Showing posts from May, 2014

People with Guns

I know how some of you will react. "Guns by themselves don't kill anyone!" "It's mentally ill people and criminals, not law-abiding gun owners, who are the problem!" "It's our Constitutional right!" Yes, I've hard all these arguments, ad nauseum. I even feel some sympathy for them, particularly the one about how our society no longer cares for the mentally ill as it once did, and something needs to be done about that. I've also been reminded, by Michael Moore of all people, that Canadians own more guns per capita than Americans and seem somehow to manage not shooting each other thirty times a day. His reframing of the slogan goes like this: "Guns don't kill people. Americans kill people." But here's where the rubber meets the road or, better euphemism, the hot lead punches through the rib cage: people are dying, boatloads of them, and apart from sympathetic speeches, empathetic arms around the shoulder, and choreog

Out in the Open

Yesterday I wrote about a gay college friend who stayed closeted from me until our 25th reunion, though for much of that time, we were completely out of touch. Commenting on that blog post, another friend speculated about whether Scott was even out to himself in the 1980s, and wondered if coming out begins with oneself. Yes. So there's the answer to the story problem. Now, of course, I've got to show my work. There's a lot of it. This is about my personal journey of coming out agnostic. It starts in 1974, when I was on two parallel church-related tracks: confirmation and earning my God and Country badge, a religious emblem awarded by the Boy Scouts. Many eighth graders going through these initiation rites are fortunate enough to do them in a community of young people their own age. I was not. The church my father served in Emmett, Idaho was really too small to have a youth group, and I was the only Methodist in my Scout troop, so I was on my own with both t


One of these people is gay. I had no idea. Correction time: I said in my last post that I didn't really befriend a gay person until I was in my 30s, and serving a gay-friendly Reconciling Congregation. That was only partly true. In fact, I did have a close gay friend, but I was completely ignorant of his orientation. In fact, I only learned he was gay at our 25th college reunion, in 2008. It's not that strange that I didn't know this about him when we were classmates, living in the same dorm, part of a clique we called The Group. Scott dated women, belonged to a fraternity, and was, the last time I saw him before that reunion, engaged to a woman. Then he moved to North Carolina, and I heard nothing from him for about fifteen years. Then came the reunion. We met at an alumni mixer at which we only knew each other, got out of it as quickly as we could, and went out for a beer. There, Scott just mentioned in the conversation that he had a partner, and call

Such Sadness

"We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history." --Judge John E. Jones III, in his opinion striking down Pennsylvania's version of the Defense of Marriage Act I started my last post with this quote, but didn't really address it. The occasion of its writing was a cause for great celebration, as marriage equality is now the law of the land in nineteen states. Of the remaining 31, discriminatory marriage legislation has been challenged in court in all but one, and given the perfect victory record of every previous challenge, it is just a matter of time--months, perhaps--until gay and lesbian couples can enter into civilly recognized marriage contracts throughout the United States. (It might take a little longer in North Dakota, the only state without such a lawsuit in progress.) This is, as I just said, cause for celebration. It's been a long time coming, and now it's happening so quickly!

Such Joy

"We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history." --Judge John E. Jones III, in his opinion striking down Pennsylvania's version of the Defense of Marriage Act. These powerful words sum up a cascade of judicial decisions that will, once they have weathered the inevitable ineffective appeals, make marriage equality the law in more than half the fifty states. They could have been written for the Oregon decision, but it is perhaps more significant, more telling, that they came from the pen of a conservative Republican judge who, at the time of his nomination to the federal bench, was endorsed by Rick Santorum. I learned of the ruling from Facebook, which was flooded with happy posts yesterday afternoon, including several versions of "Now I can finally marry my true love!" Amy, Sarah, and I were headed downtown for a heterosexual wedding celebration at Voicebox, a karaoke bar that was, we disc


I'm angry. I don't say this lightly. I'm not a believer in anger. Anger is an emotional appendix, a feeling that has long outlived its evolutionary purpose. In our world, expressing anger does not get constructive results. It does foment violence in the home, in the schoolyard, on the streets, and between states. It drives couples apart, traps children in the middle of divorce, turns town meetings into free-for-alls, furthers the causes of reactionaries who shout down information they'd rather not here, and thus furthers the descent of this nation, this world, into the inferno of climate change. Anger gets us nowhere. I've believed this most of my life. Expressing anger, however justified, has never yielded a result I coveted. In fact, however I have expressed my anger--and that includes the vaunted "I statement"--has always made matters worse. Always. And yet I feel it. However dedicated I may be to detachment, however logically I may seek to t

How Much They'll Miss Us

It's the time of year when kids start feeling their oats. In the gym where I teach, I use rolling plastic risers called "Flip Forms" to organize classes, dividing children among the four colored risers as they enter the room. This breaks up clumps of friends and creates ready-made teams that can compete with each other for quietest, most confident singing, best listening, etc. And yes, I know "winning" a competition like this is extrinsic motivation, but at this point in the year, I will pragmatically do whatever it takes to hold their attention long enough to teach a concept. It works up to a point--that point being when the active boys (somehow, it's never girls) start jumping off the top riser, having their own competition to see who can break an ankle first. I move the children to another part of the gym for the next activity, and now the really active boys are wandering over to the risers whenever I'm not looking to continue jumping off of

Creeping Sectarianism

The setup: the small town of Greece, New York, has for many years opened its council meetings with prayers led by local clergy. Clergy invited to lead prayers were selected from a list of local religious institutions, so there was considerable variety in the content of prayers--up to a point. The list, you see, contained only Christian faith communities. For ten years, every single invocation was Christian. This led to complaints by a Jew and an atheist attending a meeting. The council responded by looking farther afield and intentionally inviting clergy who were Wiccan, Baha'i, and Muslim, but by now it was too late: the situation became a court case, which was ultimately settled last week by the Supreme Court--in favor of the town of Greece. It is now Constitutional, according to this 5-4 decision, to open any public gathering at which attendance is not mandatory with not just a prayer, but an explicitly sectarian prayer. Further, it is Constitutional if the people leading t

Where We Teach

The good news? I get to be in just one school next year, instead of splitting the year between two. The bad news? I'll most likely still be teaching in a gym--if I'm lucky. Since I'll be at that school all year, there will be at least one semester of overlap with a PE teacher, who will have a better claim on that space than I do. The sad news? On June 11, I will say goodbye to all the students at Hartley School, and probably not see them again. This is a sad reality of being a music specialist in an economy that does not support arts education. When core curricular concerns take all the top priority spots in a budget, music quickly takes on a vagabond status: we'll find work for you if we can; if not, we can always use good subs. And when we do find work for you, be happy to have a job. Keeping you in one building long enough to form relationships, giving you an adequate work space, providing you with all the materials you need to do your work, giving you a daily sc

Stage Courage

Last night, MaryAnn Rambo blew me away. MaryAnn has been on a weight loss journey for over a year now, and as of the last time I checked, had last 203 pounds. She blogs about it at " Repairing Me ," and reading it is well worth your time. She has also begun telling her story on stage as part of a show called "Campfire" and, for the first time last night, as monologist for a long form improvisation called "Disco Lounge." Working from the suggestion "teddy bear," MaryAnn told short stories from her childhood that were the inspiration for scenes by a group of improvisers. The players were silly, blasphemous, hilarious at times, often inspired, but none of what they did would've been possible without the offers MaryAnn made with her stories. To be fair, MaryAnn has actually been doing this for a long time. She's been running the screens at ComedySportZ, putting up images and text that comment on moments in the matches (in keeping with