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Exit ArchiveArchive for November, 2004

Oh, boy.

You’re really going to have a field day with this little item from today’s news. Enjoy learning about the Texas school system, boys and girls! [NOTE: I can not find this story archived anywhere on the CNN site. Bummer! —Ed.]

OK, new subject:

Liza Minnelli: Evil spawn of Satan or overweight demon?


You didn’t really think I was going to let her get in the last word, especially when Bible-thumping?

I’ve been to church many times in my life. As recently as three years ago, I was going weekly. I have read the Bible (well, most of it — I also saw some Claymation versions of the Gospel), and I have a strong sense of what I believe God wants from me.

So, here’s my response to the response:


Dear Linda,

Yes, I see we are not going to agree, but your thoughtful and kind response certainly matters to me, and is something I appreciate. If you do not want to get into a discussion with me, I certainly understand that — but I also believe that if “both sides” agreed more often to genuinely discuss and listen to the other, we may never come to terms and “change sides,” but we may certainly have a greater understanding … and, most importantly, a greater respect … for the other.

Let me reveal something that may surprise you: I go to church. I listen to the Gospel. I believe in its meanings and lessons and what it has to tell us about God’s love. I also believe in the New Testament, and that it sprang from the teachings of Christ — quite different in many cases than the messages conveyed in the Old Testament, as you no doubt are aware. And Christ tells us, time and again, to love one another. No matter what. Even Christ got angry and frustrated at those who seemed to be going against his teaching, as in the Temple with the moneychangers. But even there, he came to understand that tolerance, temperance and the belief in the love of God above everything are what we all should strive for.

Let me say again, as only I can (as only I have lived my life — just as only you have lived yours), that I was born gay. I know this as sure as I know I was born with brown hair and with middle toes that are slightly longer than my big toes. If God did not make me this way, then something or someone certainly did — and I, for one, believe it was NOT the opposite of God! I cannot tell you how much I know this to be true. I don’t “believe” it to be true; I know it is so. And God has blessed me with a loving, gracious, caring, compassinate, good-humored, joyous person in my life. Together, we are facing the challenges that life offers us. We work together to make a home, we pay our taxes, we give to charity, we budget our money, we take care of our neighbors (and they of us). We have cultivated a wonderful circle of friends, some liberal and some conservative, some gay and some straight, some our age and some older. We end each day knowing we are blessed and happy and grateful for the gifts that God has bestowed on us.

In that regard, we are no different, I think, than anyone else you might know. There were some, particuarly in our families, who found it difficult to accept as as a couple when we first were together — but over the years (four so far), we are lucky that every single one has come to accept us as who we are. Talking with his mother the other day, she said, “I don’t even think of you as two men anymore, I just think of you as Jeff and John and I love both of you so much.” How wonderful that is!

I just wanted to point out to you that we are not all that different from any “straight” couple you might know. We have two dogs who take up most of our time and attention, we work in our yards and wash our cars and mostly just stay at home because neither one of us is particularly outgoing in a social sense (though we love movies). That is to say, you might be shocked at how average and, well, boring we actually are.

Again, I can only speak for myself (and for the many friends I have who I know share the same overall sentiments): We certainly don’t have any plans to “recruit” kids or “infiltrate” our community. For myself, to be honest, I’m not so sure I even support the idea of “gay marriage,” since “marriage” has been so poorly respected as an institution in the past 30 years I think it has lost most of its meaning. So, I’m probably with you on that one! We are not and never have been child abusers or drag queens. We don’t have sex in dark corners or condone unsafe sex of any sort among anyone. We believe in monogamy and in the sanctity of our relationship. My friends who are not in a relationship want very much to find someone with whom they can quietly and privately share their lives.

Do I believe that God loves me just the way I am? Absolutely. Just as I believe he loves you. From my end, I believe that if you read the Bible through my eyes, you would see just as many passages that support my stances and views as do yours. I believe Scripture can be interpreted in many different ways to support many different views. I choose to use it to show that God loves everyone, no matter who they are.

One day relatively soon, there may be irrefutable, absolutely incontrovertable proof that the majority of gay people are born “that way.” I do believe (and know from first-hand experience) that SOME people, perhaps 10-15% of gay men and women, are not entirely “one way” or another. And for them, it may very well be possible to “choose” one preferred gender. If for just one single, instantaneous moment you could be inside my head, you would know beyond any doubt that for me, it is not possible.

I wish it were not an issue — just as I’m sure women in 1908 wished their gender were not an issue, or black people in 1954 wished the color of their skin were not an issue. I choose to relate to their struggles, not to alcoholics and wife-beaters, and it pains me to think that you would put gay men and women into the same realm as those troubled souls.

There is little about my life that troubles me, and the things that do have nothing to do with my being gay — they are the same things that probably trouble you (traffic, pollution, mean bosses, the cost of groceries). I am, however, genuinely troubled by those who believe they cannot consider, even for a moment, what it is like to be on “the other side.” Linda, I can never know what it is like to be you, but I do respect your views, your passions and your beliefs. I share many of your beliefs in God and Scripture. And when I pray, it is not for you to “change” (nor for me to “change”), but rather that we can all live together with respect for the way God made us.

I choose to believe he is happy that his children are all so very, very different and that — in the grand scheme of things — they’ve turned out so well. 🙂


I hope people realize what an amazing moment this is. I complained about Linda Harvey’s mindset. John wrote to her. She wrote back.

Now, can they both agree to disagree?

Or is one or the other of them wanting someone to change to fit their concept of reality?

Oh, I’d love thoughts on this! Please! Anyone! Everyone!

Thanks, John, for this fascinating stuff and for putting your money where, as I hear tell, your mouth is.

IF YOU’RE LOST, the following links will help you catch up:

Part 1: “Calm down, calm down.”

Part 2: Bush the Vampire

Part 3: The Evil “Gay” Article

Part 4: John and Linda as Chums

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OK, you asked for it. But you’re right, Steve: You ain’t gonna like it.

The Response


I appreciate your polite and thoughtful letter. I get many that are not so kind, so I really mean it when I say–thank you!

What I want to say, though, is that I’m still going to disagree with you. I’ve known too many people who are former homosexuals–and known them well enough to know they weren’t faking it–too believe a person is born gay.

It all comes down to who is the authority in your life. This is much deeper thelogical subject than I can get into here, but first a person has to want to want to be different. I repeated “to want” deliberately. If a person has decided they want a certain thing, and they love that thing more than they love whatever they have learned about God, then that thing will predominate in their lives, and in their spirits. They will not be able to discern, spiritually, that they are living at odds with the truth.

But if you decide that God and Christ are your authority and that that is the most important thing for you, then this will frame your spiritual life, and your spirit will be amenable to the working of the Holy Spirit, which can begin to change you. Without that “Christ is the boss” attitude, no, you will not sense that you could be a different person.

I don’t believe God made you gay. You somewhere began to form those feelings, and they became more important to you than anything else. Who knows why–but it does have to do with wanting to be in control yourself,rather than trusting that there is a spiritual dimension to life, that Christ is in charge of that, and that the only way the Holy Spirit can work is for us to truly recognize that.

The fact that these feelings felt inborn is not proof that they were. Lots of things feel natural to people that are not good, are ultimately changeable,and we humans will cling to even the most pointless or even destructive behaviors, just because we feel like certain things about the practices, or feel trapped and unable to change. I know it’s not the same, but in one sense it is–when I make the following comparison. The person who is an alcoholic and drinks himself into the gutter–often he knows darn well that this is something they could change. But he continues because he likes to drink, it’s familiar to him, and he doesn’t have enough vision to see that he could be different.The passages in John chapter 3 apply here very well, verses 1 through 21.

The wife abuser continues to abuse until he loses his wife, whom he may feel like he will die without. But he continues the pattern until maybe finally she leaves–or he kills her. This is the story of human nature, so something feeling like a natural response doesn’t mean it is the best, nor unchangeable, nor forever.

This power to transform is the miracle of Christianity. It was completely unknown to me until I really committed my life to Christ. And it has been an unbelievable and life-altering experience. It is truly the power of the Creator of the universe working for you.

It’s hard to explain—- it’s like suddenly seeing things from God’s viewpoint. God made us male and female and would not have made you gay.And God knows the things we deal with, and what it was that originally gave some people gay feelings. His grace abounds so much more when there is more to overcome. That’s why sometimes these “overcomers” have a very powerful presence, because they have had to go through so much–but when they emerge on the other side, they are awesome people, and full of joy.

The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) This is meant to be our guiding principle in those times when we are strongly tempted to go in a direction that God’s Word is clearly tells us we shouldn’t. Many things can seem so tantalizing in the short run, and we say, “But Lord, surely this can’t be so bad!” But in the long run they will be a disaster.

That’s really why we have the Bible, for inspiration but also as a practical guidebook.

The vision many have had is similar to this: ” Lord, I feel totally like I was made gay. But I know what your Word says, so I know you did not make me gay. Therefore, I am going to go with your version rather than my own. Now, I am going to trust you that You will show me how to do this. And keep showing me, until I can grasp this and begin to see how you will transform me.”

God will be faithful to the person who does this out of real faith in Christ, and show him or her the way. It has worked in my life, not in relation to homosexuality, but other things that were also very difficult, and I cannot even describe how stunned I have been at how God can transform. It brings me to my knees. It did not happen overnight, but amazing things have happened in my life. I am only incredibly grateful that I did wake up and find the Lord, at last. It took me long enough in my stubbornness, but thankfully I was given many second and third chances.

I hope I’ve made sense. Please consider these things thoughtfully. Christianity is not a code of ethics–but a person and a spirit–the Holy Spirit of Christ, living in believers.And there’s nothing that He can’t overcome.

Linda Harvey

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Very nicely done. The bitter part of me–recent events and all–believes she would read this and say you are an abomination in God’s eyes. Of course a “gay” person would argue as you did. But she knows right and you, as a “gay” person, are deluded with sin. But that’s the bitter part of me.

You have admirably demonstrated how one can express one’s opinion and one’s reality to someone who wants one’s “gayness” to go away. I would love to hear a response from her, to see if she can match your level of conversation, or if she can only be intolerant of who you are.


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My rather lengthy response to Linda Harvey, sent through the Mission:America website.


Dear Ms. Harvey,

I’m sure you are being beseiged with letters and e-mails in response to your article on Worldnetdaily, which has been making its way around the Internet with a great deal of speed today. I hope you will be willing to read one more response.

First, let me say that by calling your group “Mission America,” you are implying that all Americans share your organizations views. With all due respect, we do not. Americans are of tremendously varying opinion, and even on one topic there are hundreds of positions. We do not live in an all-or-nothing, black-or-white world where people are either “for” or “against” an issue with no wiggle room in between.

I write to you not on behalf of any organization or group, only as one person — one person who is very hurt and saddened at your words.

Let me briefly tell you my story: My mother and father both were first-generation Americans, and they both struggled tremendously to get themselves educated and become professionals. My mother became a teacher, my father an executive with a well-known company. When I was born in 1966, my parents already had one child, my sister, and were remarkably conservative, devout people who attended church regularly, did not drink or smoke, and were the most attentive and giving parents you could imagine. My father was always there for his family and for each of his children. They instilled very traditional American values in each of us, and we grew up with the understanding and acceptance that our role was to be good children, to learn, to go to college, get a good job, get married and have children.

Strangely enough, though, I knew from the first moment I can remember that I would never be able to accomplish those last two things. Oh, I longed to do so — because that was my duty.

But I was born gay. I know that fact with as much conviction, determination, faith, belief and acceptance as you know that you were born straight.

I would certainly never, ever have “chosen” to be gay. I am not ashamed of it, but I also know that growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, being “not gay” would have meant not being taunted by other boys, teased by girls, and afraid to tell anyone how I felt. I knew there were other boys in my school who were like me, but when it came time for school dances and “date nights,” I stayed home — there was no possible way I could ever acknowledge who I was.

I’m not sure that anyone who is not gay can understand what it is like to be 11 years old and living with a secret you can never tell anyone. I don’t know that you can relate to the idea that I could not have a “normal” experience in high school because I could not date, show romantic interest in anyone or learn inter-personal relationships like the rest of my friends. The secret I carried with me was one that no one, not even my family, would understand.

Everyone around me ridiculed gay people and said that they were “bad.” I did not want to be bad! But I also had the deep-seated, immovable knowledge of who I was — a knowledge that only an individual can have.

As I moved into college, still determined to prove to the world that I could be who “they” wanted me to be, I began to date women. I tried to be like my friends. At the same time, I was finding illicit outlets for the same sexual energy that they were able to act upon openly and freely.

Every time I would have one of these encounters, I would be more and more ashamed of myself as a person, more and more convinced that I could never be who I was “supposed” to be.

Through it all, there was never any doubt in my mind of who I was, of what God had made me to be. Finally, one day — far too long in the coming — I realized that I was proud of myself as a human being, proud of my accomplishments and that talents that God had bestowed upon me. The only way I could truly let those talents shine was to allow people to know me, to know the secret that I was carrying.

I told my family first, and they were scared. My mother prayed and went to church, my father became introspective. Finally, my mother called me one day to say that the priest had told the congregation that homosexuality was a sin and that God did not make homosexuals. Of course, what that meant to her was that her own son was a sin and that God did not make me — something she knew to be wholly untrue. On that day, the animosity and intolerance she heard was the undoing of 50 years of faithful churchgoing, and from that moment she had strong doubts about the church’s place in her life.

My father, too, began to realize that the world was telling him that his own son was an aberrance, that his offspring was somehow less of a person than anyone else. He also knew that not to be true.

Today, I am a successful professional with a responsible position in a large company. Everyone I work with knows who I am. We talk about our lives openly; they share their stories of home life, I share mine. We respect each other and learn from each other.

When I read your column today, I wondered if you intended your words to sow seeds of hate and intolerance. I don’t believe you did — if only because I know that God’s Word is that we all have love and respect for each other and that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. I don’t believe you would want someone calling you a mistake because you were born a woman, or with a certain color eyes or hair, or taller or shorter than others.

God has made us all different, and history has put is in a country that was founded upon differences. Our Founding Fathers arrived on our shores because they were persecuted for their beliefs and their opinions about the way they were being treated. We were founded, in many ways, as a nation of outcasts — which is why we spent the first 200 years welcoming those who were different, growing to accept diversity and realizing that a “melting pot” was truly that, a place where all people were embraced and came together to form a new type of community.

I value and endorse your right to voice your opinion — I believe in that right so ardently that it is one of the things for which I truly would lay down my life. You have the right to speak your mind and say what you feel.

So do I. So does everyone else.

This is not a war. We should be finding ways to live together, to come together, to understand that there is no “right” and “wrong” … there just IS.

On an individual basis, I can assure you I have no “agenda.” I want only to be able to live peacefully with people who hold differing views, and to be able to talk with them and understand why they believe what they do. I certainly don’t believe that a Christian, a black person, a green-eyed person, a Muslim or a vegetarian is less a person than myself.

In fact, there is only one group I believe truly is inferior: The intolerant. Intolerance forces people to keep secrets, to be less than their full selves. In an adult, that can be difficult. In a child, it is devastating.

We should all be who God made us.


John Singh

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Okay, I was hoping not to post half a dozen items today, but my friends keep sending stuff in. (Maybe they should post things here!)

Here’s a Newsday article about Bush purging the CIA.

The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

“The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House,” said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. “Goss was given instructions … to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president’s agenda.”

As Marcy said in response to this: “Since when has the CIA been considered a hotbed of liberalism? This says a lot about the administration!”


Leave it to The Onion to get it right every time.

Here, John. Matt (L., not C.) sent me this link. It’s making similar arguments from the other side. What ends up making the viewpoint fail is its reliance on God as the source of their fight.

How Shall “Gay” Activists Now Live?

What’s insulting, too, is the quotation marks. These people still see being gay as something we choose, and as a path of wrong. The article even equates gayness with deeper character flaws… amazingly what I just talked about this morning in my response! Why do the also equate gay with “bathhouse behavior”? Sorry, but that’s also a straight activity. Regress into barbarism? Last I knew, barbarism included persecution of those you disagree with. Basing morals in something other than humanity and caring is folly.

Fucking bastards. 🙂


Lest we forget how this debate started in the first place, a fun quote from my friend Alan:

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

—H. L. Mencken (1880–1956)

Oh, and another one just in, from Marcy:

“They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

—Benjamin Franklin, 1759

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After more intense debating on the “us” vs. “them” front, time for something else fun on Ebay!

It’s an early iPod prototype drawing. Certainly authentic and historical, and it only sold for 65¢. What a steal.

Perhaps the drawings accompanying the recently published patent application from Apple for a wireless media player device will fetch more.

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I have just read the most entertaining account of a third-party app life-span ever.

Fine, it’s the only one I’ve ever read, but it’s incredible. Funny, engaging, meaningful, oh, my.

It’s The Audion Story.

Audion is a music player for the Mac, which is being “retired.” It was created back in the Mac OS 8 days by two guys who shared an apartment. Their timing was perfect, as MP3s were becoming a huge deal, and all the big fish were slowly lumbering to the light.

The story, which is engrossing on its own, is filled with entertaining links, like footnotes. The blog posting from Steve Gedikian is insightful and painfully accurate. The Slashdot postings right after the original iPod release are riveting. And the slowed-down Chipmunks clip is priceless! Click on all dem links. (Okay, except maybe the download ones.)

As an Apple fan, and as someone who hates it when the big guy wins by being mediocre or devious, I was genuinely moved by this account. Apple, while being cutthroat in a cutthroat business, manages to come out being a-okay in the mind of the guy who created a much-loved app that is being retired thanks to the competition from the company he worships. And he and his business partner did what they felt was right, not giving in to incredible pressures. It’s honestly very inspiring.

The Audion Story is not just a geek delight; it will also interest some of you who could care less about computers.

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The Guardian, that fantastic British bastion of Bush-critical journalism, has a great article online about scientists’ reaction to Bush’s re-election.

The end of the article contains some specific subjects and how Bush views them. Of course, creationism in schools is there. So is the funding to get people to Mars.

You all know by now what I think of teaching intelligent design in schools. But you may not know that I, a member of The Planetary Society and believer in manned space travel, am extremely wary of Bush’s call to get men on Mars. His reasons can only be negative. It’d be The Martian Chronicles without the Martians, where we go to conquer, not study, the next planet out from us.

After the article are some handy links. Of course, I visited the one for Intelligent Design Network. Reading their homepage statement, you can see how illogical and skewed their thinking is. Their call for “constitutional neutrality” is hilarious, since their aim is to hamper that very thing. Just because science isn’t providing you with the answers you want to hear doesn’t mean you get to make up your own science.

This is precisely what Bush has been guilty of, as the article describes. Take a few moments to read it!

A grilled cheese with the Virgin Mary on it, I guessWhat do I say to something as stupid as this?

It’s an e-bay listing that expires in three days, so in summary, a guy who is really bad at spelling and grammar is selling his grilled cheese sandwich with, as you can see, the face of “the Virgin Mary” on it. Festooned with genetically-enhanced ellipses and clip-art Mardi Gras masks, his posting is, I deem, suspect, or, at the very least, crappy.

Jesus, put any lady’s face in an unusual place and it becomes the Virgin Mary. Why not say, “Hey, I made this grilled cheese sandwich and the face of Traci Lords was on it! Bid high!”

Thanks to Sven yet again for a wacky link.

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Sven has sent me a link to something at once amusing and disturbing. It’s Boo Bee juice drink for kids! Can you just see your child clamoring out loud for one at the park or the DMV? “Mommy! I want a Boo Bee! I want a Boo Bee right now!”

Thankfully, unless you’re in England, you can avoid this kind of moment. Do they even have DMVs in England? The Queen’s Department of Motorcarriages and Scooters? Time for research…

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David has sent a link to a foul-mouthed but amusing chiding of the dependent red states. It’s called (Yes, somehow the domain name was not taken until now.) It’s chock full o’ good and interesting links to support its offensive tenor. Check those out for less acerbic reading.

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Hooray stars and stripesOn election day, I had prepared three graphics to go on my website later that night depending on the outcome of the vote. We all know which one I had to end up using.

Well, for fun, here’s the happy, the-world-is-a-great-place version, which I so desperately wanted to use! Before it goes into the trash bin, I wanted to save it here for all time.

(The third version was three question marks, in case of another 2000-type result.)

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Yes, this is what we want our country to revert to.

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Since I vowed not to e-mail anyone with Bush stuff after the election, I have to put these things here. Maybe I can e-mail everyone and ask them to read the Forum regularly!

First up: An article about a PBS documentary exploring marketing. They talk about marketing’s fragmentation of American society and how politics is one of its proponents. Click here.

Second up: A story on about environmentalists (not all of them are crackpots who burn down ski lodges!) who are gearing up to continue fighting Bush’s horrible environmental record. Click here.

L.A. Weekly cover George Bush as vampireAs I was painting this weekend and thinking about John’s posts regarding how we should all get along, liberals and conservatives, one thought congealed in my head: Social conservatives are the ones setting up the fortresses and attacking to “protect” a way of life that is not in danger. Giving gays the right to marry, say, will not take away conservatives’ marriages to their opposite-sex spouses. Letting a woman choose will not, say, force conservatives to have to get an abortion.

Coincidentally, this concept was laid out in a funny Op/Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. (It’s remarkable that the same concept was discussed in the column, but also incredibly remarkable that I saw it since I never read the Op/Ed page!)

The article is here. [NOTE: This now links to The Washington Post because the Los Angeles Times makes you pay for anything archived.]

When I then recall an interview from last week with an überconservative whose goal is, in fact, to divide the nation, I have to assume that conservatives do not want to get along. My friend Steve even sent an opinion piece from the New York Times discussing the same concept of planned divisiveness.

They do not want to get along.

What conservatives want is not something for which they can be met half-way. How do you meet half-way on gay marriage? Civil unions? I need not point out again that “separate but equal” is not, and never will be, equal. America is better than that.

Social conservatives’ motives go beyond just “protecting marriage,” though. Some of the 11 anti-gay state initiatives that won last Tuesday include additional language to make civil unions unequal to marriage, gay or no. Social conservatives are not afraid of gay marriage, but of “gay” in general. To them it is an abomination, no matter what you say, so they desire nothing less than to remove gays from society. They can’t do this outright, of course, so all they can do is try to “protect marriage” from gays. It is merely one step to them. Removing gays from teaching and from the military (beyond don’t ask, don’t tell), these are next steps.

Liberals, on the other hand, are just asking for equality. Such a request puts no burden on conservatives, it asks them to do nothing they do not already do, and to lose nothing they already have. They can keep living the life they are already living, without detriment. Yet they will not allow it.

Things have changed in this country as far as social equality. But they have changed exactly because people have not backed down, or “calmed down.” The conservatives will, in the end, always lose these battles because I believe we tend to move toward a more accepting and equal society (barring a major dark-ages-type social upheaval in favor of the conservatives, that is). But the conservatives always fight anyway because, as John said, “they” think “they” are right. With the election of Bush, social conservatives will continue to barricade avenues of progress that have yet to be opened to those not subscribing to their ideals. If things go as Viguerie hopes (see article above), previously open avenues will be re-barricaded.

Liberals and progressives believe they are right, too! They think their beliefs are better than everyone else’s because these beliefs err on the side of inclusiveness and tolerance. I dare to argue such beliefs ARE better.

My improv buddy Lori, who spent days in Florida working to un-elect Bush, said this to me last Thursday: “There is room in my world for them, but there is not room in their world for me.”

Bush was—is—all about bigotry and divisiveness. Those of us who could not reward such a man and his platform and his cadre of staff who support such notions have every right to be upset and angry that he is remaining in office. If anyone wants to get along with the other side, it’s us, but to them, we should be spat upon. Or, at the very least, we should obey. (Thus the pic for this post!)

That is the crux of it. That is why there is an “us” and a “them.” John is right that we need someone to come along who can speak to everyone. But there is no one right now. In fact, I don’t know how to balance a platform of equal rights and inclusion with a platform of God-given superiority.

My sofa’s here! My sofa’s here!

Am am THIS CLOSE to living in a real apartment!