Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Where are our families? Don't Ask--Don't Tell

This month is Gay History Month, and yesterday was National Coming Out Day. As always, this leaves me thinking of life in general, family and where "we" stand with those that mean--or should mean--something to us.

I read an article today about a man who died in an automobile accident in 1959 at the age of 24 and unbeknownst to his family, he was gay. After his death, a young man approached one of the young man's sisters and shared a truth that would become the family's dirty little secret.

As I poured through the words, I began to ask myself if things are all that much different 58 years later here and now in 2016? 

How many of our families don't "know" us? How many don't try or want to or are afraid to? 

I made a reference to this the last night when I spoke at our local Coming Out Day Stories event that some families, mine included, are quite expert at practicing something the military did for 20 years.... Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Some families do not try. Worse, some gay family members are excised from their families when acceptance is nowhere to be found. One of my former students came out to his parents a few years back and in the aftermath, his parents have virtually cut him out of their lives. 

You have probably heard the phrase "it's complicated" yet when it concerns families, why must this be the case?

The title of this article "The Uncle I Never Met" hit me rather hard. I often think my nieces and nephews--even my brothers and sisters--merely know me as their brother, their uncle, a long-time bachelor, the guy who visits during the holidays but know little else about my life. 

I often think I'm the man my family has never met. 

I once mentioned (a few years back) in a conversation with my brother Scott that not once in the 30 years + since I came out has the family ever asked, "hey, you seeing anyone?" or anything else that remotely approaches a personal question.

And it is not that I have ever felt unwelcome. Far from it, but what I have felt is not included or that we put on the white gloves when we talk. I have always felt family members only ask what they want to know, pulling pack just shy of anything important... you know, it's the usual "how's work? how's your car running?" That sort of thing. 

If my family feels uncomfortable inquiring about my life, they've, in turn, given me little cause to feel comfortable sharing in kind. I suppose this is the proverbial quandary "which came first? The chicken or the egg?" 

Some members of my family have not once visited my home where I have lived for 20 years. Surprisingly--at least to me--I do not feel anger about this, just some sort of detached reticence about it all. Oddly enough, I don't feel that my family and I have a poor relationship. Instead, I feel that we barely have one at all.

I guess I don't feel anything, which in all honesty if I let myself dwell upon it, makes me sad. 

My son and my friends here in South Bend (and my Uncle Garry and his wife Martina) are the only ones who I feel a familial connection, but I do have to wonder: Is this unusual? Is this how other families live their lives? I know I would certainly like it to be more than it is. 

My son Wes often jokes with me about an event that happened close to 20 years ago when my brother Bryan, on a number of occasions, asked me to move back to Rochester (our hometown) to teach and to be closer to the family. I've always said no, that I didn't wish to live in a small community where prying, judgmental eyes are too privy to my life, where everybody knows everything about you whether you want them to--or not. 

Gay people, born and raised in small towns, for decades, know the hows and the whys they flee their hometowns for larger communities. 

Yesterday at the Coming Out Stories night, roughly a dozen people (myself included) recounted their recollections of coming out. It struck me that even after all the inroads the gay community has made since I came out in 1982, people today still experience a great deal of trepidation when seeking their family's love and acceptance. Why is it we find acceptance from our friends far easier than we do our families? 

For the author of this moving piece (this article can be found at yesterday's The Huffington Post), broaching the subject just was not possible in 1959, so why is it so hard for some families to do in 2016? 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Debate number two, King Donald showed up minus any clothes

Tonight was the second debate between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. Everyone who was watching was in suspense as to which Donald would show up for the night. A vengeful one? Contrite? Boastful?

Well, the answer came within seconds. Donald was on the attack from the word go, and it wasn't pretty. He was Donald at his worst. Interrupting, bombastic, lies, boasts, threats and nary an apology for his comments about... well, um, well, about pussy. He opened by saying he has apologized to his family and that the words he used "are not him." But what about us Americans?


Like Mrs. Clinton said, "Oh yes it is, Donald. Those words are you." Mrs. Clinton pointed out if this incident were just a one-time event, we could accept his contrition, but, again, as she pointed out this was but one more string of hateful words he has used.

Anyone who has decided who are they are going to vote for in 28 days probably saw nothing tonight to change their vote. 

Undecided voters, I suspect, are leaning more towards Mrs. Clinton in light of events unveiled on Friday and based on Donald's threats tonight. Yes, threats. Donald has seriously confused the role of a President. His threats to throw Mrs. Clinton in jail are more the rants of a dictator, and less of those of a president. 

But I want to address another subject. 

I keep hearing comments, "I don't like her."

So what? You don' have to. It is sad if you think running for President is merely a likability contest.

I realize charm and charisma is important when considering the recipient of your vote. BUT skill, knowledge, temperament, the ability to work with others, trust, experience all should play a far more important role in choosing a president. Mrs. Clinton has these qualities in spades.

I will, however, grant Mrs. Clinton has a number of shortcomings, but I am still waiting for someone to show me Donald possesses any of the things that would make him a good president. 

Hillary is not Bill... nor does she need to be. Personally, I think she has the abilities to run rings around Bill when it comes to being President. Yes, Bill.

You may not like Hillary, but her qualifications far outweigh her negatives. Sometimes you have to weigh the plusses and negatives and come to a conclusion that you, the voter, will have to live with.

I can be critical of Mrs. Clinton too. Sometimes she just cannot answer a question with forthright candor. Her response regarding her private versus public opinion was lame beyond words. At times, I think Hillary does not know how to answer succinctly without offering too much information. Sometimes, a simple 'yes' or 'no' will suffice.

Donald's performance tonight showed me nothing that would indicate he has any of the above-mentioned qualities that would qualify him to be the leader of this country. If you do, please enlighten me.

When Hillary wasn't having to respond to Donald's lies about her tonight, she did a pretty credible job presenting her vision for our future. Given the format of tonight's debates and the time constraints, neither candidate could devote much time to really address the issues.

Given more time, Hillary could have said more, offered more. Given more time, Donald would still have squandered his (when he wasn't complaining that the moderators were treating him unfairly) blathering on and on about himself and repeating more of his delusions about the Clintons and the failings of our country.

Problem is, Donald doesn't believe a word of what he says and he's hoping you do. Hillary, in contrast, may not believe everything she says, but she has the skills to affect a change for the better.

Look at the competing messages. Donald is running on the belief that America's days are waning. Hillary's, in contrast, are of hope and working together to make things even better.

You may not like Mrs. Clinton, but you don't have to. What you do have to do is this: your vote should go to the candidate who can do the most good for the most people. 

In the end, it is your conscience you have to wrestle with.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Let's go forward

I'm With Her

I had a very interesting conversation tonight with a Navy Chief with whom I used to serve. She was running a meme on her Facebook page that read "I am more disturbed by what Hillary has done than what Donald has said." 

The problem is we are not merely talking about Donald's words-- ugly as they all too often are--but his actions. 

His trail of dirty business dealings over four decades is pretty well documented. He has stiffed company after company who provided products and services in good faith. His behaviors are unconscionable. 

The list of his misdeeds are well known, so forgive me if I do not cover them in great detail.

You can call Mrs. Clinton guarded; some would call her tactics questionable, and some would say she is an opportunist (show me a politician who is not), but there is absolutely no doubt that Trump's corruption is unparalleled. We cannot permit him the seat in the Oval Office.

I am still scratching my head that the Republicans couldn't come with someone better. It may be a fair assessment the Democrats could have done better as well (however, I believe Mrs. Clinton is eminently qualified to be President).

The chief mentioned how much the media loves Mrs. Clinton, something with which I vehemently disagree. Just two years ago, Mrs. Clinton, along with First Lady Obama, sat at the top of the most admired women's list. 

In that time, partially due to her lack of judgment regarding the usage of her email servers and yes, Benghazi, the press has done a pretty good job of putting her through the meat grinder. I find that the media has had a way of building up a candidate and then pulling out the rug.

Today, she polls hardly any better than Mr. Trump.

I will be the first to admit we have two troubling choices this election year. Mrs. Clinton has baggage. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is wearing concrete boots.

I would have preferred Martin O'Mally and I know others would have preferred Bernie Sanders, but that is not how things played out. It appears we Americans like our drama laced with drama and that is what we got--in spades. 

Again, the Chief tried comparing Donald's tax woes to Clinton's, saying she is no different than Trump. She continued by denigrating the Clinton Foundation. 

Thing is, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton's tax returns are on public record, I believe more than 25 years worth. Trump's? Zilch. Donald recently stood before 84 million Americans and alluded that he is a "smart man" by not paying taxes, which, I guess, makes us average slobs pretty stupid.

The Clinton Foundation has done this world a great deal of good in many third world nations. Due to Clinton's commitments, HIV infections have greatly diminished in Africa and southeast Asia due to the foundation's efforts in getting life-saving drugs to the poor.

The Trump Foundation, in contrast, has been little more than a funnel for Donald's personal bank account, so much so, that in the past week more than 16 states have ordered the Trump Foundation to suspend operations due to questionable, if not illegal proceedings.

And Benghazi? I refuse to place blame for Benghazi at Mrs. Clinton's feet. When a child breaks your favorite vase, you don't blame anyone else but those who did it. The bloodthirsty animals who broke into the American compound are to blame for the carnage they unleashed and for the resulting deaths. 

If you would like to characterize it otherwise, fine. But think of this, if Mrs. Clinton was guilty of dereliction of duty as Secretary of State as the Republicans would like us to believe, where are the indictments? They spent more than eight million dollars trying to bring her down.

The Republicans dragged Hillary through the proverbial coals for more than three years. In the end, they could not find cause to charge nor arrest nor prosecute (but not from a lack of trying).

I don't know where the Chief had gotten the idea about our national debt doubling since President Obama took office, but considering that President Bush's Iraq-Afghan War was not paid for, is it any wonder our national debt has increased? 

From what I have found, the deficit has dropped dramatically and if the national debt is increasing, let's just say that is a fact of life that has existed ever since World War II. But oddly, I thought our conversation was about Clinton and Trump, not President Obama's administration. 

I have always found it amusing how when people have trouble defending their viewpoint, they resort to dragging in extraneous topics. It's called diversion. It's called deflecting the light. It's called changing the subject. I call it disingenuous. 

The Chief offered that Gary Johnson is her only viable choice for her vote. I would counter that neither Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are qualified to serve as president. 

Yes, I would rather we voters have two other candidates from which to choose, but that is not the cards we were dealt and to that, a large part of the blame falls at, we the voters, feet.

I offer this: When the current and last four former living Presidents have made it clear they oppose Donald Trump's election; when every major national newspaper (except for the well-regarded National Enquirer--yes folks, that was sarcasm) is endorsing Mrs. Clinton; when more than 30 high ranking Republicans just today announced they are voting for Mrs. Clinton; when Barbara Bush--and I am not certain, but I think Laura and their daughters have also lined up behind Mrs. Clinton as well, maybe a lot of people who harbor such ill-will toward her might want to examine their views. 

Or maybe, these aforementioned people cannot bring themselves to see a monster like Donald Trump elected. 

Here is a fact of life: we do not have to find our presidential candidates likable (it helps, but it is not prerequisite), but we DO have to find them qualified for the job.

While I respectfully give the Navy Chief her due, I totally disagree with her characterizations of Mrs. Clinton. In the end, however, what I cannot understand is how a Navy Chief, a female no less, can defend Trump's horrible behaviors which are completely contrary to the Navy Core Values we have espoused since the Navy began back in 1775.

No, Mrs. Clinton is not perfect, not by a long shot. Who is? But with 31 days out from the November election, our choices are Donald or Hillary. Personally, I find the choice pretty easy, if not a bit unsettling. 

To vote for Donald Trump is tantamount to turning your back on the Constitution, turning your back on veterans, and turning your back on this country's principles we have held dear for nearly three centuries.

No one who knows me will be surprised, but I'm with her.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Land of the freeloading billionaire

I have always said that a man or woman who fails to vote then forgoes their right to bitch about how our government operates. The same sentiment goes with those who fail to pay their fair share of income and property taxes.

Which brings me to the Donald. Today he criticized servicemembers suffering from PTSD. 

He said today, "When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over and you're strong and you can handle it but a lot of people can't handle it." 

I'm sorry, Mr. Trump, but what could you possibly know about serving overseas in a war zone? How dare you!

This from a man who has not served a single day in uniform--he even received multiple deferments from serving during the Vietnam War.

This from a man who cannot decide whether he said the U.S. should ever have been at war with Iraq or not.

This from the man who said Senator John McCain, who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, was not a hero. "I like winners," Trump said. "Not those who were captured."

These words come from a man who enjoys the luxury and comforts partially afforded to us because of our brave men and women's service to country.

This criticism from a man who has not paid taxes in nearly 20 years, which means he has lived off the backs of those of us who have paid our taxes AND those who have sacrificed much while serving in uniform.

Donald, you gave up the right to criticize our men and women in uniform by failing to do the right thing, by failing to contribute to the operations of this government and our military.

You see, Mr. Trump, a leader leads by example. Your record of failing to serve in uniform and with your multiple business failures clearly shows you are not fit to lead this country, and sure as hell, not our Armed Forces! You, sir, are not a leader. Not one that I would want to follow, that is.

A government is not a business, and to think it should operate as one clearly illustrates a failing of an understanding what a government is all about. Government's role is to protect and nurture its citizens, not profit from them... or to live upon their toils without returning something in kind.

The GOP have long cried foul regarding those they call freeloaders who have taken advantage of government welfare, yet their party has been pretty silent about Donald's form of corporate welfare.

It seems to me knowing what we now know about Trump's tax record, Donald has no right to complain... or to run for the highest office in this land.