I donâ€™t know where to start with my list of Things That Annoy The Hell Out of Me In Cable News Coverage of Major Events. Perhaps the tendency to come up with an official name, logo and musical theme for a terrible tragedy?
â€śAnd now, we return toâ€¦. The Tucson Massacre!â€ť
Perhaps the use of the graphic â€śBreaking Newsâ€ť eight or ten hours after said news has already broken?
Certainly the incessant repetition of information, even going over the same exact facts maybe a dozen times in the space of 30 minutes.
â€śWe do know that the Congresswoman was shot in the head, but she has been responding to simple commands.â€ť
â€śYes Bill, the doctors are encouraged by that. She was shot in the head, but the doctors say she has responded to simple commands.â€ť
â€śWell usually a shot in the head is, ah, a lethal shot. But here, Tracy, the Congresswoman seems to have survived that shot. Are the doctors surprised?â€ť
â€śWell, they are encouraged Bill. She was shot in the head after all. But according to the doctors, itâ€™s a very good sign that she can respond to simple commands.â€ť
â€śAnd those commands are likeâ€¦squeeze my hand?â€ť
â€śSqueeze my hand, or maybe give a thumbs up. Simple commands, Bill.â€ť
â€śThanks Tracy. As weâ€™ve been reporting, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head this morning, here at a Safeway store in Tucson, but she is still alive at the University trauma center and doctors say that she is responding to simple commands.â€ť
After a day or so, these irritations give way to the mindless punditry phase, where regular people with no more information than anyone else try to reduce the catastrophe to a single main cause.
One person blames violent analogies in political speech. Another blames lack of gun control. A third blames our indifference to mental illness. As if these threads werenâ€™t inextricably knitted into the fabric of the tragedy.
And of course everyone pulls at their favorite string in order to make a point. I think Iâ€™ve already seen several emails on my GLBT news list praising the gay intern who comforted Giffords at the scene, as if sexual orientation has anything to do with such gestures. For Godâ€™s sake, what if the gunman was (or is) gay? Would we as a community come to some general conclusion about that coincidence?
Having derided pundits who have no greater insight than anyone else, I may as well join the category.
In my learned opinion, I think our national discipline has gradually eroded over recent years, and like poorly supervised children, weâ€™ve gotten away with more and more incivility. We can bring guns to town hall meetings. We can use violent images and talk of â€śtaking outâ€ť this or that elected official.
We play murderous video games, watch unspeakable movies, and give voice to our worst thoughts anonymously over cyberspace.
Because of this, weâ€™ve allowed a low vibration to emanate from the emotional and political fringes of the American society that is amplified by radio bombast, Internet conspiracies, and the echo chamber of the mainstream media. Most of us can tune it out, but the weakest among us become instruments of these dark rhythms, gather strength and explode before our very eyes.
I read an op-ed piece not so long ago about national resilience, pointing out that Americans can withstand terrorist attacks and should do so without panicking and revising our security laws every time we face a new scenario. That piece was talking about TSA policies, but the point is valid for deranged shooters as well. The last thing we need is armed guards patrolling the â€śMeet Your Congressmemberâ€ť event at the local mall.
What would be nice, instead, would be a powerful rumble from the silent majority. Not the silent prudes from the 1970s, but the fairly sensible and mature Americans who make up todayâ€™s silent majority, and who collectively might be able to push the fringe back to the fringe and lower the frequency of their insane buzzing. Letâ€™s hope Tucson triggers that kind of reaction. Back to you, Bill.
â€śThanks Ann, Jessica? Your thoughts?â€ť
â€śI think Ann has totally missed the point here, Bill, because the fact is that without this extended magazine, the gunman would not have been able to take 31 shots into the crowdâ€¦â€ť
Diabetic Coma Mistaken For Lesbian Sex Romp
So! Whatâ€™s the latest GLBTLMNOP news, youâ€™re wondering?
I wish I had something really new and exciting to tell you about. Letâ€™s say a major court decision, or a big celebrity coming out of the closet, or a bizarre lesbian scandal complete with a failed suicide attempt, a samurai sword fight and a man wearing a penguin costume.
But sadly, I do not. Actually, skater Johnny Weir did in fact come out of the closet in a new biography. But considering that Johnny Weirâ€™s closet was a cavernous 20,000 square feet filled with lace, sequins and toe loops, thatâ€™s not such a revelation.
Oh, but hereâ€™s an update on an old lesbian scandal that almost qualifies as â€śbizarre.â€ť
Do you remember the two female teachers in Brooklyn who were caught having sex in a classroom and suspended from duty? This was a couple of years ago, November of 2009 to be exact, but for some reason one of the teachers was just fired last week and is suing to be reinstated.
According to the official reports, relayed via the Daily News, Alini Brito and Cindy Mauro started their evening with drinks at a local bar. After beers and shots with a few colleagues, the group headed back to school to watch a student songfest. At some point, Brito and Mauro snuck out and went up to Mauroâ€™s French classroom, where they were subsequently caught in a compromising situation by a couple of handymen.
The nosy workers called for a â€śschool safety workerâ€ť who arrived in time to find the women still in a state of undress on the floor, with one of them in the process of putting on a bra.
So hereâ€™s the latest. Alini now insists that the incident was totally innocent. According her lawyer, the Spanish teacher has diabetes and was feeling ill when Cindy suggested they go up to her office and get some sugar or candy to remedy the problem. Once there, Alini felt faint and lay on the floor, while Cindy thoughtfully elevated her legs and removed Aliniâ€™s sweater to use as a pillow during the impromptu diabetes treatment. No wonder the handymen got the wrong impression!
Itâ€™s sad, donâ€™t you think, that people automatically jump to conclusions in these sorts of situations? I just hope Cindy gets her job back as well and doesnâ€™t have to lose her career for being a good Samaritan. I know in the past that Iâ€™ve found myself having to administer medical services in similar contexts, and Iâ€™m just fortunate that no one interrupted these procedures and misinterpreted my actions.
Good luck to you, Ladies!
Terrapin State on Fast Track to Equality?
Letâ€™s see what else is going on.
It sounds like thereâ€™s a good chance that the Maryland legislature will pass a marriage bill and forward it to Governor Martin Oâ€™Malley. I know Iâ€™ve mentioned this ever since the election, which tilted the balance of power in the state legislature towards marriage supporters. But every week there are more indications that a marriage equality bill is likely.
And this week, a Republican opponent suggested a civil union proposal as an alternative, an indication that things have really changed. Who could have imagined ten years ago that pushing civil unions would become a strategy for opponents of same-sex marriage?
Marylandâ€™s 90-day legislative session starts today, so weâ€™ll see what happens. But donâ€™t bet on the civil union idea. Hard core Republicans oppose it, as do many Democrats, so Iâ€™m assuming it wonâ€™t go anywhere. Keep in mind that same-sex marriage is already virtually legal in Maryland, where the Attorney General has opined that the state is required to recognize legal marriages from Washington, DC and elsewhere.
The other state where we see a real possibility to legalize marriage is Rhode Island, where marriage supporter Lincoln Chafee has just been elected governor and has just called for the legislature to send him a marriage bill. Although marriage has been debated for well over a decade in the Teeny Tiny State, it has never advanced and has faced opposition from ex-gov, Donald Carcieri - not a friend to our valiant community. This year, the marriage bill has 27 co-sponsors in the 75-member house, and seven co-sponsors in the 38-member senate.
Yay! More marriage states!
On the other hand, there is also a chance that marriage laws could be overturned by amendment drives in either Iowa or New Hampshire. But I choose to ignore these unpleasant possibilities.
Weâ€™re In Good Form!
I gather weâ€™ve made an advance of some kind in the area ofâ€¦ wait for itâ€¦ passport applications!
Specifically, the applications will no longer ask for a personâ€™s â€śmother and father,â€ť but will also include the options â€śparent one and parent two.â€ť The nod to families headed by same-sex couples is a welcome step forward and at long last puts an end to this painful instance of bureaucratic discrimination.
Oh, you know what? It may seem inconsequential, but if you think about it, it actually is an important development. As we fight for marriage rights or workplace protections or whatever, we are also fighting for a change in basic assumptions. Some families have two mothers or two fathers. Some women have wives. Some men have husbands. For this to be recognized in something as generic as a federal application sends a message now, doesnâ€™t it?
A wonderful message of inclusion and warmth! I would rush out to apply for a passport this minute except I actually did have a mother and a father. Also, I have a passport. But still!
Itâ€™s worth mentioning as well that recognition of gay families by the federal government is a rare and valuable thing. The more of it we get, the better off we are, and that includes passport applications.
Divorce, Texas Style
Our extended discussion of the recent advancement in passport forms reflects the fact that thereâ€™s just not a whole hell of a lot of news this week. We have another one of those Texas divorce cases making headlines, but donâ€™t be fooled. Texas is going to be one of that last places to do anything nice for gay couples, and if Texas had a passport application, you can bet that â€śParent Oneâ€ť and â€śParent Twoâ€ť would not be found in its pages.
At any rate, one Texas divorce has already been reversed by an appellate court. But this week, a different appellate court ruled that Attorney General Greg Abbot did not have the authority to intervene in a divorce after the fact.
The difference between the two cases was pretty clear. In the first case, a judge had actually ruled that the stateâ€™s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. In the most recent case, however, the judge simply granted a divorce while making no mention of the underlying marriage laws. Both cases involved couples who married in Massachusetts but lived in Dallas and Austin, respectively.
Abbot will probably appeal the latest ruling to the full Third District appellate court here in Travis County (from whence I write you today!). Or, he may appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. At issue, aside from the standing of the Attorney General, is whether a stateâ€™s ban on marriage recognition inherently includes a ban on divorce.
Since Mel and I were married in California and live in Austin, I would heartily endorse any Texas court ruling that recognized some feature of marriage from out of state. My last pick for which aspect that might be, however, would not be â€śthe right to divorce.â€ť Still, Iâ€™ll take any tiny crack in the anti-gay statutory edifice that has been erected around us in this otherwise great state.
Are we done yet?