Friday, June 12, 2009

Radical is not Wrong

Tonight, I write the first serious blog entry that I have done since April out of an abundance of anger and an intense sense of betrayal at what I have found in today's release of a briefing by the Department of Justice. The document (which can be found here: )
makes the case for upholding the Defense of Marriage Act passed in the 1990s that essentially bars Congress from passing a law to recognize same-sex marriages. It goes beyond that, however, in attempting to fully stymie and crush any attempt for federal recognition of same-sex couples at any legal level. The act is something that candidate Obama pledged to work to repeal if he became President because he recognized that it is unfair and essentially bigoted. It was created out of ignorance and fear that, although still holding a place in American society, is growing less pervasive.

At the bottom of this entry I will link all relevant material that I discuss. The point here is the briefing went entirely too far and attempts to compare gay marriage to incest and denies it the same credibility that interracial marriage was given when it first became defended by the courts. It goes too far in that, rather than simply defending DOMA (which neither Clinton nor Bush chose to do in this formal manner) to attacking the heart of the gay rights movement: we too are human beings, and on that account are equally deserving of civil rights granted to others. Indeed, the argument is laid out that homosexuals have every right to enter marriage, we just have to do it with the “right” people. It is a fallacy of logic to expect that we should deny ourselves, and thus our freedom to be individuals, in order to achieve a semblance of equality.

The fact of the matter is that the Obama administration is engaging in a sport of can-kicking that is unparalleled in its audacity and negligence. Perhaps the president feels that gays are not worthy of his recognition, despite the fact that most of us fought hard for his candidacy and defended him against all sorts of accusations because we believed in him. We trusted that he would be faithful to his word, we believed that his labeling of gay rights as a “top priority” among his many other top priorities was honest and genuine.

The history of the gay rights movement is a painful one, interspersed with great and joyous victories but overshadowed by legal defeat after legal defeat. Our humanity has been put up for referendums, as though the opinion of other citizens has any bearing upon our inalienable rights that are in theory supposed to be applicable to all American citizens. Most of all in the past year we, and I mean “we” by regular gay, bisexual, and transgendered men and women because that is my community, have come to learn the hard way that reliance upon the political machines will only leave us in the dust. I am sure that this lesson was obvious in the 1990s as well when the Clinton administration all but spit on the LGBT community. Our defeat with Prop 8 was bankrolled by Mormons and perpetuated by the ignorant as though allowing gay marriage would somehow destroy civil society as we know it. The organizers against Prop 8 were incompetent and unready to take bold steps to assert their case. The politicians we task with defending us either did so with great reluctance or ignored us altogether.

The fact that a majority of California voters reject our status as equal holds no bearing, because civil rights are not up for vote. By such logic, people could bar Africa-Americans from marrying and enjoying legal benefits. We could arbitrarily decide that Muslim-Americans (though religion is essentially a choice, but I believe freedom of religion is a vital aspect of human rights) are unequal to the rest of “us” and we could strip them of many rights that citizenship carries.

It was expected that Obama would keep promises, or at least show some level of action. The President and his supporters' repeated attempts to encourage patience because there are more pressing matters were convincing and acceptable. However, people like myself have recognized that the silence has been disturbing – the only recognition of the LGBT community has the been appointment of a gay man in a fairly high-level administrative position and a speech made on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, the birth of our movement. Every other opportunity to recognize gay equality was either ignored or mocked. The President refused to do anything with regard to Don't Ask, Don't Tell when a lieutenant who recently came out faced discharge, he either mocked or dismissed gay rights protesters outside a Los Angeles fundraising event, and he has had a baffling silence about gay marriage passages in states since his election.

I have been told to wait for too long, especially after today's briefing that was released. I know it almost sounds ridiculous that six months is “too long” but considering the silence that has accompanied the wait, there is no doubt in my mind that our level as a priority in the Obama White House is nothing more than an office joke at best. At worst, the LGBT community was used as a tool for Obama's election. We are a mobilized and active political bloc and our power is certainly potent, but to have that used without any recognition whatsoever of what responsibility ensues the borrowing of our community's power is an affront to fairness and civil equality.

I feel ashamed now that when legislation was brought forth to end workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered that I supported Barney Frank's proposal to get rid of the last group because it would hinder chances of passage. The logic I held was the practicality was more important than idealism. That remains true, but the assumption that I made was that eventually transgendered people would get their equality too. I now realize that is not only incredibly unfair, the logic has no basis. The assumption that it is “practical” to give some groups rights and not another is ultimately hypocritical because it is what I stand against. The assumption that I could trust politicians with defending everyone's rights (eventually) even when it is not convenient is laughable. Anyway, my whole spill about this issue is to highlight the point that we only have each other – no political entity can be expected to support us or return our support. They will only do so when it is politically expedient. Barack Obama does not have the courage to stand by his words, or at least make some recognition of them.

I sincerely hope that the course begins to change, that all my comments about Obama are proven wrong. But what I also recognize is that the LGBT community needs to unite as never before to acquire our individual freedoms that are denied to us all. I also call upon all of you – straight, gay, bicurious, bisexual, transgendered – to stand up for this moment and help in the fight for equality. Whether you are straight or gay you are implicated. Your inaction is the endorsement of the marginalization of people because they are different. I hope that someday the term “LGBT” will become meaningless when we have achieved our full equality. This will take a grassroots effort, however, and it is the single issue that motivates me like no other.

Arguments that are derived from your interpretation of God and His Word are irrelevant. We are not demanding that our membership in your churches become mandatory. Churches maintain the right to deny marriage licenses to whomever they wish – the fact that the Catholic church denies its services to non-Catholics is a key point in this argument. We are demanding our civil rights. Religious arguments have no basis in the realm of civic equality, at least when such arguments are designed to prevent others from becoming equal.

Carrie Prejean may think she's the face of this debate, but you and I both know that the faces of this debate are LGBT citizens that have to live in a nation that is respectable and admirable in almost every facet of its acknowledgement of human rights. Ours are handily rejected.

We will not quit until what is ours has been rightfully acknowledged. I happily welcome all of you to join the fight. I know we can win it because we are ultimately driven by a desire to be free from civic repression. Our existence has become widely accepted in popular culture and it is only natural that government will be behind because it is in its very nature conservative. The status quo, though a reliable basis for future action, is not acceptable in this case. I understand to many people the notion that two men should have the right to get married is incredibly radical and almost laughable. But let this statement remind you of past struggles: Just because something is radical does not mean it is wrong.

We must act so that government will. Our acceptance in pop culture means little if we are unwilling to pursue direct action to ensure our acceptance and integration in civil society. 

Equal in spirit,

Matt Arundel

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vlogs - WTF?

Alright, so I was on YouTube for a reason I can't remember anymore.  I tend to get some sort of attention-deficit problem when I get online, as I think most people do.  Anyway, I ran across a couple of vlogs (video blogs) and seriously, what the fuck is wrong with these people?

With the exception of a few (sxephil and whiteoutstain come to mind), most are pretentious jerks that take themselves way too seriously.  Clearly, they're absorbed with themselves and little else, having opinions to attract attention rather than contribute to an argument or attempt to be amusing in any way.

I'm still finding a way to reconcile why I have a blog if I'm not a pretentious asshole absorbed with myself, hoping to attract attention.  I mean, why else would a person be possessed with the urge to create his own website just to write a crapload of opinions?

Yeah, it's probably true.  Maybe I'm just as vain and pretentious.  But I take comfort in the fact that the written word is less in-your-face and you don't have to listen to me talk in an annoyingly self-righteous manner.  Or watch me talk down to people that eat french fries from McDonald's because it's bad for them (gaygod) and constantly talk about my haters because I'm such a fucking badass (petrilude) with odd metallic growths coming out of my face.

Just so all you know, I contemplate a lot of things, but the last thing I want to do is to be taken seriously on the for real.  The last thing I need is to have to live life as though I can't enjoy it.

About That Torture Thing

Here we go -- startin' the day off with a bang and a stuffy nose!

Making the morning rounds, I stopped by the New York Times to see if they had a comprehensive report on the torture memos released yesterday.  They do:

Together, the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.’s methods and the Justice Department’s long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law. Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.
The end of the report goes like this:

But Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that the memos were written at a time when C.I.A. officers were frantically working to prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing,” said Mr. Blair in a written statement. “But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos.”

First, it should be noted that the NYT has come forward and called it what it is - torture.  It is important for the mainstream media to call it none other than torture as defined by international law and basic human law.

Mr. Blair's defense of those that relied on the memos is not unwarranted, but I do believe that the people that provided the legal defense for torture ought to be put on trial immediately.  There also needs to be an investigation of epic proportions to determine whether there were back channels used to discuss torture in ways that might show someone acted in bad faith.  I don't want a witch hunt, I just want justice to be served.

It should be noted also that Mr. Blair attempts to use the fear of the time as a defense of these heinous acts, giving cover for the blatant abandonment of our values and principles.  We hear of the sunshine patriot in Thomas Paine's work, but what of the sunshine human?  Is it only appropriate to adhere to one's principles when it is easy?  Even as someone that adheres to the creed, "Whatever works is whatever's best," there are moral boundaries that our society and culture have set up for good reason.  Debasing the humanity of another person to achieve an end is never justified.  Even if one could begin to consider the possibility that it might be, pragmatism is thrown out the window in favor of pure sadism and evil, because torture does not work.

I think it's about time that the public act on this.  Silence is no longer an option.  In fact, the longer the public pretends like this didn't happen or just ignores the consequences, the graver the results will be for our society.  This is a blight on our history that recalls the Trail of Tears and the Japanese internment camps when viewing from the perspective that, radically, humanity is worth preserving.

We must challenge our representatives in Congress, challenge the president, and challenge our fellow citizens who don't have the political will or stomach to act alone.  It is the people that must put justice where it belongs, and put those that have acted against it where they belong - behind bars.  Indeed, if this is the land of the free and home of the brave, then let us be free enough to recognize injustice when it occurs and brave enough to do something about it.

(EDIT - Andrew Sullivan posted an amazing piece that just screams the truth.)

Song of the Day

I figure that if this is to be a proper blog then I should introduce some fairly common and recurring themes to it - and a song of the day would seem to work well for that criteria.

So for Determine's first ever 'Song of the Day', why not an ode to feminism?

"There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women."
-- Madeleine K. Albright

Touché, m'dear.

(Edit - I feel as though I should credit my American Art History professor for exposing me to this song.  She often incorporates songs when a new theme is introduced in her lectures.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009


This is my first post on a serious matter, and I believe it fitting to dedicate it to the tragedy and utter horror that was authorized by the previous administration.  There is something to be said about a government that seeks to legitimize an act that was declared criminal and illegal decades ago.  I found the memos difficult to read because of their blatant disregard for humanity, but by the end of the second it was clear the trend that was set during these past eight years.

The memos mark a clear attempt to use perverted logic and twisted semantics to achieve an end without regard to the legal and moral bounds that are placed upon our country.  As Andrew Sullivan points out, "Our standards are now lower for the US than they were once for Nazi Germany."

There is an obvious notion among the writers of the memos that they are arguing a position that is not orthodox, and feel the need to reference various sources for their creative and wildly imaginative versions of "torture" and "severe pain".  I'm no lawyer, but it is clear that international and domestic law were violated.

Obama today indicated that those that acted in good faith with the authorization provided to them would not be pursued.  Thus, it is reasonable to assume that if they acted in bad faith and didn't follow policy exactly as described, they could be prosecuted.

Personally, I don't think the average interrogator should be prosecuted for following orders, if they acted in good faith.  However, those decrepid jerks that issued the orders and those in the Dept of Justice that gave legal credibility to torture need to be put on trial for war crimes.  There is nothing else to describe what we've witnessed -- the forced inhumanity upon a human being is beyond the pale of civilized action.

It is because we are civilized and better than al-Qaida and other radical terrorist groups that we must diligently remain above them.  As the president loves to say, there is no reason for us to sacrifice our principles to achieve security.  Those that argue otherwise might like to take a look at what barbarism means for them.

Hello And Such

Hello, readers!  Not that I have any readers at this point, but that's beside the point.

Those of you that harken from my friends list on Facebook know that I have a long habit of blogging when the urge strikes.  My opinions are far-ranging and certainly expressed at every opportunity.  My opinionated nature is likely annoying at times, but what's a guy to do?

Blog, of course!

Here's a brief intro for people that happen across this blog:  I'm twenty-one years old and a dirty librul in a sea of Southern conservatives.  My decidedly liberal assortment of bumper stickers gets me rude looks from old ladies and the finger from rednecks alike.  Beyond the political, my experience in the restaurant industry has led to be somewhat cynical about the nature of humanity and I have an affinity for anything that challenges the establishment.  Computer gaming is a mark of awesomeness.  Music is not an escape, it's an art.  Art is not an escape, it is expression.  Expression is independence.  To put it shortly:  I revere Reason and rationality, believing most others do not, and my rebellious streak still dominates.

Oh, and I'm homosex. (Edit - I discovered via Urban Dictionary that this means I'm a straight person that acts like a homo.  But really, I *am* homo.  Like, very.  Just so you know.)