Thursday, November 16, 2006

Voter Turnout? Cartograms

From an interesting article about the 2006 elections, I found a link to the last presidential election, normalized for population.

Here's a cartogram of the 2004 national presidential vote:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Voter Turnout? Tuned Out?

Is voter turnout too low? Too high?

Can you have a too low or too high voter turnout?

Should people that vote be considered part of the constituency of elected politicians?

Is it accurate to say that the active members (voting members) of a community are the ones that set the agenda?

Are people that choose not to vote in essence voting for the status quo, and should be considered happy with the way things are going?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Review of "God Hates Gay Evangelicals"

Here's my review of "God Hates Gay Evangelicals" by Mark Morford.

Like most commentaries, the article is non-neutral in language. Setting that aside, there is a dangerous oversimplification in the initial assumption, and an easily disproven generalization later on in the article.

The assumption that Haggard is homosexual (as opposed to bisexual or a member of the entirely different category of being a straight man who has sex with men) might be an overstatement.

Haggard is not "obviously gay", unless being gay reduces down to genital sex. Someone that objectifies other men for sex for pay may or may not be gay. This is similar to the case of a gay man who has heterosexual sex on the side with hookers. Would we then call him straight? Or, is he just a gay man who has sex with purchased women while his partner is at work or on travel? It's safer and widely considered to be more anonmymous than having a fling with someone that might know your primary partner.

What about lesbians who have sex with men? They are considered lesbians, yet have sex with men for any number of reasons, some of them entirely pragmatic.

The reason why the distinction is important is because the gay community has fought for decades to stake the claim that same-sex attraction is NOT just about the sex. Gay sex used to be deprecated because it was simply about sexual attraction, and companionate love was NOT considered to be attainable by same-sex couples.

The writer states: "There really is nothing at all wrong with feeling deep, sexual love for another man."

No, there isn't anything wrong with it, but I don't get the impression that Haggard "loved" his boy toy in any way, deeply or otherwise.

Sex is not all there is to being homosexual. The article trivializes an entire sexual orientation down to covert genital activity by someone that has some serious self-hatred issues.

Another thing about this particular article is the sweeping statement that:

"You will not see a single comment from a Christian or would-be Christian that says: Hey, you know what? Maybe this gay love thing we've all been railing about and making laws against and rending our flesh over for so long, well, maybe it isn't such a bad thing after all."

Some research here - five minutes tops - would have relegated this to the "cut" column of "cut and paste", since (for example) all you have to do is go to the Dignity home page to get the pro-gay Catholic point of view. Dignity is regularly included in bishops' meetings. One is going on this coming weekend, and some of my fellow Dignity members are attending. They will be presenting their position on having a holistic sexuality that fully includes all orientations become part of church teachings. This is an ongoing dialogue that has already made a big difference. Progress is slow, but progress is made, and there are many pro-gay catholics. I think I qualify as one, and have made many public comments on the issues.

As far as other faiths, there are many books written by prominent (mostly christian) leaders that take positions on both sides. There are a lot of lectures from various leaders available in text or video form that are pro-gay and advocate exactly what the writer here says doesn't happen at all.

In fact, the writer doesn't limit himself to leaders that are already christian. The writer goes so far as to include all christians as well as all "would-be" christians, as if the writer knows what all "would-be" christians think.

Maybe the writer isn't familiar with the Unitarians?

I am not sure what to make of such a sweeping statement that is so egregiously wrong, other than to think the writer just doesn't know many christians.

What does the writer get right?

The description of self-hatred is right on the money. The self-hatred is a sign of internalized homophobia. It's not 100% sure bet, but I'd put good money on Haggard suffering from self-hatred that is orientation-related. It might not have homosexuality as its source (he could be bisexual, or he could be acting out some other repressed ugliness) but it probably does.

Otherwise, why take the risk of having sex with men for money? Maybe he felt trapped as a leader in the same way that my pastor friend in Arkansas talks about. Always being the one that leads, takes care of, listens to others, officiating at baptisms, weddings, funerals, visits to the sick...

It can be very stressful providing comfort to others, and you have to take care of yourself. In catholicism, priests are required to have a spiritual advisor - someone that they can go to where they are not "on the clock". It's imperfect, but it provides a way to take a break, get a clue, vent. My pastor friend doesn't have this, since he's alone as a leader in his (small) religion. All he has is me, and I'm 1643 miles away, and I have limited time. I suspect that Haggard was isolated, and ended up self-destructing as a result.


1) sexuality is more than sex acts
2) the sweeping generalization about "christians and would-be christians" fails
3) the article correctly and effectively describes self-hatred (probably internalized homophobia)

The article could actually be read as anti-gay if you are a strict gay-rights advocate. It misrepresents genital activity as healthy orientation, and presents a nonconsentual (wife didn't ok it), for-pay affair as a legitimate gay relationship. I'm not reading it that way, but I see people who are in the blogosphere. Since consentuality is very important to me, I think it's worth highlighting.