Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Anniversary Pope Benedict: Five Years of Scandal, Hypocrisy, and Permanent Crisis, the Seeding of Generation Benedict

     Happy fifth anniversary, Pope Benedict Ratzinger! 

     Congratulations, Benny, on five years of constant crisis, and we're not just talking about sexual abuse, although you've been stellar in your denial and cover-up.  We're talking about your relationship with the worlds' Jewish population.  How about those Muslim-Catholic relations?  Let's not forget your condemnations of the world's gays as "filth," which include most of your priests (possibly even yourself).  What about forbidding condoms to prevent HIV?  Your encouraging religious schism in other Christian denominations?  Turning a blind eye to genocideRape?  You must be doing something right to inspire such wonders in the name of your god and savior.

     Newser reports:
     Today marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict's ascension to the papacy, but they aren't exactly popping champagne at the beleaguered Vatican. At the moment Benedict is embroiled in a massive pedophilia scandal that could define his papal legacy, and it's not like he's had a charmed papacy until now, Sylvia Poggioli reports in a rather scathing piece for NPR. Benedict's a lousy communicator, and he's attracted a host of critics.
     “This is a papacy of permanent crisis,” says one veteran Vatican correspondent, citing incidents like his comments about condoms and AIDs, or his various kerfuffles with Muslims and Jews. One Swiss theologian and longtime colleague of Benedict's has actually advised bishops to actively disobey him when he eschews necessary reforms. And the head of the Association of Young German Catholics says Benedict has utterly failed to reach kids. “There's no such thing as a generation Benedict,” he says.

     Wood?  Hmm.

Image Credits of Possible Gifts for Pope Benedict XVI's Fifth (Wooden) Anniversary:
Wooden sewing machine for Pope Ben's vestments: Planet Pink n Green
Wooden machine gun for use in killing non-believers: Pixdaus
Wooden torture rack for encouraging religious homogeneity: Find Target
Wooden egg thingy for sticking where the sun don't shine: Dear Ada
Wooden good luck phallus for overcoming the sexual abuse scandal: Thailand Stories

Clay Greene v. County of Sonoma: the Ongoing Fight for Gay Couples to Die with Dignity

     Concerning marriage equality and protections for my (gay) family, I had a "good" Christian dismiss the state of my civil rights: "Come on.  You know you have equal rights."

     Here's what I know. 

     The Defense of Marriage Act and  Don't Ask, Don't Tell remain the law of the land, while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is collecting dust, waiting for a vote.  There are about 1100 federal rights that the heterosexual, Christian majority in our nation continues to withhold from the homosexual minority.

     President Obama made a step in the correct direction last Thursday, when he ordered new rules on hospital visitation rights for LGBT families and patients.  Still, that leaves plenty of room for discrimination.  Try being an elderly gay couple in Sonoma County California.

     Here is the case docket for Greene v. County of Sonoma et al (from the National Center of Lesbian Rights), a lawsuit concerning the disgusting, tragic, and completely unnecessary discrimination that an elderly gay couple suffered in 2008 in California.  One more case of homophobia and discrimination proving that not all Americans are protected equally under the law.
     Clay and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health.
     One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital. The county then ultimately went one step further by isolating the couple from each other, placing the men in separate nursing homes.
     Ignoring Clay’s significant role in Harold’s life, the county continued to treat Harold like he had no family and went to court seeking the power to make financial decisions on his behalf. Outrageously, the county represented to the judge that Clay was merely Harold’s “roommate.” The court denied their efforts, but did grant the county limited access to one of Harold’s bank accounts to pay for his care.
     What happened next is even more chilling: without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold’s possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold's lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.
     Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.
     Cases like Clay and Harold's are the reality that gay and lesbian couples, even those who are married but must travel to states where they have no rights.  Go to Democracy in Action's to support Clay Greene by writing President Obama and voicing your support for LGBT rights.

Is the Tea Party a Neo-Confederate Rebellion?

     In this weekend's New York Times, Frank Rich responds to some Tea Party members' recent actions that smell of racism and Confederate revival.  No one is making up this connection.  Members of the very Christian Tea Party are proudly asserting it themselves, some even calling for another Civil War.  So much for rendering unto Caesar--hypocrites.

     "They were fighting for the same things that people in the 'tea party' are fighting for now," said Grayson Jennings, first lieutenant commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which lobbied McDonnell to issue the proclamation.  If Jennings's views are any measure, the group's on the political fringe. He said he'd favor seceding again -- "tonight is not soon enough" -- because of high taxes, illegal immigration and energy legislation.  Jennings's views about what he called the "War of Northern Aggression" are also pretty far out. He said linking the Confederacy and slavery was a "tired old argument."
     In response to McDonnell's redacted version of the Civil War, Mr. Rich reveals McDonnell's not-so-inclusive track record:
     McDonnell had been widely hailed by his party as a refreshing new “big tent” conservative star when he took office in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, in January. So perhaps his Dixiecrat proclamation, if not a dream, might have been a staff-driven gaffe rather than a deliberate act of racial provocation.
     That hope evaporated once McDonnell was asked to explain why there was no mention of slavery in his declaration honoring “the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens.” After acknowledging that slavery was among “any number of aspects to that conflict between the states,” the governor went on to say that he had focused on the issues “I thought were most significant for Virginia.” Only when some of his own black supporters joined editorialists in observing that slavery was significant to some Virginians too — a fifth of the state’s population is black — did he beat a retreat and apologize.
     McDonnell isn’t a native Virginian but he received his master’s and law degrees at Pat Robertson’s university in Virginia Beach during the 1980s, when Robertson was still a rare public defender of South Africa’s apartheid regime. As a major donor to McDonnell’s campaign and an invited guest to his Inaugural breakfast, Robertson is closer politically to his protégé than the Rev. Jeremiah Wright ever was to Barack Obama. McDonnell chose his language knowingly when initially trying to justify his vision of Confederate History Month. His sanitized spin on the Civil War could not have been better framed to appeal to an unreconstructed white cohort that, while much diminished in the 21st century, popped back out of the closet during the Obama ascendancy.
     But once again you’d have to look hard to find any conservative leader who criticized McDonnell for playing with racial fire. Instead, another Southern governor — who, as it happened, had issued a Confederate Heritage Month proclamation of his own — took up his defense. The whole incident didn’t “amount to diddly,” said Haley Barbour [Presbyterian], of Mississippi, when asked about it by Candy Crowley of CNN last weekend.
     On the Tea Party, racism, integration, health care Mr. Rich states:
     Most Americans who don’t like Obama or the health care bill are not racists. It may be a closer call among Tea Partiers, of whom only 1 percent are black, according to last week’s much dissected Times/CBS News poll. That same survey found that 52 percent of Tea Party followers feel “too much” has been made of the problems facing black people — nearly twice the national average. And that’s just those who admit to it. Whatever their number, those who are threatened and enraged by the new Obama order are volatile. Conservative politicians are taking a walk on the wild side by coddling and encouraging them, whatever the short-term political gain.
     The temperature is higher now than it was a month ago. It’s not happenstance that officials from the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Virginia and Mississippi have argued, as one said this month, that the Confederate Army had been “fighting for the same things that people in the Tea Party are fighting for.” Obama opposition increasingly comes wrapped in the racial code that McDonnell revived in endorsing Confederate History Month. The state attorneys general who are invoking states’ rights in their lawsuits to nullify the federal health care law are transparently pushing the same old hot buttons.
     “They tried it here in Arkansas in ’57, and it didn’t work,” said the Democratic governor of that state, Mike Beebe, likening the states’ health care suits to the failed effort of his predecessor Orval Faubus to block nine black students from attending the all-white Little Rock Central High School. That battle for states’ rights ended when President Eisenhower [Presbyterian] , a Republican who would be considered a traitor to his party in 2010, enforced federal law by sending in troops.
     How our current spike in neo-Confederate rebellion will end is unknown. It’s unnerving that Tea Party leaders and conservatives in the Oklahoma Legislature now aim to create a new volunteer militia that, as The Associated Press described it, would use as yet mysterious means to “help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.” This is the same ideology that animated Timothy McVeigh, whose strike against the tyrannical federal government will reach its 15th anniversary on Monday in the same city where the Oklahoma Legislature meets.

Other images used in this post are in the public domain.