Tuesday, December 28, 2004
by Wayne Besen
Reggie White, a former football star and preacher who took part in a 1998 ad campaign that said gay people have short life spans, died this week. He was 43 years old.
According to most news reports, White was the equivalent of Mother Teresa in football pads. His beatification includes gushing testimonials about how he was a wonderful "Man of God" who was a great role model to children.
"As great a player as Reggie was, he was a better person. Every life that he touched is better for it," said Detroit Lions CEO Matt Millen.
As a gay football fan, I looked up to White until he made it clear that he frowned down on me and anyone else who did not share his fire and brimstone religious beliefs.
Known as the "Minister of Defense", I remember him as an offensive minister who allowed thousands of young athletes to justify their hatred toward homosexuals in the name of God.
We now hear a lot about how he helped inner-city youth, but how many young lives did he potentially destroy with his forceful condemnations of homosexuality? To listen to the cooing media, one would think that these gay children were expendable in White's war against homosexuals. And make no mistake, White was as homophobic as they come.
"Gay activists are trying to force their agenda on our children and society and it bothers me," White said in an interview with Citizen Magazine. "When you look at the gay agenda, their thing is that they deserve the same rights as other minorities, particularly black people. That is very offensive."
When asked why he picked gay bashing as his personal crusade, White compared homosexuality to unflattering behaviors.
"You don't have men and women who commit adultery who are activists for adultery, or liars who are activists for lying," White told Citizen.
In 1998, White appeared in a full-page ad in USA Today sponsored by 15 groups including the Christian Coalition and The Family Research Council. The ad claimed to tell the "truth" about homosexuality including:
- The truth about homosexual recruitment in public schools and how AIDS activists have misused AIDS funding to promote homosexuality to elementary kids.
- The truth about raw political power and how homosexual activists are creating new laws to mandate acceptance of homosexual behavior in every facet of life from work to school to religion and making it a criminal offense to dissent.
The ad ended with an explosive quote from White.
"I've been called homophobic…and I've been called a nigger by so-called gay activists," said White, without naming the alleged offenders.
White's ad flat out lied about gay "recruitment" and was untruthful in its claim that gay advocates wanted to make it a "criminal offense to dissent".
Fortunately, by the time White appeared in this ad, much of the public already viewed him as an embarrassing ignoramus. In an infamous speech to the Wisconsin State Legislature, White proclaimed that Asians can turn a TV into a watch, Blacks excel at celebration and dance, Latinos can fit 20 or 30 people into one house, and whites are great with money.
White can also be attributed with helping accelerate the growing trend of tying sports performance to fundamentalist religious belief. Now one can't turn on the TV without some egocentric millionaire jock giving God credit for his touchdown. It seems half the NFL players have cheapened religion to the point where God is a giant, invisible quarterback who rewards victories to the team that says the loudest prayers.
Don't get me wrong, I think it is great when athletes live their faith and do kind, humble deeds to help humanity. This should be universally applauded.
But the Reggie White school of prayer seemed to focus on chest thumping as much as Bible thumping. He was the high priest in the Temple of Intolerance, where his muscle-bound flock read from the Book of Testosterone. The anti-gay attitude exemplified by White and his holy-steamrollers can still be seen today in abusive high school locker rooms across America.
Towards the end of White's life he seemed to regret how he sometimes misused religion.
"Really, in many respects I've been prostituted," White recently told NFL Films. "God don't need football to proclaim who He is."
As reported in USA Today, White told ESPN's Andrea Kremer that he had stopped going to church four years ago and started studying Hebrew. Former Green Bay Packers teammate Shannon Sharpe said that White told him that he, 'moved away from Christianity and started studying Hebrew because I need to know for myself what my life holds for me.'
It is a shame that White did not live long enough to complete his religious journey. As great an athlete as he was, his supreme triumph might have been undoing the spiritual damage he had inflicted on gay and lesbian Americans. Unfortunately, many people will remember White as much for his disgraceful conduct off the field, as for his supreme grace on it.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
by Wayne Besen
I once thought finding a date on the Internet was as easy as ordering a pizza. But when you order a pepperoni pizza, you can be pretty sure you're not getting anchovies. In cyberspace, however, if you ask for Don Juan, you're likely to get Don Knotts.
Recently, I was flirting with a guy on the Internet who said he was a great catch. He wasn't kidding. When I eventually met him in person he looked like a salmon. A few weeks later I met another man online who said he had a swimmer's build. When we finally met, I wanted to ask him, "What is your event, the cannonball?"
It's not any better for heterosexuals.
A girlfriend of mine was really excited because she thought she met a super guy in cyberspace who was handsome, articulate and well educated. In fact, "Matt" claimed he had a college degree from an Ivy League school. After a few dates, it turned out he had some degree of college from a bush league school. In the real world, these details matter. But online, it is lie now, pay later.
Inspired by Anna Nicole Smith, another girl I know was looking to meet a man of means. That's not my thing, but at least she is honest about her intentions. After trolling the web, she came across an older gentleman who claimed he had a Rolls Royce. A week later, the suitor shows up at her house in a rusty Ford Taurus.
Feeling misled, the woman asked, "What happened to the Rolls Royce."
"Look hon, you misunderstood me," he replied. "I said I've got a car and it rolls."
Experiences such as this have led to a dramatic revenue slowdown this year for online dating services. According to the New York Times, in 2002 the industry's revenues rose 73 percent over the previous year. In 2003 they grew again by 77 percent. This year, the growth of Internet revenues has only been 19 percent.
I believe the main reason online dating has peaked is because people are tired of meeting liars and weirdoes. At least in a bar you can usually figure out if someone needs a shrink within five minutes instead of fifty wasted hours looking at a glowing computer screen.
Another toxic side effect of online dating is that it has made it possible for some people to never leave their homes. I mean NEVER. These ghouls just stare blankly at the computer screen day after day and night after night, like zombies from an old movie on the Sci-Fi Channel.
I went on a date with one of these zombies and it was awful. He kept checking his Blackberry at the restaurant to see if he got any new e-mails. The guy had spent so much time on the computer that he could no longer converse in the real world. When he had to use the restroom he said "BRB" (Be right back). When he laughed he said "LOL". The man even smiled like the damn happy face symbol on America Online.
After perusing the Internet the last couple of months, I have a few observations:
* People who say "No Games" in their online profile are the most likely to turn your head into a Playstation 2.
* The person most likely to write, "looking for real people" is most likely to be superficial.
* Watch closely for incongruities. For example, if a person's profile says, "money isn't important" and that his or her favorite hobby is "shopping" there is a good chance the person is a shoplifter.
* When a guy says he has a "football build", it is important to ask what position he might play. There is a big difference between a sleek tailback and portly center.
* When a guy says he has a wrestlers build, it is important that he distinguish between Greco-Roman and Sumo.
* If a person leaves out "age" in his or her profile, it means the person is old enough to have voted for Abe Lincoln, or young enough to land you 10 in the hoosegow.
* If you are chatting online and you ask someone if they are married and they reply, "Define Married" your are either conversing with Bill Clinton or someone just like him. Neither scenario is good.
The only way to find Prince Charming is to first accept yourself for who you are. There are clubs, bars and Internet websites that cater to every different taste imaginable. Or, as a wise man once said, "There's an ass for every seat."
If you think about it, there is only one group of people that isn't desired by anybody - Liars. So, here is a New Year's resolution that I think millions of people should consider: "I will not fib on the Internet".
Thursday, December 16, 2004
by Wayne Besen
To say civil unions are analogous to marriage is like saying a date with Andy Rooney is the same as a date with Tom Cruise. Yet, many people, even in the gay community, erroneously believe that civil unions are simply marriage by another name. Civil unions are not a synonym for marriage, but second-class citizenship by another name.
On substance, civil unions leave same-sex couples lacking the same federal rights and benefits married couples enjoy. Without marriage, same sex families are not eligible for 1,138 federal benefits including Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, tax relief and immigration rights. With civil unions, you aren't even covered under federal law to take off work to care for a sick domestic partner. When it is time to display family values, the law does not fully value your family unless you are married.
Civil unions also lack portability from state-to-state. In the global economy, it is cruel and unrealistic for families to have their legal status dissolved simply because they cross state lines. Imagine having to choose between keeping your family "legal" and providing for them by accepting a higher paying job in another state.
The big losers in this absurd game of relationship roulette are kids. The 2000 census showed 594,000 same sex couples, in which 28 percent had children. If a civil union family leaves the state in which they are protected, their children are left vulnerable and in legal limbo. How do you tell a 10 year old that his non-biological mother can't see him in the hospital because the state in which he is injured wants to punish his parents by not recognizing their civil union?
I can understand that people are rattled after eleven Constitutional Amendments banning marriage passed on Election Day (and in eight states civil unions too). Reasonable people are looking for a middle ground and civil unions seem like an attractive option.
Indeed, a May 2004 USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll showed that 49 percent of Americans thought, "Homosexual couples should be allowed to form civil unions" while only 48 percent opposed them.
Exit polls showed that while 25 percent of voters favored marriage inclusion for same sex couples, 35 percent were in favor of civil unions. More than half of those who are for civil unions voted for Bush. This means that a mere 37 percent of people are anti-gay values voters. Or is it vicious voters?
The reason, however, that civil unions poll so well is because activists have fought for the freedom to marry. By advocating for full marriage equality, civil unions have become the fallback position. But the moment the freedom to marry is abandoned, Neo-Puritan groups will launch equally devastating assaults on civil unions, thus bringing the poll numbers down.
"We think marriage should be protected, not just in language but in full effect," Shannon Royce, executive director of the Marriage Amendment Project told the Christian Science Monitor.
"A civil union is same-sex marriage under a different name," said Michael Heath, executive director of the Maine Civic League.
"Civil Unions are a Trojan horse for gay marriage," Bob Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute wrote in USA Today. They are "counterfeit marriage."
It is crystal clear that anti-gay activists will ensure that the public sees marriage and civil unions as virtually the same thing. It is naive to think that they don't have the money and organization to blur the line. Therefore, it is a wiser strategy to defend marriage rather than what fundamentalists will dub "counterfeit marriage.
Finally, it is important that we don't lose sight of the purpose of the gay movement. It is not simply to win a narrow, if incomplete, package of benefits. It is to erase all barriers that stigmatize and dehumanize, while ensuring that gay people are treated as equals in every way.
Civil unions woefully fail this crucial moral test by creating an ugly caste system where same-sex families are labeled inferior by law. This "separate but equal" second-class citizenship demeans our love and sends a terrible message to young gay men and lesbians. Civil unions do not solve our problems - they simply make it a little easier to defer the hard work we must do until the next generation.
That said, gay people are a small minority and can't afford to be obstinate and reject civil unions as a last resort. Our families need protections today, and idealism won't get them hospital visitation rights. However, fair-minded people should always push forward and be wed to the idea that America should never settle for a system that doles out different rights to different people simply for who they are.
On one point I'll agree with Neo-Puritans. Civil Unions are indeed "counterfeit marriage."
by Wayne Besen
If America doesn't wake up, it will soon become a big, dumb second-tier nation that values miracles over math and superstition over science. Thanks to the Republican's embrace of anti-intellectualism and demagogic fundamentalism, we are already halfway there.
In the October 17 edition of the New York Times Magazine, Ron Suskind interviewed a key Bush aide that described the administration's rejection of enlightenment principles. The aide chastised Suskind for living "in what we call the reality-based community."
The aide said that people in this community "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality…that's not the way the world really works anymore."
Indeed, it isn't.
A recent poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe that America has produced "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working with Al Qaeda. Amazingly, a third of the president's fans believe weapons of mass destructions were found in Iraq.
Too many Americans are divorced from reality and live in a world where belief trumps brains. This threatens the very essence of democracy, which depends on an educated citizenry to make wise, informed choices.
"You want to get down to the nub of how this democracy is going to defend itself," said former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite. "We've got to have an intelligent electorate and we are not going to have it because our education system is in a shambles right now."
A new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that the United States ranked 28th out of 40 nations in math and 18th in reading. But instead of recognizing that American innovation and prosperity is in danger of erosion, the Republican-led Congress just cut nearly $105 million from the National Science Foundation.
Of course, as Hong Kong, South Korea and Finland kick our ass in math and science, Americans have more pressing moral concerns. For example, Alabama State Representative Gerald Allen (R-Cottondale) wants to ban books that mention gay people from public libraries and schools. To rid Alabama of such books, Allen said that, "I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them."
Finally, the educational reform conservatives have been promising.
The battle to substitute ignorance for education is evident in right wing efforts to teach creation "science" in public schools. School officials in Cobb County, Ga., were recently in court to defend a disclaimer on science books that reads evolution is, "a theory and not a fact."
Sadly, much of America agrees and wants to undercut scientific progress. According to a Dec. 5 Newsweek poll, 43 percent of Americans favor teaching creation science instead of evolution in public schools. This shows that nearly half of Americans are not only hostile to science, but have little use for the separation of church and state.
Blissful ignorance dangerously extends to America's sex education. This year, Congress will provide nearly $170 million for "abstinence only" programs. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 percent of graduating high school seniors have had sex. Wouldn't it be healthier if they knew about condoms?
Columbia University researchers found that 88 percent of teens that take "virginity pledges" eventually have premarital sex. Sounds like "abstinence only" programs are working wonders.
It's bad enough that these anti-sex programs deny reality, but a new congressional staff report by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) shows they also give out false or misleading information, including:
- Abortion can lead to sterility and suicide
- Half the gay male teenagers in the U.S. have tested positive for the AIDS virus (this statistic is not known)
- Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse (the real number is less than 3 percent)
- HIV can be spread via sweat and tears
- Pregnancy can occur through mutual masturbation
Shamefully, on ABC's This Week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who is a doctor, repeated some of the myths. On condoms he said, "We know there's about a 15 percent failure rate."
Host George Stephanopoulos asked him if HIV could be spread through sweat and tears and he refused to answer the question directly. He squirmed and tried to slither away. But after repeated prodding he finally said, "it would be very hard." Either Frist is Dr. Dumb or he is guilty of pandering to America's lowest common denominator.
America will fail if our leaders focus on magic and miracles over modernization and creating reality-based minds. The Neo-Puritan's goal of replacing biology with theology is well underway. Sure, the facts don't add up - but you have to be able to do math to figure this out.