Jones of the Nile

Friday, December 29, 2006

Is the marriage fight setting us back?

I have another horrible confession to make. Not only did I clap during the movie "Dreamgirls," but I'm also a flip-flopper. I'm one of the seemingly increasing queer folk who can't manage to enthusiastically get behind gay marriage. I know it's important, and it seems like the right thing, but it still leaves an acid reflux feeling in my chest. Is it the right battle to be fighting?

The latest issue of the Gay & Lesbian Review features an article from John D'Emilio, The Marriage Fight is Setting us Back, which hits at some of the reasons many GLBT activists hesitate to get behind gay marriage, much to the ire of some of their peers. I can't say I agree with everything in D'Emilio's piece, and it's way too long for my interest (halfway through I felt my eyes wander to the people sitting next to me in the coffee shop, and my ears soon followed). But D'Emilio does make some great points, one being that if history is to teach us anything, it's that pushing for gay marriage rights now may not be the most prudent fight. As he writes, the increasing cry over gay marriage now has in turn spawned a number of anti-gay laws, initiatives, and amendments -- concentrated now so that every year it seems that a half dozen new states are passing something anti-gay.

Anyway, it's an interesting read, especially if you're one of those (like me) who sometimes wonder whether the quest for gay marriage is really harming or helping the GLBT movement in this country.

Another interesting piece to check out....a group of GLBT activists have just released a sign-on letter to national GLBT organizations, Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships, which urges the GLBT community to move beyond a singular push for gay marriage. Again, I don't agree with it all, but it's definitely worth the read to get a sense of the debate on this issue. Ciao!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I admit it...I clapped, too

A friend of mine gets all hot and bothered when people clap in a movie theater. "It's not like they can hear you," she says, "It's a freakin' movie!"

Usually I'd agree with her. But yesterday, on Christmas, I was among the first in line to go see "Dreamgirls," the new movie with Beyonce Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and of course, Jennifer Hudson, of American Idol fame. And dammit, if the entire movie theater (myself included) didn't burst into applause after Jennifer Hudson sings "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," halfway through the movie. (it's the song she's singing in the picture at the right.)

That girl can sing. And this may just be the best song in movie history. Better than "Cellblock Tango," from Chicago. Better than "Singin' in the Rain," from, uh, Singin' in the Rain. Better than "Summer Lovin'" from Grease. Even better than "Suddenly Seymour," from Little Shop of Horrors, which I have to admit retains a very sweet space of property in my heart :)

So go see Ms. Hudson sing. Then in a few months, watch her pick up the Oscar. 'Cause this girl can blow a tune.

For a good review of "Dreamgirls," go here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Came across this quote, which seems apt for the season. May these last few weeks of 2006 be a season of reclamation...

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world." - Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum aided Jewish victims who were interned at the Westerbork concentration camp. She was later interned herself at Auschwitz, where she died in November 1943.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Principles of Environmental Justice

This is old news, but sometimes old news can be refreshingly good news. This is from a 1991 conference that has henceforth become known as "The First People of Color Environmental Leadership Summitt." The summitt established 17 principles of environmental justice, connecting the dots between environmental degradation and racism. I'll paste the preamble below, but if you'd like to look at the 17 principles, click here.

WE, THE PEOPLE OF COLOR, gathered together at this multinational People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit to begin to build a national and international movement of all peoples of color to fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities, do hereby re-establish our spiritual interdependence to the sacredness of our Mother Earth; to respect and celebrate each of our cultures, languages and beliefs about the natural world and our roles in healing ourselves; to insure environmental justice; to promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the development of environmentally sage livelihoods; and, to secure our political, economic and cultural liberation that has been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression, resulting in the poisoning of our communities and land and the genocide of our peoples, do affirm and adopt these Principles of Environmental Justice.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas cliches

To start off this season of Advent, here's a yuletide joke...

"What do you call Santa's little helpers?"

A: "Subordinate Clauses."

Ah, how that pleases both the Christmas lovers and the grammarians.

But since it 'tis the season, here's an article from John Rausch, a Glenmary priest from Kentucky (a Glenmarine, as he once told me). John is one of the funniest and most socially conscious people of faith I know, and I love the way this article skewers both the moron pundit urging us to put "Christ back into Christmas," but also the hyperconsumer, who will shoot someone to get a damn video game console, but will pay little attention to the crux of this season.

Take it away, John... (bold parts are my emphasis)

Christmas Giving Can Save the World
By Fr. John Rausch

Cliche #1: "Christmas is becoming too commercial."

Cliche #2: "Put Christ back in ‘Christmas’."

Non-cliche: "Christians through our hyper-consumption are destroying the world Christ came to save."

Consumer expectations about Christmas bate the trap that catches many of us. The credit card industry estimates that Americans will use plastic to charge around $100 billion for gifts at Christmastime. The average middle class family already owes about $8,000 in credit card debt, but an estimated 115 million consumers survive by paying at least the minimum monthly balance and carrying the rest with crippling-high interest rates. With more than two credit cards in circulation for each person living in America, the plastic card represents the opiate of the consumer, separating the psychological high of the purchase from the depressing low of financial consequences.

Christmas expectations have woven themselves into our social fabric and become ingrained in many of us. For example, we don’t feel guilt if we neglect to buy a gift for someone who gifts us. We feel embarrassment. Guilt means by justice we owed something and did not give it. Embarrassment means by social conventions, the other bested us. So the cashier swipes our credit card and we buy the person something to tie the score. Consumption becomes defensive, compulsive and mindless.

The goods we consume provide information, while they communicate our social status and values. A $40 shirt with "Tommy Hilfiger" printed up one arm trumpets that the wearer participates in the global economy–the one-third economy, since two-thirds of the world’s population cannot afford a $40 shirt. We consume pricy things less because we need them to survive and more because we need them to participate in our social class.

Consumerism also shifts the economic emphasis away from the common good to individuals and their freedom. The market promotes happiness, good health and education through the exercise of individual choice–providing a person has the dollar power to choose. As a result, CEOs and Members of Congress have gold-plated healthcare plans, while the blue-collar diabetic down the road has free clinics and emergency rooms.

Frivolous consumption is destroying the planet. Scientists estimate it would take more than five earths to sustain the world’s current population at American consumption levels. With only 4 percent of the world’s population, America consumes 25 percent of all resources, uses 43 percent of all gasoline and produces 25 percent of all greenhouse gases. Without a change in lifestyle, global warming will significantly alter life on this planet.

"Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its life style," wrote John Paul II in his World Day of Peace Address, January 1, 1990. In concluding his message he says, "I wish to repeat that the ecological crisis is a moral issue."

Because consumerism has an orientation of "having" rather than "being," the challenge remains to create a lifestyle valuing consumer choices that deepen the human experience and highlight healthy relationships. A non-profit group in Abingdon, VA, Appalachian Sustainable Development, suggests a few creative ideas along those lines for Christmas. For example, help a child become curious about the natural world by giving a tree the family plants together, cook or bake a gift, make a photo album filled with memories, or give some socially conscious gift from the Heifer Project or UNICEF.

The cliche about "Put Christ back in Christmas" must mean something about his gift giving, because if we gave the same way, we would probably be helping to saving the world.