Sunday, April 7th, 2013

What’s Facebook good for? (part 2)
Facebook logo

My last post about Facebook was about how Facebook’s good for interacting with strangers and gave three examples of that.

When is a friend not really a friend?

If you’ve used Facebook, you know that just because someone’s your “friend” on Facebook doesn’t mean that person is someone you could call to come pick you up in the middle of the night if your car broke down.

German makes a useful distinction between “ein Bekannter” and “ein Freund.” In English we’d usually use the same word, “friend,” to refer to both, but the former is really an acquaintance while the latter is a closer friend, the kind who’d help you out in a jam.

Facebook’s perverted the meaning of “friend” in English even further. Meet someone once at a party? You can be Facebook “friends” now. You can even be “friends” with people you’ve never ever met in person, for example, a Facebook friend’s Facebook friend who, perhaps, likes your comments on your mutual friend’s posts.

However, I also mentioned in that post that Facebook’s good for pissing friends off, which is what this blog entry is about.

One way you can tell you’ve really pissed someone off is when that person unfriends you.

I’ve got three examples I want to write about, but since I’ve got a bit to say about each, I’m going to do each of these examples in separate posts. The first example is the most recent:

Example #1

This one involves the pissed off friend mentioned in my previous post about Facebook. Let’s call this friend George. Wear red or you don't support marriage equality?

George was annoyed at first by my blog entry about red marriage equality profile pics, particularly by my saying that “I find the idea of changing my Facebook profile pic ‘in solidarity’ or of playing ‘high school Spirit Day’ by wearing red a bit silly.”

He didn’t comment on my Facebook post linking to that blog entry, but George did do his own Facebook post to say that he didn’t think he was silly for changing his profile pic. That wasn’t enough to make him defriend me though.

No, to piss George off to the point of defriending me took a series of further Facebook posts (which you didn’t see if you read only my blog and which you can no longer see even if you’re a friend of mine on Facebook—more on that in a later post):

  • a FB post with a screenshot of red marriage equality fanatics bullying friend of teh gayz Kathy Griffin for not yet having changed her FB profile pic to red (to see that screenshot, go to my previous post about Facebook. (By the way, Kathy Griffin—or whoever does her FB profile—finally caved and changed her FB pic to red.)
  • a link to a post on Vice.com by Brian Moylan entitled “The Red Marriage Equality Sign on Your Facebook Profile is Completely Useless.” I did say about Moylan’s piece, “I think he’s a bit too harsh but I absolutely get his point.”
  • a link to a YouTube clip of from a 1995 Seinfeld episode in which Kramer won’t wear an AIDS ribbon. (Kramer walks in an AIDS Walk to show his support for raising awareness about AIDS; he just doesn’t want to wear a ribbon, pissing off the ribbon bullies.)
  • a link to a piece by Orlando Soria entitled “Changing Your Profile Pic is not Activism,” a post that’s less harsh and more humorous than Moylan’s but to the point nonetheless. (Sample fun question on this issue by Soria: “Is it wrong to do something because you’re worried about being a bad person for not doing something just because everyone else is doing it?”)
  • and finally the straw that I guess broke George’s back:

a status update that asked: Okay, so if you switch from your red equality symbol back to your regular profile pic before the Supreme Court rules, have you given up on marriage equality or have you simply decided you’ve shown enough solidarity?

Another FB friend commented on that update that I was “being a provocateur, lol,” and he was right, but I had been noticing, now that the Supreme Court hearings on marriage equality were done, that people were starting to change their FB profile pics back from red marriage equality signs to their regular profile photos. We don’t yet have rulings on these cases from the Supreme Court—that won’t happen until June probably—so why are people done showing solidarity?

Now this question provoked a lot of comments from my Facebook friends, some of whom weren’t as amused as the one who accused me of being a provocateur. One commented, “Wow. Harsh.” Another said, “You do seem a bit surly today…what’s the deal?” (and also said she plans to keep her red equality profile pic until the ruling). A third remarked, “Just saying, you seem to be a little obsessively negative about the whole red thing.”

But none of these commenting friends defriended me. Just George.

I noticed that George had defriended me because I went to check his profile to see if he’d switched back to his regular profile pic (he hadn’t), only to find that we were no longer friends.

Actually we were never really friends, merely Bekannte (see above note about German), acquaintances who saw each other at church from time to time and who once or twice went to lunch in groups after church.

I didn’t want to leave it at that, though. Perhaps I felt a little bad to have upset him. Perhaps I figured I’d run into him at church. At any rate, I sent George a message on Facebook saying I was sorry I hurt his feelings, that my posts weren’t directed at him but that I understood his taking offense at them, that I know I can be a bit negative, and that I wanted to apologize.

George read my message (as I noted last time, something fun about messages on FB, as opposed to email, is that you can see when or whether a message has been read), but he didn’t reply.

So this example is one that doesn’t end well. George doesn’t think highly of me, and, while I guess I don’t blame him, I don’t really care—well, I did care enough to write about it but not enough to make any efforts to change George’s mind.

Unfortunately example #2 didn’t end well either.

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

What’s cooking with Cross Creek?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I was a member of Cross Creek Community Church, actually since its very beginning.

You may also have read my post last November about Cross Creek’s merging with Oak Creek United Church of Christ. That post also featured the name I liked—Croak Creek Community Church (“cross” + “oak” = “croak”)—for the merged church, as well as a fun logo I proposed to go along with the Croak Creek name.

I didn’t really think “Croak Creek” would be adopted, and in fact it wasn’t. The new church is named Harmony Creek Church. Not “Harmony Creek Community Church” or “Harmony Creek United Church of Christ,” although Harmony Creek Church is a part of the United Church of Christ as were both Cross Creek and Oak Creek, and Harmony Creek is also affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists, as was Cross Creek.

The merger’s going fairly well as Harmony Creekers work out what traditions from the two churches to keep and what new stuff to try.

 

Even so, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about Cross Creek. Because of that I’ve been going through some Cross Creek memorabilia, and one item I came across was this, the one and only official Cross Creek Community Church cookbook, Pass the Plate ’round the Welcome Table.

This cookbook was put out in 2007, a year that was billed at Cross Creek as a “Decade of Daring,” the tenth anniversary of our church. The cookbook wasn’t particularly successful as a fundraiser, but it does work at providing some memories of the good food we had at church gatherings.

The forward to the cookbook also provides a nice glimpse of some of the history of Cross Creek. Since these cookbooks are no longer for sale—they made the move to Harmony Creek but were set out for anyone to take for free—I figured it’d be okay to post a scanned copy here for those who want to remember or learn a bit about the church that was Cross Creek.

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

American Express still hopes I’m an idiot

I first realized American Express thought I was an idiot on July 11, 2010 when I received a letter from them trying to sell me their $9.99/month SingleIdentity™ identity fraud protection service.

Earlier this year a friend mentioned a similarly overpriced and worthless service from Fifth Third Bank, which reminded me of Amex’s SingleIdentity service, but when I went to check on the status of singleidentity.net, I found a notice from Amex that their ID Protect program had been discontinued as of January 1, 2013. Good for them, I thought, for getting out of the identity theft protection business.

Thus I was a bit surprised to receive a letter this week from American Express offering me their new CreditSecure® credit protection service. Really, Amex? Why do you think I’m stupid?

CreditSecure® is available for the low price of $14.99/month (making it a tad more expensive than the no longer available SingleIdentity™, which cost $9.99/month).

Like SingleIdentity™, CreditSecure® comes with a bunch of fine print, including a section in which Amex says “there may be occasions when [they] are unable to deliver one or more of the items” they’re charging a monthly fee for.

My favorite footnote, however, is the one that applies to Amex’s offer of “up to $1 million identity theft insurance.” That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But the fine print clarifies, “The maximum liability for unauthorized credit card charges is $50 per card.” So to actually get $1 million in coverage, you’d have to have 20,000 credit cards, each with unauthorized charges on them.

I think I’ll just keep my $179.88/year and not sign up for this stupid service.

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Whose able to write at a college level?

Microsoft Word knows the difference between “whose” and “who’s”:
Okay, this is just petty, I admit. It’s the kind of thing that if posted on Facebook could get me unfriended.

If you write something like this:
I can read and write at a college level. I could do it in the eleventh grade, because of one teacher…
Actually I don’t think this friend is that sensitive, so if he sees this, he’ll probably be a good sport about it.

You might want to be sure never to write anything like this:
My interviewer, whose been on TV longer than I’ve been…
What triggered my pettiness? It’s that my friend bragged about being able to read and write at a college level, but while his writing may well be representative of that of the typical American college student today, it’s not really something to brag about.

I’ve pledged never again to correct anyone’s use of “it’s” as the possessive form of “it.” And recently I’ve decided to no longer post on Facebook (more about that in a later post). However, I’m not yet giving up saying what I want on my own website.

Thus when I saw that my friend, who can read and write at a college level, clearly doesn’t know the difference between “who’s” and “whose,” I just had to write about it. I could have been snarky in a comment on his blog, but I’m restraining myself just a little and writing here instead.

Do you not yet write at a college level and thus not know when to use “whose” and when to use “who’s”? Google is your friend and can point you to pages such as this one where you can learn this “college level” bit of English grammar.

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

What’s Facebook good for? (part 3)
Facebook logo

This post is the second of three entries showing how Facebook is good for pissing off friends. Unlike example #1, this example involves not an acquaintance but a friend, or at least someone who I thought was a friend.

Example #2

This former friend (let’s call her Louise) is the partner of a friend from church (who we’ll call Thelma). Louise is Catholic and doesn’t attend church with Thelma, although Louise does participate from time to time in church-related social events such as retreats or dinner groups.

Although I was and am closer to Thelma than to Louise, I considered Louise a friend as well. I had dinner in their home. I helped them with their computers and their WiFi router. I emailed Louise codes for Coke Rewards since she enjoyed getting prizes from Coke and I never wanted to bother with entering Coke codes myself.

So what did I do to piss Louise off? I posted a link to a news article about a man who beat his girlfriend with an 18-pound crucifix that she’d had hanging on her apartment wall. Perhaps it wasn’t just my posting the article but also my accompanying comment, “A reason not to have big-ass crucifixes hanging from your walls.”

In poor taste? Yes.

Directed at Louise? No. Not posted to her FB wall. Not emailed to her.

But nonetheless poor Louise did have to suffer the indignity of seeing my link and my irreverent reference to crucifixes.

And Louise was really upset. Later on the day of my crucifix post, we were all at Thelma’s and my church, setting up for an event (though Louise didn’t come to services, she did help with Thelma from time to time), and when Louise saw me, she asked to speak to me privately in the kitchen. She was so upset she could barely talk, and I really had no idea why she was so upset until she sputtered that she was really offended by what I’d posted on Facebook. She turned and stormed out before I could even say anything.

Had I shown poor judgment? Sure. And I really did regret upsetting Louise. I valued her friendship enough that I didn’t send her a message on Facebook to apologize but rather sat down and wrote a note to her by hand, saying that I was sorry and offering to meet her for coffee to talk about how she felt.

But, as with George from example #1, I never got any reply from Louise. Perhaps my note to her got lost in the mail, but I rather doubt it. Unlike with George, however, whose non-response didn’t matter to me, I was a bit hurt in turn that Louise would so easily throw our friendship away. I can spend hours of my time helping her with her computer and her home network, I can spend time socializing with her and Thelma over the years, and Louise is so mortally offended by an admittedly tasteless comment that she’d rather never talk to me again?

What makes this sting even more is that really it’s the Roman fucking Catholic Church with which Louise should have a problem. The Dowager Pope, Benedict XVI, is on record as saying that gay marriage “threaten[s] human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” and the current Pope, Francis, called marriage equality in Argentina “a destructive attack on God’s plan.” Louise can’t stand to have a holy crucifix made fun of, but she doesn’t seem to mind having her relationship with Thelma called immoral and a threat to human dignity and an attack on God.

If Louise ever reads this post, I imagine she’ll be livid, but she probably won’t see this since I’m no longer posting on Facebook—hell, even if I were, Louise is no longer my FB “friend” anyway. Should I even be writing this? Probably not (yes, yes, “bitter, party of one”), but it’s good to get off my chest, and it does serve as another example of the perils of Facebook.

The third and final example ends better than the first two, so be sure to come back for another story of Facebook fun.

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Uncle Bill’s Encyclopædia Britannica

One of my favorite things to do when I visited my grandmother and grandfather was to go up to their attic, which was the domain of my uncle Bill, and look through his books. He had tons of books, starting along the edge of the stairs up to the attic, continuing along walls of bookcases on every side of his attic room, and ending in stacks on his desk and tables. Actually the books didn’t end there—Uncle Bill also had books on shelves in my grandmother’s sewing room and even some in my grandparents’ tiny living room. Their house was small but it held a lot of books.

Page 877 features an article about Dayton, Ohio, before the famous 1913 flood and, curiously, with no mention of the Wright Brothers, Dayton’s most famous native sons. In 1910, 116,577 people lived in Dayton, just slightly less than the 2010 population of 141,527. Click on the image above for a larger version, or click here for a PDF.

Even when my uncle was someplace other than Dayton—in Saudi Arabia or Cincinnati or Washington DC—his books made it seem as if he weren’t so far off, especially because he was absolutely fine with my going through his books and looking at whatever I wanted.

Some books I returned to time and again were my uncle’s copies of the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1910–11. I thought it was so cool that he had an encyclopedia from over 60 years earlier.

Now of course everyone has access to this edition of Britannica since it’s in public domain and available online, but when I was a kid we didn’t have the Internet. Not everyone had encyclopedias in their homes, and doing a report for school often required a trip to the library. My mother did buy us a student encyclopedia, one volume at a time at the grocery store, the cost of which, I suspect now, was underwritten by my uncle, and I did pore over those in my bedroom, but it still wasn’t as exciting as looking through my uncle’s Encyclopædia Britannica.

Now that my uncle’s gone, I have his old Encyclopædia Britannica, now over 100 years old, on a shelf in my living room. From time to time I pull down a volume, to page through it, sometimes learning something new, sometimes marvelling at the historical perspective. It makes me feel that Uncle Bill’s still not so far off.

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

If I were still posting on Facebook, I would have just done a brag post there about how I’d just made a loan on Kiva.org with a comment that “I lend because my uncle Bill did.”

The loan I made today was to the Masaka Group of Dar es Salaam. Part of the Masaka loan will help a woman named Salama, who runs a business selling charcoal and who has successfully repaid 11 prior loans. You can read about Salama or you can use this link instead to make a $25 loan on Kiva for free.

Now it is true that the reason I lend on Kiva is because of my uncle. I had some vague awareness of microlending but it’s because Uncle Bill made loans on Kiva that I really learned about it. And when my uncle died, I inherited his Kiva portfolio of loans. If I were truly a horrible person, I’d just have cashed in each loan as it was re-paid, but I didn’t—instead I’ve kept re-lending the money in Uncle Bill’s portfolio and have added a bit of my own money to lend. It’s a good reminder of my uncle. I think of him every time I get an email from Kiva saying part of a loan’s been repaid and every time I make a new loan.

It’s also true that one reason I posted on Facebook whenever I made a Kiva loan was to raise awareness of Kiva in the hopes that others would be encouraged to lend on Kiva as well. My uncle may be the reason I learned about Kiva, but I do make Kiva loans because I think doing so makes the world a somewhat better place.

But another reason I posted on Facebook about my Kiva loans was that getting “likes” on Facebook can be addicting. Facebook’s good for pissing friends off, but if you stick to innocuous stuff like photos of great food you’ve eaten or great places you’ve vacationed or selfless microloans you’ve made, you won’t attract much strife and instead will get some FB likes that make you feel good.

So why am I posting about my latest Kiva loan here? Partly as part of my ongoing processing about my thoughts about Facebook, partly because I’m in the habit of posting somewhere when I make a loan on Kiva, partly to remember my uncle Bill, and partly because Kiva really is a good thing that you can afford to do even if you don’t have much money.

Friday, April 19th, 2013


Are you going to Equality Ohio’s Lobby Day on Wednesday, May 8, 2013?

If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, you might already know that in Ohio, as in many other states, it’s legal to fire or to refuse to hire people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and it’s also legal based on those same reasons to deny housing to people.

If you think such discrimination is wrong and should be illegal, you could update your Facebook profile photo to some symbol of equality, and that could be powerful.

Bert and Ernie support marriage equality
Bert and Ernie want you
to go to Lobby Day to fight
discrimination against gay Muppets!

Guess what’s also powerful?

Gathering together in Columbus on May 8 to lobby our state representatives and state senators in support of the proposed Equal Housing and Employment Act.

Equality Ohio’s been organizing lobby days for several years now, and while Equality Ohio does good work all year long fighting for equality for LGBT Ohioans, Lobby Day is one of the most powerful things Equality Ohio does. It’s empowering to gather with others willing to work for equality, and the legislators in the Statehouse in Columbus have become familiar with Equality Ohio’s Lobby Day and know to expect us each year.

Going to Columbus on May 8 may require your taking a day of vacation, and you’ll have to get up early to drive to Columbus. But being part of Lobby Day really isn’t that very much more difficult than changing your Facebook profile photo. The hard work of pulling together materials and setting up appointments has been done by Equality Ohio. You just have to be willing to get yourself to Columbus (and to register online so Equality Ohio knows you’re coming and prepares a packet for you) and then to tell your story to your state senator and your state representative. Don’t be afraid—you won’t have to meet with anyone all by yourself but instead will go in small groups.

Yes, some people aren’t in a position to explain to their bosses why they want to take May 8 off. Remember, it’s still legal for Ohio employers to fire queers, so some queers can’t risk saying they want a day off for Lobby Day. So if you can’t go to Lobby Day, for whatever reason, don’t feel bad—instead tell some people about Lobby Day and encourage them to go.

If you’re not LGBT, your support as an ally who opposes discrimination would be especially powerful. If you believe that LGBT people should be considered for employment based on our abilities and experience, and not based on our sexual orientation or gender identity, then come to Columbus and say so. If you believe people shouldn’t be denied housing or public accommodations just because we’re queer, come tell your state representative and your state senator that such discrimination should be illegal. Your LGBT family and friends need your help!

Are you going to Equality Ohio’s Lobby Day on Wednesday, May 8, 2013? I am!

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

What’s Facebook good for? (part 4)
Facebook logo

This post is the third of three entries showing how Facebook is good for pissing off friends. Unlike example #1 and example #2, this example ended better and moreover doesn’t involve my saying anything stupid.

Example #3

The pissed off friend in this example—let’s call him Salvatore—is someone I’ve known for a long time. He’s from Dayton but has lived in another city for almost 20 years. I know his family and would run into his parents around town because we had similar tastes in places to go. I stayed with this friend and his husband when I visited their city. Salvatore is not just an acquaintance (like George) or the partner of a friend (like Louise). No, Salvatore is more important.

Unlike with Louise, I do not regret what I said on Facebook that pissed Salvatore off. It wasn’t anything that was in poor taste, and it’s something I still believe (although I wouldn’t say it again to Salvatore—I’ll explain why not below).

What pissed Salvatore off was a comment I made in response to something he posted about President Obama. Both Salvatore and I voted for Obama in 2008 (and, as it happens, we both did again in 2012 too), but Salvatore was extremely disappointed in the president, for multiple reasons.

Now I don’t blame Salvatore for being disappointed in President Obama. For example, in 2008 then-Senator Obama, during his campaign, pledged to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay once in office, but he’s broken that promise. (See this CNN article, “Why has Obama abandoned his Guantanamo pledge,” from just this week, to learn of the shameful situation President Obama has let continue.)

And Guantanamo is just one example. If you’re a peace-loving progressive, you can certainly name other reasons why you might be disappointed in the president.

Salvatore’s certainly a peace-loving progressive and he gets it honestly. His parents, also friends of mine, have demonstrated a lot for peace and have been strong supporters of the Dayton Peace Museum.

So in 2011 when President Obama announced the end of the American occupation of Iraq, despite the plan for thousands of private American military contractors to stay (see this 2011 Salon article, “No, the U.S. is not leaving Iraq”), Salvatore was justifiably upset.

But I think Salvatore was a bit too extreme about President Obama, and I said so when Salvatore said that all he got for voting for Obama was a continued American occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s just not true. Did Obama fail to keep all his promises? Sure. Were the president’s decisions about Iraq and Afghanistan wrong? Perhaps. But even if President Obama did nothing else good (and isn’t the Affordable Healthcare Act something worthwhile?), we did get two Supreme Court appointments—Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—out of him, and as a gay man I think that’s important. People who are pro-choice might also appreciate those Supreme Court appointments.

I have another friend, even more liberal than Salvatore, who refused to vote for Obama in either 2008 or 2012. This friend supports third party candidates, and I’ve gotten into discussions on Facebook with him about whether voting third party is throwing one’s vote away. I think it is because someone even worse might get elected, but he thinks if some people vote third party then it might encourage others to do so, and he refuses to compromise his principles even if the candidates he does support have little chance of getting elected. This third party friend hasn’t defriended me, and I’ve given up trying to change his mind (which might be why he hasn’t defriended me).

But Salvatore did vote for President Obama in 2008 and actually did so again in 2012 despite his grievances during the president’s first term. And that made his response to my comment both puzzling and hurtful. My comment apparently not only had no merit in his eyes but also was enough for him to defriend me. “Bye!”

As in the cases of George and Louise, I also sent Salvatore a message in response, but unlike with George and Louise, this message was not an apology. No, instead I told Salvatore that I was hurt and disappointed and that I was surprised he felt our friendship to be of so little value. I told him that if he wanted to reconsider, we could put this behind us, but that if he meant what he said, I had enough self esteem and other friends that I could deal with his decision.

And this is where this example differs from the first two. Unlike with George and Louise, I did get a response from Salvatore, an apology which I accepted. Salvatore and I are still friends, on Facebook and in real life, and I value his friendship and that of his husband.

But I also learned to censor myself a bit on Facebook, or at least to manage my audience there. I never again commented on any post Salvatore made about politics, and when I posted something about President Obama, I made sure the post’s settings were such that Salvatore couldn’t see the post. At least until later in 2012 when Salvatore again became an Obama supporter, perhaps because the idea of Romney being our next president was even more unpalatable than having promise-breaking President Obama be re-elected.

In Salvatore’s comment above you may have noticed his reference to my being “Christ-centric.” I don’t address that here because I already wrote about that in a post titled “My so-called Christian life.” I still hadn’t completely learned my lesson, however. Example #2, with Louise, happened before the Salvatore incident, but example #1, with George, happened afterwards, this year. As you can see from these examples, it’s really easy to piss friends off on Facebook.

Why? I think there’s something about Facebook that makes us stupid.

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Le fils de l’autre

Last Thursday I saw the opening film of the 2013 Dayton Jewish International Film Festival, Le fils de l’autre or The Other Son, at The Neon.

The showing was completely sold out, but luckily for you if you’re reading this blog post this week, you can catch the festival’s second showing of The Other Son on Monday, April 29th, at Antioch Midwest.

The premise of the film is that two 18-year-old boys, an Israeli named Joseph Silberg (played by Jules Sitruk) and a Palestinian named Yacine Al Bezaaz (played by Mehdi Dehbi), discover that they were accidentally switched at birth.

That premise may seem familiar if you, like me, are a fan of the TV series Switched at Birth. For example, a minor plot point in both The Other Son and Switched at Birth is that a father in each, upon learning that the child he’d thought was his is not, then assumes at first that his wife must have had an affair.

Another similarity between The Other Son and Switched at Birth is that one child comes from a life of privilege while the other comes from a less privileged background. However, that contrast is much more stark in The Other Son. Switched at Birth is set in Kansas City, while The Other Son is set in Tel Aviv and the West Bank. Except for the Hebrew on the signs in Tel Aviv, it might be possible, given the American hotel chains and American stores and American fast food joints, to confuse a Tel Aviv street scene for somewhere in Florida, but the West Bank, at least as depicted in The Other Son, seems like a third world country.

I have a crush on Mehdi Dehbi now.

And that stark contrast, the difference between the lives of the Israelis and those of the Palestinians, is much of what The Other Son is about. Le fils de l’autre’s English title, The Other Son, conveys part of what the film is about—each family getting to know their other son—but the literal translation, “the son of the other,” conveys the larger “other” depicted in the movie. The Palestinians and Israelis in this film see each other as others. Israelis view Palestinians as potential terrorists, and Palestinians see Israelis as oppressors promulgating a Middle Eastern apartheid.

Tel Aviv has McDonald’s
but according to Wikipedia
the West Bank does not.

Yep, they use that word—apartheid—in the film, and the checkpoints that Palestinians must navigate to enter Israeli territory as well as the tall concrete walls that divide up Palestinian land are shown in The Other Son. Not every Palestinian has a pass to enter Israel or to work there, although Joseph’s father, a colonel in the Israeli army, does pull strings to get his biological son’s family papers, something that further shows the contrast between the privilege Israelis have that Palestinians do not.

The organizer of the film festival, introducing The Other Son, said that this film was the best one of those previewed and selected by the festival committee. Given the film’s tense subject matter I was a bit surprised to see it selected by the Jewish Film Festival. The film is pretty critical of the situation between Israel and Palestine, without being overly preachy but instead by simply showing what it’s like in Tel Aviv, what it takes to get to the West Bank from there, and what life in the West Bank is like. No one, not even the makers of the film, seems to have any answers about how to resolve the situation, but that the situation is unjust seems apparent, including to the film festival’s organizers.

Something else about the film that I found particularly interesting was the situation that Joseph found himself in. He’d been a rather devout Jew, good at his studies in temple, and his first question, asked of his mother, is whether he’s still Jewish. He goes on to ask his rabbi that question, and his rabbi tells him, that no, since his real mother wasn’t Jewish, Joseph is not a Jew, although he can become one if he wants. That’s rather a bitter pill for Joseph to swallow. In the eyes of G-d, it matters not whether you’re devout and faithful; no, what matters is whether your mother was Jewish. Imagine the situation if Joseph and his family had never discovered that he’d been switched at birth—he’d be an unknowing fake Jew worshipping all his life in the synagogue.

A final interesting point about The Other Son, which you can see from its original title, Le fils de l’autre, is that, although it was beautifully filmed in Tel Aviv and the West Bank, it’s actually a French film. I hadn’t realized that before seeing the movie and expected to hear more Hebrew. The French filmmakers used a device plot of having Joseph’s family be immigrants to Israel from France and of having Yacine being a student in Paris home in Palestine for a visit, and thus much of the dialogue in the film is in French. J’ai passé trois années du français au lycée but only one quarter of introductory Hebrew in college, so I recognized much of the French in the film but only a few words of Hebrew. Language also shows the privilege Israelis have and Palestinians lack. For example, an Israeli doctor asks the Palestinian parents if it would be okay for him to speak in Hebrew. When they say no, he switches to English, which both sets of parents understand.

If you read this in time, go see The Other Son at Antioch Midwest on the 29th. If you don’t it’d be worth finding this film on DVD or online.

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

I used to care what Amy Grant thinks of me

When I was a teenager I loved Amy Grant’s music.

Amy Grant (1977)
Amy Grant (1977)
My Father's Eyes (1979)
My Father’s Eyes (1979)
Never Alone (1980)
Never Alone (1980)
Age to Age (1982)
Age to Age (1982)
Straight Ahead (1984)
Straight Ahead (1984)
The Collection (1986)
The Collection (1986)
Lead Me On (1988)
Lead Me On (1988)
Heart in Motion (1991)
Heart in Motion (1991)
Home for Christmas (1992)
Home for Christmas (1992)
A Christmas to Remember (1999)
A Christmas to Remember (1999)
I bought each of her albums as they came out, and I listened to them over and over. It was a rough time in my life, I was lonely, and Amy Grant’s music brought me some comfort as I struggled with something that at times seemed life threatening — yep, figuring how to deal with the fact that I was a big ole queer was a big deal to me then.

I don’t remember for sure where I first heard Amy Grant’s music, but it must have been at my church, Good Shepherd United Methodist* in Mad River Township here in Dayton.

To the left you can see copies of Amy Grant’s various albums that I bought when I was a fan. I was pretty religious about getting every new Amy Grant CD, continuing even after I stopped going to church but eventually tapering off. I skipped 1994’s House of Love and 1997’s Behind the Eyes but I did buy A Christmas to Remember in 1999.

If you were ever an avid Amy Grant fan, you might notice that 1999 was when Amy Grant got divorced, a shocking event that caused many of her devout Christian fans to drop her. However, my no longer buying Amy Grant albums wasn’t because of her divorce—I wasn’t shocked by that and thought it made her more human—it was just that Amy Grant’s music didn’t speak to me as much as it once did.

I’ve still played the two Amy Grant Christmas CDs I own each December, but other than that, I haven’t really thought about her much.

Until yesterday, when I saw a clergy friend (interestingly now that I’m out I have quite a few friends who are clergy) post a link on Facebook to Amy Grant’s first ever interview with the gay press. Of course I and a bunch of other gay Amy Grant fans flocked to read the article—we were all dying to know “how she reconciles Christianity and homosexuality.”

Michael W Smith Project (1983)

Amy Grant’s friend Michael W. Smith was another Christian singer whose music I liked, in part because he was cute.

That he’s now a close friend of Santorum makes me think he won’t be talking to the gay press any time soon.

You see, how Amy Grant reconciles Christianity and homosexuality is something I’ve wanted to know for a long time.

Indeed I wanted to know so much that back in the 80s, after I stopped going to church but while I was still an Amy Grant fan, I wrote her a letter. This was back in pre-WWW days, before many people had email, when you actually had to put your message on paper, stick it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and put it in a mailbox. A disadvantage of those days before email and scanners is that I don’t have a copy of what I wrote, although I remember the gist of it. I know I didn’t use the phrase “How do you reconcile Christianity and homosexuality,” but I did tell Amy Grant that I was gay and I did ask her what she thought of people being gay and Christian.

 

I did get a response to my letter but not from Amy Grant and also not from someone on Amy Grant’s staff. No, the response came from a very compassionate woman, a stranger who found my letter in a seatback pocket on an airplane, where Amy Grant or one of her assistants had left my letter, probably by accident. This woman didn’t know me or Amy Grant, but after reading my letter, she felt compelled to write to me because she said she could feel my pain. She wanted me to know what had happened to my letter and, more importantly, to know that she would pray for me in the hopes that God would heal me and help me to leave the homosexual lifestyle.

God must not have heard that stranger’s prayers for me because God never healed me of my homosexuality, and instead of leaving the homosexual lifestyle, I embraced it, coming out and realizing that if there is a God, God loves me for who I am, including being gay. I was cured of something though, cured for the most part of internalized homophobia, cured of caring whether others, including Amy Grant, approved of me despite my being gay.

I don’t know what I expected when I read Amy Grant’s interview with PrideSource. I guess I was hoping, knowing that Amy Grant had no ground on which to stand about the sanctity of marriage, that the reason she finally wanted to talk about teh gayz was because she wanted to come out, as so many others have recently, in favor of marriage equality.

Amy Grant declined to take a position on marriage equality, either pro or con, instead saying “I never talk about anything like that.” She didn’t say anything overtly offensive in her first gay interview, sticking mainly to “a message of honesty and welcoming,” saying that “you can either default to judgment or you can default to compassion” and acknowledging that she knows “that the religious community has not been very welcoming.”

Nevertheless something in Amy Grant’s careful interview—in which she tried not to offend anyone and stressed that “everybody is welcome” on “the journey of faith” towards having “a relationship with God”—did strike me as language I’d heard before.

I had friends in high school who eventually said, “I’m living a gay lifestyle.”
— Amy Grant, PrideSource, issue 2116, 4/23/2013
And what was it that I’d heard before? A conservative Christian’s favorite term when it comes to teh gayz: lifestyle.

Amy Grant tells us that she “had friends in high school who eventually said, ‘I’m living a gay lifestyle,’” to which I say, no, you didn’t.

I wouldn’t say that Amy Grant was intentionally lying, and I do believe that she had gay high school friends come out to her, but I don’t believe they said, “Amy, I need to tell you something. I’m living a gay lifestyle.

Unless we’re still desperately trying to leave it, “lifestyle” is not a word we queers use. No, we just think we have lives just like everyone else does.

But conservative Christians sure do love the word “lifestyle.” Are you struggling with same sex attractions? Google “leaving the gay lifestyle” and you’ll find tons of compassionate people willing to help you.

Amy Grant was probably just paraphrasing when she talked of friends telling her they were living a gay lifestyle. Despite her use of the term again at another point in the interview, talking about the ACLU’s first openly gay executive director, Anthony Romero, whom Amy Grant “felt so changed by” but who has a “very different lifestyle” from hers, given the lengths to which she went to stress being compassionate and loving and welcoming and to avoid being judgmental, I shouldn’t read too much into Amy Grant’s choice of words.

Why shouldn’t I? Because what Amy Grant thinks doesn’t really matter. I didn’t care two days ago, before I knew she was talking to the gayz. So why should it matter two days later? Maybe Amy Grant, living in what some would call an adulterous relationship, has no problem with gay people also finding love but is afraid to say so in so many words. Or perhaps instead “lifestyle” really is hidden code for what Amy Grant thinks of me.

Either way I’m living a gay lifestyle and I’m happy with it.

Good Shepherd United Methodist Church *About Good Shepherd United Methodist Church: My mother, my sister and I went to this church while we lived in Forest Ridge. It was a small church, originally part of the EUB, something older members of the congregation still remembered although the 1968 merger with the Methodists was before my time.

I never felt unsafe there, well aside from the time I was inducted into the youth fellowship group via a staged kidnapping when I answered the doorbell at home to find people on my front porch in masks who pulled me outside, put a bag over my head, and pushed me into a van that took us away. Kind of a scary thing to do to a child of divorced parents. Ended up at church where the rest of the older kids already in the youth group were there to greet me.

Except for that poorly thought out incident, Good Shepherd was a fairly safe haven for a young nerdy closeted fag. Nothing overtly anti-gay came from the pulpit there, and I had some friends, of sorts, including a girl who told me in the pews once that I had a nice singing voice (and who once also called me “faggot!” along with other kids as I got on our school bus carrying my books clasped to my chest as only girls were supposed to).

I was popular enough my senior year to become president of Good Shepherd’s youth group, or perhaps instead of my being especially popular, it was that I was willing to take the job, although I didn’t keep it long, coming to the conclusion later that year that I couldn’t be gay and be Christian and thus deciding to stop doing church. Where’d I get such an idea? The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, which declared back then and still declares thirty fucking years later that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

Good Shepherd is now closed, as of December 30, 2011, according to the latest Miami Valley District directory of churches. At some point in the last decade, Good Shepherd operated as Good Shepherd Community Church, affilliated both with the United Methodists as well as the Presbyterians (the Presbytery of the Miami Valley still has a webpage, albeit a rather sparse one, for Good Shepherd).

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

What’s Facebook good for? (part 5)
Facebook logo

I’ve written about how Facebook is good for interacting with strangers and how it’s good for pissing off friends. This post, which will be my last about Facebook, is about how good Facebook is for making us stupid (or perhaps it’s that Facebook makes our stupidity more visible).

Examples of stupidity on Facebook

Stupid stuff like that to the right (click to embiggen to get a closer look) is all over Facebook. Perhaps it’s always been on Facebook but it’s certainly more prevalent now that your friends can see when you make a comment on a photo, even if it’s a photo posted by a person who’s not a friend of your friends or by a page your friends don’t even like, so long as the photo is public.

Can you see a word in the scramble? You can? Well fucking good for you! Do you want to be one of 292,820 people who typed a one word comment on the photo? Why?!

I did happen to see one clever bit of humor when I pulled up the comments on this example — Bill McLaughlin took the time to remark, “Could not find a single word. I did however see what looked like the face of Jesus on a piece of toast.”

Only problem is that with 292,820 comments, the chance that anyone would see Bill’s wit is minimal.

If you saw the warning to the left (click to embiggen to get a closer look), with its bizarre mix of UPPER CASE and strange punctuation and its urgent pleading to repost to all your family and friends, would you really feel compelled to share it?

If so, I’m sorry, but you’re just stupid.

Yes, a friend of mine on Facebook is stupid, bless his or her heart, and re-posted this stupid image. Will I feel bad if this friend ever figures out that I’ve called him or her stupid? Ugh, perhaps I will, so if you’re not that friend but know who it is, please don’t tell on me.

What makes this stupidity even more painful (unfortunately not painful for the stupid, though) is that the warning says “THIS HAS BEEN CONFIRMED BY FACEBOOK AND SNOPES,” in all caps, so it must be true, except it’s not, which the non-stupid would find out by searching on Snopes, where you can find a post debunking this stupidity.

Even people who aren’t stupid enough to pass along this stupidity can be made stupid by its appearance on Facebook, however, because it’s oh so tempting to post a comment on posts like this linking to the Snopes article debunking it. Doing so is stupid because it’s a waste of time—people stupid enough to share this shit never learn. It’s also stupid to bother commenting because correcting stupid people is a good way to piss them off.

Have you seen photos like this one on the right (click to embiggen to get a closer look)? Did you know you can type a word in the comments on photos like this and something magical will happen? What? You did type the word as instructed but you didn’t see anything? Are you sure you didn’t make a typo? Perhaps you should try again.

Wouldn’t a heartfelt message such as the one to the left (click to embiggen to get a closer look) just make you feel special if you saw it from one of your FB friends?


Too stupid to know how to copy and paste? Well bless your heart!
Well of course it wouldn’t if your FB friend had shared it from someone else’s post instead of copying it as instructed.

Jesus, nothing says “I really care about you” like copying and pasting a oddly punctuated generic message a million other people have posted.

But if you refuse to copy this message and re-post it, I’ll know you never really loved me.

Facebook seems to have hundreds of photos like that on the right (click to embiggen to get a closer look), all challenging you to name a tree without an “a” in it or a state without an “o” in it or a band without a “c” in it, etc., etc., et fucking cetera.

And tons and tons of Facebook users just love to show how smart they are. “Cherry” or “Alaska” or “Beatles,” they post.

Ooh, you’s so smart! Mommy’s so proud of you!

And thus the TV stations and car dealerships and other businesses targeting stupid people boost their pages’ visibility.

Enough already!

I do think some of my friends on Facebook are stupid, but you know what? I’m stupid too. You saw my examples of posting stupid stuff on Facebook that pissed off friends.

Facebook doesn’t make me a better person.

It makes me judgmental and less, instead of more, likely to love my neighbors.

So I decided, after the incident with George which prompted me to write this series of blog posts about Facebook, that I should take down all my posts on Facebook and not make any more posts there.

I still do comment occasionally on others’ posts, but I do so much less frequently and I try to think about whether what I want to say is something I should say. Perhaps I should delete my Facebook account completely, but I do need a FB account to update my employer’s page, and I’m too curious about other people to quit FB completely.

Not posting on FB has caused me to post more frequently here on my blog, something I’ll probably continue to do. As you can tell by this very post, I might very well be too blunt here, but I figure that people likely to be offended by what I say are much less likely to see what I say here. That’s a bit ironic given that my website is completely public, but people have to make the decision to come here.

See you later—that is, if you’re not too offended ever to come back to check for new blog entries.

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Listening to Amy Grant again

Having just written about my past with Amy Grant, I figured it’d be appropriate to listen to her music again, so yesterday I pulled up my Amy Grant albums on Google Play on my phone and headed out for a drive in the gay car with the top down and Amy Grant blaring.

I got as far as the first song on Amy Grant’s first album before I burst out laughing.

“Beautiful Music,” the first song on Amy Grant’s self-titled debut album, wasn’t a song I remembered. Part of what makes this song unmemorable and rather laughable is that its melody so fits in with the 1970s bubblegum pop genre, contrived sugar sweet teenybopper music.

What really killed me, however, were the lyrics.

Fresh-faced and virginal, the teenaged Amy Grant in 1977 was singing to Jesus, “Since you came inside me… I’m hooked on your lovin’.”

Yes, no one wants to be judged years later for choices we made when we were seventeen—I wasn’t much older than Amy Grant when I first had someone come inside me (don’t judge me). “Beautiful Music” isn’t even a song Amy Grant wrote (no, Lanier Ferguson is the one to blame), but oh my God, Amy Grant liked the lyrics well enough to sing them with a straight face.

Amy Grant’s not the only Christian singer to love having Jesus inside her. In “Christian Rock Hard,” a 2009 episode of South Park, Cartman becomes a Christian rock star, and he, like Amy Grant before him, sings to Jesus, “I just want to feel you deep inside me.”

Jesus Christ, South Park didn’t even have to make this shit up. It’s real.

An Amy Grant song that I do still like musically is “Angels,” from her 1984 album Straight Ahead. But, again, the lyrics get me.

If you ask Amy Grant (at least 1984 Amy Grant) what Christianity’s about, she’ll answer that it’s in large part about “Angels watching over me, every move I make, angels watching over me, every step I take!”

That’s a nice comforting “His Eye is on the Sparrow” kind of thought, isn’t it? Have faith, and God and God’s angels will protect you from any “reckless car” by making it “[run] out of gas before it [runs] [your] way.”

Except God doesn’t work that way.

I know I said my last blog entry about Facebook would be my last. I lied. This FB post is such a good illustration of what some Christians believe that I wanted to share it here.

God loves you but if you don’t repost this on Facebook, God will have no choice but to send you to hell.

Don’t believe me? Ask the four girls murdered in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. God protects Amy Grant from runaway cars but God won’t protect innocent girls worshipping in church?

Or google “pastor killed in car crash” and then tell me why the fuck God can spare angels to watch over Amy Grant but not over any of these dead pastors and their families.

Maybe there is an omniscient omnipotent God who works in mysterious ways but we have evidence before us that God does not work as Amy Grant claims in her song about angels.

Another of Amy Grant’s songs does give us a clue as to what Amy Grant’s songs as a whole tell us about God and Jesus. That song is the oh-so-aptly named “Fairytale” from her 1979 album My Father’s Eyes. The melody and Amy Grant’s youthful high pitched singing in this song are about as appealing as the bubblegum “Beautiful Music,” but the lyrics of this song, written by Amy Grant and Brown Bannister, are informative.

 

On the one hand, Amy Grant sings:
My life was just a fairytale.
I was letting an illusion
Come into this heart of mine.

 

While on the other hand, in the same song, she sings:
There’s a world out there that human eyes can never see,
But it’s just within the reach of the heart.
Two princes wage the battle for eternity.
But the victor has been known from the start.

In other words, Amy Grant’s been fooled by fairy tales before, but now, with the tale about the struggle between princes of light and darkness, she just “know[s] this time the story’s true.” You gotta have faith and all that.

I don’t have faith, not in the literal truth of the fairy tales in which evangelical Christians believe.

Fairy tales aren’t all bad, however. Melissa Taylor does a good analysis that provides “8 Reasons Why Fairy Tales are Essential to Childhood.” And of course Joseph Campbell did great work examining the purpose and value of myth. Truth can be found beyond facts.

Indeed it’s only by looking for the truth beyond the facts that I was able to find value in returning to involvement in a church, and it’s only by considering Amy Grant’s music as old familiar fairy tales that I’ll ever be able to listen to any of it again.

 
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