“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles, and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” ~ Lao-tzu

 
“Commonly, people believe that defeat is characterized by a general bustle and a feverish rush. Bustle and rush are the signs of victory, not of defeat. Victory is a thing of action. It is a house in the act of being built. Every participant in victory sweats and puffs, carrying the stones for the building of the house. But defeat is a thing of weariness, of incoherence, of boredom. And above all of futility.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    

 I just could not decide what image to use for this first section. I was looking for the perfect political cartoon. Then I came across this one on Comics I Don’t Understand, and I thought to myself, “Eureka, self. That’s it.”

    

I’ve been waiting for the mud to settle, but it’s taking quite awhile. Yesterday I was more than half-way through a post when my computer locked up on me. Consequently, I lost everything. To say that I was a tad annoyed is a vast understatement. 

As a result I stopped everything that I was doing and set about performing a thorough scan and cleaning of my hard drive, and then I defragged. Things seem to be running a bit smoother today, but I’m not going to chance anything major. 

Today I came back to my blog, ready to do a smaller recap of yesterday’s post, and what did I find but a draft of the post that disappeared yesterday. Now I am certain of it: My computer is in on the conspiracy of inanimate objects (using the term loosely) to try to further deplete me of the little sanity I have remaining. 

It’s working . . . 

“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society.  If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”  ~ P.J. O’Rourke
"I smell dorkfish somewhere nearby."

Moving along . . . In other offensive and absolutely take-my-breath-away-with-your-hypocrisy news, a Tea Bagger leader has referred to Allah as “monkey-god” and to Muslims as “the animals of Allah.” Mark Williams, the conservative talk radio host who is listed as chairman of the Tea Party Express and acts as a frequent spokesman for the group, wrote on his blog: “The longest, most heavily researched and footnoted chapter in my book is about the fruit baskets and nut wads that gravitate to Islam and why it attracts such mental cases . . . ” Williams also posted an image of the prophet Muhammad with a swastika on top of his head. 

Nice. Ecumenical. Loving. Spread those Christian arms wide in your embrace of other faiths and cultures. Or maybe not so much. 

Loony Tune Williams is well-known for opening his big mouth and letting bile spew forth. In February Williams referred to “our half white, racist president” in an email to colleagues. 

“To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of ignorance.” ~ A. Bronson Alcott
"My dorkfish is this big."

Meanwhile, another politician who talks the talk but doesn’t quite walk the walk, Republican Representative Mark Souder of Indiana is resigning. Awww. 

According to Souder, “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff.” Then he added the punch line: “In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon and twisted for political gain. I am resigning rather than put my family through a painful drawn out process.”  

That’s right. The “poisonous environment of Washington, D.C.” made you have an affair with the same woman who interviewed you about abstinence. 

According to an article in the Washington Post, the self-described conservative Christian  “focused on three areas since entering Congress: in his words, ‘how to keep the economy strong; how do we improve our education system; and how do we change the cultural and moral direction of this country.'” 

Souder, a staunch opponent of gay rights and AIDS prevention through condom distribution, is also a big proponent of family values. He has been quoted as saying, “I believe that Congress must fight to uphold the traditional values that undergird the strength of our nation . . . The family plays a fundamental role in our society . . . I am committed to fighting the assault on American values.” 

Let me see if I understand this correctly because I have been accused of not really understanding conservative speak. . . Souder is pro family, pro values, pro abstinence. Does that mean that going to state parks with your staffer for trysts is part of those values that you have fought so hard to impose on the American people? I mean, I’m a bit confused. I thought that there was this whole proscription against sex outside of marriage, you know? Adultery? Did I miss something, or did Souder just find the same loophole that so many of his ilk seem to find (e.g., see Family Research Council co-founder George Reker and his rent boy below). 

“I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” ~ Thomas Carlyle
George Rekers Pushing Luggage Cart for his Luggage Handler aka Lucien

Oh, Dr. George (as he refers to himself), you have been a bad, bad boy. You say you just needed someone to help with your luggage? Then why were you pushing the luggage cart at Miami Airport? Why did your contract with rentboy Lucien specify personal massages? Why were you naked during those massages? 

Dr. George. Thou doth protest too much. All of that work with The National Association of Research & Therapy of Homosexuality? Hmm? That co-founding of the anti-gay lobbying group The Family Research Council? Oh? They don’t remember you? Well how about that dodgy group, the American College of Pediatricians? You know, the ones who make up their data and call it scientific proof?

My, my, my. You were so busy trying to “cure” all of those poor people of their homosexuality that you forgot to work your voodoo on you know who . . . Perhaps it was because you were perusing the pages of rentboy.com—the only place on the web (prior to this scandal breaking) where interested parties could find lad Lucien’s very personal profile.

To get a better perspective on the whole Reker rent boy debacle, I’ll just include this story from CNN, which covers the key issues pretty thoroughly. 

Vodpod videos no longer available. 
more about “Male escort and Baptist minister “, posted with vodpod

It has been a busy news week. More later. Peace.

Father Mukada (the wonderful B. D. Wong) on “OZ” singing “Leather”

“The 700 Club and The Weather Channel”

 gay-marriage-sticker1

Stephen Colbert Takes on the National Organization for Marriage

National Organization of Fear-Mongering

gathering-storm-slide-cropped
Image from "Gathering Storm": Woman on Left represents physician; woman on right is "afraid"

On April 8, 2009, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) released a $1.5 million ad (using this term very loosely) called “The Gathering Storm” to be played in certain market sectors of the U.S. The ad was set to run on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. The ad is set to air eight times per day in New York (which is considering lifting the ban on gay marriage), Connecticutt, Rhode Island, and California (which banned gay marriages with Proposition #8).

In this ad, a seemingly diverse group of people talk about a “coming storm.” That storm is . . . wait for it . . . Gay Marriage. Quick, hide the children and the dogs (ToTo, too) before they get ideas in their heads.

These seemingly everyday people are standing around hither and yon, with body posture akin to the people in The Invasion,with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, you know the ones, the ones who have been vomited into, hence causing a psuedo-catatonic state of well-being.

One woman purports to be “afraid” by saying, and I quote: “I’m afraid.” Another woman says that she is a doctor who must choose between her religion and her job;another woman is a parent who must stand idly by while her children are brainwashed in public schools about alternate lifestyles. Ultimately, the message is that straight people will lose their rights if this rampant gay storm thingy isn’t stopped.

Teeth gnashing and hair pulling from the viewing audience. “What are we to do? Oh no. They are among us.”

They being the LGBT community.

Now, I’m not trying to make light of an offensive commercial that tries to scare people into opposing same-sex unions. Okay, well maybe I am, but only because the video is so terribly preposterous. The video doesn’t even really tackle the issue of same-sex marriages, instead focusing on issues of how homosexuality affects people of faith.

wicked-witch-of-the-west
Wicked Witch of the West . . . and flying monkey!

A “storm” coming? (Insert Wicked Witch of the West music here.) What happened to the North Koreans and Iran and nuclear weapons? Aren’t those bigger storms that would affect everyone? How about the man-made economic disaster facing the globe? I don’t remember seeing any trance-inducing videos taking on that really large problem.

Or Mt. Hood? Now that was a real storm coming: an ash storm. My god. Think of the innocent plants that suffered in that layer of sooty sludge.

Or flying monkeys, perhaps?

Okay. I’ll stop being silly.

“Pursuing a mission on behalf of a conjugal conception of marriage” . . . Excuse me, as opposed to a non-conjugal conception of marriage?

NOM was co-founded in 2007 by Princeton professor Robert George and Maggie Gallagher, both formerly of  The Institute for American Values. According to Gallagher, who says that she is “personally very proud” of the ad, NOM “pursues its mission mainly by public education and advocacy on behalf of the conjugal conception of marriage as the permanent and exclusive union of husband and wife” (from an interview with the Prince in September 2008). 

The video includes the following statements made by the 14 individuals (actors) who are supposed to represent everyday, albeit straight, citizens:

“There’s a storm gathering. The clouds are dark. And the winds are strong. And I am afraid. Some who advocate for same-sex marriage have taken the issue far beyond same-sex couples. They want to bring the issue into my life. My freedom will be taken away.”

“But some who advocate for same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish,” the ad continues. “Those who advocate want to change the way I live. I will have no choice. The storm is coming.”

equal-rights-for-all-american-buttonThis video has caused such a stir that spoofs of it went viral on YouTube almost immediately. Personally, I like the one by Stephen Colbert, which I have provided for your viewing enjoyment. This spoof is not a supposed anti-gay attack as I read on one site. Rather, it’s a very clear case of satire.

You know, satire? That rhetorical device that employs irony and sarcasm to hold up for inspection some kind of human folly, or lampooning, my favorite form of satire, which is specifically political in nature and takes no prisoners in revealing, usually through broad humor, weaknesses in opponents—something at which Stephen Colbert is particularly adept.

After airing the original NOM video, Colbert declared “I love that ad. It is like watching The 700 Club and The Weather Channel at the same time.” He then presented his own take:

 

 

“I’m a homophobe and I’m okay.” Now everybody sing . . .

But let’s look at some facts, shall we? The video uses actors to send this message of bigotry and terror. What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Instead of paying people to look wooden in a badly-written segment, if you truly believe in something, why not use real people who share your views. We saw from the recent presidential campaign just how well that tactic worked. Who can forget Joe the Plumber sticking his nose in front of the camera at every opportunity in support of the GOP’s ticket?

Or what about delusional lady who McCain had to take the microphone from because she was on a toot about Obama being an Arab? Now these were people you could believe in. They were real. They hadn’t been paid to say the things that they were saying (well, maybe Joe was, but who really cares because he was such a good source for liberals to heap outrage upon).

All of that being said (in my roundabout way), I still contend that given the ad’s purpose and message, real people should have been used, you know, real homophobes. For example, if the female actor was representing a real doctor who was upset about choosing her profession or her religion—and we know that she was because I’ll give you the case in just a sec—why not let the real doctor speak out on the subject? Is NOM protecting her (the doctor’s) right to privacy by insisting that gay marriage is not private?

After all, this physician chose not to give treatment to a patient because of that patient’s sexual orientation. If this doctor is such a staunch believer in her faith, give her the forum to allow her speak for herself. I say, stand up for your homophobic rights. Put up or shut up, as the old saying goes.

(According to the Human Rights Campaign, the video character of the female physician refers to the Benitez decision in California, determining that a doctor cannot violate California anti-discrimination law by refusing to treat a lesbian based on religious belief. http://www.hrc.org/12470.htm. And then there’s little thing called the Hippocratic Oath, but that’s probably just a technicality now.)

LIFE GAYSBut my real point is—and I do have one—the message in “Gathering Storm” isn’t just about gay marriage; it’s also about the imposition of  gay rights’ issues against people of faith. It’s a tried and true political tactic: scare people with misinformation, and for good measure, threaten their faith.

My freedom will be taken away.” Which freedom, specifically? And how will that freedom be taken away, specifically?  These generalizations do nothing but cause anxiety among people who fall prey to fear-mongering, accepting as facts statements that are opinions, and not in an humorous, ‘we’re being silly’ kind of way.

As Gallagher states: “[Gay marriage] is not a private act . . .You change the legal definition of marriage, you change the meaning for everyone, not just the gay couple down the block.” Gallagher’s statement directly mirrors the information on NOM’s website, which contends that “gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, [but] they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

I’m not really sure what Gallagher and NOM mean by that. Not in my neighborhood?  Not down my block? Or probably something more insidious, like, ‘they have a right to live as they choose, but we don’t really want to let them choose.

But there I go again, making assumptions. More later. Peace.

“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

whooper-swan

“We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” ~ Stephen Covey

 “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

statue-of-venus-de-milo
The Epitome of Beauty: The Venus de Milo

How many times have you looked at someone you do not know and made assumptions about that person based on the way that he or she looks? How often do you see a woman in ill-fitting clothes or with a bad hairstyle and think to yourself that she should take better care of herself? Have you ever been in line at the grocery store and noticed that the person in front of you is wearing out-of-date clothes and shoes and is a little overweight? Did you make assumptions about this person, or perhaps, increase the space between yourself and the other person?

If I am going to ask you these questions, then it is only fitting that I answer them. Yes, I have made assumptions about people based upon their physical appearance. Yes, I have thought to myself, “why doesn’t she do something with her hair?” or “she would be more attractive if she lost some weight.”

But then I will catch myself and think, “who am I to judge?” I could stand to lose some extra pounds myself. I’ve run out of the house in sweatpants and an old t-shirt, my hair in a pony tail. I’ve gone into stores feeling very self-conscious because I know that I don’t look particularly great, but I needed a gallon of milk. 

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~ Alan Alda

marilyn-monroe2
One of The Great Beauties, Marilyn Monroe, incredibly self-conscious and suffered from low self-esteem

Harsh though it may be, scientific studies have proven that physical appearance makes a difference in the amount of money you earn, how you are treated by physicians, how educators react to you, and even whether or not you make partner.

According to a CNN article by Kate Lorenz, “Do Pretty People Earn More?” the facts show that attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts.”*

So what does this mean to individuals in society who do not resemble Daniel Craig or Angelina Jolie? Dr. Gordon Patzer has made it his life’s work to study attractiveness and its role in human behavior. According to Patzer,

“Human beings are hard-wired to respond more favorably to attractive people . . . Good-looking men and women are generally judged to be more talented, kind, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts . . . People go out of their way to help attractive people—of the same and opposite sex—because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people.”

This societal preference for attractiveness is called the halo effect, due to the association with the perfection of angels. The halo effect occurs when an individual is influenced by a person’s strengths, weaknesses, physical appearance, behavior, or any other single factor.

Whether or not it is fair, research shows that attractive people also have more occupational success and more dating experience than their unattractive counterparts. Attractive people tend to be more intelligent, better adjusted, and more popular—probably because they have received better treatment from their teachers, their peers, and their bosses.

*(http://www.cnn.com/2005//US/Careers/07/08/looks/)

“Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” ~ Angelique Arnauld

peter-jackson
Academy-Award Winning Director Peter Jackson

But let us pause for a moment. How many persons of note in history actually do not fall into the beautiful people category? Albert Einstein certainly wasn’t an attractive man, with his bushy eyebrows and unruly hair. Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest and most generous men in the world is what most people would describe as ordinary. Peter Jackson, a genius in the film world, resembled a hobbit when he made Lord of the Rings; but even he felt compelled to lose weight.

Is physical beauty truly necessary to be successful, to be considered extraordinary? I don’t believe so. Think about it. What about intelligence? Does anyone ever say, “Oh, her brain is so beautiful”? No. But shouldn’t they if they are really going to look at a woman or a man and judge her/him? 

“When a woman isn’t beautiful, people tell her: You have lovely eyes, you have lovely hair.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Why am I pondering this point? I was reading an article about a Scottish woman who appeared on “Britain’s Got Talent,” the UK’s version of “America’s Got Talent.” The judges for this program are the ever-snarky Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan (who also judges on the U.S. version), and Amanda Holden, an English actress who is mostly recognized for her television appearances.

A brief lesson for those of you who do not follow the show: Contestants apply from all over the country to be finalists on the show. In the initial rounds, the three judges watch the one-minute performances and then vote yes or no on whether or not the individual is talented enough to go to the next round. Once the contestants are reduced to 24, then there is a round for the semi-finals. In the finals, the viewing audience votes on who should stay and who should go. The winner is decided by audience votes.

“Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself.” ~ Kevyn Aucion

susan-boyle
Contestant Susan Boyle Singing "I Dreamed A Dream"

Now picture this: an older woman (by older I mean not in her 20’s, not old for god’s sake) with bushy eyebrows and a very unfashionable dress and hairstyle walks out onto the stage. It only takes seconds before Simon Cowell begins his attack dog shtick, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the crossed arms. All of it. A pan of the audience shows that almost to a person no one is liking this woman: sneers, crossed arms, negative body language abounds.

Already, the judges and the audience have formed an opinion on this contestant based solely on her physical appearance, and that opinion is not positive.

How fair is this? Not at all fair. Has the woman had a chance to perform yet? No. Does the audience even know what she plans to do for her talent before they cross their arms? No.

The woman declares to the judges and the audience that she wants to sing, that she has always wanted to sing. You can hear the snickers from the audience. After all, how can this unfashionable, frumpy woman sing, let alone sing well enough to be on the show?

“There comes a moment when you realize that virtually anything is possible—that nothing is too good to be true.” ~ Kobi Yamoda

What happens next is positively enchanting. Susan Boyle opens her mouth, and pure beauty emanates from it. The audience jumps to its feet. Simon Cowell raises his eyebrows, and this time, it’s not in a malicious way. Piers Morgan is stupefied.

Boyle sings “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables, an incredibly difficult song to sing because of the range. As I watched the video of her performance, I got chills, and I began to tear up.

I wanted to reach through the screen and hug Susan Boyle for her performance, and I wanted to slap Simon Cowell for his disbelief that a woman who looked like Boyle could have such an angelic voice.

“Women notice details that most men don’t . . . They notice all the details, then make assumptions about every other area of your life based on these details.” ~ David DeAngelo

But it wasn’t just Cowell, was it? It was everyone. When the opening refrain of the song played, Morgan appeared to be totally uninterested, Holden had her hands over her head as if she were trying to stifle a yawn. No one was truly interested in the woman on the stage.

However, as compared to males, we females can be absolutely merciless in our criticisms of the women who are in our office, the women our friends date, the women who do our hair, or our nails. But we can be especially venomous when it comes to total strangers. Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about: only saintly women or women who are completely self-confident do not beat down other women. And how many of those do you know?

“It matters more what’s in a woman’s face than what’s on it.” ~ Claudette Colbert

jocelyn-wildenstein-bad-plastic-surgery
Pursuit of Beauty Gone Horribly Wrong: Jocelyn Wildenstein

This is the very problem with assumptions. We make assumptions about people all of the time, every day, based on their looks, on what they are wearing, on how their hair looks, how scuffed their shoes are, what kind of purse they are carrying, how old their suit is, even what kind of car they are driving. And admittedly, women are worse when it comes to judging other women.

In my own experience, I have found that many beautiful women lack in self-confidence, while those who are not considered beautiful, abound in self-confidence. It’s as if they know that the world doesn’t believe in them, but they don’t care. They believe in themselves. How wonderful that is to believe in yourself, truly believe in your talent, or your goodness, or your abilities. And how pitiable it is when women abuse themselves by repeated plastic surgery in attempts to be more beautiful, look more youthful, more perfect, not stopping until they resemble caricatures of themselves.

“Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld.” ~ Martha Beck

ugly-duckling
The Ugly Duckling Is Not Always What It Seems

Now what I did not mention is that when Sarah Boyle came out on stage, she was obviously prepared for Cowell’s sour disposition, but it didn’t seem to affect her at all. She answered all of his questions with a smile on her face. It was as if she were challenging him: “I know that you are assuming that I have no talent, but you just wait. You’ll see.”

Boyle stood her ground, even doing a bit of a jig in her sheer delight at just being invited to the party. And when she finished, she knew that she had won the battle. She walked off the stage with her shoulders back, a broad smile on her face, and joy in her eyes.

All three judges were effusive in their praise. But the best part is this: With her talent, her incredible voice, Susan Boyle has a real shot at winning “Britain’s Got Talent.” Wouldn’t that be something? And about time, too.

But just a closing thought: Why were we so surprised that Susan Boyle could sing? That is probably the heart of the matter, and a question that we should be asking ourselves even as this incredibly talented, sincere, selfless woman stands before the world and graces us with a voice from the gods.

 And on that note, I present Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed A Dream”

Embedding has been disabled. To see the video of Susan Boyle’s performance, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

More later. Peace.