E.J. Graff

Race and the Gathering of Our Political Tribes

Watching the Republican and Democratic conventions, with the stark visual contrast in the kinds of people on those different floors, always gets me thinking about how we vote, in part, by tribe. Those people just don’t look like my people, I can’t help thinking, and I’m sure those people think the same thing about my people . Large swaths of the country trust and identify with the convention of those who are overwhelmingly white, blond, neatly suited, perfectly coiffed, and highly shaved. Others find those faces terrifying, and trust the multicolored, untucked, multi-patterned hordes, many of whom appear never to have met a razor or a hairbrush, who will gather next week. You may have read some of the psychological research into of which kinds of people head toward which political points of view, such as the most recent writings by Jonathan Haidt . Haidt emphasizes how we defend what we consider sacred . I think of it like sports teams: We want our team to win—the righteous team—not...

Ann Romney Loves Women!

Last night, I realized that God invented Twitter specifically so that political conventions would be entertaining to watch. Listening to the speeches last night while watching my Twitter feed was like watching it with a ballroom full of snarky friends, all rolling their eyes and emitting their one-liners. For instance, how very inspiring it was last night to hear that Ann Romney loves women! My corner of the Twitterverse was waiting for her to announce that everyone should look under their seats—everyone was going to get a Cadillac! Tweeters exploded yet again when she noted that she and Mitt started their married lives in a basement apartment—which, she didn’t mention, just happened to be paid for by the sale of stock options. (Even Juan Williams didn’t buy her tale of hardship, saying on Fox News that she looked “like a corporate wife.”) But seriously, folks, my favorite part of her talk was when she explained that she and Mitt didn’t have a storybook marriage—they have a “real...

Mitt, Named after the Roman God of Mutual Funds

Today, The New York Times 's David Brooks offers up his semi-annual column that is supposed to clinch his reputation as a "reasonable" conservative—the one who can see both sides. It's a laugh-out-loud doozy, a putative biographical sketch of Mitt Romney that made him sound temporarily as if he were inhabited by Gail Collins , complete with the snort-your-coffee where's-Waldo reference to Seamus on the roof . Some excerpts: Mitt grew up in a modest family. His father had an auto body shop called the American Motors Corporation, and his mother owned a small piece of land, Brazil. He had several boyhood friends, many of whom owned Nascar franchises, and excelled at school, where his fourth-grade project, “Inspiring Actuaries I Have Known,” was widely admired. The Romneys had a special family tradition. The most cherished member got to spend road trips on the roof of the car. Mitt spent many happy hours up there, applying face lotion to combat windburn. ... He had a pet rock, which ran...

Don't Think of a Hurricane!

So it’s the last week of the summer, and you’re one of the few in the office who hasn’t escaped for vacation, and the Republicans are failing their God-given duty to offer you some entertainment while you wait for things to speed up again? Some nerve they have! Here are some things to read, and not to read, while we wait for the balloons to start dropping. First, do not go reading all those stories about how Isaac is tracking Katrina , the other famous Republican hurricane. (Five years ago, I gave a little talk about the moral values that were not on display during Katrina’s aftermath here .) And don’t start thinking, in your godless way, that if a potential hurricane were threatening the Democratic convention, certain evangelicals would say it was God’s punishment for believing that women and LGBT folks are fully human. We know that this is not the climate’s angry punishment of those who deny that it is changing. So don’t even let yourself start dancing with thoughts like that. The...

What Is Marriage For?

Is marriage, at its heart, an institution that confines heterosexual sex and ensures that every child is born firmly tied to its biological parents, legally, economically, emotionally, and socially? Or is it an ever-changing institution, constantly battled over, whose rules change dramatically over the centuries? Do same-sex couples belong in the Western vision, because of the revolution in marriage law and philosophy over the past 150 years? Or would adding same-sex couples violate its core purpose? What is the purpose of sex? What's the purpose of civil marriage , as opposed to religious marriage? Maggie Gallagher, of NOM fame (National Organization for Marriage), and I disagree profoundly. We discussed these differences in some detail at bloggingheads. Eyebrows are raised, voices get pointed, but neither of us foam at the mouth, although it gets a little close. Enjoy. Don't miss the point around 41 minutes, where I ask her whether she believes in IVF and donor semen. Answer: no. By...

Hate and Self-Hate

About a month ago, news outlets reported on a truly horrific crime. Charlie Rogers, a former women’s basketball star with the University of Nebraska, told police that three masked men entered her home, tied her up, and carved anti-gay slurs into her skin. I didn’t say anything about it then. Neither did other LGBT bloggers, like AmericaBlog's John Aravosis , who wrote, “It smelled funny to me.” Sure enough, it now appears that she faked the attack . From USA Today : According to police, Rogers said three masked men broke into her home, and that one of them pinned her down while another sliced a cross into her chest, cut the front of her thighs and shins and carved derogatory words in her arms and abdomen. She said they then rolled her onto her stomach and cut her buttocks, the back of her thighs and the back of her right calf. She also said they tried to burn down her house…. … police found a pile of clothes, white knit gloves and a red box cutter on the living room floor after the...

The GOP's Platform Heels

(Flickr/PBS Newshour)
(Flickr/Courtesy of PBS NewsHour) The 2008 Republican National convention Oh, what excitement we’re having for a slow August! (One of my editors, frustrated that no one would return his calls, once called these two weeks “the dead of summer.”) First we learned that Representative Todd Akin believes women have magical powers to repel a rapist's sperm from our uteruses—and the underlying ideas that, as Lindsay Beyerstein yesterday delineated so crisply, "forcible rape is the only real rape" and "women habitually lie about rape," which she notes are two sides of the same coin. Then we learned that the draft Republican Party platform will continue to insist that women should never be permitted—under any circumstances, even rape, even childhood sexual violation, or even if the pregnancy endangers their lives—to refuse to host the comma-sized embryo lodged inside them. What exactly might a world with such laws look like? Consider what happened to a pregnant teenager in the Dominican...

Rep. Akin and Fun with Fake Facts

Honestly, some days I can’t tell real news from The Onion . Representative Todd Akin’s staggering comment on Sunday about the female body’s amazing ability to reject unwanted sperm actually made my jaw drop. If only it didn’t represent what so many people believe, as Amanda Marcotte explained so clearly here yesterday. The good news is that it flushed those beliefs out into the open. As she said, it’s not a gaffe; it’s an insight into the anti-choice movement’s distrust of women and its ignorance of science. (The fact that Akin’s on the House Science Committee is just one of those hilariously horrifying Onion -style bits of data: Do we really live in a country where a “don’t confuse me with the facts” anti-science ideologue makes policy about … science?) That magical thinking behind Akin's statement arises from an attitude similar—in ideology, not in degree—to that behind honor killings, in which raped girls who refuse to marry their rapists are killed by male relatives for sullying...

More on Rhetoric, Hatred, and Violence

Yesterday, I wrote about Floyd Corkins, the man who shot a security guard at the Family Research Council. (By the way, many people have called him a gay activist. I haven’t yet seen any reporting that identified him as gay; so far we only know that he was a volunteer at a D.C. LGBT community center. Straight people do volunteer for LGBT groups these days.) More recent reporting says that he was carrying Chik-Fil-A bags, apparently in an attempt to make a point about opposing LGBT rights. I was deeply disturbed that anyone would do such a thing, as if in my name. As my post’s title suggested, fighting hate with violence is absurd and appalling. But after my post yesterday, Zack Ford of ThinkProgress and Jeremy Hooper of Good As You called me out on suggesting that we all dial down the rhetoric. Zack tweeted: Are you serious? The rhetoric of equality and inequality are not two sides of the same coin. That comparison is outlandish. This isn't just he-said, she-said. This is one side...

Fighting Hate with ... Violence?

Yesterday, a gunman entered the Washington, D.C. offices of the Family Research Council , a religious group that advocates far-right positions on social issues, and shot a security guard in the arm. Floyd Lee Corkins II, the shooter, reportedly yelled that it wasn't personal; it was about FRC’s policies. (You can see the shooter in this local news report.) The security guard is now in the hospital, in stable condition—thank God—and the FBI has Corkins. Is this what the state of our public conversation has come to? Unstable people on all sides deciding that someone else’s beliefs must be exterminated, that hateful rhetoric must be answered with execution? Corkins was a volunteer at the D.C. LGBT community center, where the executive director was shocked by what the young man did. Here’s what he said, according to Chris Geidner over at BuzzFeed: The suspect in today's shooting, Floyd Corkins II of Virginia, had been volunteering on some weekends at the front desk of The Center, D.C.'s...

Pride and Prejudice

A week or two ago—how quickly it disappears in the rearview mirror!—my family went on vacation to Provincetown, the gorgeous seaside town at the at the tip of Cape Cod. Formerly a whaling town, Ptown has for the last century been an arts colony and LGBT haven, which suits my primary interests. After many years of vacationing there, I have my favorite galleries, gardens, beaches, shops, and perches, like everyone else. Ptown has specialty weeks, formal or informal, targeted to various demographics. On the LGBT side, there’s carnival for the insanely creative dress-up and party crowd; bear week for hairy and hefty men and the men who love them; women’s week for the ladies who aren’t baby dykes any more; and family pride week , when the beaches and streets are packed with two-mom and two-dad families. Guess which week we went? About a decade ago, when family week was in its infancy, I ended up talking with a young woman in her twenties who’d grown up with two moms before the “gayby boom...

Today in Gay and Women's Rights

I know we've all been preoccupied with that dude who's going to be the Republican veep candidate when the convention rolls around. But a few lines down, there's been some sweet news. In a first, we now have the very first openly gay brigadier general in the army. New general Tammy S. Smith had her wife Tracey Hepner pin the medal on in the ceremony. Just the thought of it makes me feel all quavery. How sweet is that? (Thanks to Rex Wockner for bringing this to my attention.) Here are some relevant quotes from The New York Times article about it: [Smith] said in a statement that the Defense Department had made sexual orientation a private matter, but that “participating with family in traditional ceremonies such as the promotion is both common and expected of a leader.” Sue Fulton, a spokeswoman for OutServe , a two-year-old organization of lesbians and gay men in the military, said Sunday that it was “highly unlikely” that General Smith was the only gay officer of her rank. She called...

Back Off, Masculinity Patrol

This Olympics, we witnessed the results of an American gender revolution. Did you notice all those American women athletes who excelled on the field? As Amanda Marcotte noted here with pride and praise, our gals have clearly shaken off the pressure to overcompensate for their athleticism by playing sweetly feminine off the field. Once upon a time, you had to be seriously gender-nonconforming— i.e. , a lesbian—to risk your feminine credentials by playing sports. (Based on an entirely unscientific but extremely appreciative view of some of the other women's soccer teams, I would guess that dykes are still the ones venturing onto the field in some countries like, cough, Japan.) American women clearly know they can be strong, powerful, and kick some ass on the field. American girls can, from a very early age, play with trucks, wear pants, and run, kick, and throw without sanctions. As I've written about here several times, however, boys have no such freedom . Their behavior is overseen by...

The 1% of the 1%

(Image courtesy of Sunlight Foundation/Ali Felski)
The Sunlight Foundation has a don't-miss examination of the one-hundredth of the top one-percent who give nearly a quarter of all political contributions. Here's what Lee Drutman has to say about their research: In the 2010 election cycle, 26,783 individuals (or slightly less than one in ten thousand Americans) each contributed more than $10,000 to federal political campaigns. Combined, these donors spent $774 million. That's 24.3% of the total from individuals to politicians, parties, PACs, and independent expenditure groups. Together, they would fill only two-thirds of the 41,222 seats at Nationals Park the baseball field two miles from the U.S. Capitol. When it comes to politics, they are The One Percent of the One Percent.... are not average Americans. Overwhelmingly, they are corporate executives, investors, lobbyists, and lawyers. A good number appear to be highly ideological. They give to multiple candidates and to parties and independent issue groups. They tend to cluster in a...

Friday Poetry Break

Yes, I know, there was a big speech by a political figure last night. But you know what else? It's the last Friday of summer. Not in the solar calendar, but in our social calendar. Next week we all go back to school and buckle down again. So here's one of the most most admired poems of the late 20th century, a poem that I've said aloud I don't know how many times. It's by Robert Hass , who later became Poet Laureate. Meditation at Lagunitas By Robert Hass All the new thinking is about loss. In this it resembles all the old thinking. The idea, for example, that each particular erases the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown- faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk of that black birch is, by his presence, some tragic falling off from a first world of undivided light. Or the other notion that, because there is in this world no one thing to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds, a word is elegy to what it signifies. We talked about it late last night and in...

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