Yes, We Still Ban Books 📘

This week, 22 September thru 28 September, is Banned Books Week.  According to the American Library Association (ALA) …

banned booksBanned Books Week (September 22-28, 2019) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

And yet … and yet, schools and libraries are still banning books.  Take a look at some that were banned just last year …

  • George by Alex Gino – banned because it features a transgender character
  • A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss – banned for LGBTQ content, political & religious viewpoints
  • Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey – banned because it includes a same-sex couple, and also was felt to ‘encourage disruptive behaviour’

Are you starting to see a pattern here?  How the heck are we ever to break the chain of homophobia if we don’t allow young people to be exposed to the LGBT community???

  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier – banned because it features LGBTQ characters
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – banned because it deals with teen suicide
  • Skippyjon Jones series by Judy Schachner – banned because the lead character, a Siamese cat, ‘depicts cultural stereotypes’
  • This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman – banned because of illustrations of a Pride parade

Good grief.

In 2018, more than half the books that drew complaints did so because they contained LGBTQ content, according to ALA. Other reasons include profanity, sexually explicit content, religious viewpoints and materials that candidly portray injustices and inequality experienced by people of color.

Now, mind you I do understand that there is such a thing as age-appropriate content, and I wouldn’t necessarily want a third-grade child to be reading Mein Kampf.  But, to ban books because they might open a young readers mind to the possibility that there are other acceptable lifestyles and viewpoints besides the ones they are exposed to at home is simply narrow-minded bigotry.

In 2017, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was banned because some felt it would ‘lead to terrorism’ and ‘promote Islam’.  How is that not racist and Islamophobic?  In the same year, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was challenged because of the use of the ‘N-word’.  Heck, when I was 10 years old, I was bedridden for a period of time, and every evening my father would read to me from Catcher in the Rye!!!  I suppose today’s society would be aghast, yes?

banned-booksIn 2016, the Little Bill series written by Bill Cosby was banned because of the sexual allegations against Mr. Cosby … not because of anything in the books, and frankly I have read those books to my granddaughter and it is an excellent series.  But some, it seems, would throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Some that have been banned in year’s past … makes no sense at all …

  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein was banned because it was interpreted as being sexist. Some readers believe that the young boy continually takes from the female tree, without ever giving anything in return. As the boy grows up, he always comes back to the tree when he needs something, taking until the tree has nothing left to give him.
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss was banned … this one will really make you roll your eyes … because it was believed to portray logging in a poor light and would turn children against the foresting industry.
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak has been challenged numerous times, as it is considered by some “too dark”, and psychologically damaging and traumatizing to young children due to Max’s inability to control his emotions and his punishment of being sent to bed without dinner.

banned booksToday, with the far-right evangelicals attempting to impose their own beliefs on society as a whole … a group that is anti-LGBT, anti-women’s rights, anti-immigrants, anti-everyone-who-is-not-Christian … it is more important than ever that we guard against censorship in our schools and libraries.  Books open pathways in our minds, delight us with the unknown, and teach … teach us about other cultures, other lifestyles.  I find it frightening that some communities would stifle the knowledge and pleasure that is to be found in books of all sorts.  Censorship is just another form of bigotry.

Banned Books Week

banned booksFor those who might not have been aware, this week, September 23-29, is Banned Books Week.  Because I seem to have slipped back into the rabbit hole and cannot bring myself to write about any of the detritus swirling about in cyberspace today, I am instead writing about Banned Books Week.

What the heck, you ask, is Banned Books Week? According to the American Library Association

Banned Books Week 2018 is September 23-29. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restricted in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

Banned books were showcased at the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) BookExpo America trade show in Anaheim, California. At the entrance to the convention center towered large, padlocked metal cages, with some 500 challenged books stacked inside and a large overhead sign cautioning that some people considered these books dangerous.

Today, Banned Books Week coverage by mainstream media reaches an estimated 2.8 billion readers, and more than 90,000 publishing industry and library subscribers. The Banned Books page remains one of the top two most popular pages on the ALA website.

Let’s take a look at the Top Ten Most Challenged Books for 2017 …

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher
    Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie
    Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
  3. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
  4. The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini
    This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
  5. George written by Alex Gino
    Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
  6. Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee
    This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
  8. The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas
    Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug useprofanity, and offensive language.
  9. And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
    Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
  10. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.

I have read two of the books on this list, The Kite Runner and To Kill A Mockingbird.  Given that the majority of the books on the list are children’s books or YA (young adult), I have no real interest in reading those, but I do have some observations about the list.

No less than four of the ten books on this list are considered dangerous because they either address LGBT issues or contain an LGBT character or relationship.  Come on … it is the 21st century, we have come out of the dark ages!  If I still had a small child at home, you can bet I would be on Amazon right now ordering And Tango Makes Three!

As I said, I read The Kite Runner, and when I reached the end, I neither became a terrorist nor did I feel drawn to convert to Islam.  Who thinks up these things?  Wait … let me guess … white supremacist, heterosexual, male evangelicals.

banned books-3Thirteen Reasons Why has been challenged and banned for discussing suicide.  Well, guess what folks?  Not discussing something doesn’t make it go away!  Suicide among teens is a very real concern, for the teen years are a time of transition, a time when hormones are going crazy and life is confusing.  It happens.  Kids kill themselves.  Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away!  Parents rarely talk to their kids about suicide, fearing that an open, frank discussion might put the idea into their head.  Perhaps this book is just the ticket for giving kids a better grasp of how to deal with their problems, what to do when they feel there is no other way out.

And by the way … regarding #6 on the list … how does discussing sex with a child, “make them want to have sex”?  Isn’t that an idea that went out in the 19th century?  Methinks some people need to grow up … or perhaps evolve?

I was looking back through the past several years of banned or challenged books, and the 2013 list brought a bit of jaw-dropping mirth.  Here are the ones that made me roll my eyes or chuckle:

  • Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
  • Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (This one was banned because of ‘religious viewpoint’. Grrrrrrrrrrr)

A final observation.  Looking at these lists, and the reasons that specific books are challenged or outright banned goes a long way toward explaining the bigotry, particularly against the LGBT community, that we are seeing come out of the woodwork today.  A child who is shielded from all those who are slightly different in one way or another, whether the difference is skin colour, religion or sexual orientation, grows to adulthood without an understanding that it’s okay to be different.  I’m glad I took a few minutes to look into Banned Books Week, for I hadn’t previously given it much thought, and awareness is key.banned books-4

To Trust … Or Not To Trust?

I find myself having mixed thoughts on this one.  The headline reads:

Senate Bill To Require Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Data By 2030 Census

The bill is called the Census Equality Act, and was introduced yesterday by Democrats in the Senate, notably Kamala Harris of California and Tom Carper of Delaware.  The rationale …

“The spirit of the census is that no one should go uncounted and no one should be invisible. We must expand data collections efforts to ensure the LQBTQ community is not only seen, but fully accounted for in terms of government resources provided.”

Harris and the other Democrats behind the bill say this information could help more LGBT people get access to Medicaid, Section 8 housing vouchers and food aid through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. According to a 2013 report by the Williams Institute, income levels of lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely than those of heterosexual people to fall below the federal poverty line.

Okay, so I think the bill is well-intentioned, and I cannot argue with any of the above.  They also claim that more comprehensive data about LGBT people could also help better enforce civil rights protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and prove those cases in court.  Hmmmm … maybe.

My fear is that in the current climate of ever-increasing bigotry, and ‘religious liberty’ laws intended to discriminate against any seen as ‘other’ by white Christian evangelicals, the additional data collected about the LGBT could be used in other, discriminatory ways.

“The Senate bill would require the Census Bureau to protect all sexual orientation and gender identity information it collects under the same privacy standards for other types of data. Federal law prohibits the bureau from releasing any census information that would identify individuals until 72 years after it is collected. But the agency can release anonymized data about specific demographic groups at levels as detailed as a specific neighborhood.”

Very reassuring … until you remember the face of our leadership today.  The term “Federal law prohibits …” disturbs me because as we have seen so many times in the past 18 months, federal law is easily enough changed.  And when one considers Jeff Sessions’ creation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force” just two days ago that is fully intended to discriminate against the LGBT community, I see a disaster looking for a place to happen.

wilbur ross

Wilbur Ross

The U.S. Census Bureau falls under the auspices of the Department of Commerce, headed by Wilbur Ross, another wealthy ($2.5 billion net worth) Trump sycophant.  Already Ross has stirred controversy by adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census form, allegedly to “protect minority voter’s rights”, but the fear is that the intent is to identify non-citizens for the purpose of potential deportation.  Additionally, Ross failed to properly divest from his financial holdings and is the subject of an ethics investigation.  None of which is pertinent to the census question, but rather throws up red flags about his ethics in general.

I cannot help thinking about how, under a corrupt regime, one ruled by a group of people who disparage any who do not fit into their vision for the country, such as LGBT, might use such data.  Perhaps I am being overly-suspicious, but under the Trump regime, I haven’t seen much reason to believe that diversity is valued.

On April 26, 1938, the “Decree for the Reporting of Jewish-Owned Property” issued by Hitler’s government took effect.  Need I say more?

As I said, I am torn on this one, for I think the intent is good, but believe it could lead to something much more devious than the original intent.  Until 20 January 2017, I would have supported the bill, would have taken it at face value and trusted our government.  For me, that trust has been lost. Your thoughts?

Defining Freedom …

Have you noticed that some words seem to have taken on a different meaning in the past few years than they once had?  Take, for example, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).  It sounds like a decent organization, right?  Let’s break it down a bit …

Alliance:  a union or association formed for mutual benefit

Defending:  protecting from harm or danger

Freedom:  the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

So, by those definitions, what we have here is a group of people protecting the rights of others to act, speak and think as they wish without being harmed.  What’s not to like, eh?

Well, let me tell you what’s not to like about this group.  The group is actually one of the largest anti-LGBT organizations in the nation.  Just WHOSE freedom are they defending?  They are not defending my freedom, nor yours, and for sure not any of my friends who are gay or trans!

Founded in 1993, the group’s stated mission is …

“To advocate for religious freedom to uphold justice and preserve the right of people to freely live out their faith.”

Now can anybody explain how John Doe being gay infringes on the “right of people to freely live out their faith”?  There is no justification for this … none at all!!!

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) …

“Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society. ADF also works to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBT people on the basis of religion.”

State-sanctioned sterilization?  Denial of goods and services?  Destroy society?  What planet do these people come from?  This is among the craziest things I have heard, short of what comes from the likes of Alex Jones or Sean Hannity!

What brought this group onto my radar today is that Amazon has removed them from its AmazonSmile program.  For those who are not familiar with the program, it gives a small percentage from the purchase price of eligible products to a customer’s chosen charity.  I signed on to it when the program first started, and chose St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  It is a good program, and Amazon did the right thing, for it should not be sullied by allowing hate groups to solicit funds in this manner. As of February, Amazon had donated more than $80 billion to various charities.  ADF is not in any way a legitimate charity!

ADF, of course, is livid and threatening legal action.  But, as one person said, “Funny how the same people who think that they shouldn’t have to sell cakes to same sex couples seem to want to force a private business to give them money directly. Last I checked, Amazon will still sell stuff to ADF.”

ADF is the very type of organization that will gain more power under the executive order signed by Donald Trump on Thursday (more to come on that later).  But let me go on record here as saying that this is a hate group, pure and simple, that is attempting to take rights away from others, rather than to defend rights.  It would be far more appropriately named the Alliance Persecuting Others.  They have been involved in many legal battles against the anything they disagreed with, including Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

I end where I began … has the definition of the word ‘freedom’ changed that much in the past few years?  Kellyanne warned us some 15 months ago that there would be an ‘alternative’ vocabulary under Donald Trump.  It appears she was right. Members of any religious group have the right to their own beliefs, certainly.  If members of one group or another choose to believe that marriage is only legitimate if it involves two people of opposing genders, that is their right.  Nobody … not one single person or law … is forcing anybody to become gay!!!  But the line is drawn when those members of said religion impose their will on others.  Be religious, marry someone of the opposite gender, attend whatever church you wish … nobody cares!  But do not attempt to force your beliefs, your will, on others.  Defending ‘freedom’???  No, not by any definition. They are in the business of persecution and hate, plain and simple.  They are robbing others of their freedom.  They are, indeed, a hate group and there are more and more of them crossing my radar.  America:  The United States of Hate.

I Can’t Believe He Did That!!!

On Friday, with category 4 Hurricane Harvey barreling toward the east coast of Texas, Donald Trump had other things on his mind … following through on his threats … or keeping his promises, depending on where you stand on such things.

The first was the pardoning of racist former sheriff Joe Arpaio from Arizona.  As you may recall, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to end illegal racist practices in Maricopa Country during his tenure there.

“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.” – Donald Trump

The pardon sends a double message.  The first is that racists and bigots need not worry overly much about consequences for their actions as long as Trump is in office.  The second, equally disturbing message, is that he will pardon with impunity, those who he sees as loyal supporters.

Consider, for example, James Fields, who used his car as a weapon of terror in Charlottesville two weeks ago, injuring 19 and killing 34-year-old Heather Heyer.  If he is convicted, as he must be, of murder, will Trump pardon him?  Would we be surprised if he did?

Ultimately, I believe a number of people will be convicted of treason for colluding with Russia in the interference of the 2016 presidential election.  I speculate that some of those people are  very close to Trump, and others may still be loyal followers.  Will Trump simply pardon them, one by one, as they are convicted?  And again, would it surprise us if he did?

The Constitution gives the president nearly unlimited power to grant clemency to people convicted of federal offenses, so Mr. Trump can pardon Mr. Arpaio. But Mr. Arpaio was an elected official who defied a federal court’s order that he stop violating people’s constitutional rights. He was found in contempt of that court. By pardoning him, Mr. Trump would show his contempt for the American court system and its only means of enforcing the law, since he would be sending a message to other officials that they may flout court orders also.New York Times, 26 August 2017

The second thing Trump did on Friday night was to sign yet another of his over-reaching executive orders, this one to follow through on his tweet of a few weeks ago banning transgender individuals from the military.

Last month, in one of his palsied morning blurbs, Trump tweeted …

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,”

Turned out that “his” generals had neither been consulted nor given an opportunity for  input, as they were caught completely off guard and vowed to make no changes until given a formal directive to do so.  Trump’s executive order was just such a directive:

“Accordingly, by the authority vested in me as President and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States under the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including Article II of the Constitution, I am directing the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the U.S. Coast Guard, to return to the longstanding policy and practice on military service by transgender individuals that was in place prior to June 2016 until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above.”

The reasons for this abomination, this reversal of civil rights, are stated in his directive to be the additional medical cost.  I suggest there is a more prevalent, two-fold reason. First, his base of social conservatives has no tolerance for the LGBT community anywhere … not in places of business, not in public restrooms, and not in the military.  Second, and this has been the reason for many, if not most, of his executive orders:  President Obama was the one who took the step to stop discriminating against the LGBT community, and Trump is determined to reverse any and all actions his predecessor took.

Both of these actions, the pardoning of Arpaio and the banning of transgender people from the military, are steeped in controversy and there will be a hue and cry.  It has been suggested by at least one analyst that Hurricane Harvey played right into Trump’s hands, providing cover for these two newsworthy items, giving him the hope that his actions would go largely unnoticed.  In this day of ongoing news coverage, that is not going to happen.  There will be, already is, a storm brewing that has nothing to do with wind and rain, but with truth and justice.

With these two latest decisions, as with most of his executive orders thus far, Trump has grossly abused the power of his office.  He is not the first to pardon someone who did not deserve to be pardoned, but in doing so, he has taken our nation a step backward in civil rights, in human rights, as it were.  The same is true of his transgender ban.  Under the past 50-60 years, this country has made strides in civil rights, in acceptance of ALL humans as equal.  Last night, Donald Trump began chipping away at those rights, and sent a message loud and clear that we cannot trust the person in the Oval Office.  What is next?  For make no mistake … the indignities will not stop here.

Who Are We?

Tonight, two separate stories popped onto my radar, and I asked myself if I really ought to write about them.  They are both about extreme bigotry, examples of the illogical and purposeless hatred spreading across our nation today … more so in the south, but in the rest of the country as well.  And I wonder if my readers tire of these stories. But after I re-read the stories, I decided that yes, I need to write about these stories, for to remain silent would be to add my own guilt to that of others.  I have committed to using my voice to speak out against social injustice, and these both fit into that category.  So …


Jordan Edwards, 15

This first one is a story that has become all too familiar in the past few years:  white police officer shoots and kills young black man.  Only this time, it was a boy … a fifteen-year-old boy.  Jordan Edwards was his name.  Last Saturday night, young Jordan was with his two brothers and two other teens, leaving a party at a house in a Dallas suburb.  Apparently neighbors had called the police because of the noise of the party, which was just breaking up.  As the teens were driving off in their car, Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver opened fire on the vehicle, killing Jordan Edwards who was sitting in the front passenger seat.

Initially, the other officers stated that the driver of the vehicle had put the car into reverse and was ‘aggressively’ driving toward the police officers, but when body cams proved this to be untrue, they changed their stories.  In a news conference Monday, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said that he initially “misspoke” and that the vehicle had begun to drive away at the time the officer opened fire. The teens were already in their car when they saw flashlights and heard gunshots.  They drove for about a block before they noticed that there was smoke coming from Jordan’s head. The driver of the car, Jordan’s older brother, stopped the car, and they flagged down an approaching police cruiser for help. But for young Jordan, it was too late.


Roy Oliver

Officer Oliver was initially placed on desk duty, but on Tuesday evening, Chief Haber told reporters, “After reviewing the findings I have made the decision to terminate Roy Oliver’s employment with the Balch Springs Police Department. My department will continue to be responsive, transparent and accountable.”  Assuming that he stands by that pledge, this case may end differently than the notable cases such as Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and others.

Officer Oliver had a history of trouble during his six years with the department.  In 2013, he was temporarily suspended after the District Attorney’s office filed a complaint about his angry outburst and vulgar language during a trial in which he was testifying.  He was ordered to take training courses in anger management and courtroom demeanor and testimony. Earlier this year, Oliver was reprimanded for being “disrespectful to a civilian on a call.” Not major items, but indicative that perhaps he had issues that made police work a poor career choice for him.

Yesterday afternoon, a judge signed a murder warrant for Oliver, setting bail at $300,000. “The warrant was issued due to evidence that suggested Mr. Oliver intended to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death of an individual,” Melinda Urbina, a public information officer with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement.

Time will tell whether justice will be served this time, as it has not yet been in similar cases.  It is time … time to send a message to all police officers that we will not tolerate racism, that indeed, Black Lives DO Matter.

They met in 1965 and had lived together ever since. For a time, in their youth, they traveled around the country, indulging in their mutual interest in Civil War history, tried their hand at growing apples in Wisconsin, but eventually both went on to become special education teachers, dedicating their lives to kids with special needs.  When they retired some twenty years ago, they decided to move south, to a warmer climate, and settled in Picayune, Mississippi.  In all that time, they never married, until 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples had as much right as anybody to marry.  Their names are Jack Zawadski and Robert (Bob) Huskey.  Mr. Zawadski is now 82, and sadly, Mr. Huskey died last May at age 86.


Robert Huskey (left) and Jack Zawadski (right)

Mr. Huskey had suffered serious heart problems ever since by-pass surgery some years ago. “Jack cared for Bob through his surgery, recovery and as his condition deteriorated. By August, 2015, Jack was helping Bob with all the daily functions of life, including eating, walking and personal hygiene.” Mr. Huskey moved into a nursing home, and last April it became clear that he would soon die.

The couple’s nephew, John Gaspari, made the arrangements ahead of time with Picayune Funeral Home, the only funeral home in the county with an on-site crematory. Mr. Huskey died on May 11th, and the nursing home contacted the funeral home to let them know.  But the funeral home owners refused to pick up the body, saying that once they received the paperwork and realized that his spouse was also a male, they would not pick him up because they don’t “deal with their kind.”  After being together, loving each other, living a good life together for 52 years, then this.

zawadskiMr. Zawadski has filed a lawsuit and is represented by Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights law firm and advocacy organization based in New York. The owners of the funeral home, Ted and Henrietta Brewer, deny that they refused to pick up the body or that they made the comment, but their attorney offers no other explanation.

This story touched a raw nerve, as I have two very dear friends who are married, Bryan and Brian, as it were.  Brian died last October of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and in his last months, Bryan did everything for him, just as Jack did for Bob.  It was heartbreaking when he died, and this story reminded me so much of them that I could not write it without a few tears. R.I.P., Brian … and Bob.

After reading both of these stories last night, I have to ask myself, who are we, as a society?  When did we stop being kind and tolerant of the differences in people, or were we ever kind and tolerant? When and why did we stop valuing people for their individuality? I thought we were better than this. I really want us to be better than this.

Foolish Friday

As I perused this morning’s news stories, a number of things struck me. First, there was Howard Dean’s wild accusation that Donald Trump showed signs of cocaine use on the night of the debate. Just a day or two ago I cautioned a friend about believing or repeating such obvious malarkey. And then there was the story about Congress, specifically good ol’ Mitch McConnell, having second thoughts about overriding President Obama’s veto of JASTA, saying that they “should have been told” of the potential ramifications. The ramifications have been explained to them over and over, so I had to shake my head at that. At any rate, when I began reading blogs by friends and fellow-bloggers this morning, I found this one from blogger-friend Keith Wilson, and it hit multiple nails right on the head with a single hammer. Please take a few moments to read what he has to say, and drop him a comment to share your own thoughts. Thank you, Keith, for some timely reminders!


After an interesting few weeks of the election season and legislative comments, I feel obligated to note some foolish behavior that we need to highlight and cease.

– I recognize that one of the Presidential candidates is quick with demeaning remarks and labels for people who dare criticize him or are good foils, but that does not mean others should do the same with him. Howard Dean said Trump’s sniffles at the debate may have been caused by his being on Cocaine. We do not need that Mr. Dean. I read an entertaining post where commenters used every bad word to describe Trump. That gets us in the mud with him. Set aside all of his remarks and focus on two things – his history and his economic plan for our country. The former tells you all you need to know about how he will operate. The latter is…

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Westboro Strikes at the Scene of Tragedy … AGAIN

I had another post completed and ready to go for this evening, but then this caught my eye:

Westboro Baptist Church Plans to Protest Funerals for Orlando Shooting Victims

Aw, man, say it ain’t so!  But sadly, apparently it is, in fact, ‘so’, as the story is reported in Time, USA Today, The Orlando Sentinal, Washington Post, and others too numerous to name here.

Westboro Baptist ‘Church’ members are, to my way of thinking, the scum of the earth.  Even Christians deny them, saying they are not Christians, but are evil.  They are known only for hatred and more hatred.  Who do they hate?  Everybody, it would seem.  They hate anybody who was ever in the military, they hate LGBT people, they hate Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and the list goes on.

Hating every person in the universe is one thing.  Acting upon that hate is something else altogether.  Let it eat you from within, for it is, after all, your choice, but do not inflict it upon innocent people who, merely by luck of birth or circumstance, happen to be on your hate list!  Westboro members have actively picketed funerals of soldiers killed in action, celebrity funerals, gay funerals, events, etc.  You can read about them for yourselves, as it makes me nauseous and my intent here is not to discuss their filth and hate, but to talk about that which forces us to accept them in this so-called civil society. This much I know.  I have LGBT friends and also family members, and I would inflict serious physical damage to anybody from Westboro who dared to show their face at a funeral of any of them.

It is interesting to note that Westboro members are banned from entering Canada as of 2008, and the UK as of 2009!  Would that we could air-drop them into the middle of a Daesh encampment and ban them from re-entering the U.S.!

So why are we in the U.S. forced to accept these psychopaths disrupting the grieving of families and loved ones after every tragedy?  Why?  We call it the 1st Amendment.  Now those of you who either know me or have followed this blog for a while know that I am a long-time scholar and supporter of the United States Constitution.  As such, I fully support the 1st Amendment.  However, I do not think the framers of this historic document quite had this in mind when they drafted it.

There are a number of interpretational theories regarding the Constitution.  The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a textualist who believed that the constitution should “mean the same thing in 2013 as its writers intended in 1787”.  Justice Hugo Black argued that the First Amendment’s wording in reference to certain civil rights that Congress shall make no law should mean exactly that: no law, no exceptions.  The problem with this line of thinking, of course, is that the world is a far different place today than it was in 1787 and nothing in the framer’s experience could have given them the slightest bit of insight into how the world would evolve, what society would become over 200+ years.  A simplified example:  you set bedtime for your toddler at, say, 8:00 p.m.  That is the rule.  But 15 years later when your toddler is 17, do you still make him/her go to bed at 8:00 because that is the rule?  Probably not, unless you want a mutiny on your hands.  As times change, the rules must also change.  That is one part of the reason we even have Legislative and Judicial branches.

We, as humans, were given some really great gifts … original equipment, if you will.  Among them are the ability to think and apply logic to a variety of situations.  There are currently almost no limitations on the 1st Amendment, as the Supreme Court has been unwilling to restrict the Bill of Rights any more than is absolutely necessary.  I get that, I really do.  However, I also think that when the 1st Amendment rights of a small group (Westboro) deprive a much larger group (all the rest of us) of our 4th and 5th Amendment rights, or even our own 1st Amendment rights, then it is time to draw some boundaries around the 1st Amendment.

Some laws have actually been passed limiting Westboro’s access to funerals, but they are not nearly sufficient, and they cover mainly military funerals.  Indiana, Illinois, Arizona and Michigan have enacted laws that ban protestors from being within 300-500 feet of a funeral, but these are misdemeanors with relatively low penalties and this is only 4 states out of 50!  On a federal level, President George W. Bush signed into law the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act in May 2006 prohibiting protests within 300 feet of the entrance of any cemetery under control of the National Cemetery Administration from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral.  Penalties for violating the act are up to $100,000 in fines and up to one-year imprisonment.  President Obama signed into law another that increased the time frame to 2 hours before and after.  This is better, but note the phrase ‘National Cemetery Administration’.  Military funerals only.  While I am certainly glad that we are protecting military funerals, I do not think it is enough.  The family members of those victims of the Orlando massacre last weekend deserve the same level of protection from harassment as do the family members of fallen soldiers.  Period.  No argument.

There have been a few legal challenges to the Westboro group’s 1st Amendment ‘rights’.  On March 10, 2006, WBC picketed the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder in Westminister, Maryland.  On June 5, 2006, the Snyder family sued both Westboro Church and its members for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The legal battle was long and arduous, passing through the U.S. District Court twice, the Federal Appeals Court, and eventually, in 2010 ending up in the U.S. Supreme Court.  I will not bore you with details, but the ultimate ruling was an 8-1 ruling in favour of Westboro.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion stating: “What Westboro said, in the whole context of how and where it chose to say it, is entitled to ‘special protection’ under the First Amendment and that protection cannot be overcome by a jury finding that the picketing was outrageous.”  Justice Samuel Alito, the lone dissenter, said Snyder wanted only to “bury his son in peace”. Instead, Alito said, the protesters “brutally attacked” Matthew Snyder to attract public attention. “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case,” he said.

Westboro is an abomination, and I include all their members, as well as anybody who would support them in that statement.  There is, however, one bright spot in the Orlando story.  A group of some 200+ people launched a counter-protest, blocking the street in downtown Orlando and preventing the Westboro group from gaining access to the funeral proceedings.  The counter-protest group included bikers, priests, young people, members of the LGBT community and locals carrying signs saying “God is love” and the motto the City Beautiful adopted in response to the massacre, “Orlando strong.”  Yet another group, a line of “angels” clad in white sheets mounted with wings constructed from PVC pipes walked in front of the throng, saying nothing as the crowd cheered. The wings were the idea of the Orlando Shakespeare theater, which outfitted their volunteers with sheets wide enough to block view of the church members.  Just past 11 a.m., the Westboro church members left and retreated toward their vehicles, and the crowd roared. A large contingent of the counter-demonstrators drew in close into a huddle and chanted, “Orlando strong! Orlando strong!”

This was a fairly long post, but when I rant, I do it up right!  Anyway, the moral of this whole thing, as I see it, is that if the Supreme Court feels its hands are tied in cases like these, and if the ‘thinking and humane’ portion of society agree that Westboro is scum that must be stopped, perhaps we take a page from the book of the counter-protestors in Orlando this weekend.  One couple, upon hearing of the counter protest being formed, flew from their home in Pennsylvania to be a part of stopping the Westboro group!  We The People have the power to stop the hatred!  We can first let our representatives in Congress know how strongly we feel about these situations, and when laws fail us, we find other ways, though always within the law and in peace, without violence.  For me, though the headline initially made me see red, I am encouraged to see that there are a lot more good people out there than bad.  I never doubted this, but sometimes we need to be reminded.

A Ranting Post About JERKS!

jimenez.jpgIt has been my experience that people of one ‘minority’ are generally more tolerant of all, but such is not the case with Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, California.  While most in our nation are mourning the murders of 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida last weekend, Jimenez had this to say, “I think that’s great. I think that helps society. You know, I think Orlando, Fla., is a little safer tonight.  The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”  What a JERK!

I knew this would happen.  It was one of the three reactions I predicted as soon as I learned of the tragedy.  The first two, a renewed campaign against the Muslim community and a renewed call for gun legislation, came to pass almost immediately, but I was encouraged that I heard only a few minor remarks against the LGBT community, so I thought perhaps there was a shred of humanity left after all.  And then this JERK shows up on the radar!

“When people die who deserve to die, it is not a tragedy.”

“If we lived in a righteous nation, with a righteous government, then the government should be taking them. There’s no tragedy. I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.”

“These people are predators. They are abusers. They take advantage of people. And look, as Christians, we need to take these stands that it is not our job to sit there and say, oh, this is a tragedy, or oh, this is something we mourn. Look, the Bible paints the picture that these are wicked people. These are evil people.”

And Jimenez, while clearly in the minority, is not alone.  Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona also celebrated the shooting rampage. “The good news is that at least 50 of these pedophiles are not going to be harming children anymore,” Anderson said. “The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle. The other bad news is that this is going to now be used as propaganda not only against Muslims, but also against Christians. I’m not sad about it; I’m not going to cry about it,” Anderson said of the massacre, adding that the victims “were going to die of AIDS and syphilis and whatever else; they were going to die early anyway.”  Yet another JERK!  And how the Sam Heck did he make the leap from gay to pedophile???  There is NO connection!

This is not Anderson’s first episode of public idiocy, which came in 2009 when he told his congregation he hates President Obama and would “pray that he dies and goes to hell,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. A member of the pastor’s congregation then showed up at an Obama appearance armed with an assault rifle and a pistol, according to the SPLC.  See, the real danger comes when a bigot is given a public forum, then their followers, lemmings, if you will, take them seriously.

However, Jimenez and Anderson should not be seen to represent all Christians any more than Omar Mateen should be seen to represent all Muslims.  I cannot stress this enough.  I am not railing against any religion, any ethnicity or any gender identification.  I am railing against bigots and against stupidity.  Actually, those two terms rather go hand-in-hand … for bigots are narrow-minded and basically stupid in my book.

I am encouraged that many church leaders, politicians, and citizens spoke out against Jimenez and his blather.  Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, had this to say about Jimenez, “He is a pastor [only] because he calls himself a pastor.  A pastor who is not accountable is a pastor who can actually facilitate an atmosphere of spiritual corruption. A lack of oversight serves as fodder for theologically erroneous teaching. Why do we legitimize every Tom, Dick or Harry like this? … I condemn his entire presentation.”  There were more strong statements against Jimenez and his babble, but of course a handful, like televangelist Pat Robertson, just had to get their two-cents in, saying “A Christian’s job is to let Muslims and gay people kill each other.”  I am thankful that most Christians do not ascribe to this philosophy, but concerned that this JERK seems to have a huge following!

I am offended by this man, and I would call for his removal from any public venue so that he cannot spew his hate speech beyond the boundaries of those in his family and circle of friends, if he has such a circle.  However, I do not consider him representative of all Hispanics, nor of all Christians. I do not advocate for his murder, as he did for the murder of 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando.  That is the difference between civilized and uncivilized, between humans and monsters, between thinkers and non-thinkers.  Sigh.  Think about it.

No Gays in the Space Colony, says Congressman!


Louis Gohmert

He looks normal enough.  Look at his picture … who would ever guess that behind that benign smile lies the mind of a lunatic?  His name is Louis Gohmert, and he is a Republican, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas.  He has held this office since January, 2005, eleven years.  He is married, has three daughters, and even teaches Sunday school.  Sounds normal, doesn’t he?  Just goes to show that you must never judge a book by its cover, because this man is anything but normal, my friends!

martianPoint in case:  Last week, Mr. Gohmert gave a speech to the House of Representatives stating that in the event of an asteroid colliding with earth, we would need to establish a space colony by putting people in a “space ship that can go, as Matt Damon did in the movie [The Martian], plant a colony somewhere, we can have humans survive this terrible disaster about to befall, if you could decide what 40 people you put on the spacecraft that would save humanity, how many of those would be same-sex couples? You’re wanting to save humankind for posterity, basically a modern-day Noah, you have that ability to be a modern day Noah, you can preserve life. How many same-sex couples would you take from the animal kingdom and from humans to put on a spacecraft to perpetuate humanity and the wildlife kingdom?”


Jonathan Cahn

This, he claims, is justification for LGBT discrimination here on earth, justification for denying any rights to the LGBT community.  He claims that the end of the earth is near, and cites another mentally deficient persona, Jonathan Cahn, a self-professed Rabbi from New York, who claims that God is punishing the U.S. and France for allowing gay marriage, and that the end of the world is near. Of course, Cahn was also the man who predicted a “cataclysmic event in America” to happen on 13 September 2015, and when absolutely nothing of note happened on that day, his only response was that “you can’t put God in a box or He’ll get out of it.”  Right, and if you speak nonsense and talk in circles, nobody will challenge you because they are too busy scratching their heads and trying to figure out exactly what you said!

Mr. Gohmert’s mental unbalance is nothing new, though this space colony thing is certainly his crowning achievement.  In 2010, he put forth the theory that there was an insidious plot afoot involving so called “terror babies.” He claimed he had uncovered a plot involving terrorists sending pregnant women into the US to birth their ‘America-hating children’. The mothers and their kids then return home where, the congressman says, the children “could be raised and coddled as future terrorists”— and later, “twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life.” When interviewed by Anderson Cooper, Cooper asked Mr. Gohmert what proof he had to offer, but since he had, apparently, none, he merely ranted and raved. In 2012, he joined up with Americas #2 bimbo, Michele Bachman, and three others, sending letters to the Inspectors General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the Department of State outlining their “serious national security concerns”, aka “terror babies”.  The group was praised for its inanity by none other than former representative Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Gohmert has won six elections, nearly all by a wide margin of between 70%-90%.  I fail to understand how his obviously delusional character continues to win so much of the popular vote in Texas.  Mr. Gohmert will be running for re-election in November.  Please, good citizens of Texas, give this man a much-needed break so he can seek treatment for his obviously severe mental condition, and get him now and forever out of the federal government!  Another delusional conspiracy-theorist in Congress is not what we need!