Friday, June 30, 2006

Daddy and Papa

Spent the night last night in front of the tube.

Rarely have had more pleasure from that marvelous little window on the world.

In connection with GLBT month, Channel 9 (PBS) has been broadcasting non-stop programming on gay and lesbian issues. Some are familiar to anyone who’s been keeping up. One last night, though, just blew me away. It was called Daddy and Papa. Here’s the blurb:

10:30pm KQED 9 | Independent Lens: Daddy and Papa
What if your most controversial act turned out to be the most traditional thing in the world? This film explores the growing phenomenon of gay fathers and their impact on American culture through the stories of four families, including the filmmaker's.
Repeats: 6/30 1:30am, 5:30am, 9:30am, 1:30pm, 5:30pm & 9:30pm (KQED Encore).

For the entire list of programs, see:

OK, so I have a soft spot for gay daddies, but these guys make you sit up and stare. Woven into the background of the story is the fact that while kids needing adoption usually find good homes, there are a bunch of black kids nobody wants, and gay men, often white gay men, fill a chunk of this need. This could have been really sappy, with “heroic” fighters putting their lives on the line to save the world and fight racism at the same time, but it comes across as ordinary men, not entirely sure of what they are getting into diving in to the challenge of raising kids.

They are in for a bunch of surprises. One of the couples divorce, and their daughter has to contend not only with two daddies, but with two divorced daddies. Suddenly here’s a kid for whom gay parents are not the issue, but the sadness of a broken home. She is resigned, and happy with her new (third) daddy, but she still admits she’d like to put her two real daddies back together again.

Another couple, both gay men who hate sports and see the Christian right as something straight out of hell have to contend with the fact, now that they’ve made this little person of theirs a permanent part of themselves, that without knowing it, they’ve drawn a little jock, and suddenly everything has to change while they learn about baseball and plan for days with other sports-loving parents. Even worse, it turns out that the foster mother of their little boy is a Born Again who was adamant about not letting her charge into their clutches. The film shows how they won her over and ended up including her permanently in their family as a “grannie” to their kid. If anybody wants a reality check on the challenge of parenting, they really ought to see how they measure up against these guys. Not a dry eye... I’ll tell you, in this story.

Another touching vignette was the point when a daddy in Florida takes his boy to a Disney movie which turns about to be all about a boy who dreams of finding a mommy. When he gets home, the kid has been brought face-to-face with the question of being in the spot of the kid in the movie. “Some kids have two parents; some have only one; some have a mommy and a daddy, some have parents who don’t love them, some have people who love them very much. There are all kinds of people.” The film is clearly not a propaganda film for gay parenting, opening itself up to the criticism of opponents like this. And granted, I’m predisposed as hell in favor, having seen some marvelous gay families up close. But there is something about the authenticity of the folks portrayed in this documentary that is seriously disarming.

The story that touched me the most of the four was that guy in Florida who took in a boy from a father on drugs. His biggest supporters are the birth father’s own parents, the boy’s grandparents. With so much complexity in the homework you have to do in working through some of the ethical dilemmas of the day, it will make your day to watch people cut through the crap and do what’s right like this.

There is a downer to this last story. Thanks to Anita Bryant and the fearful ignorant who still hold that homosexuality is all about a menace to children, Florida still does not permit adoption by gay parents. No matter. Maybe someday. Meanwhile, “he’s white, I’m black,” but he’s my daddy. Florida is the only state in the union to expressly forbid gay adoptions, but the right is busy at work trying to line up others. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, one by one countries are removing bans on gay adoption just as they are removing bans on gay marriage. If you’re interested in where things stand in the U.S. as of a few months ago, Lambda has the figures at: And if you want to see signs of the ongoing battle in Florida, check out:

If you happen to be somewhere where it’s playing, take the time to see it. You won’t regret it. Meanwhile, check out the website at: and read the synopsis at:

The film, made three years ago, was nominated for Outstanding Documentary at the 15th Annual Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in 2004 (it lost to Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin), was chosen by the Taiwan Association of Visual Ethnography to tour the country that same year, and was shown to members of Iceland's parliament as they considered how to craft their country's legislation about gay adoption. The happy news here is that Iceland approved gay adoption three days ago, on June 27. With zero votes against. None! That brings Iceland up to date with Sweden, the Netherlands, Andorra, Spain, England and Wales, Scotland, South Africa and Belgium. Norway, Germany and Denmark allow "stepchild-adoption" so that the partner in a civil union can adopt the natural or adopted child of his or her partner. In the Republic of Ireland, individuals, whether heterosexual, homosexual, cohabiting or single, may apply for adoption. And as recently as four months ago, in February, France ruled that both partners in a same-sex relationship can have parental rights over one partner's biological child.

Running through the Chronicle this morning, I noted with great satisfaction that Arkansas’s Supreme Court just decided the ban on gay adoptions cannot stand, citing evidence there is “no correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual.” The court also threw out the arguments that being raised by gays causes “academic problems” and “sex identity problems.”

To anyone who has seen the phenomenon of gay parenting close up, the appropriate response to this is one giant DUH!

Damn, it smarts to see how wrong people can be about things when with a little probing of the actual terrain they could clear the cobwebs.

Gay parenting is not the only victim in the culture wars of ignorance and fear on the part of the right, of course. This morning’s paper also carries the story that some folk are up in arms about Warren Buffett’s $30 billion gift to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The reason? Warren’s wife Susan was big on women’s reproductive health, and Buffett is partly responsible for the approval of RU-486, now called mifepristone, the chemical abortion pill. And Planned Parenthood has received $34 million from the Gates Foundation. This spells gloom and doom for the Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, the Roman Catholic priest and president of Human Life International who fears contraception in the Third World will follow. Buffett, says Euteneuer, “will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents.”

Ah, well...

June 30, 2006

P.S. (Added February 17, 2007)

There’s another must-see. Same story – two gay dads in Florida adopting black kids. If anything even more heart-wrenching, since these guys are nurses in the pediatric HIV ward at Miami Hospital. When their story starts, kids born to crack mothers were dying by the age of two, and these guys had to go in to work everyday and watch the children die one by one. One day one of them picks up a kid and takes him home. “We’re going to foster care this kid,” he tells his partner. “OK, says his partner.”

Well, one thing leads to another and now they’ve got five kids. They had six, but one died. Bert, the oldest, has a story which tells you how screwed up child welfare is in Jeb Bush’s Florida. Because he’s HIV positive, and black, nobody wanted to take him in, so the state decided these gay guys could take him. But then, over the years, it turns out Bert turned out not to have HIV. By this time Bert has two loving parents and a tight relationship with his four siblings. Now that he’s no longer HIV, though, he’s adoptable. Not by his daddies, of course, since they’re gay. They live under the threat he could be taken away at any time. There’s no shortage of righteous men pontificating on the need for children to have a mother and a father, and justifying it all. Fortunately, as Bert gets older, fewer and fewer people want this black kid, so he may just make it to eighteen.

To show you what it takes to buck the world of the self-righteous do-gooders, there’s a scene where they show three white, obviously gay, men with three black kids in the back of a van. (The third man comes in to “uncle” his friends’ kids.) People come up and ask, “What are you guys doing with these kid? Where’s their mother?” The answer. “She was a crack whore and she’s dead.” People back off. Shows you when there’s a challenge, some people learn the skills to meet it. The film is called We Are Dad.

And if you still have some tears left in your tear ducts you can watch yet a third film about Rosie O’Donnell called All Aboard Rosie’s Family Cruise. Rosie hires a cruise ship and loads it up with gay families and cruises the Caribbean. Both families mentioned above figure in.

Three films to own and haul out with regularity.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Letter to Patrick Buchanan

Mr. Patrick J. Buchanan
c/o The American Conservative
1300 Wilson Blvd. Suite 120
Arlington, VA 22209

Dear Mr. Buchanan:

In this morning’s paper (San Francisco Chronicle, June 23, 2006) you ask the question, “Is Catholicism now ‘unacceptable’?” Your question is rhetorical, but let me answer it anyway. Sweet Jesus, I hope so. At least in the form you’re pitching.

You want the answer to be no. You want the church to be respected for its views on homosexuality, and your argument is the old saw that any conviction held for two thousand years can’t be all wrong. And that Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others share the conviction. You have the weight of tradition on your side, you say.

Back when the Jewish votes in Florida went to you by mistake helping the current president into office, I was in the camp of those who saw you as the face of a very sinister and very ignorant force in this country. Since then, I have come to see you differently and I avidly read your comments these days. Your views, even when I disagree with them, have the ring of integrity.

Your beef with Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich is that he tossed his own appointee, Robert J. Smith, to the wolves for declaring that homosexuals are “persons of sexual deviancy, instead of standing up for his right to follow his “catholic” conviction that homosexuals are “unnatural and immoral, ruinous to body and soul alike.” You want that “catholic” view upheld because as a private citizen, Smith’s views have “nothing to do with running trains and busses.”

Think of where that line of reasoning leads. It also has nothing to do with running trains and busses to believe Jews should be ghettoized or worse (another Catholic position that held its own for nearly 2000 years, by the way), that blacks have low IQs, that children should take advantage of their size and be chimney sweeps instead of going to school, but each of these notions has evolved out of consciousness. The view that homosexual people are rightly associated with decadence and corruption is also on its way out and your dragging your heels reveals a sad blindness of the history of injustice perpetrated on gay men and women in our society.

Your article is filled with stunning misinformation. You blame gays for AIDS when no one in his right mind (almost no one who reads the papers, even) has failed to realize AIDS entered the United States via gays by chance and is a disease now associated overwhelmingly with heterosexuals. You repeat the slander that it was the homosexuals who brought down the Roman Empire and the Weimar Republic, a notion right up there with claims that Koreans were poisoning wells after the Tokyo Earthquake or that Jews require Christian children’s blood for their Passover matzoh.

People have always drawn lines the wrong way across categories. When I went into the army, it was the category “communist, fascist or homosexual” that I had to disassociate myself from. Not that long ago in this country, evil could be attributed to another single category with the shared evils, “Rum and Romanism.”

Are you really that uninformed?

You broke the category conservative down for me very effectively in recent times into those committed to values worth dying for and the me-me-me folks currently in power. What am I to do after this ridiculous piece, build a single category back up again under the rubric of retrograde, unaware and insensitive?

You are a practicing Roman Catholic, I believe. You don’t need to be reminded the “red state/blue state” divide is mirrored in the church’s “ultramontane/Mystical Body of Christ” divide. It’s not “Catholicism” that I hope will die (or at least become ‘unacceptable’); it’s the rotten body that holds to this day to the Syllabus of Errors against modern democracy, that fosters the canonization of persecuters of Jews and stands in the way of an ecumenical spirit. You failed to make that very important distinction, just as you fail to distinguish between homosexual love that is indistinguishable from Christian love on the one hand and homosexual depravity that is indistinguishable from heterosexual depravity on the other.

The stats show the prejudice against gay people drops with direct personal contact. That’s a nice way of saying when ignorance diminishes.

Up your credibility, will you? You’ve got so much to say worth listening to. Don’t muck about with misinformation as awful as this.

Yours sincerely,

Alan J. McCornick

Berkeley, CA
June 23, 2006

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Asymmetric Warfare

I don’t know about you, but I’m still shuddering over the claim that those guys who committed suicide at Guantanamo were somehow having us on.

I’ve met lots of shits in my life, but I hope I never have to meet the Guantanamo camp commander face to face. Rear Admiral Harry Harris, his name is. “A case of asymmetric warfare” he called it.

I remember when George Orwell’s Newspeak first spilled over from 1984 into real American life and we were “pacifying” villages in Vietnam and using “collateral damage” as a slimebag way of not having to say death of innocent civilians. Now we have this hero in uniform telling us that we’re up against sneaky bastards who are committing “acts of war” by twisting a shirt into a make-shift rope, wrapping it around their necks and hanging by the neck till their eyes bug out, they mess their pants, and they are dead.

How dastardly can you get, attacking the United States of America that way. Man, we’re up against some real sons o’ bitches, these people who, instead of following the Geneva Convention on gentlemanly behavior in wartime, pull a foul stunt like this and hang themselves.

Tony Blair at least had the decency to pronounce the act “sad” and even our Fearless Leader registered “concern.” Not Admiral Harry. To him, this is dirty pool.

The guys left suicide notes, so we know it wasn’t a spontaneous act of depression. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the result of lots of accumulated depression, however. How would you like it, Admiral Harry, if somebody stuck you in the brig for months on end, without trial or benefit of due process? Apparently these guys were not among those who had no contact with the outside world, and one, apparently, was about to be released. He wasn’t told that, however. In any case, how are we to know what their decision to die was based on when the only person we get to hear speak on the subject is their jailer?

VP Cheney (via Condi Rice) tells us we now live in a world where you can’t afford not to assume the mushroom cloud is just around the corner. We have to give up all the rules of civilization and the world will just have to trust that America will do the right thing without the rule of law.

OK, guys, I’ve read all the discourse rules of effective communication on this new turn of events. How we’re not supposed to make any comparisons with totalitarian governments. After all, Bush is on the ropes and if only the Democrats could get their shit together we could actually vote him and all his arrogant neocon puppeteers out of office, so comparisons with fascism are way over the line. I know I’m not supposed to breathe the word fascist for fear of losing all credibility.

This is not Nazi Germany, OK? I know that. This is not Stalinist Russia, it’s not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, it’s not Idi Amin’s Uganda. For all its tragic failures as a democracy, this is still a land where things might somehow, by some miracle, get better yet.

But one thing is for damn sure. They can’t get better as long as we think even for a second there is something OK about calling the suicide of a prisoner held without due process an “act of war” against us.

Asymmetric warfare.

Compared to such language, even motherfucker sounds decent.

Berkeley, June 22, 2006