Wednesday, April 28, 2010

AZ part 1

“It is open season on the Latino community in Arizona. In Phoenix, Tucson, and across the state, people in Latino neighborhoods are afraid to leave their houses, afraid to be apart from their children for even a minute, and afraid to walk the streets because they feel their arrest on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant could happen at any moment. It is a horrifying glimpse at what our future holds across the country if we continue down the path the Obama administration is leading us on immigration.” – Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Huffington Post

This election season has seen the return of the scourge of the Mexican immigrant, the identified source of all problems in the United States. The state of Arizona has seen fit to pass a clearly unconstitutional law giving law enforcement virtually unlimited power to question and detain any person they want, demanding ID’s birth certificates, green cards. The bill, SB 1070, while not signed by the governor yet, sits as a sword of Damocles over the head of the Latino community in Arizona.

So, can’t they do that anyway? Well, yes police should be able to question “suspicious” people, monitoring people with criminal records, acting suspiciously not just because that person is brown.

Law enforcement used to do the same things to gay and lesbian people many moons ago. There were the laws that prevented two people of the same gender from dancing together. We could not gather in places for socializing without fear of police raids. Anyone remember Stonewall? Our forefathers and foremothers always faced the threat of arrest for gathering in a public place.

Many of us sit at that intersection of being brown and queer. We are either immigrants, children of immigrants or grandchildren of immigrants. In a country where grown men are parading around in wigs and funny hats, packing guns, with brown people the target of their concern and their guns it is absolutely a moral imperative that queers of all colors recognize this for the social justice issue it is.

We have been targeted by laws and elections, made to be the identified problem, the others, the outliers who don’t deserve equality nor civil rights. Latinos and queers, queers and Latinos, Latino/a queers, queer Latina/o we live outside the circle of normal people in the US.

We live in cities with Spanish names, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, El Paso, Santa Fe, San Jose, in a Spanish named state, California and Texas. We eat at restaurants where the staff is Latino/a, they wash our dishes, our cars and sometimes clean our houses.

The argument that undocumented people have broken the law and therefore cannot have a path to citizenship is a red herring. In years past, it was illegal for two people of the same gender to have sex. It was illegal to gather and dance together. And it is still legal to discriminate against us in our relationships, work and public accommodations in many states. We can make some people uncomfortable just by our presence. That doesn’t make us criminals. We are all the outliers.

For us as queer Latinos, it is our families in Arizona that are under attack. Since we all have different priorities and for many of us, this immigration battle in Arizona takes precedence over DADT or ENDA. Hopefully we can chew gum and be activists on many fronts all at once.

For us as queer people of this land, we have a history that many of us have drilled into our heads.

We didn’t cross the borders, the borders crossed us.

Si se puede, egualidad en nuestras vidas.

Real lives in Arizona

I want to tell you another story. I want to tell you about my friend Greg who lives in Arizona. He works at a major university and moved there for love. He and his partner own a home, pay their taxes and are part of their community. Nice men, they have come to visit us and we had a rollicking time in Santa Cruz with them.

The Governor of Arizona doesn’t feel these two men should be equal citizens. One of her first acts as the new Governor was to take Domestic Partnership benefits away from state employees like my friend. They lose their combined insurance on Oct 1.

This is a problem to begin with for any family that loses insurance – but it is especially relevant to them because my friend’s partner has Alzheimer’s. And he is the one losing the insurance.

We cannot change who we are anymore than we can change our diseases. I distinctly remember a time when gay men were blamed for getting AIDS. It wasn’t that long ago. As the shrillness ramps up here and on the net, I will point out, that there are still people who think we should be able to change and therefore should change who we are. I can’t change being a Chicana anymore than I can change my queerness. Neither can my undocumented queer brothers and sisters change who they are.

This attempt at law, as it is written and passed now, will not survive the court challenges. This is a blatant move to bypass the constitution. In Sunday’s New York Times the point was obvious:

One night last week, Grant Woods, the former state attorney general, spent more than an hour on the telephone with Gov. Jan Brewer, a fellow Republican who was considering whether to sign into law the nation’s toughest immigration enforcement bill.

The governor listened patiently, Mr. Woods recalled, as he laid out his arguments against the bill: that it would give too much power to the local police to stop people merely suspected of being illegal immigrants and would lead to racial profiling; that some local police officers have been abusive toward immigrants; and that the law could lead to costly legal battles for the state.

When he hung up, Mr. Woods knew he had lost the case. “She really felt that the majority of Arizonans fall on the side of, Let’s solve the problem and not worry about the Constitution,” he said.

The same people who passed that immigration law, took away DP benefits.

There are queers among the undocumented who had to leave in a hurry because they are gay. There are people from the US who are in relationships with undocumented people.

LGBT groups, cities, human rights commissions all over the country are mobilizing a boycott of Arizona.

Many people in the country think of us as LGBT people as freaks, less than equal, illegal. If we were all legal and equal we wouldn’t need to protest inequalities like DADT, ENDA, adoption laws, gay bashings. We are all the “others”, we are the outliers that continue to be unequal.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sacrificing our souls

His name is Stephen McCarthy.

He was a classmate at St Justin's Catholic school from the 4th to the 6th grade. His hair was red and he had loads of freckles. His face was a virtual map of Ireland. I am sure his parents sent him him to Catholic school to get a good education. They didn't send him there, I am guessing, to be paddled in front of his 49 classmates every year.

Last night I lay awake thinking about my classmate. The look on his face when he was ordered to the front of the classroom. When he had to bend over so the nun could take a PADDLE to his butt, the back of his legs. The tears in his eyes, the red of his face all on display for the rest of us. The message was clear. Don't mess with the teachers or this will happen to you.

This physical and spiritual violence is not the same as being sexually molested. It is not the same level of disturbing behavior. I don't pretend to make them equivalent. But ask yourself this, if this was your child, would you allow a teacher to touch them in any way like this? Would you deem it acceptable that your son or daughter was marched to the front of the classroom and told to bend over to get whacked?

Last night I cried as I remembered the pain of Stephen and so many others who were taught through a church hierarchy that allowed nuns and priests to behave in any way they wanted. Out.Of.Control. Protected by god and the greatest religious institution on the planet to be virtually infallible.

well they are not infallible, they are barely human. In 2008 the Church involved itself in the Prop 8 vote. I am baptized Catholic but I didn't count in that vote. It was about the married couples I would terrorize in the church with my, I don't know cooties. I keep hearing how this is about protecting the sacred institution of marriage. Funny, I thought the confessional was a sacred place and confession was a sacred institution. Now the revelations in Wisconsin show the offending priest who was never held accountable by the Vatican, violated children in the confessional. I guess some things are more sacred than others and some priests are more disgusting than others.

Look around the globe and see how many children have been fathered by priests. So much for that celibacy thing. How about the former archbishop of New Mexico who fathered a child and placed known pedophile priests throughout New Mexico after completion of their "pray away the problem" treatments in NM. When asked by a grand jury why he had allowed the pedophiles to remain priests and placed them throughout a mostly rural, Catholic state the answer was priceless. Apparently he was of the understanding that an abortion or hitting a priest was a bigger sin than pedophilia.

Once again, during the supposed holiest week of the year, the Vatican seeks to portray its victims as liars. The children it abused (now there are allegations of flogging by priests visited on children) have bravely stepped forward to tell their truth. Once again the old familiar claim that they are making it up from the Prada clad types in Rome.

If you are witnessing a massacre, people being hurt and maimed in front of your eyes, would you not want to save the children? The Vatican has answered that question, they are trying to save themselves.

My family is still waiting for that apology from the 1968 slapping of my sister. I am not holding my breath.

Stephen McCarthy if you ever read this, I am sorry for not trying to stop the abuse. You didn't deserve it. None of us did. We were just kids.

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