Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Since the articles have been published, I've received over 35 positive emails. The responses have been amazing to read, and I would love to hear your reaction to the articles. Enjoy.
Why I chose to be gay
When I was four or five years old, I could frequently be found in a dress, playing with Barbies, or watching the television show, Gem. You know, that cartoon where the animated girl with the pink hair had a rock star alter ego? Yes, that’s the one. Even though I knew it’d be over after thirty minutes, I don’t think it ever ended without me shedding a few tears. When I was six, due to my obsession with the movie, The Wizard of Oz, I insisted upon dressing up as the Wicked Witch of the West, complete with green makeup, the black pointy hat, and long fake nails to boot. When I was seven or eight, I told my friends and family that when I grew up, I wanted to be a makeup artist, a hairdresser, or a figure skater. Pretty gay, right?
I know that some of you are already wondering where my parents were through all of this. What kind of parents would let their son act as if he were their daughter? Well, I don’t know what they discussed behind closed doors, but I’m pretty sure that they weren’t exactly thrilled to have a boy whose favorite pastimes include collecting figurines, painting fingernails, and walking around in high heels. If nothing else, I’m sure they were worried about how other children would treat me. To be completely honest, it wasn’t all pink and pretty. My dad would take me camping, fishing, to ball games, and all of the other expected activities for a father and son to participate in. However, I still remember when he took me to the toy store for my birthday one year, and I had the choice between a G.I Joe fort and a Barbie Corvette. I guess I was beginning to pick up on what society considered to be normal, and I selected the fort. When we got in the car, I started crying. I wanted that pink corvette more than anything in the world, and my dad didn’t even have to ask me why I was upset. He held my hand as we walked back in the store and made the exchange.
I want to be clear that not every gay man played with dolls as a child, and not every boy that does turns out to be gay. However, most boys with similar childhood inclinations do not grow up in accepting homes. Many of my friends have told me stories about how they were scolded or even punished for participating in feminine activities even though they were only doing what felt natural to them. Imagine what it must feel like to an innocent child who is made to feel as though something is wrong with them, taught at an early age to put on a show, to be someone that they are not. The damage is different for every individual, but I know firsthand that the side effects never truly disappear.
When I was in the fourth grade, I remember running home crying. Someone at school had called me a “gay wad”. I didn’t really understand what it meant, but I knew from the way that it was said and the way that the other kids laughed, that it wasn’t a compliment. I couldn’t understand it. I was a nice to everyone and always tried to do the right thing. How could I be something so awful?
By sixth grade, my first year in middle school, I knew what being gay meant. I also understood that I was, in fact, what that kid had called me two years before. Because I owned a Bible of my own, I went through and read all of the verses pertaining to homosexuality. It was torturous, and while I would later realize that I had allies in my struggle, I felt alone at the time and forced to hide. I prayed to God every night that year that He would change me…that He would make me normal. I had girlfriends to try and fit in, but my parents had taught me the difference between right and wrong. I knew that lying was wrong, and I began to wonder why it was safer and more acceptable for me to lie to everyone than to just be honest.
Today, as I write this, I am being more honest than I have ever been. While I know that many people won’t be too happy about what I’m about to say, I know it’ll be worth it if this reaches even one person who desperately needs to hear that their sexuality does not make them a good or a bad person.
To this day, there is a war being waged against homosexuality. Whether it’s as extreme as the radical groups who hold up signs that read, “God hates fags,” or well- intentioned friends or family members who uses a variation of the sentence, “I love and accept you, but I don’t support your lifestyle,” the effects are the same. Most people, who don’t approve of homosexuality, believe that it is a choice. While it seems obvious to me that physical attraction is a trait beyond one’s control, others disagree. I have had friends who have been sent to camps and programs to be changed (yes, they do exist) and have come out broken, confused, and still…well, gay. In fact, these types of organizations and counselors who believe in similar methods have done nothing but increase the suicide rate amongst gay teens, which is the highest of any other group.
Even if a man or woman who is attracted to the same sex ignores their desires and lives a life of celibacy, he or she is still gay. While I prayed every night in the sixth grade to wake up and be interested in girls, it never happened. If it happens tomorrow, I promise to retract this article as soon as I regain consciousness and dump my boyfriend.
Why someone would ever choose to be treated as a second-class citizen without the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals, put his/herself at risk of being a victim of a hate crime, or risk being disowned by their own families is beyond my comprehension. So if choosing to not be gay means going to back to the way I felt in sixth grade when I would cry myself to sleep at night because of fear and shame, then yes, I choose to be gay.
Why I chose to be a child of god, by Matthew Esquivel (www.smudailycampus.com)
Curtis Hill told us last Wednesday in The Daily Campus why he chose to be gay. I can relate to his article in many ways because I have struggled with homosexuality. I say "struggle" because I have always believed what the Bible says about homosexual behavior, but I could not deny my thoughts and feelings. I didn't ask God or anyone else for them. I struggled with not knowing what to do about them.
As I have continued growing in my faith as a follower of Jesus Christ, though, God has shown me that my thoughts and feelings do not define who I am. This was hard to accept at first, but I chose to believe God's word over what I thought or felt.
Curtis Hill wrote that one's "sexuality does not make them a bad person." I say that your sexuality does not define who you are. Hill also commented, "To this day, there is a war being waged against homosexuality." I believe there is an even greater war being waged against the identity of this generation. So many are defining themselves by their sexuality, accomplishments, failures, culture or background, appearance or what someone else thinks - the list goes on. None of these define a person. What does define us? Jesus Christ. The word of God.
Romans 1:25-26 says, "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions." What we believe about God and about ourselves directly affects how we behave. If our beliefs stray from God's word, then so will our actions, and we will suffer the consequences. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). I choose life by putting my faith in Jesus, believing his word and following him.
I do not believe that a person chooses to be attracted to men or to women, but I do believe that a person chooses to engage in the behavior. I believe that the term "homosexual" describes what a person does, not who a person is. A liar is someone who lies. A murderer is someone who murderers. An adulterer is one who commits adultery. If someone were to commit these against you or someone you know, would you accept the reasoning of, "I was born this way," or, "This is how God made me"? God did not make anyone a liar, a murderer, an adulterer or a homosexual. He made us in his image, according to his likeness with a purpose and destiny of knowing him, knowing Jesus intimately, and ruling with him in his kingdom (Genesis 1:26, John 17:3). However you were 'born,' Jesus says that "unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). The Apostle Paul writes, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Following Jesus involves us experiencing a changed life and a changed way of thinking and believing.
I invite everyone reading this to turn from everything the Bible calls sin and turn to Jesus Christ. I also invite you to stop defining yourselves with anything but Jesus and his word. Jesus warns us that Satan has come "to steal, kill and destroy," but Jesus came that we might have life "to the fullest measure" (John 10:10). If you are defining who you are by anyone or anything besides Jesus, then you are allowing Satan to rob you of your destiny in Jesus the Messiah and the fullness of life he offers.
I have become more and more secure in who I am as a child of God. This has been a gradual process motorized by daily speaking and believing the Bible. My Christian friends have been essential. They remind me of what God's word says about me: I am a child of God. A friend of Christ. A saint. Redeemed and forgiven. All through - and only through - faith in Jesus Christ. He defines me. Nothing else. There is a war against our identity. I choose to be a child of God through Jesus Christ and experience life in the fullest measure.
Matthew Esquivel is a senior vocal performance major. He can be reached at mesquive@ smu.edu
Why I chose to be gay, Part 2
I had a different idea for what my final article in The Daily Campus before graduation would be about, but I had to scrap it when I read Tuesday's paper. It's not like I didn't think I'd be having this kind of exchange when my article, "Why I chose to be gay," ran last Wednesday, but I guess I just assumed that the hateful statements wouldn't be coming from a vocal performance major. In my deeply personal article, I shared stories of my childhood and the struggle that I went through in coming to terms with my sexuality. I was inspired and humbled by all the e-mails that I received from people who related to my story and thanked me for sharing it. Yesterday, Matthew Esquivel wrote a response to my piece entitled, "Why I chose to be a child of God." He sent me a polite e-mail notifying me of its publication, and I'm glad he did. OK, maybe I'm not so glad that I had to read it, but I'm elated that I get this chance to respond. While I'm sure his article was written from an honest and caring place, it is offensive and out of touch with reality.
To begin, the title alone implies that anyone who identifies as anything but heterosexual is not a child of God. I would like to hope that this isn't the sort of message that any Christian would like to be sending. Whether Matthew Esquivel likes to admit it or not, he is gay. Men who are attracted to men and women who are attracted to women are homosexuals. He may choose to live his life asexually (Lord only knows why), but that cannot change his sexual orientation. His assessment that "the term homosexual describes what a person does, not who a person is," sounds more like an attempt to distance himself from…well, himself, rather than anything based in the truth. I can't blame him though. I would also still be running from homosexuality if I thought of it as he does. The fact that he would find it appropriate to compare the love I have for my partner to the actions of liars, murderers and adulterers is a perfect illustration of what is so incredibly wrong in this world. As a liberal Democrat, I respect the right of all people to express their opinions and beliefs, regardless of how much I disagree with them. And as much as it pains me to think that Matthew Esquivel will go through his entire life ignoring his own natural feelings, I completely respect his right to do so. It's just important to me that people get both sides of an argument and hear that it is possible to both be gay and believe in God. There are many churches, even in our area, that would find Esquivel's statements to be deeply offensive and in opposition to Christian teachings.
One of the e-mails that I received last week came from someone who was still dealing with the scars from being taken to psychiatrists and given medications in their parents' attempt to "fix" them. Another response came from an SMU alum, a fraternity member who spent a large portion of his time in college drinking, trying to cope with the pain that came along with hiding his sexuality. No one deserves to feel that way, and as much as I respect Matthew Esquivel's right to live his life in the manner that he chooses and to share his opinions in the same way that I share mine, I do not respect his message. His message is one of ignorance and is rooted in bigotry.
I am not a liar, a murderer or an adulterer. I am a kind and caring male who happened to fall in love with another kind and caring male. I could choose to never touch him, never hold his hand, hug him or kiss him goodnight. I could choose not to hold him when he's sad or tell him how much I love him, but it wouldn't change the fact that I do. It wouldn't change me, my sexuality or my status as "a child of God." So, much to the disappointment of Matthew Esquivel and anyone else who thinks I should live my life pretending to be something I'm not, I choose a life of authenticity and happiness. I choose to be.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
My weekend in Pennsylvania
The light rail screeches unpleasantly as we turn the corner away from the Baltimore Washington International Airport. The route takes me through downtown, passed smoke stacks and Camden Yards, before reaching my stop in Hunt Valley. I am meeting Frank Pratka, a volunteer whom I have only spoken with on the phone. He offered to drive me to the regional campaign office in York, Pennsylvania, and because I didn’t want to pay for an hour-long cab ride, I figured I’d chance it. The train ride is long and complete with two electrical shorts that cause us to halt unexpectedly, but it gives me a chance to reflect on how and why I’m sitting here right now. Exactly one month has passed since the March 4 Texas Primary, and while I’ve been completely focused on projects, papers and deadlines, I knew that I somehow had to find my way back on the trail. As I look out through the window at the cloudy gray sky hovering above inner city properties, factories, and the occasional display of dilapidated foliage, I know that I am headed for the battleground.
Next stop, Hunt Valley. I call Frank to let him know I’ve arrived. He is there waiting in his orange convertible Volkswagon Beetle, complete with colorful flags and a “celebrate diversity” sticker stuck proudly to his dashboard. I find out later that he took the day off work to drive me to York and volunteer. I like Frank.
Before I know it, we arrive in York City, PA. I am greeted by my friend and Regional Field Director for South Central Pennsylvania, Graeme Joeck, who I first met at a Hillary Clinton rally in Dallas, Tx. I spend the day helping to prepare turf packets for the statewide weekend of canvassing ahead, where along with other volunteers, I will go door to door to talk to voters and identify Clinton supporters. In a world where people barely speak with their neighbors, approaching complete strangers is a little bit uncomfortable at first, but I get used to it. I am accompanied by Nitoy Lopez, a retired electrical engineer and out of state volunteer who believes so much in Clinton that he is getting involved in a campaign for the first time. We split up the neighborhood and head off in separate directions.
Walking around alone down unfamiliar streets can present some unusual challenges, such as realizing that you have to use the restroom. Do I knock on someone’s door and ask to come inside, or do I risk being arrested for indecent exposure with pictures of me in my “I heart Hilary” tee blanketing the Internet? As Democrats tend to do, I find the appropriate solution to the problem.
For some reason, people in many of the houses I visit look outside at someone they don’t know carrying a backpack and a large packet of paper and don’t answer their doors. I wonder why? It’s a little frustrating, but I keep going, hoping for contacts. At one house, a middle-aged man comes to the door in an uncomfortably stained wife beater and boxer shorts. I ask if Patricia is there, the name of the voter on my list, and he informs me that she is sleeping. A yappy little dog at his feet is barking so obnoxiously that I don’t bother trying to speak over the noise, so I offer him a piece of literature on Hillary instead. He opens the screen door to grab it, and the dog takes off. He steps out on the porch beside me and yells in his Texas like accent, “JAGER!!!” The commotion wakes up Patricia, who joins us in her nightgown on the steps, as all three of us trying coaxing the dog out of the street and back inside. Nothing is working. Jager is now turning the corner at the end of the street and the half-naked man is chasing after him, leaving me with the perfect opportunity to ask the angry woman if she is supporting Hillary for President. She is undecided. I apologize profusely for the missing animal situation, and leave her with a bumper sticker and a button to compensate for the loss. I cross the street as the angry man comes back around the corner empty-handed, muttering to himself. The only words I can hear are that one that begins with “f” and Jager. I continue down the street, feeling awful and thinking about how two undecided voters will head the polls on April 22 and remember the Hillary Clinton volunteer who came to their house and lost their beloved pet. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I see the yappy little mutt running in my direction. I call its name and he comes to me. I pick him up and triumphantly return to their doorstep. The arguing I hear inside ceases, as they come to the door in shock and express their appreciation. I hand him over with a smile and exit with a simple but more effective than ever, “Vote for Hillary!”
The rest of the weekend consists more of the same; visits to the campaign office in Gettysburg, canvassing in New Oxford, tallying and recording our progress in the evenings. Over two days, 2,000 doors are knocked in the South Central Region and over 37,000 statewide. I meet interesting and passionate people, listen in on campaign conference calls, leave a bar to avoid drinking in front of the press, and listen to amazing stories from the crazy world of campaigning. A part of me wants to stay.
During the long drive to Reagan airport in D.C, Graeme and I play this game of questions. Among other things, he asks me where I’d be right now if I could choose anywhere in the world. As someone who longs to travel the globe and see new places, I think long and hard. Then, I think about this country, this election, and how much I believe in Hillary Clinton. The answer is simple.
At the hotel, I look out the tenth story window at the city before me. To my left I can see the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, and straight ahead I see the Air Force Memorial. I think of my family. I think of my sister Christy and her husband Chris, who is currently stationed in Korea. It may seem silly to some that I would fly across the country to knock on doors and chase around a yappy little dog in a strange neighborhood, but my window view reminds me why I’m here.
Check out photos from my trip!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
A Note from Dr. Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
This is not the first time you have seen Hillary Clinton seemingly at her wits end, but she has always risen, always risen, much to the dismay of her adversaries and the delight of her friends.
Hillary Clinton will not give up on you and all she asks of you is that you do not give up on her.
There is a world of difference between being a woman and being an old female. If you’re born a girl, grow up, and live long enough, you can become an old female. But, to become a woman is a serious matter. A woman takes responsibility for the time she takes up and the space she occupies.
Hillary Clinton is a woman. She has been there and done that and has still risen. She is in this race for the long haul. She intends to make a difference in our country.
She is the prayer of every woman and man who long for fair play, healthy families, good schools, and a balanced economy.
She declares she wants to see more smiles in the families, more courtesies between men and women, more honesty in the marketplace. Hillary Clinton intends to help our country to what it can become.
She means to rise.
She means to help our country rise. Don’t give up on her, ever.
In fact, if you help her to rise, you will rise with her and help her make this country a wonderful, wonderful place where every man and every woman can live freely without sanctimonious piety, without crippling fear.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Bill Richardson's endorsement and the role of superdelegates
There is no doubt that Bill Richardson’s endorsement is a much needed break for Barack Obama, who has recently been under intense fire for his association with Jeremiah Wright. The real question, however, is whether the assumption of many analysts that Richardson’s decision could influence other superdelegates will turn into a reality. I would argue that the answer is no.
Richardson himself said in February that “superdelegates should vote according to who they represent. If somebody's appointed as a superdelegate because they're Hispanic or a governor, they should pay attention to what their voters and their constituencies are saying.” This sentiment has been shared by the Obama camp as they have repeatedly called on superdelegates not to overturn the will of the voters. Richardson, however, is the governor of New Mexico, a state where Clinton won narrowly and was favored 2-1 by Hispanic voters. His reasoning, that despite his admiration for the Clintons, he doesn’t think it should be “Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton,” may not be enough for his constiuencies to understand his change of heart. Nevertheless, other notable superdelegates have also gone against the will of their states including John Kerry, who also endorsed Obama despite Clinton’s 13 point win in Massachusettes.
So what’s the big deal, you ask? Well, I don’t think there is one, and I’m not complaining. Richardson has every right to support the candidate of his choice. Superdelegates are supposed to exercise their best judgment in regard to the nation and the democratic party, and that is why this race is far from over. Though she is likely to end up behind in pledged delegates, there is a chance that Clinton could end up leading in the popular vote when the last of the 10 remaining contests is over. She will use that statistic, along with her advantage in the larger swing states to make her case to the superdelegates. If they buy it, she wins. If they don’t, she doesn’t. While the rules have caused a lot of uproar, they are what they are, and either way it’s a fair game.
To say that Richardson’s endorsement hasn’t already helped Obama would be false. As a long time friend of the Clintons and a former UN Ambassador under President Clinton, his endorsement is definitely a valuable prize for Obama. However, his repeated pressuring of Clinton to drop out of the race shows how political his motivations truly are, especially given the will of his own state.
It also brings attention to the fact that supporters of both sides are trying to spin this close race in favor of their personal favorite. While I support Hillary Clinton, I’m not going to pretend that she is winning. It’s definitely an uphill battle, but it’s not an impossible one. She was counted out before New Hampshire. She was counted out before Texas and Ohio, and now she’s being counted out again. All I’m saying and all that I think is necessary to agree upon, is that the race ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
When that day comes, I will support the nominee, and I have faith that other Democrats will do the same. I reject the belief that the Democratic Party will not be unified when our candidate is finally chosen, regardless of how difficult that may seem now. While the back and forth is exhausting and attacks have become increasing negative, there is too much at stake to lose in November. I’m confident that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will do what is necessary to heal the wounds and win back the White House: they will join together on the same ticket. If the party is as divided as the race is close, a joint ticket may be the only way to appease both sides. While it may seem like a dream right now, Clinton and Obama haven’t made it this far in the battle to risk losing the war.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I wake up and walk into the living room to find my black lab, Chance, sleeping on the couch. He is not supposed to be on the couch. He knows he’s not supposed to be on the couch. He rolls over, yawns, and looks at me with those big brown eyes so unapologetically that I could strangle him, but I believe in forgiveness. I grab his leash and take him outside. In my slightly hungover morning daze, I manage to step in great big pile of dog shit. The apartment complex provides outdoor stands with bags to dispose of animal waste, but I guess some people are too busy to bother. I could shoot them, but I believe in forgiveness. I leave my feces-caked shoes on the porch and come inside to make breakfast. There are bread crumbs surrounding the toaster and two small jelly stained circles on the countertop of the kitchen that I spent two hours deep cleaning yesterday. I follow the trail to my roommate’s room and stand outside the door. Should I knock and then bitch or just yell from outside? I weigh my options, but I walk away. I believe in forgiveness. I get ready for the day, get into my car, and head for school. Like always, I take the Keller Springs Dallas North Tollway entrance. The person directly in front of me seems to have parked their Hummer, complete with one of those awesome W stickers, at the tollbooth. Apparently, despite the Bush taxcuts for the wealthiest Americans, this shithead is having trouble finding quarters. I could start honking so obnoxiously that I give the guy an anxiety attack or flip him off for kicks…but I don’t. I believe in forgiveness. I turn on the radio to KRLD News Radio 1080. It’s not my station of choice, but I had been listening for a weather and traffic update the night before. The Ernie and Jay Mid-day program is on, and before I can change the channel, I hear them comparing Hillary Clinton’s laugh to the cackle of the Wicked Witch of the West. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how the sound of someone’s laughter is more worthy of discussion than the capability of the presidential candidates to inflict positive changes upon our country. I pick up my cell phone and dial in immediately. To my personal gratification, I get through right away. I am put on hold during a commercial break and use the time to plan my vicious attack, but when they welcome me to the show, I speak my mind in a mild tone and thank them for their time. I believe in forgiveness.
At some point during the day, someone will look at me funny or say something derogatory about my sexuality, my big hair, or my annoying laugh. At some point in the days to come, somebody I care about will hurt me, someone I trust will betray me, and someone I love will make me cry. And yet I know, that because we are all equally human and equally flawed, I will at some point do these same things to others.
I will forget to pick up Chance’s crap, I will spill jelly on the counter, and I will be the person holding up traffic at the tollbooth. I will write an article that I think is amazing but makes somebody throw up in their mouth. I will hurt someone I care about, betray someone’s trust, and make somebody cry. I’ll just cross my fingers and hope that all the people I piss off in this lifetime, share this one belief. I believe in forgiveness.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Spring Break in a Blue State
Disclaimer: Texans, you have no reason to send me angry emails after reading this article. I may have been born a yankee, but I’ve spent about 16 of my 23 years on Texas soil and am truly proud of my red state roots. Okay, well maybe “proud” isn’t the best word to describe the full extent of my feelings, but I swear I ain’t tryin’ to hate, ya’ll!
It’s amazing how fast a four-hour flight can seem when you’ve knocked down a few stiff drinks. I owe a big thank you, by the way, to our lovely waitress at Cantino Laredo in DFW’s Terminal D, who so kindly recommended the extra shots of Patron. Before I knew it, we were arriving in San Francisco, one of the most unapologetically liberal cities in the United States.
While there are many obvious differences between Dallas and San Francisco, such as the geography and variances in ethnic composition, I made a point during my vacation to be cognizant of the little things that differentiate these two famous American cities. Frankly, the big picture is pretty clear. When the presidential election results pour in next November, it shouldn’t take too long for Texas to turn red and for California, despite the disapproval of Governor Schwarzenegger, to turn blue on the map. But why? Evidence providing reasons for this inevitable occurrence were all around me, even before leaving the airport. The following report contains five excerpts from the journal that I carried on my trip.
Clue #1- San Francisco International Airport bathroom. I reach for a towel to dry my hands. A sign in an extremely large font instructs me to take “only what I need,” in order to “conserve resources.” I smile at the green gesture and in an attempt to avoid being outdone, proudly wipe my wet hands on my jeans and exit the restroom. What harm is there in a friendly reminder to avoid wasteful consumption? The airport saves money on supplies, and the earth saves trees. Beautiful.
Clue #2- Asia SF, Restaurant and Gender Illusionist Show- The bill arrives at our table and it’s not as bad as we thought. As expected, there is a blank space available to tip the beautiful “ladies” of Asia SF, but there is another charge that I’ve never seen before. A 4% fee is automatically added to the tab, helping to cover the cost of a San Francisco city ordinance mandating that businesses provide health care coverage for all of their employees. On a $120 bill, the charge comes to $4.80. What a small price to pay for such an important step towards providing a basic human necessity to all Americans!
Clue #3- Driving through Sonoma- There is a banner hung from a property that reads, “Honk for George W. Bush in Prison!” Okay, so maybe there’s no real, universal justification for this, but I laugh…and honk.
Clue #4- Highway 101-For the first time in my life, I see more Smart cars and Hybrids on the road than pickup trucks and Hummers. The passenger count isn’t much different, but for some reason, California drivers do not feel the need to operate army tanks. What a concept!
Clue #5- Margaret Cho at The Warfield Theatre- Standing outside in line, I watch a drug deal go down in plain sight. I’m not sure if the participants feel like the two lesbians running by in wedding dresses are enough to distract nearby police officers or if they are just too high to care. Either way, I am utterly fascinated.
As you can infer from the previous paragraph, there are going to be negatives to living in any city or state, red or blue. What’s most important, from my perspective, is that you find the place in this world that you love the most, whether you fit in or not. For me, visiting San Francisco was a reminder there at there are like-minded people out there, and it was quite refreshing. It very well could have been a side of effect of the perpetual smell of 420 wafting through the city streets, but life just seemed a little easier and a lot more carefree in San Francisco than in Dallas. And while being an unapologetically liberal student at the future home of the Bush Library has its interesting moments, getting lost in the crowd was a wonderful change of pace.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Even though my part was small, I can't even express in words how gratifying it feels to have been part of Hillary Clinton's March 4 victory in Texas. I know this post is a little late, but since Tuesday I've been trying to save my ass from failing six classes that I've neglected for the past few weeks. It's been such a whirlwind that I haven't even really grasped until now just how quickly you can transition from being a die-hard supporter to being completely wrapped up in working on the ground as a volunteer.
After working to sign up volunteers and manage crowds at an early vote rally with Bill Clinton at Grauwyler Park and Hillary Clinton's Fair Park Rally, sending countless emails, making signs and hours of phone calls as a precinct captain, helping a good friend of Chelsea Clinton organize an event with Rob Reiner at SMU, serving as temporary chair and permanent secretary of my precinct convention, and celebrating with Dallas staffers and volunteers at Metro Grill as the returns came in on Saturday night, I can honestly say that exhaustion has never felt so rewarding. Every step of the experience was an honor because I have never believed so strongly in any candidate.
I met some great people, had some great times, and wish I could quit school and fly to Pennsylvania to do it all over again. Here are a few pics of my adventures:
Unfortunately, Ina was not the only person without a way of getting to the precinct convention. Over the past few weeks, I spoke with many elderly voters with health conditions that made it extremely difficult for them to get out and vote once, let alone twice. In addition, the locations where the precinct conventions were held presented even more challenges for those who actually came. Earlier in the day I had visited my polling location and spoken with the Election Judge. I expressed my concern that there was not enough seating to accommodate voters with conditions that make standing for long periods of time a difficult task. He gave me the number of the property management. I spoke with two people who didn’t have an answer for me and finally left a message that was never returned.
Ina and I arrived at the polling location at 6:30. I was approached by the election judge who informed me that the Precinct Chairman was not going to be able to attend. He needed someone to run the caucus, and despite my complete lack of experience, I accepted the duties as temporary chair. At 7:00 I was handed a packet of materials. I had 15 minutes to review the process before the convention was called to order at 7:15. Getting everyone signed in was complete and utter chaos. The packet contained only two sign-in sheets with a total of 40 spaces for names. 195 people were present. I made sure that supporters of both Clinton and Obama were involved in monitoring the process and verifying that voters were eligible. Signing in was slow and tedious and many people became frustrated and angry, but we did the best we could with the resources we were given. In the end, I believe our results were fair and accurate; however, as confident as I may be in my own abilities, there is no freakin’ way that I, or anyone else without official training, should be in charge of something so significant. Period.
Later that night, I joined up with the Clinton staff to watch the returns come in, and I quickly realized that the problems at my convention were nothing compared to others. From stories of sign-in sheets being passed around without supervision and individuals signing in multiple times, to caucuses being held outside with over 900 people, almost every person there had a horror story to tell. I have no doubt accusations from both sides concerning voter intimidation, broken rules, and inconsistencies in results will continue to pour in throughout the state in the days to come.
The system in Texas needs to change. Even if there had been qualified election workers managing and overseeing the process and minimizing the unbelievably large room for error, it wouldn’t change the fact that the process silences certain groups of voters. It is un-Democratic and un-American that elderly, sick, disabled, or evening shift workers who are unable to attend the convention don’t get the full representation of their votes.
The good news is that many people found a way to the polls despite the obstacles. When the convention was over and I felt like I could collapse from exhaustion, Ina was ready to celebrate. As we drank our margaritas, we talked about how amazing it was to see so many Democrats in Texas standing up for their candidate of choice and getting involved in the process. I just wish that every single person had that same opportunity.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I woke up in high spirits on Sunday, put on my “I heart Hillary” tee, and set out on a mission to change the world. I arrived at the Dallas Headquarters for the Hillary Clinton campaign at around noon. It was a little hectic due to an early vote rally with President Bill Clinton which had taken place that morning in Arlington, but I was eventually shuffled to the appropriate person. After expressing my desire to help out with the campaign, I was given a briefing on how to be a precinct captain and discussed options for reaching out to the SMU community. I agreed to do what I could, and I intended to follow through with my promise.
After hearing about emails circulating to student leaders recruiting volunteers for Barack Obama, it dawned on me that I could use the school email system to do the same. I developed a very short, generic message about why I am voting for Hillary, asking those who felt the same to email me with “questions about the process or if you are interested in becoming a precinct captain or volunteering.” I figured that if I got any replies from students, I could help them get in touch with the appropriate person or possibly form a student group on campus to help “get out the vote” on March 4. I used the SMU email directory to quickly send out hundreds of messages simultaneously. I knew that many students would ignore or even disapprove of the email, but I thought that if I even got a few positive responses, that it would be worth it. I still believe in that calculation, but I was not expecting what happened next.
It took about five minutes before angry faculty members were writing me emails, chastising me for being “out of line” in using the directory to send out “spam” to “influence voters”. I didn’t realize that when I searched for addresses under “display name”, that I was targeting SMU staff, professors, and deans. Realizing my mistake, I quickly sent out an apology that explained that I didn’t really believe that people would change their minds after reading my short message and that I was just trying to organize volunteers for Hillary’s campaign. I recognized that I probably didn’t use the appropriate forum for doing so and regretted any inconvenience I may have caused.
To make the matter even worse, many people hit “reply to all” in asking to be “removed from the list.” In a matter of hours, I had caused email boxes all across campus to be filled with junk. My political zealousness had momentarily clouded my judgment, and I was a little embarrassed. But after my initial feelings subsided, I was mostly shocked that certain professors and university employees had such rude things to say to a student who was only trying to get others involved in the political process.
I’m not going to mention any names here for obvious reasons, but I think it’s important to include some direct quotations. I am disappointed that an employee of our school felt it necessary to call me “stupid” for my actions and that “I must be related to Hillary” for supposedly trying to “lie my way out” of the situation. It is even more disturbing to me, that the most hateful emails, four to be specific, came from individuals affiliated with the Perkins School of Theology. I understand that they may not consider Hillary Clinton to be representative of their political ideals, but the condescending tone was uncalled for. One person in particular wrote that, “This is a university, meaning that smart people work here” and that “as a senior at a minimum here you ought to have learned how to think.” I would think that as a faculty member at a minimum here he ought to have learned how to address a student in an appropriate manner.
Despite blatant attempts to discourage me, the negativity has only increased my motivation. I have never felt more strongly for a candidate, and I plan on doing everything in my power to make sure that Texas gives Hillary Clinton the comeback she deserves. In all fairness, however, I have to include a response I got from a member of the Math Department. “Curtis, don't apologize or feel bad. I get all kinds of email every day. From junk about Viagra sales…to notices about events on campus that I am not even remotely interested in. Political activism seems like a much more appropriate way of using email than any of these. Please don't let anyone intimidate you. Stay active. If people were angry, screw 'em. And by the way, I'm not saying this because I'm a Clinton partisan. I'm voting for Obama.”
Monday, February 18, 2008
“If you’re going to be talking about the value of words, the words ought to be your own,” said Wolfson."
I agree...what do you think?
Breaking up with the President
It’s hard for me to believe that four years have gone by since the last presidential primary in Texas. While the day itself was largely uneventful, 2004 was a difficult time for me. It was my freshman year in college, my mom and sister had recently moved to Chicago, and I was in a serious relationship with a Republican. Don’t ask me what I was thinking.
In my infinite wisdom as an undergraduate senior, I can now offer the following advice: Don’t spend four years of your life with someone you wouldn’t vote for.
Life in suburbia was bland, but I found joy in the daily task of pulling my John Kerry yard sign out of the dirt and placing it back in front of the Bush one, where it belonged. The kitchen table hosted our dinnertime debates, but without a moderator, things frequently got ugly. Out of both patriotism and spite, I decided to volunteer for the Collin County Democratic Party as an election clerk in the 2004 primary. I was the only worker under 70, but I was proud to be a part of what I thought would be a new beginning for America; an America without George W. Bush as President. I was wrong.
I woke up early on the day of the election and drove proudly to my local polling place. I stood in line quietly (for once), knowing that I was largely outnumbered by a bunch of impatient people on their way to hunt. I closed my eyes and prayed that Wylie, Texas wasn’t representative of the national electorate.
It was just about two years after that day before I finally realized that I wasn’t with the right person. I got tired of living with a Republican, and I left. Yes, I’m kidding.
Party preference ultimately had little to do with my failed relationship. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye after four long years, but I knew and still believe that it was the right decision for the both of us.
I also know I made the right decision when I voted for John Kerry, but I wish for America’s sake that there wasn’t so much evidence to prove it. I also wish I could just call Bush up on behalf of America and end our relationship. With about 335 days to go, I would say whatever necessary to get him out of there early. “It’s not you, George, it’s me. I still love you, really I do…I just need time.” Yuck.
Maybe what I’m trying to say could best be summed up in a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. “Many people will walk in and out of your life,” and blah, blah, blah. Never mind. This says it better: People come and people go, but you could be stuck with a bad President for eight years.
This time around, you wont find me checking in voters and passing out stickers, but I will be in line. March 4 is being labeled as the second Super Tuesday, and most political analysts agree that it’s do or die for Hillary Clinton. The race is tight here with a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll showing Clinton and Obama in a statistical tie in Texas.
A lot more has changed in my own life than in the U.S. over the past four years. When I wake up on November 4, 2008, and drive proudly to my local polling place, I’ll still be voting in a red state. I wont have to go home and argue about the morality of stem cell research or run outside to switch the yard signs, but the country will still be at war. As much as I’d love a convincing Democratic victory on the day of the general election, it’s probably going to be a close race and a hard fought battle. This time, however, I won’t be wrong in predicting a new beginning for America; an America without George W. Bush as President. And that, my friends, is something to celebrate.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
It is hard for me not to be pleased when contributions for both Clinton and Obama substantially exceed that of any Republican candidate, but the excessive attention recently given to campaign fundraising has given me pause. While many, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, have expressed concern over the possibility of an undecided race heading into the convention, I think that America deserves as long as it needs to choose its future President. On the other hand, I think the focus needs to be on policy, rather than a back and forth contest of who has been able to raise the most money.
As someone who looks forward to a debate like a playoff game, I was disappointed to hear that Obama only agreed to one of Clinton's weekly challenges in February, stating that “it is very important for me to actually reach voters, something that may be less important for Sen. Clinton to do because she is better-known in many parts of the country." The Los Angeles debate, which “actually” reached an estimated 8.3 million viewers, has been the only chance for voters to draw distinctions between the two front-runners since John Edwards exited the contest.
Political advertising is about to blanket Texas in an effort to get out the vote on March fourth. Leading up to Super Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama and Clinton were dishing out an estimated two million dollars per week on television advertising. It’s hard for me to imagine that thirty seconds of cheese; smiling faces, handshakes, and broad generalizations can tip the scale for an undecided voter, but it’s probably safe to assume, given expenditure reports, that there is significant evidence available that substantiates its power.
While the incessant coverage of fundraising in the media has been frustrating to me personally, I know that there are a lot of reasons to be thankful for it. It gives me hope that in an unstable economy, there have been hundreds of thousands of new contributors for both candidates; individuals who want so badly to see America head in a new direction that they are willing to give away their own hard earned money. I guess that it’s just hard for me to watch so much of their sacrifice be spent on commercials.
While I think that there is very little that can be learned from the man, Mitt Romney’s decision to end his Presidential race reminded me of something. Votes cannot be purchased. Despite contributing over 35 million dollars to his own campaign and outspending all of his competitors, Mitt Romney simply could not convince Republicans to support him. He ended his Presidential bid at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, and I somehow managed to make it through his entire speech without changing the channel. I watched as he passed his moral judgment, citing terms like “activist judges” in his call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, referencing percentages of children born out-of-wedlock in claiming that our nation cannot stand “when its children are raised without fathers in the home”, and saying that Europe’s “weakened faith in the Creator” has created a “demographic disaster.” He compared welfare programs to “poison” and used fear tactics in describing a vote for Clinton or Obama as a “surrender to terror” and an end to the war in Iraq as a declaration of defeat. As his long list of reasons as to why I am voting for the Democratic nominee in November of 2008 came to a close, I smiled at the realization of something that recent reports and media coverage had led me to question. Despite it’s undeniable importance, money isn’t everything.
Monday, February 4, 2008
In other news, contrary to my previous post, Clinton and Obama struck a completely different tone in the last debate. In fact, they were OVERLY cordial to one another. I have no doubt that if Clinton gets the nomination, she will ask Obama to run with her. Clinton Obama '08 IS a Democratic dream ticket...for a lot of reasons that I might examine more closely if tomorrow still allows for such speculation. Take a look:
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Here's a reminder to get you in the mood:
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
While analysts are still questioning McCain’s ability to win over the Republican base, there’s no doubt that the momentum is behind him going into Super Tuesday’s 22 contests. With all of the excitement surrounding McCain’s recent ascent into front-runner status, it is easy to forget that just one month ago his name was barely being mentioned, and five months ago he was scoring his lowest polling numbers since announcing his candidacy in February, 2007. The rapid pace of McCain’s emergence is even more likely to be overlooked because dramatic highs and lows are nothing new in the race for the Republican nomination.
In an August USA Today/Gallup Poll, Rudy Giuliani had the support of 34 percent of likely Republican voters, but his popularity never transcended to the party’s base who strongly disapproved of his liberal positions on social issues. He is expected to endorse McCain when he officially drops out of the race on Wednesday. McCain now finds himself in the same predicament as Giuliani, but for different reasons. How can he gain the support of the Republican base when he has had such a long history of pissing them off?
His work with Ted Kennedy on immigration reform has received the most criticism, because among other measures, it provided a path to legalization. He was one of only two Republican senators to vote against the “Bush tax-cuts” in 2001, and despite his pro-life voting record, has been quoted in the past as saying that he would not support a repeal of Roe v. Wade. His status as a political “maverick” has frequently been the source of conversation. In 2001, rumors surfaced that he was considering leaving the Republican Party, and in 2004 it was speculated that he would be John Kerry’s running mate. Both claims were denied by the McCain camp, but his negative perception amongst conservatives has continued.
The good news for McCain is that his Republican opposition is out of time. Fred Thompson dropped out of the race earlier this month, and Mike Huckabee, who came from no where to win the Iowa caucuses, has been falling in the polls after his highly criticized comments on Pakistan caused a senior aide in his own campaign to admit that he had “no foreign policy credentials”. Despite his pledge to go “all nine-innings”, most pundits are considering this to now be a two-person race between McCain and Mitt Romney, who in my opinion, has never been a serious contender. In fact, Romney has never exceeded 14 percent of Republican support in Gallup Polls, although he could benefit if Huckabee were to drop out of the race.
So what do all of these seesawing numbers mean for the Republican Party?
With record Democratic turnout in all of the early races and Bush ratings at an all-time low, things aren’t looking good, to say the least. The Republican Party is divided, and McCain’s reentrance into the spotlight seems like an afterthought. While there is no doubt he has the most extensive resume of all the Republican nominees, he is often characterized by his age, boring speeches, a quick temper and the occasional racially charged remark. His has capitalized off of his support of the troop surge in Iraq, but the majority of the country still views the war unfavorably. While Republican hatred of Hillary Clinton is no secret, McCain is having trouble convincing his own party that he represents their values. If the general election becomes a question of whether conservatives dislike Clinton enough to go out and vote for someone else they don’t like, they better get used to the phrase, Madame President.
Monday, January 28, 2008
2. My piece below on the media's coverage of race in the campaign is being published tomorrow by SMU's Daily Campus. Here's link to the online page: http://media.www.smudailycampus.com/media/storage/paper949/news/2008/01/29/Opinion/Obama.Wins.In.S.c.But.America.Is.Losing-3173123.shtml
3. Someone enlighten me as to why Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama has been on the news ALL day and The New York Times endorsement of Hillary Clinton got about 5 minutes of coverage, at best.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Barack Obama wins in South Carolina, but America is losing- and here's why:
I am writing tonight out of pure frustration, not because I am a Hillary Clinton supporter and Barack Obama just won a primary that he was expected to win, but because of the exhaustive media attention that's been given to race. Not the presidential race which is what we should really be focusing on, but the ethnicity of the candidates. I watched over two hours of election coverage tonight and 80% or more of what was discussed revolved around which racial segments of the population are supporting which candidate and how much of that support is contingent upon the ethnicity of their chosen candidate. It left me asking one question; Seriously?
Now, I fully realize that it would be irresponsible to ignore the aspects of race and also gender, especially when discussing a party whose base is rooted in support of minorities. However, there is a point, and we have gone far beyond this point, at which the way that the media is framing this discussion actually pushes us backward. This is an extraordinary time in American history; not just African American history or the history of the feminist movement. It is increasingly likely that the first African American or the first woman will be taking the village idiot’s place as President of the United States in 2008.
So why is the media insisting upon using this unprecedented step toward full equality as a source of division? I can't figure it out. Both during a recent debate and out on the trail, Obama and Clinton agreed to leave the topic of race behind completely, since it is the Democratic Party that has consistently stood up for minority rights, the fight to end poverty, and focused their efforts on improving the middle class and giving those want to achieve that status the opportunity to do so. Yet for some reason the media can't seem to understand that the American public is tired of the press holding a magnifying glass over something that does not address any of the major problems facing the United States. For several primaries now, the economy has been the issue that Democratic voters have cited as the most important in exit polls, with health care and the war in Iraq coming in second and third. RACE is not even on the list, so why is it being given so much attention?
I think it comes down to the fact that on achieving universal health care, ending the war in Iraq, stimulating the economy by eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, creating blue and green collar jobs, listening to science (before it's the popular thing to do) like with global warming and stem cell research, providing benefits to same sex couples, reducing dependence on foreign oil and funding environmental programs, and so much more, the difference between the leading democratic candidates is very small. Agreements on policy issues are obviously not newsworthy enough or we'd be hearing more about them rather than this incessant focus on stigmas that this election proves we have achieved substantial gains in overcoming; racism and sexism.
Of course both still exist and the battles are not over. I am in no way trying to make light of these struggles. Women still make around 77 cents to the dollar compared to men and it's even less for black women. But what good does it do to put labels on the candidates? I think their physical appearances say enough on their own.
The truth is that male and female Democrats of all races are extremely pleased with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama overall. Yes, this race is a fight, but it is a fight that will ultimately lead to a better America. I, and I’m sure Obama fans would agree, am glad that they are putting everything on the line. So much is at stake, and we can all sense the magnitude of this election. We may disagree on who we think is most qualified and most likely to create the changes that we all want, but supporters of both Clinton and Obama share the same desires....and it appears as though the prospect of true change is resonating with the American people as well.
Record turn out in all the early primaries indicates that the momentum going into the general election is with the Democrats. In fact, both Clinton and Obama lead in national polls when placed up against any of the leading Republican candidates.
It is undeniable that when faced with a hard decision-picking from two highly qualified, viable candidates with very different but equally notable strengths, that race and gender will play a role, but is time for the media to take the responsible step and stop forcing this mostly hypothetical rhetoric down the throats of voters. There may have been divides prior to all the news coverage, but they are widening by the second, and I, for one, have had enough of it. It is insulting to me as a as a Democrat and as an American, and it is a huge leap in the wrong direction for our country.
This is SO interesting and has not been getting adequate press coverage. On January 24, 2008 at MSNBC's Republican Debate in Florida, something very peculiar occured. Immediately following moderator, Tim Russer's question addressed to Mitt Romney, you can hear someone whisper, "he raised taxes." MSNBC claims that it was an open mic problem, but NOBODY knows who did the whispering! Even more interesting is the second video from another point during the debate where, if you listen closely, you can hear a similar voice whisper the word, "support". Romney immediately adjusts his wording to include the word "support". These videos are not fabricated. So, who is doing the whispering and why? More importantly, why would Romney react to a random whisper without hesitation? Wouldn't it freak you out if during a two hour debate, someone suddenly whispers something directly before or during your answer?