The Death of Decency: A Maverick’s Mark on America

I had the good fortune of turning 18 in a presidential election year, and I was more excited to register to vote than I was to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. I was that kid. To this day I remember standing in a massive line to vote in the 2008 Presidential Election. I asked my mother if you usually have to wait this long and she quickly replied no. John Sidney McCain III is the reason that many turned out to vote on November 4, 2008. Had John McCain run against just about anybody else, he would have received my vote. I respected him. I trusted him. I believed in him. I bought into his vision of what America was and how she should move forward. Sadly, John McCain had the misfortune of running against Barack Obama; and as Obama has done for millions, his belief in the audacity of hope spoke to me. I bought what he was selling more than what John McCain was selling. But not by much.

I was honored to be a part of history and cast my vote for Barack Obama. Looking back on it all, I would not change my vote if I got the chance to vote again, but I am left incredibly sad for John McCain. He would have made a stellar president. He deserved to be president more than the disrespectful louse who currently occupies the White House. What I remember about election night, however, other than the excitement over the historic outcome, is the candidate speeches. If you were to ask me about both speeches, I will tell you that the speech winner that night was not the man who was known throughout the world as a Kennedy-worthy orator. The winner that night was the Arizona maverick who swallowed his pain and pride and did his best to unite a divided nation.

I do not remember one word of Former President Obama’s speech, but I remember every word of McCain’s speech. John McCain lost a bitter primary to George W. Bush in 2000. He did not give up the fight for what he thought was right. He lost again in 2008 after fighting even harder than he had the first time. At a time when many other people would have lashed out or given up completely, John McCain stood on that stage and said loudly for all to hear “Barack Obama is my president and I will do my best to help him succeed.” John McCain grieved for 30 seconds, then held his head up high and continued to fight for American ideals in his way. I remember turning to my college roommate (and friend since the sixth grade) David with tears in my eyes saying that was a damn good speech. And to this day I still think it was the best speech of his career.

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As the days have passed, I have cried more tears for John McCain than I thought I would. I have been slightly surprised by this and I have spent time trying to figure out why I have been so saddened by the Maverick’s passing. I have been saddened by the images of the beautifully stoic Cindy McCain and the distraught tears of Meghan McCain. Watching Meghan McCain, someone I have followed for years as the future of the republican party, brought up feelings of my grandfather’s passing and that brought the tears with it. I was heartbroken by the pictures of the 106 year old Roberta McCain being pushed in her wheelchair to the casket of the late senator – it is absolutely wrong for a parent to have to bury their child. It is not natural, not right, and not fair. I have been saddened by the images and the stories of McCain’s time at the Hanoi Hilton as a P.O.W. as well. After spending several days thinking it was a combination of these things making me sad, I had a realization last night as I lay in bed.

None of those things I had thought are what brought my sadness. What brought my sadness was what McCain’s death truly represented. On August 25, 2018, John Sidney McCain III died and he took a piece of America that she desperately needed. With the death of John McCain we saw the death of decency in American politics; and although I grieve for John McCain, I grieve for the last bastion of decency in our political system. Everything I respect about John McCain has to do not with politics, but the fact that John McCain was a decent human being who loved his country and loved fighting for what he thought was best for his county. Everything I respect about John McCain is gone because there is not another like John McCain in our political system right now.

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John McCain got the nickname Maverick because he did not always follow the party line. John McCain voted against repealing Obamacare last year because it was not in the best interest of the nation (and received a phone call of appreciation from former President Obama). John McCain in his long political career only once put getting votes ahead of the right thing and he immediately regretted it. He had this to say about the confederate flag flying over the state capital here in South Carolina:

“I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth. And I would like to apologize to South Carolinians and to Americans everywhere who believe racism has no place in our American values.”

John McCain refused to go negative during the 2000 presidential campaign. When operatives of the Bush campaign were saying terrible things about McCain’s wife Cindy who openly admitted to struggling with prescription drug abuse, and his adopted daughter Brigette (who was originally born in Bangladesh), McCain refused to go negative. Even when told these rumors would cost him the nomination from the Republican party John McCain refused to bend the knee. He knew the party was better than that. He knew America was better than that. And when he lost that campaign he was able to sleep at night and hold his head high. And America is better for it. And we are worse off because we didn’t believe in it at the time.

My personal favorite moment from McCain’s distinguished lifetime of public service is the fact that when meeting with a woman in his own state while running for president took an opportunity to defend his political opponent Barack Obama. When that women called Barack Obama an Arab Muslim, John McCain took that time to stop her and tell her that was not true. He called Barack Obama a good man. A decent man. A family man. How many other politicians did that while running for the presidency from the republican party? Ted Cruz certainly did not. Marco Rubio certainly did not. Ben Carson did not. Chris Christie did not. Jeb Bush did not. and we all know good and well that Donald J. Trump sure as hell did not. When John McCain defended his opponent that day, he did more to cement his maverick’s mark on this nation than any other day. That is the day this self-proclaimed liberal democrat elevated John McCain to a pedestal above almost all other politicians. That is the day that I knew John McCain was something special. And that is the day that I know that John McCain was a politician that this nation did not deserve.

On a more cynical note, I am saddened by the death of this maverick giant because I sadly believe the death of John McCain is going to be the beginning of the death of the republican party as we know it. And that is when my sadness turns to anger. I love this nation and I know that my democrats do not have all the answers. That is why I believe so firmly in the two-party system. I believe firmly in compromise. So did John McCain. But the republican party has rejected compromise. They have rejected decency. They have rejected niceties and instead they embraced a cancer on our political system who would and should be a pariah of politics if we lived in an America that was made by McCain.

fd1602a8-936e-4426-9d08-f155a33b72d4-ax006_571e_9John McCain served this nation with honor in the Navy and was a P.O.W. during a war that our current leader evaded with a “diagnosis” of bone spurs. John McCain refused to be released early when given the chance because there were P.O.W.s who had been imprisoned longer than he had. IF I had been given the chance of early freedom I would have sung like a canary and god knows our current leader would have (before finding a cheesy way to write a book about the “art of the P.O.W. release deal”). When given the chance to let his supporters demean and insult his Opponent, John McCain went high and defended their integrity. Our current leader not only took time time to demean and insult his opponent he advocated violence in his name on the behalf of his trucker hat wearing supporters who still don’t see that America was and is already great. When given the chance to lie and steal and defraud the American people John McCain would have none of it.

After thinking about all of those things, my anger turns back to sadness. John Sidney McCain should have been president over the monstrosity that we currently have in the oval office. That is why I am sad. That is why I cry. But then the crying stops. Because I think about John McCain and his last statement that was released by his widow Cindy and his daughter Meghan after his death. In that letter McCain wrote

We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process. …

Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.

I weep as I read that letter every time. But they are tears of joy. John McCain knew all too well that myself and many Americans are saddened and are full of despair at our present difficulties. But John McCain does not despair in America and he never has. John Sidney McCain III believed in America in life and he still believes in America in death. And because I believed in and still believe in John Sidney McCain III I still believe in America – and I hope you do to.

Farewell John. On behalf of a grateful American, please know we are a better people, a better nation, and a better world because of you. God Bless you and your family. And may God bless the United States of America that you fought for. May we live up to your vision of her. Always.

-WB

The Intentional Harm from an Unintentional Governor

Those of you who live in South Carolina may not agree with my views of our current governor, but you would definitely agree with me on one point about Governor Henry McMaster: like him or not, he is a very polarizing figure. For the most part there is no middle ground with McMaster. Many people, including myself, find McMaster to be wrong on just about every issue. Personally, I feel the only reason he got to be governor is because he took a gamble on supporting President Predicament knowing that he would return the favor and select Nicki Haley for his cabinet allowing McMaster to get the job he had failed numerous times to get. Obviously, not everyone agrees with me. Many people think our Governor is doing a fine job – even if he does sound like Foghorn Leghorn.

In yesterday’s edition of The Greenville News an article was published addressing the new Budget that McMaster would either sign or veto for the state of South Carolina. Before I continue to discuss why I disagree with some of McMaster’s decisions, I have a challenge for you: I want you to watch all of the following clip. Don’t skip them, and make sure to watch the whole clip. There is a reason I want you to watch them the whole way through.

All of the above clips were brought to you by Kleenex – because if your face looks anything like mine after watching those clips then we look like Russel Crowe looked in the film Gladiator when he found out his wife and child were both murdered. There is a reason I wanted you to watch each of those clips. I think every single one of those clips is a work of art in some way. More importantly, however, every single one of those clips moved me to tears the first time I watched it. Whether it was the actor, the singer, or the dancer, something about each of those performances touched a part of me with its joy, or sadness, or just straight beauty.

In the first clip, Taraji P. Henson plays Katharine Johnson in the film Hidden Figures. The beauty in her performance when she mortifyingly has to explain why it takes her so long to go to the bathroom. The second clip is three dancers from the Alvin Ailey Dance Studio who represent the main character at three different stages in his life as they dance to the score from the Oscar winning film Moonlight. I would give my pinky fingers and pinky toes for my body to be able to move as beautifully as those dancers. When added with the music from a phenomenal movie movie it takes my breath away. The third clip is from the tv show Parenthood. When Max’s parents have to pick him up early on an overnight field trip after an incident with his classmates because of his Asperger’s, it breaks my heart. The look in Peter Krauss’ eyes and his face as he so desperately wants to take the hurt and the pain away from his child is something everyone can relate to – regardless of whether or not they have children. The last clip is from the musical film version of RENT. Rent is one of my favorite musicals and this scene finds Jesse L. Martin (most will remember him from Law & Order fame) as Tom Collins sing the reprise to the song “I’ll cover you.” Earlier in the film “I’ll cover you is song as a duet between Tom and Angel. Now Angel has died from AIDS complications leaving Jesse heartbroken. It is true love at its finest.

Now that I have explained the clips, back to my purpose for writing this post. I guess that Governor McMaster has not seen any of these films or TV shows. I can tell you for sure he never saw Moonlight or RENT and has never listened to Wrabel. Because god forbid a republican be anything but ass backwards when it come to gay people. Since they don’t exist in the eyes of most republicans. My guess is our illustrious insignificant governor doesn’t make time to see movies, tv or dance performances. He most certainly doesn’t go to the theater so he doesn’t associate with gay people. Otherwise our governor would not have vetoed $500,000 for the South Carolina Children’s Theater, $250,000 for the Charleston Public Library, or $100,000 for a statewide music education program. Out of the 26 billion dollar budget, the moron in charge of our state that it was a good idea to veto those items that count for 0.025% of the over all budget. The asinine excuse of “earmarks and pork” that the governor gave is just downright insulting as well. We all know good and well that if we went through the budget line by line we could find things that were far more worth of the “Earmarks and Pork” title than arts education programs.

"I see the art budget's been cut again."In an effort to keep this post short (especially since I had you watch those videos) I am not going to write about why arts education is vital to every student’s overall education. I am going to post several infographics below that explain why our governor is being shortsighted and is downright idiotic when it comes to these vetoes. Look over them and share them with your family and friends. And then write your state representatives and tell them to please override our governors shortsighted veto. They are easy to find. All you have to do is google “Who are my state representatives” and it will prompt you to type in your address and tell you exactly who they are. Finally, I will leave you with two important pieces of information.

First, As someone who has taught in schools for the past 7 years, one of the greatest things in the world, is to watch a student who most would label as lazy, disengaged, or not interested in school light up with passion on the stage or in the chorus room or at an art exhibition as they proudly discover what they love and were born to do. It is a miraculous moment to watch as a teacher and one I cherish every time it happens.

And Second, since Governor McMaster does not think art has a purpose in the lives of South Carolina’s students, I leave him with this quote from Pablo Picasso:

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Certainly from those two things alone, we can all agree that these intentional vetoes will harm our students and our accidental governor needs to figure that out quickly. $750,000 is a small price to pay if we want our students to succeed in a global world.

Have a great Monday everyone! Don’t forget to check out the infographics below!

-WB

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Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy: 3 Jokes, 2 World Leaders, and a Buzzsaw

Today is Hump Day! Also known as Wednesday. I felt like it had been a few days since I have posted and there has been a lot to discuss so I am starting a recurring segment called Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy (See what I did there?). W³ will be posts where I talk about whatever moves me or whatever is currently going on in the world – that’s the whimsy part. The wisdom part is me telling you how you should feel. Because I am usually right on things (today’t things especially). So, without further ado, here we go!

3 Controversial Jokes

People love to laugh and it used to be that people watching a stand-up comedian perform or a sitcom knew that a joke was just that – a joke. But in the age of being ultra-politically correct, our society has gotten so overly offended by stuff that was designed to make our days less tense its ridiculous.

The first is Roseanne Barr’s joke. On Twitter Roseanne tweeted the Picture below. And boy was the reaction a doozy of a news cycle. The “vj” in the tweet refers to Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett was a senior advisor to President Obama and is a highly accomplished woman in the law field and now in the private sector once again.

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I am unsure of a lot of the information on this joke or how to feel. On the one hand I think its sad and disgusting and as Bill O’Reilly said it just proves to Black America that racism is still an issue. With that said, I believe Roseanne Barr when she says she is not a racist. Scoff all you want, but I have watched her stand-up as well as her show long enough to know she most likely isn’t racist. On an episode in season 7 of her show DJ (her son) did not want to participate in the school play because he had to kiss a black girl. In the episode (you can find in full below) you can find the important since eight and a half minutes in. Roseanne says in a way that only she could, Black people are just like us and anybody who thinks differently is a banjo-picking bigot who gives respectable white trash a bad name.”

Roseanne’s reaction is not the episode a bigot would produce – especially when the episode was an addition to the season and aired shortly after the Rodney King/LA Riots fiasco. Is Roseanne an idiotic jerk for some of the conspiracy theories she retweets? Was she an asshat for tweeting at Valerie Jarrett?  Of course. But nothing in that tweet was as vile as some of the stuff the president has tweeted. I do not think Roseanne should have been cancelled either, but seeing as how that’s what happened, it is what it is.

The second joke is Samantha Bee. To make a long story short (too late!), Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” The backlash in America over Australia’s favorite swear word was fierce. Bee apologized, TBS condemned her, and sponsors pulled out. But here is thing about this whole ordeal. When the administration in the White House feigns indignation over over Michelle’s Wolfe’s supposedly sexist jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and Bee’s joke’s over Ivanka, the hypocrisy comes though loud and clear. Guess what Trump Administration and Trump Supporters? You don’t get to cry foul over jokes you deem sexist when the misogynist-in-chief brags about grabbing women in the pussy. That is more than locker room talk. That is sexual assault. And Lastly, You don’t get to criticize jokes and say Samantha Bee should be fired when you have a woman working in your administration who makes a “bad joke” about John McCain. We all know there is a liberal slant to the media, but if you want people to be fair, you also have to be fair.

The last thing I am going to say about the Samantha Bee situation in regards to why she wasn’t fired and Roseanne Barr was is pretty simple. Roseanne Barr compared a black person to a monkey This is wrong, disgusting, and a way back in the day of saying black people were less than white people because they were not human. Samantha Bee used a bad word in a truthful situation. Thousands of us who did not vote for Trump had optimism and hope when we found out Ivanka and Jared Kushner would be working in the White House because it would be a way for the more moderate Ivanka and Jared to help guide policy on women, the queer community, and the environment. People know Trump listen to Ivanka because she is his favorite. He values her advice so we hoped she could guide policy. Since this not happening Samantha Bee’s comment ring true. She is most definitely feckless. The word cunt is what is bothering people, and although it is not a word I personally use or like all that much, the joke in and of itself is pointing out a truth. Ivanka isn’t helping and she could. Change the word cunt to bitch, bimbo, or butthole and the statement still isn’t wrong.

The last joke comes from a valedictorian in Kentucky Coal Country. Ben Bowling trolled a bunch of coal miners by reading a quote and then saying President Trump was the person who said it. After people started to clap, Bowling told people he was kidding and it was actually President Obama who said it. The applause quickly dies. A few boos can be heard as well. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the level of petty and shade I aspire to.

 

2 World Leaders

CNN reported today that President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got into a heated discussion over new tarriffs the US put on Canadian steel and Aluminum. President Trump apparently originally assured Trudeau that Canada would be exempt from these tases, but has since changed his mind. I could care less one way or the other to be honest, but I now want to speak directly to President Trump to explain something.

President Trump,

If you get into an argument with Prime Minister Trudeau because you change your mind more than a boy-crazy 13 year old teenager, you will lose the war of public opinion hands down. For someone who seemingly cares what people think of him a whole lot, you have not thought this through.

And last, but certainly not the least (its actually the most damning), Mr. Trump, I give you this piece of evidence:

Mr. President, it is time to face the facts. There is not a jury alive, not a millennial voter, not a thirsty middle aged women, or any gay alive that would pick you over Trudeau in any kind of discussion. So Tread lightly.

The Word Buzzsaw

For those of you who do not live in South Carolina, here is a little bit of context. It is currently primary season and we are getting ready to vote for governor. The incumbent (Boss Hog Henry McMaster) is being challenged by Catherine Templeton. I am not a fan of Henry McMaster by any stretch of the imagination, but I equally loathe Catherine Templeton at this point; however, at this point, I loathe the word buzzsaw more than both of them. At some point somebody labeled Templeton a buzzsaw, she likes the label, and McMaster thinks its an insult to her. I don’t know how in God’s Green earth being labeled a buzzsaw can be a good thing or a bad thing, but every five seconds I am reminded that Catherine “Buzzsaw” Templeton is a buzzsaw. So there is that. At this point, I would be fine if McMaster and Buzzsaw Templeton stood on the edge of a cliff and ole Buzzsaw used her skills and sawed them both right off because both their commercials are terrible.

There is your wisdom and whimsy for the week. I will close in the style of “Auntie Maxine.”

Have a Good Night One and all!

-WB

Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk- The Hero Who Gave Us Hope

Today would have been the 98th birthday of Harvey Milk. For the average American, that might not mean anything to you. You may not even know who Harvey Milk was. But to the LGBTQ+ community, Harvey Milk is a hero, an icon, and a martyr for the cause of LGBTQ rights. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of City Supervisors in 1977. 11 Months after his election, Milk was assassinated by a fellow member of the Board of Supervisors. The Mayor of San Francisco was also assassinated. In the few years before his election and his short time in public office, Milk became the Hero of Hope to the gay community.

harvey-milk_happybirthdayI am a history teacher. I am the person who was more excited to register to vote than I was to go buy a pack of cigarettes. I follow politics and current events so much that I can see my family tune out as soon as I open my mouth about politics 97% of the time. You would think I would have learned about Harvey Milk at a young age, but this could not be farther from the truth. I did not learn about Harvey Milk until 2008 as a freshman in college. It wasn’t a history book I have to think for teaching me about Harvey Milk either. History books in this nation leave out the stories and struggles of minority groups far too often. The people I have to thank for acquainting me with Harvey Milk are Dustin Lance Black, Gus Van Sant, and Sean Penn. Yes, you heard me correctly. I said the Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn.

In 2008 Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing Harvey Milk in the film titled Milk. The film was written by Dustin Lance Black (who you might have seen in the news for being the boyfriend and now husband of British diver Tom Daley) and directed by Gus Van Sant. Black and Van Sant are openly gay and both were nominated for their work on Milk. Black won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. His acceptance speech is less than 3 minutes in length and it changed my life.

At the 2009 Academy Awards, Milk was one of the few films that I As I watched the Gay Super Bowl Oscars that year, Black’s speech left me in disbelief. Yes this is a ceremony filled with people who are stereotypically liberal leaning in their political beliefs. But seldom are people so blatantly plain in their speeches. Here was a rather handsome man telling me that very soon LGBTQ+ people who have equal federal rights across this nation. And wouldn’t you know it – he was right!

 

Not having seen the movie, I googled the film and was astounded I had never heard of Harvey Milk, his story, or the film before the Oscars that night. A second google let me know I could pay $2 and watch the film at The Astro Theater in Downtown Clemson, SC. The Astro was Clemson’s version of a dollar theater. It typically showed films that had already been out for a month or so. It did not look like much on the inside, but I loved it for the historic charm it had. I skipped a science lab to go the next night. To this day, I don’t regret that decision.

 

 

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There were 4 other people in the theater that night. All 4 of those people were part of “the family.” We did not sit together and we did not know each other, but I had seen some of them in passing on campus before. I could effuse compliments about Milk until I am purple in the face so I will not go on and on about how much I love it. I will simply say that film changed my life and I will be forever grateful for the real Harvey Milk’s message of Hope and advocacy that are shown in the film. As the lights came on I tried to wipe the tears off my face. I started to get embarrassed until I saw the other 4 people were doing the exact same thing. Although I never became more than Facebook friends with any of the other 4 people, each time we saw each other in passing on campus, we would always nod and smile at each other. We shared a form of ourselves that evening that we had not shared with many people up until that point. The older I get the more I think certain things in this universe are connected. Call it God, or Karma, or my personal favorite juju. There was a shared connection between us and Harvey Milk that night. And it was life changing.

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The publicity poster from the film. The entire cast is phenomenal. 

This was the first film I had ever seen that depicted multiple main characters who were LGBTQ in a positive light. It is the first film I had seen that showed the power of my community when we stood up and advocated for ourselves – when we fought back against the people and politicians who sought to silence us and belittle us. The film goes through much of Milk’s adult life. It shows a closeted Milk living in New York City and keeping his sexuality a secret and follows parts of his life up until his assassination. Milk later moves to San Francisco in the 1970s. San Francisco became a haven for gay men in the 60s and 70s and Milk opened Castro Camera on Castro Street in the city. He lost his first election for the Board of Supervisors, but he quickly became a uniting force in “The Castro” – the area of the city made famous by the Castro Theater and the district with the largest concentration of gay people.

Once San Francisco moved away from at-large districts to area based districts Milk easily won in the heavy LGBT Castro District. Harvey Milk was a bridge builder. He united minority communities of all types and advocated for those groups regularly as part of the Board. He was instrumental in helping the city pass a gay rights ordinance at a time when many other cities were passing ordinances and ballot indicatives which were extremely anti-LGBTQ in nature. Milk was passionate in his belief that only by people in the LGBTQ community coming out and acknowleding their sexuality to their friends and family would opinions on LGBTQ people change for the better. Milk said :

Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. … We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out.

Sadly Harvey Milk would not live to see his beliefs become reality. He was taken by the bullets of an assassin in his office in city hall. In the video below, you will see US Senator Dianne Feinstein announce the deaths of both Moscone and Milk. If it looks like Feinstein is confused she has good reason to be. She just identified the bodies of both Milk and Moscone to police. As she tried to feel a pulse on Harvey Milk’s neck, she stuck her fingers into the hole left by the bullet that hit Milk in the neck.

White was a disgruntled former member of the board who had resigned, but wanted his seat back. both Moscone and Milk opposed putting White back on the board. White snuck into city hall, shot the mayor in his office before walking to Milk’s office and shooting him 4 times. White was arrested later that day. In response to the shooting, thousands of people from across San Francisco rushed and descended upon the Castro that evening. They marched silently with candles in a spontaneous memorial vigil in honor of Milk. To this day, it remains one of the most beautifully eloquent responses to an act of violence that this world has ever seen.

White was convicted months later of voluntary manslaughter for both killings and was sentenced to just 7 years in prison of which he only served 5. After the lenient sentencing was announced, the outrage in the LGBTQ community led to several nights of rioting throughout San Francisco in what have since become known as The White Night Riots. Harvey Milk’s friend and another icon in the gay community, Cleve Jones, led the way from the Castro towards city hall shouting “Out of the bars and into the streets!” By the time they reached city hall a thousand people were ready to riot. This is the impact that Harvey Milk had on the gay community. For a community that so often felt lost, alone, and vilified by the rest of the world, Harvey Milk was and still is a beacon of hope. The harbinger of hope was and still is a martyr for the movement. That movement is ongoing and we won’t stop until we accomplish what Milk set out to accomplish.

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Milk was featured on a US Postal Stamp in 2014. You can still order it on the Post Office Website.

I have always felt a connection to Harvey Milk – but in more ways than just the obvious one. Harvey milk taught at one point and while in California he was one of the driving forces behind the defeat of Proposition 6, which was an initiative on the California ballot that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. I have always believed that the LGBTQ community if far too concerned with their “own” letter in the acronym. As long as the L or the G part got their rights then who cares about the T or the Q? Harvey Milk knew that the only way for us to succeed was to help each other – and that included other oppressed minority groups as well. Lastly, and perhaps the most tragically of the connections, I was born on the tenth anniversary of Milk’s assassination. I find it somehow comforting in a weird way that a day that brings pain and anguish for many, brought happiness and joy to my family (or at least I think it brought them happiness and joy).

Hope will never be silent. As long as people have hope, they will always be capable of rising above the circumstances that life throws at them. Where there is hope, there is the undeniable chance that the human spirit will win out over despair. Over fear. Over anger. Over hate. The story of Harvey Milk was a pivotal turning point in my life. It changed a fundamental part of the person that I am today. The story of Harvey Milk saved Dustin Lance Black’s life, and it will continue to save the lives of countless people – but only if it is told. At the conclusion of his Oscar acceptance speech Black ends by thanking God for giving us Harvey Milk. I thank God for giving us people like Black, and Van Sant, and Penn who were brave enough to fight to have the story of Harvey Milk told. And yes after thanking God for them, I too thank God for Harvey Milk. Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk. Thank you for your sacrifice. And Thank you for the gift of hope.

-WB

imageTo learn more about Harvey Milk, go to The Harvey Milk Foundation website. The Milk foundation was founded by Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, and his former campaign manager, Anne Kronenberg, and it seeks to continue to strive for Milk’s dream of a better tomorrow – a tomorrow in which there is equality for all and a world without hate.

The Slander of a Sex Worker: How Stormy Became Salomé

By now the world is well versed in the sexcapades of our current President. Whether or not he cheated on Melania Trump with Stormy Daniels is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. We know he has cheated before – multiple times. Court records prove he cheated on Ivana Trump with Marla Maples while still married to Ivana and their have been a host of women who say they have been in relationships with Trump or have had affairs with Trump while he was legally married to all three wives. One would think that  would be enough to turn the general public that makes up Trump supporters – as well as the GOP – away from Trump, but this not just any President or just any other republican politician. Especially since they claim to be the party of family values.

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Salomé’s Dance. Painting by Gustave Moreau.

Any other republican politician this happened to would be on the receiving end of statements from officials distancing themselves from him, declining his endorsement, and denouncing the behavior. We would also see evangelicals and leaders from the religious right like Franklin Graham outraged at what is being read on our news programs each evening. Especially when our President openly admitted to grabbing people by the pussy.We would hear shouts of “Think of the Children!” But since this is the presidency of Donald Trump we do not get any of that. We instead hear the right offer Trump a mulligan for his past sins, and we hear nothing except the right’s pharisaical and two-faced attempts to turn Stormy Daniels into a modern day Salomé.

Allow me to explain. The story of Salomé is a long and twisted one. Emerging first as an unnamed figure in multiple Gospels of the Bible as a dancer for the Birthday celebrations of King Herod, Salomé and her legacy if she was indeed even a real person has been through many incantations and depictions. The metamorphosis from nameless dancer for King Herod to notorious seductress did not happen over night. Throughout time and throughout art, her image shifted as countless master painters (Titian, Caravaggio, and Gustave Moreau), playwrights (Oscar Wilde), and Hollywood variations (most notably Rita Hayworth in the classic film and Jessica Chastain in the Al Pacino update) on the person that Salomé was moved towards a more seductive and deadly portrayal of woman. God forbid a woman actually own her sexuality and the power that comes with it. That would be absolutely SCANDALOUS!

Salomé is perhaps most known and most infamous for the so-called dance of the seven veils. As a birthday present for the king she was brought forth and she danced with seven veils. The dance was supposedly so inspiring and so enchanting that Herod agreed to grant her anything she wanted. As a friend of King Herod’s wife, she followed the prodding of the Queen to ask for the execution of Saint John the Baptist- his head was given to her on a silver platter. While the title dance of the seven veils was the entire creation of Oscar Wilde, the story has scandalized the world since and turned Salome into a trope that has been used to define women in positions of sexual power into women of no moral standards. Below is the Jessica Chastain version of Salomé’s Seven Veils Dance in the 2013 film Wilde Salomé. The Second video is the Rita Hayworth 1953 version of Salomé – considered so scandalous at the time it took a year to get it released.

While I freely admit (and I am sure Stormy Daniels would agree with me) that Stormy Daniels is not the Virgin Mary, she does not deserve to be turned into a modern day Salomé who is after something or someone. Throughout this entire Trump – Stormy Daniels ordeal these few things have consistently stuck out in her favor:

  1. Stormy Daniels has not changed a major piece of her story  even once.
  2. Daniels is fully cooperating with federal investigators.
  3. Trump has changed his story or had to have the Presidential Press Secretary clarify aspects of his statements or other factual areas of the case.
  4. Daniels has offered to return the $130,000 payment.
  5. Daniels gains nothing from this ordeal other than her good name and reputation – and yes she still has a reputation.
  6. Trump is getting nervous.

Daniels gets no money for going on the morning news shows or for being interviewed by Anderson Cooper – news organizations do not pay for stories. As of right now, it seems to me that all Stormy Daniels is getting out of this is insults and death threats being thrown her way. All of these people hurling the insults at Stormy Daniels seem to focus on one thing: her career choice. As Daniels as now sued Trump for Defamation of Character, people have been quick to pile on just how little character that they think she has. Upon looking at the WYFF4 News Facebook page, the evidence is plainly stated. Below are a few screenshots of what people think in regards to the April 28, 2018 News Channel 4 Facebook post about Daniels’ suit against the President¹:

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The original artwork of Oscar Wilde’s play version of Salomé

The thing that sticks out to me first as I scroll through the comments is how most of the comments questioning whether or not Stormy Daniels has character overwhelmingly come from women- and this is what saddens me the most. The majority believe it inconceivable that someone like Stormy Daniels is capable of telling the truth. They seem to imply the support the president’s assertion that this is all for her to somehow make money off of. Never mind the fact the this president has consistently said some of the most vile, misogynistic, and disgusting things about women. Never mind the fact that this President has been proven to have lied or had this administration lie on his behalf MULTIPLE times. Never mind all that. Stormy Daniels screws people. Stormy Daniels makes money screwing people. Stormy Daniels is a slut and that means Stormy Daniels cannot possibly be defamed.

Humans (along with pigs, bonobo monkeys, dolphins,) are one of the only species of living animal that we know for certain has sex for pleasure. To put it simply, we have sex because we like the feeling that comes with it. Most people enjoy being naked becasue they feel there is something liberating that comes from it. Stormy Daniels found a way to make money off of doing something that feels good while being naked with somebody else. Sometimes multiple somebodies. Props to her. I tip my hat in her direction. Does that mean that Stormy Daniels is a terrible person? Does that mean she is immoral or not capable of contributing to our society? Absolutely Not.

Stormy Daniels is a grown ass woman. Allow me to say it one more time for the people in the back. She is a GROWN. ASS. WOMAN. As long as it is legal under the law, Stormy Daniels can screw whoever she wants, whenever she wants, however she wants. Consensual sex between two (or more – if your into that) able-minded consenting adults has no baring on whether or not a person has character. We have got to get away from a society where sex is something that is taboo, immoral, and wrong. It has dangerous consequences. It teaches women that they shouldn’t enjoy sex and the power that can come with owning the sexuality in all its glory and it directly contributes to depression, shame,  and HIV/AIDS in the LGBTQ communities. Some All people like sex. Some women enjoy sex more than some men do. Some people like watching other people have sex in pornographic videos. That doesn’t make the people in the video or the watchers of the video bad people. There is nothing wrong with any of those things. The sex positive movement is growing, but we all need to embrace it more quickly – especially if we get upset over people starring in adult films.

The adult film industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. It employs thousands of people across the country (mostly California, Nevada, New York, Florida, and surprisingly enough Atlanta, Georgia), both in front of and behind the camera. It brings in billions of dollars in online revenue and the adult entertainment industry conventions that happen across the country bring millions of dollars to the cities that they are held in. Porn is a multi-billion dollar business worth more than the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined, and the reason it is worth more than those three organizations is because people watch it. They buy it. They enjoy it. Do you call the cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts a jackass for selling you a donut and making you fat? I didn’t think so. So stop calling the porn star a slut for doing what you paid her to do and then feeling guilty or ashamed because you watched it.

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Rita Hayworth in 1953 for a Salomé still. The film was produced by Hayworth’s company specifically so she could star in the film. 

One of the people in the Facebook comments of the news page asked if there was any lower she could go. Since she apparently believes the lowest she can go is adult film star allow me to answer that question: Yes, Linda Jameison, there is lower she can go. There is nothing wrong with consenting adults having consensual sex. There is however something wrong with murderers, rapists, drug dealers, bigots, homophobes, racists, neo-nazis, and a host of other groups that spread hate and intolerance. As a teacher, I loathe cheaters of any kind because it is unfair to those who work hard and follow the rules. I also believe someone who lies is worse and lower than someone who makes no apologies about enjoying getting paid to have sex. Donald Trump has cheated on all three wives and it has been proven he has lied multiple times before and throughout his presidency. So suck on that lollipop of knowledge for a while, Linda. If you need some pointers, I suggest you watch some of Stormy Daniels work. I am sure she would be happy to give you some tips. But it will cost you. And there is nothing wrong with that.

-WB

Author’s Note:

¹Just so you can see the article for yourself and make sure I did not randomly pick the posts of people from other articles, if you scroll through WYFF4 article the title was “Trump Sued by Daniels for Defamation” on April 30, 2018. Also I debated about blurring out the names of individuals making the posts, but I decided it was unnecessary since they were posting them on a public page of a news organization’s social media website.

 

A First Lady’s Feisty Legacy

I do not know when I came to the realization that I was not as conservative as the members of my family. As I started to develop my own opinion and own views on things, I naturally gravitated more to the left due to many social issues. Although I have voted for candidates from both major parties I have definitely voted for members of one party more than the other. And the party I voted for more, was not the party of Barbara Bush.

With that said, I was extremely saddened by the passing of Barbara Bush on Tuesday at the age of 92. What saddened me the most about her passing was the thought of George Herbert Walker Bush having to live a life without Barbara after living with her for the past 72 years. I still cannot watch that video of President Bush reading the love letter he wrote to her where he gets emotional at the end. I start to ugly cry. If I am lucky enough to have a love half as strong as the love that the Bushes had for each other than I will consider myself a lucky man.

I grew up in a house that thought very highly of Barbara Pierce Bush. She was always spoken of fondly and positively – especially by my mother. Looking back on the conversations and stories and reflecting about my own opinions on things, the life and legacy of Barbara Bush is one of the few areas of “politics” that I do not disagree with my family on the issues. There is something about Barbara Bush that one cannot help but like and admire. With excellent cheekbones (even at 92) and a warm, cheerful smile her personality alone just seems welcoming and reassuring to be around. After learning more about the life this extraordinary women lived, Barbara Bush can rest easy in heaven as she waits on her husband to join her, confident that the gifts she gave her family and to our nation will be treasured for years to come.

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Photo courtesy of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

As a teacher, one of Barbara’s biggest legacies that she leaves behind is close to my heart. Working tireless throughout her public life to combat the problem of illiteracy, Mrs. Bush recognized how important the ability to read was for our society. As her husband was running for President, Barbara Bush founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. She gave speeches up until the last 6 months on the topic. A staggering 36 million adults in the U.S. have low literacy skills. One in four adults cannot read above a 5th grade level, and research shows the single greatest indicator of a child’s future success is the literacy level of his or her parents. I work at a school where the majority of my students read significantly below grade level. It saddens me that my students were not fortunate enough to have been blessed enough to have been born with many opportunities I had and took for granted. It angers me that most of my students have been passed off to be “someone else’s problem.” Barbara Bush realized the importance of the ability to read has in our society. And because of her fight, millions of dollars have been raised to help with childhood and adult literacy and millions of people can read.

As a family-oriented person myself, Mrs. Bush’s fierce love and desire to protect and safeguard her family and the Bush name is something I have always respected her for. My family is so large and has been together for so long I often joke when introducing friends to members of my family I will draw them a family tree later. As thew mother of 6 and the grandmother of 17, Barbara Bush was a lover of family. She was fiercely loyal and protective of her husband, her children, and the Bush name and she surrounded herself with people she could trust. Beneath the Aunt Bea demeanor that Barbara Bush showed to the public was a backbone of steel and a desire to help further the careers of her husband and her children. It is reported that President Bush sat with his wife for hours and held her hand as she passed on from this life. Just typing that sentence has me in tears, but I know she is in heaven smiling – because that is how she would have wanted it. The chance for the eternal reuniting with her daughter Robin (who died in childhood from Leukemia) is something Mrs. Bush spoke about frequently in her later years.

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Barbara Bush would argue this is the most important piece of her legacy. The Bush Family at the Bush Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine in the early 2000s. Photo courtesy of TIME.

As someone who has been called blunt many times before (even though I prefer the term honest), the Barbara Bush humorous quips are legendary around the Washington community. From saying she hopes Sarah Palin would stay in Alaska (me too Barb, me too.) to joking that her Husband could have been Speaker of the house (a not so subtle jab at Former Speaker of the House John Boehner) because he cried during an interview the two did with granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara was quick witted and while it would typically turn people off when a public figure would respond in that way, Barbara Bush made it endearing and one of the things you like most about her.

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Barbara Bush holding a baby born with AIDS back in the late 1980s. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

As a person who believes firmly in public service, Barbara Bush devoted her life to public service. She worked tirelessly to further the causes that she believed in and she sacrificed a life of normalcy to further her husband’s career and the values of the United States of America. Barbara Bush leaves a legacy of public service to those society would typically cast off. Following the lead of Diana, Princess of Wales, Barbara Bush was one of the first public political officials to talk about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and was the first American political figure to touch someone living with AIDS – at a time when many people still were unsure of its origins.

Finally, as a person who has always admired strong women – especially strong southern women, Barbara Bush was one of the strongest. Genteel and scrappy at the same time. She was the original Julia Sugarbaker – full of grit and determination. It is this grit and determination that allowed her to win over a liberal bastion like Wellesley College while giving a commencement address there in 1990. Barbara Bush is proof that you can have it all – you can raise a family of successful children, support your husband, and not have to give up your own successes. Like southern women are known to do she spoke volumes without speaking at all. She never publicly came out as pro-choice until writing her memoir in their post-presidency life so as not to damage the career of her husband, but all you had to do was read her facial expression and body language to know where she stood. I see so much of Barbara Bush’s strength in my mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. I was raised by strong women. And every single one of those women is stronger than the men in their lives. Barbara Bush would approve – she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Barbara Bush believed in the ideals and principles our nation was founded on and gave her life in service to furthering those causes. In an interview at the end of her husband’s presidency she was asked what is something that she learned from her decades in public service. Without even pausing Bush responded:

“Every person in our country is capable of offering something to everyone else. Some people give time, some money, some their skills and connections, some literally give their life’s blood – But everyone has something to give.”

What a remarkable and true observation after so many years of giving herself to all of us. Many first ladies have given so much in service to this nation. With the exceptions of Eleanor Roosevelt and Abigail Adams, no other First Ladies have given as much as Barbara Pierce Bush has given. If she were still with us she would ask you to reflect on what you have to give. Since she is not her, I will ask. What is your gift you can give the rest of us? Give it for Barbara Bush’s sake. Give it for my sake. But more importantly, give it for the sake of yourself. You won’t regret it. Mrs. Bush sure didn’t.

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Thank you for giving Mrs. Bush. May the lord bless you and your distinguished legacy of service to your family and your nation. May the eternal rest and peace you now have with your daughter Robin comfort you until you are reunited with your beloved George. May the eternal father hold your family in the palm of his hand as the grieve your passing. And may he bless us with the wisdom to follow in your footsteps as we celebrate your life.

-WB