen Harper has delivered the worst economy Canadians have seen in 69 years. His oppression of Indigenous people has been devastating for both urban and on-reserve communities. His own government has been plagued with scandals and lies, and he seems unable to take any form of responsibility, which makes him either incompetent or untrustworthy. We NDP (and many Liberal voters) are ready for a positive change.

I’m not saying Mr. Mulcair should believe that he has to shave in order to be a good Prime Minister. A beard shouldn’t say anything about a person’s abilities to lead. But for me, Mr. Mulcair becoming the first bearded man in office is not the sort of celebratory win for a minority group that I as a voter am hoping for. There are much bigger concerns out there that need his attention. So, why gamble? Mr. Mulcair, please play the odds and cut the beard. You can always grow your hair back, but not your country.

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An Open Letter to the Doctor Who Saved My Father’s Life

To The Doctor Who Saved My Father’s Life,

I can’t refer to you by name because I never actually met you. But the nurses have assured me you are indeed real, and a very busy, trust-funded, white man. While I’m sure you’re used to praise for your “lifesaving” treatments, I, on the other hand, have only one question for you: What the hell have you done to my father?

In case you have no recollection which ‘my father’ I am referring to— as I’m certain you perform miracles daily on 60-something, tire-fat guys who see exercise as a punishment for having the garage too far away from their houses—let me jog your memory a bit. Mine is the one you ruined by saving. Okay, I get it. I sound ungrateful. Fair. I mean, you probably have women showing up on your doorstep all of the time with their fresh cherry pies and paternity tests, thanking you for freezing their omelettes. Old men with Portland, Maine accents that sound slightly British from watching Downton Abbey marathons probably take you to their golf clubs, standing in awe as you recount that same story over and over again (the one where you were in surgery for 19 hours separating a set of 7 year-old conjoined triplets with cleft lips, who had fallen out of a hot air balloon while escaping their torrid lives in Greenland). The chaps might glibly laugh that the triplets were, all three, probably Democrats, anyway.

“Well, it’s not for me to judge,” you would say with a chuckle, your e-cigarette pinching the left buttock in your back pocket.

Yes, doctor, you angel of a man, did save my father’s life. His quadruple bypass surgery was textbook, and the sternum infection that developed soon after had nothing at all to do with your care. In fact, your hospital has assured our lawyers and their lawyers’ lawyers it had nothing at all to do with the diet of canned pineapple squares and microwave fish sticks your hospital fed him daily, either—all gluten free. That infection also surely didn’t manifest itself because you forgot your Class of 1983 graduation ring in my father’s gaping chest cavity where it grew a tail. Nope, my father’s infection was all of his own doing. The dirty rogue deserved his punishment. The real problem, however, is that yesterday my father told me he loved me.

“Well, that’s splendid,” you might say.

No sir, it certainly is not. My father is an asshole. When I was born he tried to name me ‘Bud Light’ just to win a $20 bet with his AA group. Before you came along, he smoked three packs a day—more on weekends, less when sleeping, all inside the house. As a kid, he taught me to ride my bike by chasing me down the road in his truck yelling, “do or die, duck legs!” He fried his vegetables in bacon fat because he thought it made his skin shinier. He killed my pet pig, Hammie, so he could fry his vegetables in bacon fat. When my brother brought his vegan girlfriend over for Easter, my father poured steak blood into her mashed potatoes. She’s a vegan, I reminded him. “No, she’s just autistic,” he said.

Still not convinced? On our school break when other kids were going to Disneyland with their fathers, Dad took us to the local carwash and told my baby brother to open the door to find the secret waterslide. He asked my first ever girlfriend if her third-wave feminism was simply a yet-to-be-diagnosed STD. But I knew he was a changed man the second my father woke up alive.

My first clue? He asked to see all four of us children. Before his surgery, my father was pretty sure my sister and I were the same person, and that my mother had walked by a pair of old pants to get pregnant with my middle brother. Now he actually calls us by name. Like last week when I popped over to mow the lawn, Dad stood in the driveway like he was Gwyneth Paltrow getting her Oscar.

“Thank you, Polly. Thank you so much. Yes, your father is a crier now.”

Then he actually hugged me. I’m sorry, but what?

Can I tell you the worst of it, though? Since you screwed around with his heart, my father has decided he’s in love with my mother again. Us kids have watched their tortured marriage for decades and have actually bought each of them divorce lawyers on three separate Christmases. He has taken her for granted like a rock star for 42 years. Now he pops into her bedroom at night, “just to see if she needs anything.” My mother is terrified! We all are. We don’t know this man.

You told us his recovery time would be a few weeks. You warned us that he might have some stiffness in his chest from the incision. He might need a bed pan. We got that. But you never told us our father would disappear.

Maybe it’s the drugs you have him on? I do get the medication logic you sent via that animated video presentation: the pain of heart surgery warrants barbiturates, which cause stomach ulcers that require anti-nausea aids, which cause gas and verbal diarrhea, which both require sleep-aids, which cause sleepwalking and anxiety, which makes way for blood pressure stabilizers, iron enhancements, and potassium boosters. Add the Viagra that came for free, the antibiotics for the MSRA superbug he picked up in the gift shop, the uppers to help his mood and then the downers to cancel out the uppers–because no one likes someone who is too happy–and he’s covered. But I’m worried. The blogs say that anaesthetic can effect a patient’s mental function making them irritable, angry, or bitter. I could only wish! What happens if that’s the way my father always was? What are we left with when that’s stolen? I’ll tell you what: a well-adjusted man who writes haikus about birds and has taken up life drawing. A man who has three copies of The Shack on his bookshelf. A man who watches Touched By An Angel on syndication. A man who keeps a poop journal. Just now, I overheard him talking to his spirit animal.

I’m sorry if you fail to see my upset but if I wanted a father who loved me unconditionally I’d watch episodes of Full House. As you can see you have done our family a grave disservice. We sent my father into surgery a repressed, misogynist jerk, and we fully expected him to come out that way, or not at all. Please reverse these changes immediately. Maybe he needs a wolf’s pancreas or a boar’s stomach? Whatever. Just fix it. Because who wants a nice dad? No one.

Sincerely,

Angry Offspring

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“Song of the Night is definitely Rape Me By Nirvana”: The Steubenville Rape Trial

rapeisOk, a confession. I am supposed to be finishing up my dissertation right now. But, I cannot. After waking up and reading the assortment of articles on the rape trial in Steubenville, Ohio I have no ability to write in academic ways about emotions, or craft a works cited that has perfect MLA style because my own feelings about this case, and the ways in which rape are being discussed in 2013 are paralyzing.

Instead, I wanna start a conversation and linger within the ones already ongoing about what society, a large and ridiculously impersonal word, must do, can do, and actually does with rape cases. A fair warning: if you are someone who is looking for me to pity, in a CNN way, young men who rape, you have come to the wrong blog. We all make our choices, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, and while I don’t doubt that we live in a western world that valorizes violence against, well everyone, especially women, us gays, and anyone thought to be a bit misfited, society doesn’t make us kill, rape, and ruin– it only gives us a gold star when we do. Image

However, I also want to suggest that if you find yourself feeling discomfort or even an uneasy sadness for these boys and what they chose to do, alongside your feelings of remorse and anger for this young girl, this too might be completely ethical. As Mia MacKenzie urges:  feel bad, because this situation is fucking bad. This may sound strange coming from me. I have little room for violent hatred, and less room for a culture that encourages it. But, I still think what we need in this messed up space are people who do not see life in binary dualisms– who can see beyond quick judgments that see evil and good. Even the shittiest parts of life–the parts and acts of people that make you embarrassed to be human–test our compassion, but still require it.Image

So maybe, just maybe, feeling some sense of anxiety or loneliness for each of the people concerned in this rape case paves some small road to a more compassionate as opposed to hateful world, one not against putting an end to the systematic violence that we see happening to women daily.

The violence these young men committed against this girl is perhaps unforgivable and much of the media coverage of this trial has been disgusting. Yet, feeling unsure about what needs to happen to these two boys, and bad about what might, is not a mark of compliance or support for rape, it’s a refusal of its continuation and inevitability.

So how did I find myself here on my computer this morning. I spent last night checking out an AMC show called The Killing. A dear friend told me I should, and when there were tears in her eyes I immediately thought I should not. I am one to be a tad prone to bouts of anger when the media and entertainment industry decides to popularize and make money off of tragedy.

killing

My friend is very sensitive whilst I am an angry ass. I spend a lot of time avoiding CNN and Fox and a lot of other Right Wing venues which profess that everyone has a right to their opinion. After years of hearing a lot of opinions, and watching how these thoughts and feelings hurt others, I disagree. I am reminded of the words of a past classmate of mine, when we were made to listen to a young girl in one of  my graduate classes tell me that I, and a few others of us I’m sure, were disgusting in God’s eyes because we loved. “You will hear me,” she yelled. My classmate stood up calmly and opened the door and said, “no, actually. There is no reason why your hate needs to be heard in this space.”

I admired the statement so much then, and only wish it applied here. But when it comes to open ended media, unfortunately, anyone, yes, even someone like Fred Phelps is permitted a day in the sun.

So I am not going to get too angry about the fact that so many people have been commenting on this case in what I take to be terrifying ways. I am commenting too, and there is something to be said about public debate and continuing dialogues when, especially when, we’d rather slam our doors, flip the bird, and judge people simply wrong. As Denise Riley, the fantastic theorist once argued, in high stakes debates where emotions run wild such as in many Pro-life and Pro-choice debates, there can be no winner because no one is able to hear points of view through any other lens other than the one that enables their ok-ness. I agree with her that we need to think about the horrible crimes we commit  against one another through, with complex lenses, if we are ever going to relearn how to become better people, caring communities, loving societies…even though my body so wants to jump on the revenge train.

So, The Killing. I watched it last night and got to episode three before my heart stopped. The set up of the show is very dark and calm, tortured in a way. The premise is harsh but simple: A teenaged girl has gone missing and is found dead in the back of a trunk. She didn’t die well, and the family and town is left to figure out what happened. The acting is incredible and the script is not gratuitous or Hollywoodized. You just feel awful, sustainably so, throughout every episode. Your mind is transported until you can hear nothing but nails scraping down chalkboards, or crying cats at your window. You too need to figure out why young boys, kids really, are behaving in ways that conjure images of our worst nightmares: the Boogieman, the Devil, Jack the Ripper, the monster under all beds, the reason I stayed in my closet for as long as I did. Hatred. Stupidity. The Promise of Bravado. Unfettered Violence. closet

Episode three, however, takes the case a step in a direction I was not prepared for. A teacher finds a video on a student’s cellphone and witnesses the missing girl being raped by two young boys. One, a childhood friend, the other an ex-boyfriend. It is horrific. And impossible to watch without wanting to grab these two boys and strangle them, both for their rage and hatred, but also their arrogance and, perhaps surprisingly to me, their naive stupidity. The show does a brilliant job of creating two characters who are not hateable to their core. They are loved by their parents, and in at least one case, one of the rapists is described by the murdered girl’s father as “a good kid.” So what the fuck are we supposed to do with this?

Good versus evil, happy versus sad, nice versus mean, all is complicated here and it disturbs the stasis of our quick judgement.

I think most of us can actually, when our anger is not at an intense high, not hate those young people who do terrible wrongs. We are confused by them, and wonder what happened to make these kids so violent or non compassionate. We jump on mental illnesses for answers, or accuse parents of negligence, looking everywhere and anywhere as long as we don’t need to look in the mirror at ourselves and the world we have created. The Steubenville rape is no exception.

Turning to the Steubenville case, I need to go over a few of the facts that have been presented. I am sorry if this upsets anyone but I assure you I am not writing here for shock value. I will be quick and succinct.

Here’s what we think we know-ish:

1. There was an end of summer party in Steubenville, Ohio and a young, 16 year-old girl attended it. It should matter not at all that she was an honor student and an athlete, although the media has made much of these points.

2. She was drunk, as were the football boys who raped her: Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond who the girl thought were her friends. rapists

3. An Instagram photo was found that showed two boys dragging the limp girl by her arms and legs, smiling. This photo went viral.

4. A 12-minute video was found that showcases and talks about the fingering and anal rape of the young girl over a course of several hours. The video also highlights the oppressive and abusive comments that were made during and afterwards by the other boys in the room. (I mention the facts about the actual assault only because so many people have questioned whether or not “fingering” counts as rape. Of course it does and always will.)

Other videos surfaced as well where kids in the room like Michael Nodianos talk explicitly about the raping and then spend their time joking about how “dead” the girl is, and how hilarious it is that she is so: “She’s deader than OJ Simpson’s wife” Nodianos says, laughing into his arm, looking at the girl who is out of camera as you can hear the other boys around her.

Yes, there were bystanders. And yes, they videotaped as opposed to stopping the rape. These kids presume to find rape hilarious. As William McCafferty, the Steubenville  police chief, says: “If you could charge people with not being decent human beings a lot of people could have been charged that night.”

5. There were text-messages found where the rapists and others in the room recounted the event as a lost opportunity. One actually said: “I’m pissed all I got was a hand job. I should have raped since everyone thinks I did.”

6. The young girl remembers little of the incident. She was too drunk.

7. Unlike the “he said, she-said” battles witnessed throughout a lot of rape trials, the piles of media footage and data made this case stand out as a social media court case, where the digitization of these young peoples’ night, and their routine, everyday use of Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and texting served to ensure they could not be found innocent.

Social media has become a bizarre version of a diary for a lot of young people. In this case, all evidence was presented front and centre, including words the rapists uttered and the witnesses’ reactions. There was little to argue against. They were guilty. They had posted the words “rape” and “drunk girl” all over their twitter accounts and had documented everything as though it were a bad reality television miniseries.

And yet….

What has ensued over the past weeks is a new sort of trial where we, the audience, are not being asked to decide whether or not the rapists actually sexually assaulted the girl–of course, everyone knows they did except for a group of naysayers who I can’t even be bothered mentioning. But, we are being bombarded with people debating whether or not the boys should be punished for it. Their age, their futures, their sports careers, their families, their religions, all are being touted as reasons that we (the bystanders to this case) should provide a way out for these kids and their violence.

This case has become one that this girl cannot hide from. As Adam Cohen states, “the Internet never forgets.” Everyone who has access to the Internet can choose to see her entire trauma anytime they wish. There is no escaping this moment for her, or the two boys and the bystanders.

A lot of people have taken sides which is not at all a shocker to anyone who has seen rape trials unfold publicly. The critics, though, in this case have been particularly hard on the young girl, almost martyring the two boys who raped her as though they were victims of their own larger misfortune. rape_victim_2474399b

Many people have said that the “promising lives” of the two star football players should not be ruined because of this one night. One reporter, Poppy Harlow shares a melodramatic tale of woe as she recounts her day in the courtroom as the verdicts were heard. She tells us how hard it was for her to sit in her seat and watch the faces of the two boys who cried and repented. CNN chose to show footage only of the two convicted rapists begging for forgiveness, broadcasting how “difficult” and “emotional” it was for those in support of the boys and yet forgot to mention the victim and the toll this trial has taken on her. As Mia MacKenzie says, “CNN went all boo hoo for the boys who did it” and refused to acknowledge the girl who lived it.

Wearing her red blazer and seal puppy face, Poppy Harlow argues, to see these two poor boys crying…. she’d never experienced “anything like it.” She highlights Ma’ lik’s absent father, an “alcoholic,” who attended the trial and who got up in front of everyone to say,”I love you” to his son, saying it was his fault that Ma’ lik made these mistakes. In a way, Harlow turns this rape trial into a movie of the week where the young, convicted man is the hero under bad circumstances.  Poppy-Harlow-Candy-Crowley-rape-culture

Anchor woman Candy Crowley actually asked an expert what “lasting effect” this sentence could have on “the two young men, being found guilty in juvenile court of rape essentially” and the expert, told her the bad news: being “labelled as registered sex offenders” will “haunt them for them rest of their lives.”

The fact that CNN allowed their anchor to say “rape essentially” makes me fucking angry. Not sure what is uncertain about the fact it was rape, but I will not dwell in my fire, trying to give her some benefit of the doubt.

What’s harder to process for me is the fact some have said that this girl asked for rape. She was drunk for a reason: she wanted sex, some have argued. She wasn’t too drunk to say no, many have claimed. In fact, the rape trial became a ridiculous farce where the Prosecutor was left fighting with the Defense, trying to prove that the young girl was too drunk to say yes or no to being penetrated, pissed on, and left naked outside in her own vomit. The defense, on the other hand, suggested that if she had had one more beer than maybe a rape might have occurred, but her being passed out and unconscious was clearly not indicative of her lack of consent. Any girl who shows up at a party wearing shorts and is drunk deserves to be raped, right? Or as one of the kids at the party said, “deserves to be pissed on.”

What constitutes consent in these critiques is not an enthusiastic yes, but, rather, the fact that the boys did not receive physical resistance to their sexual advances and so the advances were fine. As though you are always presumed touchable until you say otherwise. Emmett MacFarlane calls this line of defense the “clumsy Don Juan” argument, where men are thought incapable of saying no to their own sexual urges and so it becomes the woman’s job to do so at all times. Anything less is consent. slut

I am not surprised. We live in a bullying culture of victim-blaming and Internet machoism. There are entire sites dedicated to hate pages, and kids in Elementary schools are telling one another that they are so ugly that they should kill themselves. People are feeling their way all over the web, outing their impulsive emotions as though they were having conversations in their heads with no repercussions. There is no time in a young person’s life to think about how they feel because the web is so fast in its delivery. By the time you might wish you had have waited to say or think or feel online, the world has been playing with your thoughts already, and is commenting all over the place.

I have spent my academic career speaking and writing about queer teen suicide, bullying and the effects that our ramped digital culture has on our emotional development. And I’ve seen a lot of sorrow where victims are blamed for being the victim: Suicide victim Amanda Todd was harassed even in death, demonized for images that were released of her breasts online, and told she deserved to die; the recent, brutal rape of the Swiss cyclist by a gang of men in Datia was told the rape was her fault for not informing police of her travel plans; A police force recently implied women deserve to be raped if they wear certain clothing, hang about drunk men, and travel around at night; an 11 year-old girl in Texas was recently called a “seductive Man Luring Spider” by lawyers after being gang-raped by 18 boys and men.

In cases such as these, I’m reminded of the Tyler Clementi suicide in New York in 2010. Clementi jumped to his death off of a bridge when he discovered that his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had videotaped he and his male lover making love, streaming it live for the world to see. Tweeting: “I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again,” Ravi didn’t think anything of his act. Although it turned out the recording actually failed to work, Clementi took his own life believing all of his classmates and family had seen him having sex with a man online. Ravi got 30 days in prison and 300 hours of community service.

Am I saying that the sentences for Ravi, and these two rapists were too light? Well, it would seem so. The crimes committed were horrific and the time being served is pathetic. Two things bother me more though: our blind ignorance about the effects of living in a world where our lives are digital coupled with the surprise we feign when something like this happens. And the fact some people are calling for these boys’ incarceration for life rather than dealing with the violence that continues to circulate as normalcy.

We have to get a handle on how we are all being affected by this digital moment. Adults too. We can’t simply blame the kids for behaving horribly online when we foster and support their acts everyday. Chucking angry arrogant, stupid, violent kids in a prison for life won’t teach us or them anything.

prisonI don’t believe prison is a place for anyone to learn anything other than how to continue to hurt and be hurt by others. Henry Rollins makes the point that the two Steubenville rapists failed the girl they raped, and yet they too have been failed by society, their parents, their teachers, and their environments. Prison, he argues, will simply compound failures. However, while Rollins suggests that after reading all of the newsfootage, he “thought first about these two men,” this is troubling for me. These boys are being talked about as though they now are the only ones who have to reclaim some sense of everyday life. The girl that was raped, splayed all over the Internet, judged, and forgotten is now also being rendered invisible in ways that are unethically vanquished.

She’s strong, a fighter, and will find peace and solace. We have a responsibility to respect her privacy, to refuse her spectacularization, to fight beside her, and to not forget her or the circumstances that enabled her rape. No one will forget the two boys or what they did; I don’t worry about that. And I hope they too can learn to be compassionate people. Prison won’t do that for them. We must teach care, by example and by putting compassion first, over and above hatred and anger.

Posted in loneliness, popular culture, sexuality, social justice, social politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Contagious Emotions and Branding the Bully

And again.

After being away for so friggin long I wondered if I could find my way back to this blog and, harder for me, writing it without finding every reason not to: needing a shower, walking a dog I don’t actually own, buying a dog, making muffins, eating said muffins, skating off the muffins I made and then ate…..you get it. But on this, the eve of a set of workshops on finding agency I’m delivering for the OCIC across the province I have found a voice again.

But where to begin? Well, as always, I turn to the man who infuriates me as much as he challenges me to do everyday things to make life worth loving: Dan Savage. Douche bag that he can be.Image

I’ve been noticing, as I read the paper and avoid my dissertation like the plague in heat, the media’s obsessive circulation of the following three terms: loneliness, bullying and suicide.

Also, after a few beers and a shot or six of scotch I’ve also noted these words’ odd association with mystery, queerness, and abnormality. It’s intriguing to me how when us queers are the victims of violence against us, our own loneliness is blamed, as though loneliness, wearing a mask and holding a sword, swooped in and knocked us on our arse and shoved us into a locker, not the homophobic slur, or the mean girls at school with names like Whitney, Brittany, and Tittney.

The effect of these stories that get told is that loneliness, rather than being considered an everyday feeling that we all share, gay or ungay, becomes seen as the opposite to this: it is understood to sever all connection with others.Image

And queerness has become inherently connected to loneliness.

I remember the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a sweet, beautiful kid beaten and killed by two students (Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson) because he was gay. Much was made of loneliness then. Shepard was described as a boy left “beaten and tied to a lonely fence post” by two men who delighted in leading Shepard down a “lonely Wyoming road.”

To be sure, Simon Watney may very well be right when he states, “there can be few so privately lonely in the modern world as the homosexual child.” And social media has helped queer children find a voice and a space for them to be.

And I do think social media recognizes that there is a great deal of loneliness in peoples’ lived experiences and that this loneliness effects how we relate to others. I’ll give us points for that and eat another muffin. But what media sources do not seem to know is what to do with this loneliness.

Although we all shares loneliness, experience it, and recognize it in some way,we are told day in and out by the media darlings we run to that it is something that is very threatening to us all. I’m thinking that this conceptualization that makes loneliness the boogieman, or Saw 34, gives loneliness too much credit, branding it a unique negativity, a condition that must “get better.”Image

Here’s lookin at you Dan Savage.

Along with social media, the Science industry too has been paramount to turning loneliness into a horrifying pathology and contagion. The idea that emotions are contagious has been used as a plot device in numerous political and cultural narratives throughout the days. For example, in the 2002 British horror film 28 Days Later rage is contagious and turns the average, healthy person into a murderous, zombie filled with hateful anger and a cannibalistic drive to devour all others. Yummy.

Spreading through bodily fluids, blood and saliva, rage’s effect is devastating to the social sphere, reducing the whole of Britain to a militant, contact zone, rife with surveillance, death, and collateral damage. Families are destroyed and the economy collapses, as even the country’s children lose all sense of innocence.

This fear of emotional contagion has also infected political and public perceptions as well. The belief that there is such a thing as “emotional pollution” has led people like Psychologist Steven Stosny to claim emotions are so contagious that they can trigger the “paranoia” of “serial killers” and entice “mob justice, lynching, riots, and looting.Image

We live in a world that is obsessed with smiling. We shop, eat, read, sex, love, hate, judge, make muffins in a cultural industry that reveres happiness so much it promotes it through self-help gurus, yogis, motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins, and socio-economic and spiritual guidebooks about finding one’s happy fortune through the power of positive thinking. Have you ever read Chicken Soup for the Soul or The Secret?  I plead the fifth on this one. 

Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided:  How Positive Thinking is Undermining America explores this cultural trend toward what she calls the“‘virus’ of positive thinking.” Ehrenreich argues that the constant bombardment of claims to the power of optimism at any cost has become, for America, a means by which to hide their grievances behind a falsity of happy feelings.

Smile or die seems to be the tattoo of the moment.Image

Unlike complacency, where at least there might be a recognition that something is wrong with the ways in which we here in the west are treating others, a happy refusal to think about negative things brings about an actual blindness to seeing  the error of our assholeish ways. The result? A bizarre belief that refusing to think about (let alone do anything about) unhappy thoughts—wars, violence, classist, gendered, sexual, and/or racial oppression—is the only way to be happy.

Here, optimism takes on some sort of “mysterious” quality, as though thinking in any way, or about topics that might be considered not happy, or shitty, can do nothing but screw us over.

So, those who are worthy, are considered happy. Those who are not worthy, are unhappy, or lonely.

So returning to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project I can’t help but frown. The idyllic fantasy narrative woven by he and his husband is romantically Arthurian and Darwinian in its message. It’s like watching Sleeping Beauty on crack.

Weaving a world where young, attractive, showtune heroes must suffer plights of “despair” and homophobic violence on their quest to find a life where all “gets better” through adaptation and survival is a message continued throughout the entire campaign.

The videos vary in length; however, the step-by-step narrative structure of each video clips is predictably present.

If you haven’t sat down and watched 500 videos with couples in them as I have stupidly and sappily, trust me, here’s the structure of most of them in a nutshell:

Both lovers introduce themselves

Both lovers out the amount of time they have been together

Both lovers tell their individual stories of experiences with bullies in high school

Both lovers explain how they have found, through raw survival, and adapting to their environment that life gets better only when you grow older.

The clips end with the couples professing their undying love to one another.

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A more expansive look into these videos reveals beautiful people (the majority being handsome, young, ablebodied, white men) promising over and over again that survival of the fittest leads to a thriving future.

The setting for these videos is most often a living room, where a couple sits snuggly next to one another while calm lights, candles, and soft colors create a happy and domestic feel. You can almost hear the birds chirping and smell the Starbucks coffee. We, the viewer, are being granted an extraordinary rare glimpse inside of the window of a real-life gay-home: a private place where intimacies are made public and secrets are told.

Each lover speaks to the camera, offering themselves up as examples of what life will look like when you survive high school and everything “gets better.” And each video promises that a happy life can be achieved through a successful job, a monogamous relationship, a family (whether that be children or pets or porn), travel, and financial stability. And in the land of Disney Dan this idealistic lifestyle is magically accessible to everyone even though, upon close inspection, the video projects clearly cater to and are crafted by white, middleclass, men.

Love, marriage, money, babies, and a partridge in a pear tree……

A lot of presumptions are advanced throughout the videos in the IGB project. Importantly, there is the assumption that youth today can be understood by adults who experienced bullying in their own past—that the everyday lives of youth are made coherent only through adult lenses. But to be fair, the It Gets Better Project does do some great work. Even cranky me can’t deny its importance and so I certainly thank Dan Savage for that. But now that he has started this trend of public compassion, we need voices that speak to the ways in which happiness is not something we can buy or simply become better enough to find. We need to make tangible changes to the political spaces we are made unhappy by and in.

In contrast to the IGB project I bring you the little known web series The Slope: Superficial, Homophobic Lesbians. Written, produced by, and starring the lesbian couple Desiree Akhavan and Ingrid Jungerman this series Uses irony and humor to critique the ways in which stereotypes of unhappy lesbians have been popularized by social media.Image

Providing audiences with a very mundane, ordinary couple who does boring, everyday activities—shopping, dating, sleeping, drinking—Desiree and Ingrid comically present the tensions between cultural perceptions of lesbianism alongside the everydayness of their actual lives. You won’t find hot, boobied blondes kissing one another on a dance floor to Katy Perry music in front of a bunch of dudes drinking keggers.  

Instead the lack of coherency in Ingrid and Desiree’s message, and the ridiculous crappiness of their advice for struggling gay teens in high school is hilarious. And telling.

Following the IGB Project’s storytelling structure, in one episode The Slope couple makes their own It Gets Better Project video and Ingrid begins it by giving a shout out to all “LGBTQQ” teens.  Desiree, confused, asks: “what does QQ mean?”

Ingrid smiles, embarrassed for her girlfriend’s stupidity, and tells her, “Queer and Questioning,” and Desiree happily responds: “Oh, I don’t care about the ones that are questioning [. . . ] [they’re] just having a bi-curious Katy Perry moment.” Shocked, Ingrid says that Desiree can’t simply exclude people because she doesn’t think their identities count, calling attention to the ways the queer community splinters and separates over issues of trans and bisexual exclusion. But Desiree assures her she certainly can do just that. She’s Desiree. For her, lesbian means lesbian, whatever that means.

Desiree is positive she is right about her notions of what queer is and what it isn’t. She is arrogant, narcissistic, and egocentric in her declarations. Smiling a lot, she is permitted these indulgences. She is happy, and that’s all that matters. After all this is exactly the stance of Dan Savage who has been criticized openly for his biphobia and transphobia though Savage would never admit to his exclusions.

Ingrid and Desiree’s advice seems ludicrous and shallow, ignorant and homophobic. Still, when you get over your anger and actually take each point that Ingrid and Desiree are offering, you can glean two facts: a lot of their advice is sadly true in a capitalist society that values appearances, material wealth, and cultural capital over all else. And the IGB project’s advice to queer teens is as ridiculous. Telling gay teens, as Desiree does, to just “be hot” and get a “catch phrase” to survive high school is as ludicrous as telling gay teens that the only way to handle loneliness due to homophobia in high school is to “survive it” until you can “go to college” and move to the “big city,” as Savage does. Image

Ingrid and Desiree perfectly model adult versions of capitalist teens who have not grown up into nice, compassionate adults who were made “better” for being bullied as youth. Instead they remain a caricature of the bullies one might still see in high school. Their video, although politically incorrect, speaks to the actuality of the western high school setting that has been permitted to become a nexus of homophobia and oppression because of our continued investments in middleclass normalcy and purity. It is in this way that The Slope’s humor lets us all know that homophobia is to be expected because we create the spaces for it.

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The It Gets Better project legitimates homophobia as a necessary part of being queer. By rewarding melodrama and the spectacularization and valorization of bullying—providing bullies an entire online site dedicated to their ignorance and violence while suggesting they are a necessary step to growing up—Savage’s project also validates the stereotype that queers are “special” people with extraordinary feelings, a suggestion that undermines the notion that queers feel ordinary affects, and live everyday lives.

But unlike the videos in the IGB project, Ingrid and Desiree are not there to thank Dan Savage. They are there to give “real advice” to the kids that need it in an everyday moment that requires it. Their honesty, even if harsh, about what the promise of happiness actually requires comes off as blunt and funny, and yet the joke is actually on all of us.

Posted in bullying, dan savage, loneliness, queerness, suicide | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

An Immodest Proposal: The Erotics of Gay Divorce

It’s been a while. But I’m back…..and yes, I actually did meet Newt Gingrich so the story below is real.

In light of recent violent, and disgusting political douchebaggery (here’s lookin at you Akin) I’ve decided to post this piece I wrote a year ago on gay marriage. It’s meant to be satirical, but it saddens me that the people I’m actually conversing with here—my merry men like Newt Gingrich, Fred Phelps, and a host of “experts” on traditional marriage who have lined their pockets at queer expenses—are still considered authorities in their respective fields.

Hope you like it!

In his bizarre article “Eight Ways to Divorce Proof You Marriage,” relationship coach and author of the critically acclaimed Treat Your Man Like a V.I.P: Topless Tactics You Were Never Taught Xxavier T outlines what he argues are necessary tips for any wife who is trying to save her marriage from collapse. T warns women of the world that their female “manipulation[s]” (such as “withholding sex,” “fake[ing] an orgasm,” or “compet[ing] with the people/things that [her husband] loves”) will simply ruin her marriage. She, instead, should do what her man wants and shut up about it. Dan Savage anyone?

Similarly, in her treatise Grading on a Curve: The Marriageability Factor, Tiffany Green offers three compelling steps that both women and men can use to ensure their happy marriage. And how is this done? Green delivers a recipe for surefire success:

1.  Love interests must “write down twenty things that [they] strongly believe [in].” These “things” can vary from the pairs’ religious beliefs to the sorts of diarrhea medications they would strongly recommend in a pinch.

2.  Next, couples need to scroll through their top ten “pet peeves,” (such as the picking of one’s “teeth in public”) and mark off the really peevey ones.

3.  Lastly, and finally, Green instructs the couple to return to their two previous lists crossing out the areas that each are willing to “compromise” on such as the important issue of “the hiring of a maid.”

And who says romance is dead in North America.

Both of these authors write for the website marriagepartner.com, a page dedicated to helping lovers find one another and avoid the pitfalls of divorce, the plague that the site claims is overtaking American marriage. While the site provides these earth shatteringly helpful tips on how to avoid the demise of heterosexual marriages, the sources omit any trace of advice for queers. Shocker.

When I looked for similar sites that would help me procure and secure my future gay marriage, I was left bumbling my way through Christian Fundamentalist and political pages. These websites bombarded me with images—usually put to song—of flashy crosses, catchy homophobic-slang, and asinine tips on where I could go for a fancy gay-exorcism. Or they sent me to links that recommended I talk to my local politician about gay marriage debates. Ummm, has anyone met Rob Ford or Stephen Harper? Canada’s next couple.

Aside from some sites about the pros and cons of monogamy and more than a few pages on raunchy lesbian sex (never type the terms ‘farmer’s daughter’ into your web-browser), my search for an informative and compelling website on how-to-do-gay-marriage-properly came up empty.

I promise this is not simply another essay on gay marriage. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for it and I hope my fellow gays get to enjoy the fruitful rights to the unions they so much deserve. I, however, am not interested; I’m tired of arguing for the authenticities of gay marriage because, in my modest opinion, the western legalization of gay marriage is at some point inevitable. Instead, I want to slosh around in muddier waters. So, I’m courting here a rarely discussed pillar of the gay marriage debate, a controversially licentious angle that has been ignored by queers, activists, lefties and right-wingers alike for far too long, gay marriage’s bereft and silenced lover, gay divorce.

The delicious benefits of divorce have been long understood by the hetero-public who has perfected it graciously and veraciously—some might even say unabashedly. With a divorce rate up over 52%, North American heterosexuals are the championed leaders of doing marriage badly. Not surprisingly, politicians, activists and eccentrics who are against giving someone else a shot at marriage refuse to be deterred by mere facts. Continuing to suggest that, God as their witness, the definition of marriage must, and can only, remain a union between a man and a woman, the fight to preserve the definition of traditional marriage is becoming so angrified it is even being called the issue that will decide America’s next President. Again.

Let’s be honest though people. If our current cultural interpretation of traditional marriage tells us anything at all about how we North Americans understand sanctimonious unions, then one thing is for sure: our conceptualization of traditional marriage is certainly intriguing. With marriage shows such as Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, no one could dare question that traditional marriage is important in North America. Important and costly. Marriage has become such an expensive adventure that The New York Times recently estimated that an average heterosexual union in 2010 cost at least $28,000, without rings. The same was true of Canadian weddings.

Coupled with the shining examples of matrimonial bliss we have witnessed between such celebrities as Renee Zellweger and Kenney Chesney (whose marriage lasted a whopping 124 days), Eddie Murphy and Tracy Edmonds (which lasted two weeks), and Britney Spears and Jason Alexander (which lasted an entire eight hours) it has certainly been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that getting married in the West remains a seriously sacrosanct business.

Given this evidence, I think it’s safe to say at this point that we can surmise the following about traditional marriage: it is indicative of a special bond between a man and a woman that has been grown and nurtured over time (except when it hasn’t been); that it is only recognizable by the eyes of God (except when it is being filmed in an NBC studio by a camera man named Bob); and that such unions are always already flawlessly forever (except when they fail in eight hours). Makes perfect sense to me. So, while I do agree with the famous philosopher Chris Rock, who in a typical moment of astute philosophizing, states:

People always say we can’t have gay marriage ’cause marriage is a scared institution, it happens in the church, it’s sacred. No it’s not; marriage aint sacred. Not in America [. . . ] Shit, gay people have got a right to be as miserable as everybody else,

I am prepared to close my left eye, accept the facts and the logical conclusion that traditional marriage should be handed straight over to the heterosexual community, which has done such a bang up job with it so far.

What confuses me much more than the angst keeping queers from marrying is that no one, especially the right, has explored the brooding potential in gay divorce. So instead of asking what can be done for queers who want to redefine marriage, I wonder if homosexuals can’t somehow benefit from this particular Chris Rock-ean misery that seems endemic to marriage? My argument begins with the premise that North Americans are misunderstanding, or misunderestimating, if you’d like, the strategic benefits that gay divorces can afford us all.

By breaking our selves free from torrid kisses of the marriage debates, we will see that it’s not the right to marry that we need; rather, it’s the right to birth, condition, and raise divorce up as our very own. I hope to convince all pessimists that, in 2012, a time rife with economic insecurity, military pursuits, religious upheaval and violence, debates about Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, and racist fears of terrorisms of all sorts, we need to get as serious about money, politics, and honor as the right is and push for the legalization of gay divorce. I propose a new bill that I am calling Prop -8, or, its vernacular “operation stomp-on-ring,” and my hope is that soon those who have fought and won the right to marry their same-sex love, their paramour of similitude and deliciously mimicked genitalia, will join Team Lonely Gay and strap divorce onto their agendas.

I will spend the rest of this essay packing and then unpacking my faulty argument.

History

In June, 2004 lesbian wives who are known only as M.M and J. H were granted the very first same-sex divorce in the world. This first-ever divorce happened in Canada. The two married on June 18, 2003, only one week after same-sex marriage was legalized by the Ontario Court of Appeal; after ten blissful years together these women separated five days after the ceremony. What happened to the relationship that had stayed gloriously afloat for a decade? Who knows, but The Toronto Star eagerly declared: “the honeymoons’ over and the era of same-sex divorce in Canada has begun.”And yet, to date, in Canada our same-sex divorce rate is pathetic, while worldwide the stats aren’t much more promising.

Reliable statistics on same-sex divorce rates are practically nil. We do know that in the Netherlands (the first country to legalize gay marriage in 2001) a mere 1-percent of gay couples have divorced.  More troubling, a recent report suggests that heterosexual divorce rates have been steadily on the decline in the US since 2003 except in those states that continue to ban same-sex marriages. In fact, according to Nate Silver of The New York Times, in states that “actively prohibit gay marriage, the divorce rate is up” by an average of “8 percent,” with Alaska leading the pack. Props to Sarah Palin.

What this obviously shows with scientific expertise is that undeniably gay marriage is to blame for our lack of gay divorce. Not only are the gays who are getting married too happy to leave one another, selfishly so, but, in the arenas where gay marriage is prohibited, heteros have still managed to lead the way in divorce. Come on gays! We need to sort this through. How is it that we can proudly sport mullets, fake eye-lashes, acid-wash jeans and over-sized onesies but we can’t make gay divorce fashionable? What is a lonely gay to do?

I have come up with my own plan of attack and think the best place to start is with gay marriage. The facts are a bit superfluous, but please bear with me. In Canada, you can now marry if you’re gay, and divorce too, though, as aforementioned, our successful divorce rates are very few, so we’re crucially failing there. But, with much to be done in the way of progress here in the Great White North, we cannot forget our gay-American friends. Gay marriage is by no means spread eagle in the Land of the Free.  If you don’t live in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, or Vermont, you can’t get married. You can come to Canada and marry here—we love a good wedding—but here’s where it gets sticky. When the honeymooning is over and the tanning bed gets cold, American gays will find themselves stuck in what Barbara Findley has called a “divorce-catch 22.”

Since in most parts of the US, homosexual and lesbian marriages are not recognized, their unions are not accepted by their own state. This means these couples need to travel back to Canada, the birthplace of their marriage, for their actual separation to be legal. But, the catch is you can’t get a divorce in any province until you have lived there for at least one year. In other words, you need to be knocking back Tim Horton’s coffees and calling beer ‘beers’ for one full year before any divorce will be granted. Currently, there is no gay exception; that just wouldn’t be nice.

It is also important to note that since the US is all over the bed with their gay marriage laws, gay divorce is barely on their radar. When gay divorce is mentioned, it is often being fought against on the basis that the couple in question should never have been able to wed at all. For instance, while one might think Texas—known for its bedazzling opposition to same-sex unions—to be a “haven for gay divorce,” this is not so. In a recent ruling in January 2011, Texas Attorney General, Gregg Abbott, tried to appeal a lesbian couple’s divorce in Georgia on the grounds that in his eyes they were never married in the first place. Just to keep this all straight I will also mention here that in New York, although gays and lesbians cannot get married, they can get divorced.  This is also the case in California—depending on the day and the weather. So, if the information out there is correct than there have only been a very few successful divorces, mostly by lesbians, since 2004. Meaning, other than pointing out our clear lack of ambition, we in the West have no idea about the untapped potential gay divorce harbors in its britches.

The rest of this essay outlines the reasons why gay divorce, better than any military intervention, scientific discovery, financial upswing, or sale at Holt Renfrew can save the West from itself.

The Death of the Family

In a letter to her brother Newt Gingrich, Candace Gingrich politely asks that he and those associated with the Republican right open their conservative eyes and see the eventuality of gay marriage. She writes:

Dear Newt,

I recently had the displeasure of watching you bash the protestors of the Prop 8 marriage ban to Bill O’Reilly on FOX News. I must say, after years of watching you build your career by stirring up the fears and prejudices of the far right, I feel compelled to use the words of your idol, Ronald Reagan, “There you go, again.” [. . . ] Welcome to the 21st century, big bro.

Calling attention to the problematic ways the right co-opts sexuality for its own conservative advancement, Candace continues taking her brother to task for being a bully and for attacking the rights of cute, furry gay and plaid-wearing lesbian couples who simply want to tie the knot. She states:

What really worries me is that you are always willing to use LGBT Americans as political weapons to further your ambitions. That’s really so ’90s, Newt. In this day and age, it’s embarrassing to watch you talk like that. You should be more afraid of the new political climate in America, because, there is no place for you in it. 

While fighting for gay marriage with a man who was quoted saying, “there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment [. . . ] [and is] prepared to use the government if it can get control of it” is important work, I wonder if Candace’s voice would be better heard if she was to go in the opposite direction. Would her brother listen more objectively if she abandoned her predictable quest for marriage and turned her attention towards making gay divorce, its aspirations and consequences, the real queer success story? I wonder what a world where gays could finally separate ourselves from the politics of exclusion, discrimination, and homophobia that the Right is so decidedly married to would look like. We’ll take our rights elsewhere and carve out spaces for health care and necessary benefits in other ways. I’m seeing a queer geography with a lot of homoerotic fountains, Birkenstock clogs, and globular light shows.

We also have to bear in mind that our homosexual success at marrying is practically flawless; frankly, being this good at something feels unfair. So, let’s let the heteros have their marriages and their ties that bind, while we feast upon the lucrative underling, gay divorce, embracing all of the negativity and stereotyping that comes with it—that is, of course, until the hetero-right decides it too is sacrosanct. But, who’s to say? Gay divorcees might become the heroines and heroes of mutinous disruption, the advocates in tight short-shorts that work to split our frustration with conservative policy in two. Than we too will refuse to be told bedtime stories about true, real ways to love. We will abandon Valentine’s Day cards and wedding anniversaries for days that celebrate break-ups, separations, one-offs, and rebounds, saying “no, I don’t” instead of “yes, I do.” To be sure, if Candace Gingrich wants the right to be able to decide whom she would like to marry, then she should also have the right to decide whom she would like to divorce; she might actually divorce her brother if things really get going.

Having met Newt Gingrich myself in 1997, drunk at a bar in Ireland, I have decided that in light of his recent bid to run for the 2012 Presidency, I would also write him a letter.

Dear Newt,

Do you remember me? I met you at the Guinness Factory in Dublin, Ireland in 1997 while traveling with my lady-pal. Yes, she was very attractive, thank you. You were surrounded by bodyguards and were attempting to strengthen US and Irish relations through PR agendas that left you smiling—kinda—while slinging pints. You had just battled your way through some controversy because you’d been quoted bashing homosexual lifestyles just minutes before your sister, Candace, came out as a leader amongst gay activists. How were you to know she was going to become one of the forefront women of the lesbian movement? I do feel your pain. And so, when I, drunk, was yelling, “Hey Newt!” amongst a crowd of onlookers who couldn’t get near you, and your PR man, seeing me (a young lady with her young lady-pal) pointed me out for a photo op with you, I understood. You needed to show the world you weren’t such a bad guy after all. You might even like us lesbians, if we weren’t so degenerate.

So what if you didn’t attend your own sister’s wedding to her girlfriend Rebecca Gingrich-Jones? And really, does it even matter that at your debate in February 2011, when asked about your stance on the Defense of Marriage Act, you argued that gay marriage was an attack on the freedom of religion and the sanctity of marriage.  I mean, having been married three times, Newt, you’d know just how pure and irreplaceable this bond is. It’s a free country; we’re all friends here. You have a right to your say. Just as Charlie Sommers has the right to his opinion when he says:

Most newts can be safely handled, provided that the toxins they produce are not ingested or allowed to come in contact with mucous membranes or breaks in the skin. After handling, proper hand-washing techniques should be followed due to the risk from the toxins they produce and bacteria they carry, such as salmonella.

While I wholeheartedly believe homophobia is the fear of an inherent possibility and also believe that your haircut puts any butch’s best coif to the test, my actual fear for you is this: all of your masculine energies are being drained fighting against gay marriage when you are overlooking the incredible staying power of gay divorce. What if, for example, the gays you rally against marrying might actually be as horrible at marriage as you? Aside from that hope, think about the cash! You should know all too well that there is serious money to be made off of other people’s misery.

What I am trying to say is that the only real suggestion that makes sense here, rational, fiscal, economic sense, is legalizing gay divorce. Let’s be clear here, a lot of gays have money.  I do not, but a lot do. And I will hopefully marry one who does. (Maybe even during your swearing in.) You could reproduce an entire industry. The political, socio-economic possibilities for gay divorce are endless. For instance, new gay-divorcee associations would crop up that would confuse everyone with their acronyms, but would offer sustainable incomes to the unemployed you so often forget about. There could be the OGDA (the Ontario Gay Divorcees Association who is, by the way, seeking new membership because it is currently only comprised of the few lesbians to get a divorce in Canada and they’re not talking to one another right now), or the NJAAAGD4LGBTTIQQ2SA (New Jersey Association of Attorneys Advocating Gay Divorce for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Insecures, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirited, Allies. Say that once without drinking.) What with marriage counselors, gay-divorce attorneys, mediators, therapists, psychics, feel-better shopping extravaganzas, body waxings, mani/pedicures, martinis, gym memberships, personal trainers, trips to the Greek Islands, Armani suits, Doc Martin’s revivals, wow! New custody battles over dogs and cats and collections of phallic art could create months of haggling and lawyer fees, all to the taxpayer’s benefit. An entire hotbed of new gay-divorce slang terms could arise and new, expensive parades and festivals could spawn, creating jobs and tourism for the towns brave enough to say, “I don’t.” Calendars could celebrate pinko-commy-homo-divorcee day, or banana-split-dyke week. I’m seeing T-shirts, bumper stickers, license plates, greeting cards, not to mention the media possibilities for new reality shows. Gay divorce alone could fund a revolution.

Think about cross border-commerce, my friend, and your fears of the domino effect of homosexuality— that gay-sex leads to gay marriage, which leads to marrying of all kinds (the marrying of people to animals, siblings to each other, sons to daughters, bees to flowers), which leads to AIDS, which leads to perpetual hell—will topple over as quickly as your marriages have. You could even buy that nice country you’ve had your eye on. If gay marriage is an abomination to the church and if it threatens the depravity of the US nation, and if you’re positive of this, than prove it. How? Gay divorce is your ticket to ride, Newt. You’re not afraid of a little stiff competition, are you?

Sincerely,

the lonely gay

And What About The Children

When debates about gay marriage surface, the phrase “what about the children?” usually follows. For example, Susan Brinkman’s enticing article “Gay Marriage: Who’s Minding the Children” argues that the only problem with gay marriage is the “effect” it will have on the wee ones. Quoting Jeffery Satinover, M.D., Brinkman asserts that because the child invariably lacks either a “mother or a father” within a gay marriage the effects of these unions can only be negative. This, she says, is “sound science” because everyone knows “exposures to both sexes” helps the child “form their sexuality” healthily while enabling the child to understand the pinnacle differences between men and women, such as their “different verbal styles.” Right. This all sounds completely on the level. Though, if the anxiety is that children are going to suffer from “the instability of the relationships” because of a lack of “sexual complimentarity” among lesbian and gay couples, what do we say to the little darlings when they figure out that no one currently does relational instability better than complimenting heterosexuals?

Presumptions about gender norms aside, I wonder if the real fear here is not the age-old adlib that gay parents will raise and recruit gay children. Let’s explore this for a moment. Pro-abortion lobbyists and Christian Fundamentalists have been the most stalwart protesters against gay marriage and gay divorce. The Traditional Values Coalition (which publishes informative and decorative pamphlets online) fears that lesbians and gays are both recruiting and teaching children how to be gay. Where are we doing this? In the classroom, around the dinner table, in the playground, at the bank, anywhere is fair game. Accusing homosexuals of pedophilia and child-adult sexual relationships, this friendly coalition warns that all homosexuals are, or will become “pederasts,” seducing children to their sexual whims, robbing children of their innocence.

Following suit is Peter Sprigg, a spokesperson for anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. He argues that the effect gay marriage will have on children in the education system is overwhelmingly terrifying because schools will start teaching that homosexuals are identical to heterosexuals. In his estimation, this lesson will lead to the introduction of sex and sex toys to the classroom, therein leading to confusions surrounding what sex is, and how it is properly performed.  Advocating abstinence only campaigns, refusing condoms and birth-control education, and scaring the bejeesus out of children with tales about vagina dentata and smitings for kissing and touching, Sprigg and his colleagues are opposed to any sex-ed curriculum that would suggest respecting homosexuality—or actually talking about sex.

However, while there is a plethora of similarly compelling arguments insisting upon the negative effect homosexuality has on children, one stands out like no other—that of pastor Fred W. Phelps. Opposed to what he calls “dyke liberty” and “the filthy fag agenda,” Pastor Phelps has a way with words so poetic that during a sermon in his church, he preached the following:

Same-sex marriage, by any name, civil union or otherwise, is the ultimate smashed-mouth in-your-face insult to God almighty, and you think he’s going to let England and America and the rest of this evil world get by with it? God almighty has not joined fags in holy wedlock. God no longer keeps America safe, America is doomed. We’re getting the pants beat off of us, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. God is now America’s terrorist. God duped you into starting a war, so he could punish you [. . . ] You’re going to eat your babies! God himself duped Bush into a no-win war, and he did that by the technique of putting a lying spirit in the mouth of all his trusted advisors, to punish America. 

Okay. Now, what Fred W. Phelps is most concerned about here is seemingly:

1) God abhors gay marriage and anyone who supports it.

2) God is a terrorist.

3) As homosexuals, we eat our own babies.

On a basic level, if God truly does hate gays and gay marriage, than gay divorce should be right up God’s alley. What better way to get rid of gay marriages than through gay divorce (and the occasional wrath, plague, locusts)? To Phelps’ second point, if he is accusing God of being a terrorist than this is creepily meta-Biblical. Think of the US as a big airport where God is the stranger being held up again and again by discriminating luggage and body searches, profiling and accusations that charge God with being just a bit too Holy. Betrayed by her/his own followers, persecuted for simply being, God’s message completely tarnished, God would be left abandoned in the airport security office forever by the very ones who purported to worship she/he. Sound familiar? Hey, Fred W. Phelps, Judas called and wants his role back.

To Phelps’s third point, another brilliant satirist argued this very gustatory solution to the Irish famine back in the 18th century. Jonathon Swift claimed that instead of everyone in Ireland suffering from hunger and degradation, the Irish should eat their young. Of course, what Swift was actually trying to do was show the British how ridiculous and unethical it was to complain about the Irish and their poverty when it was indeed the British who had taken all of the Irish land and left them destitute. I am not suggesting here that Phelps is a political philosopher, satirist, or that he is even British, but his impassioned suggestion that we, in a time of economic duress, should eat our babies seems to be something his friends the Pro-Lifers should take up at their next meeting, no?

For me it all boils down to this: who wants to live in a world where we hate each other? What we have learned during the theatre of war we’ve been living through is that the best way to forgo ethics and lose sight of compassion is to become married to our own opinions surrounding what constitutes justice and freedom, right and wrong, evil and good, progress and stagnancy. Gays have seen and lived the effects of such dualistic thinking for much too long already. It must also be remembered by queers everywhere that our ability to disturb, to be misfits, to choose the unchoose-able is what keeps us strong and ready to stand up in opposition to oppressions of all sorts. Our queerness, coupled with our refusal to stop loving one another because of it, is what is so scary to those who seek to police and condemn. It’s not our desire to marry that freaks out the freaky, it’s our desire to love each other that keeps them up at night. As Michael Foucault suggests:

To imagine a sexual act that doesn’t conform to law or nature is not what disturbs people. But that individuals are beginning to love one another—there’s the problem [. . . ] Institutional codes can’t validate these relations with multiple intensities, variable colors, imperceptible movements and changing forms. These relations short-circuit [these institutions] and introduce love where there’s supposed to be only law, rule, or habit. 

So, in the name of queer love, let’s do it! Let’s everyone get queer divorces and take control over the entire industry of misery. Sign up, throw down, whatever, until we have enabled as many people to get divorced from this entire system that seeks to silence us. Look out Newt and Freddy! We’re here and we’re queer and we’re cruising past marriage and ravishing the “state of divorce limbo” until you both, at least, stop getting married.

 

Posted in activism, humour, lesbianism, queer politics, queerness, social politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pinkwashed: It Gets Better Project Is Thinking in Pink

2. Again.

I went to an incredible event Wednesday night put on by QuAIA (Queers Against Israeli Aparteid) that focused on a little-known practice for some of us called Pinkwashing. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, the word has been gaining celebrity lately throughout academic and activist realms because pinkwashing is being linked to a host of unethical goings on about town around the world. 

Pinkwashing occurs when corporations and governements make claims to be queer friendly, riding on the backs of tolerance and diversity, while engaging in political, economic, socio-cultural practices that are anything but ethical. In a word, pink, and it’s associations with homosexuality, has become the new money maker. Wear pink; sell pink; brand pink, and your shit don’t stink.

Hypocrites wearing pink clothing and pretending to be “ok with the gay” do much to overwhelm the actual ways in which their companies, their governments, and they themselves live in the world with others. For example, much has been discussed of the pinkwashing the Israeli government is deploying in their bid to both create a sense that the “Middle East” is backwards in its homophobia–exalting Israel as the beacon of modernity and a leader in human rights–and to overshadow and wash away the violent atrocities carried out in Israel and the Occupied Territories, by the government supported Israeli army and the state against Palestinians in the West bank and along the Gaza strip (queer and non). Here’s the thing though, wearing pink and shooting rainbows out of their asses has not changed the state’s oppressive, abusive, and hateful policies.

And here in Canada, in the U.S. and U.K. we are also guilty of pinkwashing. Post 9/11, politically queerness has become fraught with dangerous potential. We who call ourselves the West are using the strange, the queer, to eradicate those who are considered stranger.

We queers have a history of being in the spotlight (as loud, often times naked and proud activists; as stigmatized sickly AIDS bodies; as demonized criminals) and today queerness has become what I like to call visibly invisible to the heterosexual majority.

Whether contained through zoning regulations that seek to confine queer communities and counter-publics to particular parts of town (gayborhoods, gay villages, gay ghettos), through employment mandates that enforce gendered dress codes, through transphobic structural and social initiatives, through the never ending marriage restrictions, through adoption procedures that require certain ‘types’ of parents, through immigration restrictions that keep queers whose lives are at risk out of Canada, “queer” though packaged and celebrated at times leaves us certainly still spectacularized as monstrous-others by many. BOO!

And we’ve all been noticing this I’m sure but queer visibility has become largely corporatized and monitored by political power structures. The result? A particular iconic gay image has become widely circulated, accessible and exploited, used as the taffeta dress worn at the party meant to celebrate the Canadian, cutting-edge sexual freedom that has been considered a triumph for queer subjects in recent years.  Visual cues that flash this load of balls in our face are everywhere: Ellen Degeneres and her happy happy wife Portia De Rossi, Jodi Foster, Queen LaTifah, Ricky Martin, Chris Colfer; queer storylines on popular television dramas such as Modern FamilyTrue BloodGlee, Happy Endings, Smash, the revamped Degrassi Junior High, The New NormalGrey’s Anatomy; queer shows such as The L- Word–which should just be renamed Shane’s cute boobies–and The Real L-word; the ‘outing’ of How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris and American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert; or the success of films such as Milk, Chloe, and Brokeback Mountain.  It would appear from such popular icons that sexual freedom has finally come to North America on a flag with colors that don’t run. 

Globally, the figure of the non-heterosexual citizen is being waved around like a trophy, branded with a notion of happy, queer sexual freedom that has become a veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing and a feather in the hat of patriotism. This type of celebrating homosexuality resembles what Samantha King has called a “tyranny of cheerfulness” where we queers are told we’d better be happy we have rights, even when we don’t actually have rights.

Yet, what also remains true is that anti-gay marriage legislations, gender, race, class, and sexual inequality, trans- discrimination, militant homophobia, and violence against queers are still rampant concerns. Optimistically, and we all know how I feel about that shit, sexual freedom is still a work in progress in the west.

Still, culturally and politically this fairytale narrative of unbridled sexual bosom- buddiedness and diversity is circulating globally as evidence of western culture’s exemplary grown-upness–our modernity. The visibly invisible queer has somehow become an emblem of western superiority. In this regard, as Judith Butler puts it: a western “subject position is being staked’ out on the back of queerness to legitimate violent acts that police other bodies and non-western cultural practices,”even though the sexual freedom the west endorses— a highly selective and sanitized version of sexual liberation—is anything but queer.

What’s happening in consequence globally is horrific. Queerness, and our so-called democratic freedoms,  is being used by western governments to initiate civilizing missions throughout the non-western world. For example, it takes nothing for the US and Canadian military to make accusations that Iraq is sexually intolerant of homosexuality, and then use this accusation to wage a war against minority cultures, all under the guise of “teaching” and helping people become more tolerant and “happy.” Targeted as premodern, cultural strangers who are threats to diversity, and national security, this ‘kind of sexual targeting’ is being allocated as a means to produce particularized subjectivities— the outsider, the terrorist and the non-citizen. And each of these identities are represented as monstrous figures who threaten to come and get us here at home.

So, not unlike Israel, the west has been garnering support for its “civilizing mission” (a.k.a. desire for oil) by using queerness to promote ourselves as though we, and James Cameron,

are the avatars of freedom and democracy. Excuse me while I laugh and then cry myself to sleep.

I have also seen some serious pinkwashing in recent campaigns that profess to help suicidal gay teens negotiate the homophobic world they live in, and yet are not allowed to say they live in.

Sorry Dan Savage, you’re up.

Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project” tells gay teens to hang in there and it will all be better. There have been so many critiques of the problematics of telling kids the homophobic violence they are suffering through now will get better in the future, and so I won’t get into that here. But I will say that this promise that “it gets better” mimics, performs we might even say, the promises of capitalism. Have you ever been so depressed, have felt so fat, pimply, alone, hated, torn into bits, alienated, lied to, bullied, abused, broken hearted, pushed around, pushed to your limit, and have seen an ad that promises you you’ll look beautiful, make friends, stand out in a crowd, if only you buy their boots? I have. Come see my dark closet.

These sorts of promises though speak to a call to upward mobility that echoes neoliberal understandings of progress and growth. Promoting an ever inborn ability to thrive, indeed, his “It Gets Better Project” reinstates, as jasbir puar tells us, the “pull yourself up from the bootstraps immigrant model” so widely used post World War 2.

Dan Savage also successfully uses a politics of sympathy, a sympathy for himself as a gay man and for the teens who are suffering, that turns gay trauma and hurt into money–cultural capital. I swear, I’m not just being a douchebag here; the sponsors of “It Gets Better” are astoundingly appalling where companies like Google.ca, and the multimillion dollar industry of surviving suicide that has surfaced becomes synonymous to saving lives.

Let’s back it up.

As has been evidenced throughout the use of historical Bedlams (human zoos for the “normative” and curious), and through the ongoing popularity and criticism surrounding exploitative charity drives (such as those around the death of famous gay youth Matthew Shepard), and concerns about the corporatization of recent Pride celebrations worldwide we know the rich can benefit from traumas, especially when they become partnered with corporations that do philanthropic giving. Although Savage’s project was begun to help struggling gay youth, his corporate sponsors, like Google, are not suffering from the popularity of the campaign and are influencing the message “It Gets Better” promotes: grow up, become a progressive, white-middle class homonormative male, and you too will get better. As though “getting better” were completely your own job and not the job of the society that is homophobic.

Pinkwashing comes into play here too as corporate reputations get “cleansed” by being associated with such charitable projects as “It Gets Better,” even if these businesses do nothing to change their politics or unethical practices. Not dissimilar to other projects that seek corporate sponsorship and support from anyone and everyone who will lend their names—such as the one discussed at the QuAIA townhall “Making It Our Business Campaign,” an initiative launched in 2007 by Barbara Bush and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry to “raise awareness” about breast cancer in the “Middle East”– the “It Gets Better Project” often mindlessly smiles about its successes while not calling into account who is funding and putting its name behind its initiatives. For example, Republicans, The Conservative Party of Canada, Target, TD First National Bank, Nokia, Visa, Telus and Google have all put their brand behind the project even though, ironically, their governing strategies and companies have done much to exclude the queer populace in their own anti-gay policies, business ads and campaigns. 

For instance, It Gets Better sponsors such as Visa recently was criticized for running what many thought was a homophobic ad around the Superbowl; Target was recently severely criticized for contributing a large sum of money to Minnesota candidate Tom Emmer’s political campaign; a right-wing anti-gay politician Emmer is known for donating funds to Christian Rock bands who promote a “kill the gays” rhetoric in their lyrics and messages to school children; The Conservative Party of Canada, who has attempted to stop gay-marriage, make it impossible for at risk gay-immigrants to seek asylum in Canada, halt Bill-13 that would make it law to have Gay/Straight Alliances in every school that wants them, posted an It Gets Better Video; Google, the largest sponsor of the campaign recently launched its new Google Pro software by using Dan Savage’s name, and the Project videos, to prove the superior quality of Google’s technology to competitors. Of this alliance between Google and Savage, one naysayer stated: “That’s making blood money off of our teenagers so bullied that they can’t think of any other way to make things better other than suicide”; Outwardly anti-gay Republicans Leonard Lance, Frank Lobiondo, and Jon Runyan also made an “It Gets Better Video” even though they still do not support gay rights, and have openly challenged the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal, Gay-Marriage Act, and a host of rulings meant to get safe spaces in schools of LGBTQ youth. And yet, they too made a video.

The cause celeb of It Gets Better seems to enable these companies and authoritarian government officials to pinkwash their politics. Further, many of the teens who died by suicide cited a lack of access to social-support, internet-bullying, text-message harassment, and class-issues—an inability to be upwardly commercial or “in” enough, to buy the necessary swagger, with the popular crowd—as reasons for their sadness. So having these companies sponsor this project seems ill advised.

The point here is not to blame Savage for his message of hope– he has helped many teens to be sure by giving them a voice. However, by blatantly disregarding who is using his project to support their own corporate interests, and what type of message this actually puts out to queer teens, Savage does his own project a disservice.

So, the next time you see a public campaign that promotes the “think pink” philosphopy remember that while someone in that organization might secretly recall the kiss they shared with that other beefy guy in the bathroom in grade 10 who had a really hard, umm, knocked life and a firm, supple, uh, political reputation but, of course, wasn’t really gay, look into where their colors are running first before you buy that pink tea towel.

Posted in activism, lesbianism, popular culture, queer politics, sexuality, social justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Being Bullied To Death: Loneliness Goes Viral

1. Again.

Image

I can’t even begin to say how much I have missed writing in this blog. And you all. Writing my thesis on loneliness has left me a bit fucking batty, but I am back, and, although a tad sporadic, ready to write my way into a gay, lonely stir again. Thanks for sticking around.

I recently had the pleasure of being a Keynote speaker at a conference in Collingwood, Ontario on bullying and teen suicide. This event was incredible and I’ve been asked to chuck a few of my thoughts up here on the blog so that they can be accessible to anyone who might want them. I’ll do this in parts because I don’t want anyone to fall asleep at the wheel reading this shit. We need you alive. Also, I’m humbly flying without a net here so please if you have any thoughts on this topic or my rants on it (fears, anger, frustration, experiences, tattoos with big daggers) do get in touch. I am all ears. Well, sometimes I’m all drunk but mostly I’m all ears.

For anyone who has read my stuff before you know already I am lonely. I have always been lonely. I will continue to be lonely. And I say this in happy humiliation. I come from a very small town on a very small island where I grew up around god-fearing Christians, moonshine drinking farmers, and hockey moms. Girls marry men young, have beach weddings, babies, and live in either suburbia, or on their parents’ land.

I, though, am a dyke who can’t cook.

My entire life I felt like the only gay on PEI and was incredibly lonely. Back then everything I did was in secret; everything I thought was in secret. I lived my life in hiding and under this constant threat of being revealed. I knew what happened to kids at my school who were different. 

I had friends and schoolmates die by suicide. Some were diagnosed as mentally ill, others were bullied kids, and some were complete surprises—seemingly happy go-lucky people with a lot to offer everyone. No one understood any of it. And yet we never talked about suicide. It was another one of those topics we were to keep closeted for fear it would be unleashed, or spread like Herpes.

But life is changing for our teens. Loneliness, bullying and suicide have been publicly linked very closely in the past year and there has been a lot of media attention on the topics of bullying and teen suicide stemming from a host of North American suicides. In Ontario alone statistics say we are losing two teens a week to suicide and many of those deaths have been connected to bullying: Jamie Hubley, Daron Richardson, Ben Nelson, Jesse Graham, and very recently Caylen Millben, are among the lost.

It’s hard enough when a teen dies, but things get more complicated when we find out that the lost kids were being bullied at school, on the bus, in the locker room, places that are supposed to be safe. for an example of what i’m talking about, although I thought the film Bully played it very safe, it does a lovely job of showing us what some kids go through in their ordinary lives. Bullying is not some spectacular event, it is their everyday.

Keeping in mind that none of us is perfect and all of us and our kids have the potential to be bullies, bullied, and bystanders to someone else’s torment I wonder if we start talking about emotions like loneliness as everyday, ordinary affects if we might help our teens talk about what’s going on in their heads that makes them feel so shyte that they want to permanently check out.

I maintain here that there is a large difference between suicidal thoughts and suicidal actions and talking about suicide and loneliness, needs to become like talking about sex—something we do not shy away from because we are afraid we’ll plant an idea in heads. Loneliness is pinnacle to these dialogues. The fact remains that although some of us have different conditions of arrival than others, all of us get lonely and feel like throwing in the towel from time to time. “Feeling” suicidal, or that life is awful is a lot more common than we think. Being confused about why we would want to live life in this world we have created when we are hurting is not necessarily a terrible feeling.

While terrifying to admit, we can probably all think back to a moment when we were so stressed, tired, sick, angry, sad, frustrated, lost, we pondered the thought of death. We’re still here so there must be some ordinariness around such ideas. Try not to treat kids like dolls, or rare birds. Hearing a teen say they feel as though they would be “better off dead” is not the same thing as hearing that teen say “I’m going to kill myself” which is also not the same thing as them actually doing so. Fatalism and morbidity have become mainstay in a cultural moment where zombie films, epidemics, fears of the end of the world, wars, global warming are everywhere. Kids don’t think about death in the same ways that we did. Death is everyday speak and commonplace.  Don’t ignore it, but don’t  panic.

I’ve done a lot of work with loneliness. Probably too much according to my friends. What I have noticed though is that today everyone is talking about it. It’s the Voldemort of our time, the Branjelina of depressing emotions. I think loneliness’ newfound celebrity has been greatly misunderstood and misused by academics, health care professionals, politicians, and popular culture. It’s become very profitable. Talked about as an emotional state that is always depressed, sad, and pathetic an almost anxious idea surrounds loneliness that it, and lonely people, need to be policed, cured, and silenced. Definitions of loneliness tend to play a single tune: the lonely are to be pitied and helped back into becoming social.

They’re weirdos, pariahs. They are:

1) the shadow cast in a crowded room

2) the kid at the party who sits alone and makes the adults worry and not know why

3) the introverted teenager who writes sensitive poetry

4) the older woman who stares off too much

5) the immigrant who is too quiet for comfort

6) the two girls who wear black and who keep only to themselves.

These untrusting notions surrounding the lonely person are everywhere in a contemporary culture that rewards people for telling everyone about their business—think Sookie from Jersey Shore who tells us what color her shit is— and considers loneliness an extraordinary crutch rather than an everyday feeling.

And there are a ton of books out there to help us lonely people reassemble our broken, freaky selves. I’ve read many. They don’t work. Look at me!

Really scary though is the social media that has linked loneliness to murderous tendencies, and mass suicide.In recent years there have been numerous examples of children and young adults who have gone on killing sprees at their schools. And loneliness is used throughout these news stories to explain what happened to make these teens  suicidal and violent.

Dylan Klebold, one of the teenage Columbine shooters in 1999  was called “the lonely man who struck with absolute rage.”

23 year-old Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho was described as “extraordinarily lonely—the loneliest person I have ever met in my life.”

There are unfortunately many more examples. In all cases the loneliness label is used to isolate and mark the subject as rare and questionable. And that’s all it takes.

And now, the lonely person has become a subject of scientific and medical study. Viewed scientifically loneliness is a condition that scientists think certain populations are born with: a physical, mental, and psychosocial health risk that is contagious.

Claiming emotions are infectious has been long used historically to persuade a terrified public that certain people are dangerous threats to social and cultural safety, values, and norms. Go to horror movies as much as I do and you will see that this idea of emotional contagion is old hat. I recommend watching the horror flick 28 Days Later where rage is contagious. It’s awesome. And very telling.   

But using words like “contagion” when describing feelings doesn’t get emotion talked about in productive ways; rather, it gets them feared. It’s not so much what that type of language is saying but what it’s doing. What it does is circulate a belief from trusted authorities—doctors, scientists, scholars, media personalities—that feelings like loneliness are extraordinary and that they only seek out strange people. That these feelings are dangerous and can spread into the “normal” populace in the form of an epidemic– an extraordinary event. Like H1N1 or SARS.

But the thing is, loneliness is a regular, ordinary, boring old feeling we all feel from time to time. So instead of asking what we can do about loneliness, I ask what we can do with it.

In society today we’re supposed to be happy. The cultural industry that gives us Coca Cola and Jersey Shore also tells us to go see self-help gurus, yogis, motivational speakers, and read spiritual guidebooks about finding happy fortune through the power of positive thinking. There are studies out there that can even tell us full countries are happy or miserable and in which hierarchical order.

We pessimistic people call this the industry of optimism. An industry that makes a lot of money on happiness. 

Feeling lonely is not acceptable when we are supposed to be happily social all of the time. But let’s be honest here: we actually live in a world where there is a lot to be unhappy about. But we’re told we have to cure ourselves of “negative thoughts,” ignore our feelings of frustration, and not critique injustices we witness at school, within our own country, on behalf of our country and throughout the world.

And if we’re being honest again, our teens are growing up in a world we don’t know and that we’ve done a great job of fucking up for them. They are the first generation of kids to be raised around mass digital technology. One major change we have witnessed is the means through which teens and preteens are relating to one another—are making friends, frenemies, connections and romances…and are making sense of the world they are inheriting.

When I was growing up I had my diary, books, and general brooding time in my room or outside to work through my various dramas (of which I had many, and which were very important and ruled my own world at 12-19). There was still gossiping, and backstabbing, and I fought over phone time with my sister, and got upset when the phone didn’t ring for me, I felt left out and ugly, fat and full of zits, but the pressure to be constantly in contact, to be on all of the time, wasn’t there because there were no means. When school ended I got to decharge and be miserable and happy and cranky and excited all on my own time.

Today kids and teens are using cellphones and digital social media to make connections, to have friend break ups, and, be awful to one another.  And there is no time in the day when they are not connected to their life at school.

While it might seem from an adult’s stand point the easiest thing to do is to say “don’t log on if you are upset about what your friend is saying,” the impulse to see what has been written about you in a text or on facebook, or what you can write about someone else is intense and exhilarating. You can’t not look. The knowledge that everyone is looking at it anyway, judging you or standing up for you, means that you averting your eyes is useless.

The newness of this Technological moment has brought about a lot of new studies on things like “Facebook depression” and the emotional backlash that might befall young teens who post “Am I Pretty” videos on Youtube, for instance, all in reaction to the terrain our teens are negotiating. The simultaneous alienation and community of some of these sites invite social interactions that expect a multiplicity of subject formations. Sites such as Grinder, Manhunt, and Formspring.com, enable, for a lot of kids, as jasbir puar states, that even the idea of something like “cyber stalking” becomes an expected practice on the road to becoming an acceptable “neoliberal sexual subject.”

For me the most important area we need to work on together, culturally, and politically, is this: We need to teach ourselves how to rethink ourselves as ordinary–neither superior or more normal than anyone else, while understanding what this new technological moment means for sociality and affects such as loneliness.

Returning to the idea of suicide then, dealing with suicidal thoughts and teens is not something that can be wished away or blamed on any one factor. I am pushing that we all make sure suicidal ideation and loneliness become everyday topics. Treating both of these feeling as extraordinary, rare, humiliating, and too terrifying to mention, does nothing other than make them so. Suicide has become glamorized and a celebrity in the media, so the more you talk about it the less glamorous it becomes.

Posted in activism, bullying, dan savage, humour, loneliness, queer politics, sexuality, social justice, suicide | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Political Leaders Who Wag the Dog

I’ve been thinking a lot about humiliation and the risks that are taken to avoid it. In the West, we certainly live in a culture that prides itself on a politics of humiliation. On TV there are a parade of humiliation shows, such as The Apprentice, Average Joe, Big Brother, where the goal of the show is to exalt a winner by humiliating the losers; “judging [others] dismissively is the name of the game.”  

The role of humiliation in politics is fast becoming paid attention to, and many thinkers are beginning to try and understand how the fear of public and national humiliation, and the perception of a loss of dignity might be a motivator for militant violence in the U.S. and Middle East. For instance, post-911, 2001, Osama Bin Laden clearly stated: “What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. Our nation (the Islamic world) has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for more than 80 years. Its sons are killed, its blood is shed, its sanctuaries are attacked, and no one hears and no one heeds.” Here Bin Laden gestures to the narrative of nationhood– one nation fighting another nation to avenge a feeling of shame, disrespect, and injustice.

I’m interested, however, in exploring how the fear of personal humiliation in the West has prompted our political leaders to fall into a dangerously unethical pattern of deflecting their own self-shame by creating cultural, economic, and social chaos elsewhere.

Do you remember the movie Wag The Dog? If not, please see it. You’ll laugh and think it’s brilliantly acted, written, shot. But afterwards, see if it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. See if you, like me, feel a bit sick in your guts because the premise, although so far-fetched it seems hilariously improbable, has already happened and continues to happen today.

The phrase to “wag the dog” describes a moment when something of secondary, or WAY lesser importance is so hyped up that it overshadows the issue that should be of primary importance. We’ve all wagged the dog. Like when I was 13 and stole my dad’s car to go to my hot friend’s house during a snow storm. My father was like, “I told you to stay on the driveway and just pretend to drive,” and I said immediately: “hey, you know what’s really crazy? I think the neighbor is watching me dress at night through the window.” Ok, that never happened. I did steal the car, but I wagged the dog far less effectively and maliciously. I think I said something like: “I love you daddy. Let me buy you a doughnut. I’ll drive.” But the point remains. To wag the dog is to purposely and mindfully overshadow an important occurrence so as to draw less attention to it.

I do have a point here I promise. Here’s the premise of Wag the Dog. In this eery film (based on the novel American Hero by Larry Beinhart) the president, Michael Belson, makes scandalous sexual advances in his office on a “firefly Girl” (a Girl Scout without copyright issues) a coupla weeks before his reelection. A spin-doctor, Robert DiNero, and Hollywood Producer, Dustin Hoffman, are then hired to help the president win back the voter’s trust. In doing so, these two men create a fake war with Albania to get the attention from the sex scandal off of the president’s shoulders.

Renting a warehouse that they use as a movie set they actually craft a theme song, hire a child to play a melancholic Albanian orphan, and get actors to update the US daily on the state of the fake “war” effort in Albania all in a bid to get Americans to trust their president one more time. This fictional war spins out of control but eventually works and the President is reelected.

Now, the film came out in 1997. In 1998 Bill Clinton, president of the US at the time, too had a sexual misstep (or a really good time depending on who you ask.) He had “sexual relations” with a young-intern, Monica something or other, that landed him in some pretty hot water, while getting her a book deal and handbag line. Note, she did not go into the dry cleaning business.

In 98′ everyone was talking about how Clinton could no longer serve as President because of his shoddy morals–a reproach heralded by our angelic Newt Gingrich who left his dying wife in her hospital bed while he married another woman.  So what happened next? Follow the script: In August 1998, amidst a major impeachment scandal, Bill Clinton all of a sudden thought Al Queda was an immediate threat to the US and neighboring countries and so he launched US cruise missiles on 6 presumed chemical warfare compounds in Afghanistan and Sudan. Turns out, they were actually pharmacies.

His determination to defend the US from imminent attack, even if fabricated, worked and the public (who had days earlier wanted him gone from public office) was now warming up to their heroic, take-them-by-the-balls president. Bill Clinton, of course, swears he was reacting to a real threat from Al Queda and not creating a diversion. The folks in the countries and cities he bombed might disagree. Regardless, if he wagged the dog, he’d wagged it well. The Republicans and Democrats stood behind Clinton’s militant decision, commending him for, as Pat Buchanan argues, “finally responding appropriately to a terrorist attack.” Even the ever morally astute Newt Gingrich had a change of heart for Clinton, stating: “I think the President did exactly the right thing. By doing this we’re sending the signal that there are no sanctuaries for terrorists.” Shocker.

The mainstream media, however, were less convinced, claiming the so-called chemical warfare plants were actually manufacturing much needed medicines for their perspective countries. Clinton had murdered innocents. But it wasn’t until Clinton, in the middle of the impeachment trial in December 1998 that the Republicans were leading, decided to attack Iraq that Republicans became suspicious. Clinton claimed Saddam Hussein had refused to comply with the US’s weapons inspection techniques which were to predetermine Iraq’s chances of using chemical warfare  to attack others. With little evidence and a lot to lose if there was not a shift in focus off of Clinton’s penis, the same Republicans who months earlier celebrated Clinton’s military swagger, clued into the possibility that Clinton was wagging his dog around like a tiny puppy. No one in public office seemed to care that his wagging was coming at the expense of the people living in Sudan, Iraq, or Afghanistan, like Afik Ohayon-Zehav, 3 years old, when he died in the attacks.

To be fair to Bill Clinton I think he was probably one of the smarter presidents. And I don’t give a flying monkey’s arse if he was sleeping with an intern. That’s an issue that Hilary Clinton and he should have been able to deal with on their own. He is now taking a lot of the hypocrisy he saw and participated in as the President to the table in fantastic ways, including completely losing his shit on FOX News, calling the Republicans to task for their blatant idiocy surrounding 911, and their hypo-masculine pride. What bothers me about Bill Clinton though is that while he’s more than willing to play the game of attacking Republicans for not doing their jobs post-911, he still cannot seem to question the possibility that it is the militant discourses the US turns to in moments of humiliation or fear that are completely problematic. He can’t seem to see that affects and our personal reactions to attack, rage, and humiliation, can be incredibly dangerous, especially when we’re in a position of power with our hand always poised on a trigger.

About humiliation cultural theorist Zigmunt Bauman says: “Humiliation is a powerful weapon; in addition, it is a boomerang-style weapon. It may be resorted to in order to demonstrate or prove the fundamental and irreconcilable inequality between the humiliating and the humiliated sides; but contrary to such intention, it in fact authenticates, veri-fies their symmetry, sameness parity.” When the humiliated person reacts to their humiliation by disempowering others the exercise only works if an “adversary” is created  that is so terrifying and threatening that the public believes this enemy must be immediately “disarmed beyond hope of recovery” in order for safety to return. In the meanwhile, the original humiliated party who has waged a war to detract eyes from their humiliating circumstances is hailed as a hero for locating that perceived threat and scorching it out.

During his own scandal, Clinton was too proud to be humiliated and his pride may have caused him to react in militant ways that have given way to domino effects of war and militancy ever since. He was not the first to do this of course, and he won’t be the last.

The real problem with wagging the dog is that there are killer consequences.

In 2000, George W. Bush’s popularity was waning. He had a 50% likability rate and was often being humiliated in the press. He was the subject of ridicule because of his less than stellar smarts, was parodied on SNL, and accused of being on a war path against Iraq when no one really understood what he was talking about (even he didn’t I’m sure). And then the attacks on the Twin Towers happened. The mighty US had been shaken and stirred. By October 2001, right after the 911 attacks, Bush had skyrocketed to a 92% approval rating.

In Michael Kimmel’s Manhood in America he argues that the choice to elect G. W. Bush was a strategic one helped by his spin-doctors. The US, like they did with Clinton, needed a man who could take care of threats, even if these threats didn’t actually exist (cue the weapons of mass destruction). Bush’s “advisors clearly understood how masculinity is a ‘social construction’” and they created an “action-figure” for the U.S.  “‘Republican’ became known as the party of  ‘moral values,’ with a no-nonsense approach to dealing with “terrorists,” leading the way to the current era of  “recharged militarized masculinity” (252).  Was 911 an elaborate wag the dog scheme? I sure hope not.

Let’s fast forward to 2011-2012. Do you remember when Toronto Mayor Rob Ford met Mary Walsh from This Hour Has 22 Minutes and he called 911? He was verbally abusive to the 911 dispatcher then, and was called an arrogant coward by many media folks. Weeks later, on Christmas Day, 911 was called again, this time from Ford’s mother-in-law who claimed Ford was drunk and violent and threatening to take his children to Florida against the wishes of his wife. Ok. The reason I am mentioning these recent scenarios is to highlight what I see as Ford’s downhill humiliation spiral and the reactionary politics that have resulted. Although Stefan Baranski, a Toronto PR consultant, argues “voters in Toronto, particularly, have proven that they’re willing to divorce what happens personally, or personal controversy, from a politicians perceived ability to do their job,” he seems to overlook the point. Baranski should be less concerned with how we, the public “tax payers” as Ford so awfully calls us, perceive Ford’s personal life, and pay more attention to how Ford negotiates his personal humiliation while doing his public job.

Rob Ford is human, yes, and makes mistakes, yes, but it is not easily forgiven when a person in power–one who reminds us: “I’m Rob Fucking Ford, the Mayor of This City”– takes a hissy fit after being publicly humiliated and then takes it out on the very people he is supposed to be supporting. So perhaps when Ford, after his 2011 911 calls, decides to close homeless shelters, evict tenting occupiers who have the right to protest, uses fake twitter accounts to deceive voters, attempts to close libraries, cuts social finding for single mothers, cuts grants to community-led organizations, cuts daycare funding, closes pools and rinks, cuts AIDS funding, and dismisses anyone who protests his mayoring as “the same 500 people” that show up for every demonstration, we might all start paying attention to how this man reacts to personal humiliation.

I would argue Ford has been wagging the dog a lot lately and it’s working.

The social media has been reporting on Ford’s weight-loss challenge as if it’s actually newsworthy. One report spends an entire article pondering whether Ford’s weight-loss goal is realistic? No offense, but who the fuck cares if Ford is overweight? I just want him to stop ruining the city. He’s also been wagging his dog by making stage appearances in art shows in the city; he’s the subject of a new opera, and was featured twice onstage in performances of Thomas the Tank Engine and The Nutcracker   and the media is eating it up calling him the “misunderstood mayor”. Have his conservative and out-of-nowhere policies changed on the environment, bike lanes, social policy, the Arts, cultural politics, or ethics? Nope. But he sure does look cute in a cannon solider outfit.

While Ford does not have the power, thank fuck, to wage a war against countries whenever he personally gets caught and publicly humiliated for making some pretty awful decisions, his position of power has omega effects on the people of Toronto. And as Hamutal Dotan says, no matter how wrong Ford is, he will not listen to analysis or evidence to suggest this. He listens to the “voters in his head” and to “his gut.” Which leaves us all in Toronto in trouble.

Posted in humour, popular culture, queer politics, sexuality, social justice, social politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments