#WAD2014 – #Reagan, #AIDS, and ACT-UP

For those of you who don’t understand why I dislike Reagan so much, here’s a poster from 1987 protesting our president’s silence on the deadliest virus that America had seen.

AIDSGATE, 1987, posterThink about that for a minute. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were sick and dying, and the American president was silent!

Ronald Reagan’s silence led to the organizing of LGBT protest/action group, The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, or “ACT-UP”. Their slogan, “Silence = Death” is based on Reagan’s silence.

AIDSIntroPicSilenceDeathSo the next time a conservative talks about how great a president Reagan was, ask them if they think it’s okay for an American president to ignore the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Ask them if they ever wonder how much closer we might be to finding a cure for HIV had Reagan actually done something.

If it sounds like I’m angry it’s because I AM angry. A whole generation of gay men from artists, writers, athletes, and teachers to doctors, lawyers, friends, lovers, and family, an entire generation was lost because of the callous attitude of Ronald Reagan and his successor, George HW Bush. Those of us who survived watched the ones we loved die all around us.

Gran Fury, The Government Has Blood On Its Hands, 1988, posterBoth Ronnie and Georgie Sr have blood on their hands.

I am dedicating World Aids Day 2014 to the fighters, the people who stand up for justice. From ACT-UP to protesters in Ferguson, we are all fighting for our lives. Never stop fighting. Sometimes shouting is the only way we’re heard.

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#VOTE DAMMIT! No excuses. Here’s how to find your polling place.

If you are a registered voter in the United States, you have no excuse NOT to vote.

The midterm elections are much more important than the presidential elections. The midterms determine local politics, the stuff that affects you on a day-to-day basis. If you’re unhappy with what is or isn’t being done, don’t blame Obama. Blame your local elected officials. The president isn’t king. There’s only so much he can do on his own.

Are you out of work? Are you underpaid? Are you barely able to make ends meet? Republicans are giving away the store to corporate interests, leaving us to foot the bill.

Remember this scene from Rosanne?

That scene could have been written yesterday, but it was two decades ago! Republicans are still shoveling the same crap. Tax breaks to lure companies who provide low wage jobs to families who then still have to rely on food stamps.

What the hell??

We can’t keep letting the GOP sell America to the lowest bidder! We can’t let congress give religious extremists the right to bastardize the constitution to suit their needs!

Please. Vote. Vote as if your life depended on it. If not for yourself, do it for the future of your children, your family, your country.

Thanks to the folks at Word Press, here is a voter information tool to help you find your poling place on Tuesday, November 4th.

Voter ID and ME… with update.

UPDATE: The following was written a year and a half ago. Since then I’ve tried three more times to correct the disparity between my driver’s license and my voter’s registration. As it stands now, my driver’s license spells my last name all one word but my registration separates the ‘De’ from the rest. The poll workers know me but tell me if Pennsylvania’s voter ID law goes into effect, I will not be permitted to vote.

Yeah. Don’t tell me voter ID is about fairness.

 

 

I AM PISSED!!

I’m a registered voter in Pennsylvania, one of the numerous states whose Republican Governors have proposed laws to require voters to present “State Approved Identification” in order to cast a vote in upcoming elections. On the surface, these sound like common sense laws. In reality, they are bureaucratic nightmares. These laws are solutions to problems that do not exist. But that’s not what this post is about.

During last November’s general election, the courts had put a stay on Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law. They found that there wasn’t enough time to provide proper ID to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who didn’t have it. The lines at the PA DMV were so long that people were being turned away. It was decided that voters would be asked for ID, but it would not be required to vote. Poll workers were also instructed to ensure that each voter’s ID correctly matched what was on record, and to advise the voter to rectify it before the next election. There were leaflets and everything.

I didn’t think this would be an issue for me. I had my ID. So, with ego properly inflated, I confidently marched up to polling place and proudly presented my driver’s license.

The woman behind the table carefully examined my driver’s license, expelled a sigh, and looked up into my smiling face. “It appears we have a problem,” she said. “The way your name is printed on your driver’s license does not match the way it is printed on our records.”

What?

Apparently, my middle name is spelled out on my driver’s license, but my voter’s registration shows only an initial. My registration also shows a “Sr” after my name, as in Frank Senior. This is ostensibly a problem because I don’t have a son named Frank Jr..

NOTE: Other than my address, the information on my voter’s registration has not changed in almost three decades.

After voting, I thanked the nice woman and promised I would fill out a new registration form with the correct information. All was well with the world.

Being the procrastinator that I am, I filled out the new registration form at the end of March. There were a myriad of reasons why I waited. There always are. Three weeks later my new voter’s registration arrived by mail.

The new registration is printed exactly the same as my old one, with the exact same errors. What gives? How difficult is it to copy information from a piece of paper? How hard is it to check the information found on my driver’s license, and enter it into a database? Wasn’t that the reason I was asked to provide them with my license number?

I contacted the Election Commission and spoke to a very patient gentleman who was as puzzled as I was. He accessed my driver’s license information to verify my identity. He looked at a scanned image of my new application, which had the correct information. and couldn’t understand why the records hadn’t been updated. After a few questions, I was told that my new registration should arrive within a week.

It took almost four weeks for the new voter registration to arrive, just in time for Pennsylvania’s Primary Election. This time, my last name was altered.

I have an Italian last name with a “De” prefix, as in DeNiro, DeLuca, or DeAngelo. Pennsylvania driver’s licenses use all capital letters, and the De is not separated from the rest of the surname. On the new voter’s registration however, the prefix IS separated. You wouldn’t think this was an issue. Apparently, the poll workers thought it was enough of an issue that it needed to be addressed. I was told that I could be turned away because of that simple technicality. REALLY??

Now I have to contact the Election Commission AGAIN, and walk them through the correct spelling of my name.

Does anyone else see the problem, here?

I vote every election. I take it very seriously. It’s about more than just selecting a new Mayor, Judge, Senator, or President. There are ballot questions and referendums. The voting booth is one of the few places in which my opinion matters. In the words of ronsuperman, I don’t vote “because campaigns have been drilling it into our heads reasons why we should or should not vote for a particular candidate. But I will be voting because voting = power, and I cannot sit back while decisions are made around/about me, and I have no input.”

I also don’t want some inattentive paper pusher’s mistake to prevent me from casting my vote.

How can they ask for proper ID if they’re not going to ensure that the information they record is correct? Why must I jump through hoops if a bureaucrat can’t get it right?

If we can’t ensure that everyone can easily obtain the proper ID required to cast a vote, then we need to stand down on aggressive laws designed to make it virtually impossible to engage in our Federal Voting Right.

Speaking of constitutional rights…

The logic of the GOP astounds me. :\

I threw that last thought in there as an expression of my angst.

Seriously though… If anyone, regardless of criminal background, can order an assault weapon online without proper identification, why should my middle initial, or the prefix of my ethnic surname cause so much trouble at the polling place?  #smh

PS: The point of this rant is simple. I’m surviving on minimal resources. If I’m having trouble meeting the requirements for “State Approved Identification”, what about the people who don’t even have what I have?

“Just One Book” Bette Davis – Storm Center

“Sure she talks sweet as honey. All the time you can bet she was working away back there. She has twenty five years to fill those shelves with poison. She and those books of hers. All they want is one thing: smash and destroy. Smash everything we’ve ever built up in this country.” –  George Slater (Joe Mantell) via IMDB

I thought I had seen every Bette Davis film ever made until last week, when I happened to catch ‘Storm Center’ on GetTVone of several new movie channels popping up on broadcast television.

Storm Center (1956) stars Bette Davis as a small town librarian branded as a communist because she refuses to remove a controversial book from the library’s shelves.

 

The film was released two years after the *McCarthy hearings, at the height of the cold war. It plays up the McCarthyism theme. Complaints are made to the city council about a library book called ‘The Communist Dream’. Mrs Hull (Davis) is asked by the council to remove the book from circulation because they feel it promotes communism and could corrupt young minds. Hull agrees at first, then changes her mind. The council fires her and here is where things spin out of control.

A young lawyer (Brian Keith) takes the opportunity to use “The Red Scare” as a platform for his political future. Rumors spread. Lies are told. Mrs Hull is branded a communist. Even her favorite little book worm, Freddie Slater (Kevin Coughlin) makes up far-fetched tales about his mentor. Everyone is willing to believe the outlandish stories in spite of their personal experiences with the librarian. The extremism reminded me of today’s political climate. In particular, our Tea Party movement.

*For those of you too young to remember, Joe McCarthy was a Republican senator from Wisconsin who led the witch hunt against American citizens, including famous actors, writers, and fellow politicians, whom he thought might be associated with the communist party. It was the height of the cold war. America was hyper paranoid about Russia. Many people lost their jobs, homes, and families in disgrace because McCarthy branded them “Un-American”.

Sound familiar?

It’s striking how little has changed in fifty-eight years. Oh sure, we like to convince ourselves that we are more evolved than our elders but when it comes right down to it, we are just as susceptible as they were to fear and propaganda. It’s how George W Bush got away with invading Iraq. Everyone of us who argued against it was branded “UnAmerican”. My own father questioned my allegiance. I think he even called me a commie. 🙂

We humans do love to rally around a common enemy. — even if the enemy is made up.

Storm Center is a little melodramatic. The ending is kinda corny, but overall, the film is enjoyable. Kevin Coughlin’s Freddie reminds me of me as a little bookworm. Like Freddie, my neighborhood librarian was my best friend. She helped me navigate through the library’s stacks and even allowed me extra books when she thought I could handle it.

You’ll have to hunt for Storm Center. It’s not available through Netflix. If you see it scheduled on a local TV station, set your DVR. It’s worth your attention.

BONUS: Trivia

  • Storm Center was the first movie to criticize the McCarthy era directly.
  • The Legion of Decency did not like the movie because of what it considered the film’s “pro-Communist” leanings. Instead of condemning the picture, though, it used a “separate classification” for it. That had previously been used on Blockade (1938) (a Spanish Civil War film that the League also thought was anti-Catholic and pro-Communist) and Martin Luther (1953) (because the film portrayed the life of the man who split Christianity, and also because the League thought it was full of inaccurate presentations of Church teachings).

Trivia via IMDB

 

Pay Attention To The Men Behind The Curtain… #VOTE!

The mid-term elections are underway. Pennsylvania’s primary is Tuesday the 20th of May. Contrary to what some may have you believe, mid-term elections are just as important as, if not more than, the presidential elections.

In September of 2012 I asked if it was possible that the GOP threw the Presidential election to focus on local races instead. Why else would they give us Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney? Are they that out of touch?

Most of the damage is done during midterm elections. I believe wholeheartedly that it’s because people think the President has sweeping power to do as he wishes. I don’t think people get how important these midterms are.

Take a look at what’s going on around the States and tell me if you feel the same.

So, to make it easier, here are a few valuable resources that I always turn to in any political cycle,

The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL)

The League of Women Voters

and here in Pennsylvania…

The Committee of Seventy
Pay attention folks. There’s a lot to lose in local elections.

Now go out and VOTE!

One Warm And Beautiful Day In September…

Everyone old enough to remember where they were that fateful morning has their story. This one is mine.

One Warm And Beautiful Day In September…

I was jolted awake by the telephone. The breathless voice on the other end didn’t wait for a greeting.

“I’m okay!” It was my partner calling.“Everything’s chaos here. I’m uptown, so I’m okay. ”

“What?” I said. “What’s happening?”

“Turn on the TV.”

“What Channel?”

“It doesn’t matter! Turn. On. The. TV!”

I grabbed the remote, and turned on the set. Images came into focus. It didn’t register that what I was seeing was real.

A plane had hit one of the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Was it an accident?

It looked too much like a promotion for the latest Hollywood blockbuster. If so, it was an awfully long commercial.

From the side of the screen, I see movement. Another plane appeared. In slow motion, I watched as the plane hit the second tower. This was no accident.

The phone went dead.

I tried calling him back a few times but could not get through. A mild panic settled in the pit of my stomach. “Wait a minute”, I thought. “He said he was uptown.”

It was little comfort, but it would have to do. I knew I should probably leave the cellular signals free for those who needed it most.

Time slowed. Disjointed images appeared before me through tunneled vision. Horrific images. Smoke. Flames. People covered in ash and debris running for their lives. People jumping from the upper floor windows of the World Trade Center because their only other option was to be burned alive.

All sense of time and space was ripped from my consciousness.

For the next few hours, I joined the rest of America and watched the drama unfold. The Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania followed. The feeling that “this is all unreal” never left me.

I left for work at around noon. I worked at a bar and wasn’t due until 3:00pm, but I couldn’t stay in the house any longer. Maybe the nine block walk would do me good.

The streets were virtually empty. The usual sounds of the city were glaringly absent. I was aware of even the slightest sound; leaves blowing, foot steps, pigeons tapping on the sidewalk. People walked in silence. It was eerie.

The complex mix of emotions on people’s faces was dominated by a collective nervousness. A helicopter rumbled overhead. People glanced up in fear. Some, succumbing to survivalist instincts, ducked for cover. The possibility that Philadelphia could be targeted weighed heavily on the minds of many.

The bar was busy. The saying is true that there’s comfort in numbers. I kept the bar’s televisions on so that everyone could see the latest news. We offered the bar’s land line to anyone who wanted or needed to get in touch with friends or family. By 7:00 PM I received a call from my partner. He would stay in New York City for a few days to help friends.

For the next few weeks I felt as though I was disconnected – like a boat that’s come loose of it’s moorings and floats aimlessly at sea. I was just going through the motions. It’s impossible to remember any of the minutiae that usually bog us down because for the following few weeks we were as one, united against an unknown enemy. Each of us doing what we could to help anyone who needed it.

The most disgusting rhetoric that came out of 9/11/2001 was the assertion by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that America somehow brought the terrorist attacks upon itself. On September 13, just two days after the terrorist attacks, they appeared on The 700 Club and claimed that God smote America because of all the “Pagans, Abortionists, Atheists, Feminists, Gays, and Lesbians, the ACLU, and People for the American Way”. What?! I thought my head would explode when I heard this. How could purported “Men Of God”, mock the memory of so many innocent lives with such hatred and vileness? I’ll let God settle that one.

Remembering September 11th still puts me in that numb place where time and space mean nothing.

I can’t begin to comprehend what those people in New York City were going through. It would be an insult to them if I said I did. I also can’t imagine what could have transpired on UA flight 93 that made the passengers overtake the hijackers before crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or the passengers of flight 77 and their families, and those of the Pentagon. I have no frame of reference from which I can compare. The best I can do is empathize.

May the people, and their families, who were affected by the events of that day somehow find the comfort that they need.

Note: “One Warm and Beautiful Day in September” was originally posted Sept 2011 on ADignorantium.tumblr

The Proposition: An Open Letter to Mainers

The Proposition: An Open Letter to Mainers.

This well though out plea to Mainers applies to the rest of us as well. It’s a calm rational perspective at a moment in our history when calm and cool are desperately needed.

It’s worth the read.