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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, Donald Trump attacked Pope Francis

Image from The Telegraph

As a lapsed-but-still-Catholic-if-I'm-dying-in-a-hospital, I kind of adore Pope Francis. He touches poor people, as opposed to Benedict who sort of sneered at them, he loves everyone, he studied chemistry and believes climate change is real, and he's taking the Catholic church out of the dark ages, albeit with baby steps, because honestly, that's all Catholicism can handle. He also calls out hate and xenophobia when he sees it, as he recently did in Mexico:
'A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,' Francis said when a reporter asked him about Mr. Trump on the papal airliner as he returned to Rome after his six-day visit to Mexico. (source)
Pope Francis is absolutely correct. Trump's rhetoric attacking refugees, Muslims, and Mexicans, is the antithesis of Christ's message. Given how Bible-y Trump has tried to become in order to court evangelicals, one would think he might understand this. Of course, conservative evangelicals aren't exactly following in Christ's footsteps either.

In response to Pope Francis's statement, Donald Trump released one of his own:

If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.
The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story - he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.
For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.
Donald J. Trump
For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. Really. Where was Trump when Franklin Graham waffled on a question about President Obama's Christianity? Or when Franklin Graham said Obama only knows Islam? Or when James David Manning called President Obama the devil? No leader should have the right to question another man's religion or faith. Oh. My. Goodness. Here are a few "leaders" questioning President Obama's faith:

Todd Starnes
Tony Perkins
Fox "News"
Donald Trump

Donald Trump is Christian at this moment because he's courting evangelicals. Trump isn't an actual Christian any more than I am an actual tall person. And how big an ego does a man have if he truly believes Pope Francis's first thought if Daesh attacks the Vatican is "oh dear, I wish Donald Trump was president."

Pope Francis is right. Refusing to accept the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses, goes against the teaching of Jesus. But there's good news for Trump: A lot of conservatives hate the Pope. They think he's too liberal, as opposed to the actual Jesus, who, I guess, was a raging capitalist who hated the poor? So this attack on Pope Francis most likely didn't change the minds of Trump's more rabid supporters. Odds are, Trump will ratchet it up a bit.

Remember, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue, and people would still love him. Because that's what Jesus would do.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Baklava for almost everyone

We went to a fantastic Lebanese restaurant for dinner tonight. The owner gave us samples of shawarma and hummus, we ate tabbouleh and lamb, and for dessert, we had the best baklava I've ever eaten. I made happy faces. There was a hint of orange water blossom in the syrup. It was heavenly.

After we got home, I realized there are people in this country who will never eat perfect baklava. They will never know the sheer joy that comes from having the owner of a Lebanese restaurant call you "sweetheart" while he turns the big screen television towards you so you can watch the beautiful Lebanese music videos. They will never close their eyes in happiness while a cool forkful of tabbouleh soothes the spiciness of glorious shawarma. Because they are afraid.

They are afraid of anything Middle Eastern, be it art or music or food. They are so enraptured with their Americanism, and so terrified of "the other," they will never venture out of their comfort zone built by xenophobia, and try something different.

Comfort zones are funny things. My comfort zone now includes perfect baklava. Xenophobes seek a different kind of comfort. Comfort in carpet bombing, comfort in hating, comfort in denying refugees safe haven. But not comfort in experiencing perfect baklava, because baklava is from "the other." Baklava is not apple pie, or ice cream, or one of those Sysco-brand lava cake thingies you get at Applebee's.

This isn't really about food, although that baklava...sigh. It's about fear. Fear keeps you isolated, unless, of course, you're lucky (?) enough to live in the United States at a time when so many powerful individuals are going on television day after day, and flat-out blaming all Muslims for the acts of a few radical sadists. So many people are afraid, they aren't really isolated at all. They share the same belief: All Muslims are bad, and everything having to do with Muslims, and the Middle East, is bad, too. Well, except for oil. We ignore a lot of really bad shit for oil.

Now, on the up side, this means more baklava for everyone else. And this is a good thing, especially if it's baklava from Byblos. On the down side, we have too many people in this country who allow their hate and fear to keep them from living life. Afraid of anything new or different, they sit in their comfort zones, tuning out the world, surrounded by the familiar. This makes me a little sad.

Until the world changes, and the fear is replaced by love, here is a recipe for Lebanese baklava. Baklava for almost everyone.

Monday, February 15, 2016

What a difference thirty years makes

Thirty years ago, students at Children's Theatre Conservatory School were faced with a horrible choice: Tell the truth and be blamed for our own trauma, or stay silent to protect the institution that was so beloved but enabled child rape. Some chose to speak, and we were treated like pariahs. Others chose to stay silent, or deny their own pain. In every case, none of us had support from others. Not the BCA, not the prosecutors, certainly not the school, and not even fellow students. 

What a difference thirty years makes. Tomorrow, February 16, some of us will gather at our attorney's office to lend support and love to two new plaintiffs. For a few, this will be the first time seeing other survivors since the 1980's, myself included. But the experience, even in these first months, is completely different. Other than the awful oped that compared us to ISIS, we have received an outpouring of support. None of the lawyers have badgered us, or threatened us, or blamed us. I'm sure CTC is profoundly unhappy that we have found our strength, and I do know for a fact there are a few former students who are not supportive of this suit. They can't stop us.

Thirty years ago, we didn't have each other. CTC turned student against student, friend against friend. Now we stand shoulder to shoulder, bound by our own power, connected by our own truth. If only this had been available thirty years ago. If only CTC had been more concerned with our safety than their reputation. If only the police, the BCA, and the prosecutors, had listened, had really listened. 

Thirty years ago, we were alone and afraid. Tomorrow, we will hug and possibly cry and move forward with the knowledge that we are no longer alone. We are no longer afraid. As one plaintiff put it, we are superheroes. 

What a difference thirty years makes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ignore the trauma, focus on the art

On January 25 of this year, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an oped written by a woman using the name Olive Allen. The oped was entitled "In defense of Jason McClean's artistic vision," and it was a response to a friend of mine who was calling for boycotts of McLean's Twin Cities venues. Olive Allen turned out to be Kay L. Hansen. Hansen admitted to only having spoken with McLean a few times, but decided she adored him and his businesses so much, she needed us to ignore the trauma Jason McLean perpetrated, and focus on his art.

A number of women have come forward and accused Jason McLean of raping them while they were students at the Children's Theatre Conservatory School in Minneapolis. Since I am not an attorney, and I know these women, I am not going to use the word alleged in this article. I believe that Jason McLean raped my friends when they were teenagers. I believe this because while I was not a victim of McLean's, I was the victim of another teacher, and CTC was an institution that actively enabled child rapists.

After it all hit the fan in 1984, students and parents were effectively told to ignore the trauma, and focus on the art. Focus on how famous and loved Children's Theatre was. Focus on the money CTC received from donors, grants, and the state. Focus on the plays, and the set design, and the cover story in Smithsonian magazine, and the gushing comments from luminaries like Joel Grey. We were told exactly the same thing Kay. L. Hansen told us in her oped.

She starts her piece with:
The Loring Pasta Bar and Varsity Theater — just like the old Loring Bar and Cafe and Kitty Cat Klub — are bigger than Jason McLean. Whatever you may think of the man (who, let’s not forget, is still only accused in lawsuits stemming from the Children’s Theatre Company sex abuse scandal of the 1980s), let’s not undervalue the profound impact he’s had on Minneapolis art and design culture and “throw the baby out with the bath water” by boycotting his venues.
We were told Children's Theatre was bigger than John Clark Donahue, and Steven Adamczak, and Don Fogelberg. We were told that by telling the truth, we would be helping to destroy an important institution. We were shamed, bullied, threatened, and silenced. Ignore the trauma, focus on the art.

Ms. Hansen spends eight paragraphs attempting to prove her point: Raping young girls isn't as important as making Dinkytown hip. Then she finishes with this:
So what I would suggest is this: Follow the story, sure, but do not rush to tear down these iconic establishments — these poems to Minneapolis — like some ISIL mob destroying tombs in Palmyra. Visionaries with talent (flawed, tempestuous, rebellious) are not born every day, and their work is not easily replaced.
Follow the story, sure. How flippant. Poems of Minneapolis. Uh huh. Did you notice how Ms. Hansen compares asking for boycotts to sacred tombs being destroyed by a terrorist group? To Ms. Hansen, we are terrorists, trying to destroy her precious art. We are survivors, Ms. Hansen, who have known hell on earth. We were molested, raped, abused, by people we trusted. We were brainwashed into thinking that was okay, because we were special, because it was normal. We were told to ignore the trauma, focus on the art.

Kay L. Hansen's oped angered me so much, I joined the civil suit against Children's Theatre. No one is ever going to tell me my trauma is less important than anyone's art, or club, or restaurant, or venue, or theater. Not again.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Dear fellow liberals: Stop Fighting Each Other

Oh my goodness. The hate and vitriol being slung around the internet like so much monkey shit is ridiculous at the moment. Liberals have turned against each other, and for conservatives, it is glorious to behold. Conservatives know that if we can't get it together, we will all be saying howdy to President Trump or President Cruz in ten months, and they are positively giddy.

The next president will choose Supreme Court nominees. A conservative president will choose judges who want to reinstate DOMA and DADT, overturn Roe v Wade, and keep Citizens United. The next president will decide if the U.S. should continue being a perpetual invading force, or if we can stop making veterans. The next president just might be a man who wants to ban all Muslims from entering our country, or a man who thinks carpet bombing means surgical strikes. 

So by all means, let's keep calling Hillary Clinton a witch and a shill. Keep calling Bernie Sanders a communist and a financial idiot. Please post those awful memes that claim the most important thing about the next president is how cool they are. Please tell Sanders supporters they're morons, and call Clinton supporters closet conservatives. Because that will guarantee a right-wing sociopath slithers his way into the Oval Office in November.

Pundits level sexist attacks against Hillary, while others insult Sanders for his idealism. Who do I support? That's between me and my ballot. But in November, I will vote for the Democrat who winds up being the nominee. Because I would rather have one of our extremely qualified candidates in the White House than a conservative sociopath who thinks being LGBT is evil, brown-skinned people are all terrorists and thugs, and Christianity is the only religion that matters.

What do you want? Are you so fanatical about your candidate that you're one of the many who say "If <insert Sanders or Clinton here> isn't on the ballot, I'm not gonna vote!"? Yeah, that will teach us all a lesson. When abortion is illegal, when we've blown up most of the Middle East, when discrimination is a protected right, when gay marriage is illegal again, when the 1% gets richer while the middle class continues to disappear, you can smirk and say "Showed you." 

And when you need health insurance, or an abortion, or you want to marry your same-sex partner, remember the moment you decided not to vote. Remember the exact second you chose to bitch and whine rather than to join with others to keep conservative sociopaths out of the White House. 

Or you could stop it now. We could stop all the infighting, pull together, and focus on what we need to do to make sure our great nation stays that way. It's up to us. We have two amazing candidates from which to choose; it's a win-win. But if we'd rather act like petulant toddlers, it's a lose-lose-lose. 

Sanders or Clinton is better than watching 60 years of social justice disappear. Sanders or Clinton is better than watching my LGBT friends go back to being second (or third) class citizens. Sanders or Clinton is better than killing the family members of ISIS, or a theocracy, or legal discrimination, or illegal abortion. 

We've got to stop, or in ten months, we will be too late.