Category Archives: Hubert Humphrey

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“To me, if a heterosexual has the right to do it, then I have the right to do it.” — Harvey Fierstein

RIGHTS

Personal to Barack Obama: Well done sir!

It’s about time a president came out in support of gay rights.

The President Comes Out

Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage was a watershed event in LGBTQIA history. It’s like Hubert Humphrey simultaneously electrifying and appalling the 1948 Democratic National Convention with his “bright sunshine” civil rights speech.

Oh hell, here’s the meaty paragraph of Humphrey’s thunderous call for equality for the nation’s blacks:

“To those who say, my friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late! To those who say this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!”

Humphrey Comes Out

Humphrey’s passionate speech is credited with pushing enough fence sitters over to the civil rights side of the argument that had been raging within the party. After black soldiers fought and died for the US in World War II, the call began to go up for equality on the homefront. Black activists, northern urban bosses, and liberals beat the drum for civil rights. Most southern Dems at the time were racist white men to whom the ideas of integration and voting rights for blacks were as horrifying as, well, the idea of two men or two women marrying are today to most Republicans.

Political insiders thought the Dems would never accept a civil rights platform in ’48 but after Humphrey’s heartfelt, courageous plea, the party did.

Humphrey took a huge chance, going up to the dais and arguing the case for dark skinned Americans. He gambled with his political career. He gambled as well with the future of the Democratic Party. The southerners soon thereafter began to drift away from the Dems. Strom Thurmond got so huffy that he cranked up his own party, the short lived Dixiecrats, dedicated to segregation, Jim Crow laws, and those euphemistic “states’ rights.” The “Solid South” eventually  took up permanent residence within the GOP.

Obama’s statement the other day isn’t as dramatic as Humphrey’s was. Still, it’s in the ballpark. A politician — a being traditionally loath to alienating even a sliver of the electorate — steps up and says To hell with it all: I have to say what needs to be said.

Of course, the argument can be made that Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage will alienate no one — those who are sickened by the idea of gay marriage likely wouldn’t have voted for him anyway. And the endorsement now probably will energize his base.

My take is Obama always was in favor of gay marriage all along but was hesitant to say so for fear of teeing off the black Christian community. His advisers probably told him those folks weren’t going to vote for the GOP ticket no matter what he said.

A STAND AGAINST MURDEROUS HATE

So it’s a fortuitous coincidence that I’m in the middle of re-reading Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods.” In it, he describes his attempt to hike the 2000-mile-plus Appalachian Trail.

When he hits the Pennsylvania leg of his journey he mentions a terribly tragic tale of murder on that part of the trail.

I did a little research and now will flesh out the story of Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight. In 1988, the two young women were hiking the AT. They happened to be a couple. A 29-year-old man who essentially lived on the trail encountered them and, apparently suspicious, tailed them. It seems he saw the two exchanging words and gestures that proved they were lesbians. He didn’t care much for the notion; he also carried a .22-caliber rifle.

He Carried A Rifle

Claudia and Rebecca were spooked by the guy but eventually lost sight of him as they hiked. By late afternoon, they’d found a nice clearing in which to set up their camp for the night. They looked around and determined that they were alone. With nightfall approaching, they also figured any other hikers would be setting up camp as well so they believed they had enough privacy to engage in a bit of au naturel lovemaking.

Now, this was a scene that might inspire poets and painters. Certainly Sappho made a name for herself describing such encounters. Who among us, after all, hasn’t fantasized partaking of a “refreshment” (h/t to Mark Twain) in such an edenic setting?

Sappho

What with the gentle breeze, the setting sun, the chirp of birds, the buzz of bees (hopefully far off), and the soft blanket of clover underneath them, Claudia and Rebecca were surely in a state of near-ecstasy when eight shots rang out.

One shot hit Claudia in the arm, another in the face. Three more shots peppered her head and neck. A shot also hit Rebecca in the head; a second entered her back and exploded her liver. One of the shots missed. The two tried to flee but Rebecca’s injuries were far too severe for her to get far. She directed Claudia to go for the police while she lay in the forest. Claudia did everything she could to stanch her partner’s bleeding before she left.

Unnatural Penetration

Claudia stumbled through the woods for four miles and finally reached a road. She tried to flag down a ride but, partially dressed and covered in blood, she apparently freaked out the occupants of the first car that came along and it sped past her. A second car stopped and raced her to the nearest town. The cops dashed off to where Claudia said her mate was waiting. Claudia was taken to the hospital.

While in the hospital, Claudia learned Rebecca had been found dead. The cops also found a knit cap, 25 bullets, and the rifle in a spot 82 feet from where the two women had been making love. The items belonged to a man named Stephen Carr.

Carr was found a week and a half later hiding out in a Mennonite community. He told police he’d come north from Florida, which he left because he was sickened by the sight of men kissing in public there. At his trial, Carr claimed the sight of the two women making love turned him mad with rage. He also claimed to have been raped as a child as well as in prison before the shooting. Carr’s attorney eventually agreed to enter a guilty plea on his behalf in exchange for life without parole.

Brenner wrote a book, “Eight Bullets: One Woman’s Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence.” She went on to become an activist against gay-bashing.

One more thing: Claudia and Rebecca had driven to Pennsylvania for their leisurely hike. They’d parked their car in a lot at Dead Woman Hollow.

The growing acceptance of LGBTQIA people, punctuated by Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, certainly won’t stop lunatics like Stephen Carr from hating queers. But at least they know now that the person in the White House isn’t on their side.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Sunday, May  13, 2012

IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st

IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center Exhibits at various galleries: Angela Hendrix-Petry, Benjamin Pines, Nate Johnson, and Yang Chen; all through May 29th

Trinity Episcopal ChurchArt exhibit, “Creation,” collaborative mosaic tile project; through May 31st

Monroe County Public LibraryArt exhibit, “Muse Whisperings,” water color paintings by residents of Sterling House; through May 31st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

Buskirk-Chumley TheaterCardinal Stage Company presents “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”;  2 & 7pm

IU CinemaFilm, “The Kid with a Bike”; 6:30pm

Bear’s PlaceRyder Film Series, “Keyhole”; 7pm — “444 The Last Day on Earth”; 7:45pm

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“In America, sex is an obsession. In other parts of the world it’s a fact.” — Marlene Dietrich

THE LEAST OF US

Here’s a classic good news/bad news story.

The IDS reports this morning that the homeless are welcome to use Indiana Memorial Union facilities.

The East Lounge at IMU

You know, it’s easy to be magnanimous with people in need as long as they’re cuddly and harmless.

Professional athletes, for instance, are great at this. They’re forever flitting from one children’s hospital to another, signing autographs, bringing game-worn jerseys, and hugging kids made bald by chemotherapy. And, yeah, the poor kids are thrilled to pieces. They grin and swoon. How can anyone with a beating heart not embrace some unfortunate little one who’s dying of cancer?

But what if the needy person stinks or is obnoxious? Things get a little difficult. Take a guy who’s 52 years old and scraggly-bearded, who hasn’t changed clothes or had a full bath in weeks. How quickly is the shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers going to wrap his arms around that guy?

And don’t get me wrong. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in the Monroe County Public Library and have chosen to move from my table when a homeless dude who smells like hell sits across from me. Or when a half dozen homeless folks set up camp at the table next to mine and loudly argue about who’s a better friend of whom.

Suddenly, I’m not a saint.

Not Easy

It’s not easy being a saint. The people who run IMU, though, have made the hard choice and we should salute them.

“We are a very public building and invite everyone into our building,” IMU official Thom Simmons tells the IDS.

That’s the good news. The bad news? Just that there are homeless in this very, very wealthy land.

SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, TAXES, AND GUNS. AND SEX.

Another h/t to my pal R.E. Paris. She messaged me yesterday, pointing out that the Republican Party in some backwoods South Carolina county is demanding its members sign affidavits that they’ve never had pre-marital sex.

“Would You Be My Wife And S&M Submissive?”

Wow!

Oh, and that “Your spouse cannot be a person of the same gender…,” and “You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.”

Do we really need any more evidence that the GOP is obsessed?

ELECTIONEERING

Barack Obama’s White House shocked the bejesus out of Chicago by moving the G-8 Summit from my hometown to Camp David.

The May pow-wow had the potential to be as wrenching an experience as the 1968 Democratic Convention. Obama’s political advisers sure as hell are not going to let their man suffer the same fate the late Hubert Humphrey did.

Law And Order

Mark it — the Obama brain trust is as politically astute as the gang that Bill Clinton assembled 20 years ago.

That c-note I have riding on the Obama reelection looks like a smarter prop every day.

PULP HISTORY

Did you catch the motion filed by Sirhan Sirhan’s lawyers in an attempt to get the RFK assassin out of prison?

Sirhan did not fire the kill shot, they claim.

The Jordanian-born, Palestine-state advocate put a slug in Robert F. Kennedy’s cranium on June 5th, 1968, in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen. Kennedy died the next morning.

Sirhan’s attorneys say, yeah, their boy was on the scene when the gunshots rang out, but he didn’t kill the presidential candidate.

As is the case in all high-profile shootings, conspiracy theories began bouncing off the walls seemingly before Kennedy was even loaded into the ambulance. The most persistent theory has it that a security guard standing behind Kennedy either inadvertently or as part of a plot fired the deadly bullet.

Me? I have little patience for conspiracy theories. Public officials have a hard time filling potholes efficiently and promptly. They usually can’t even agree on what time to break for lunch. So how are they gonna put together an airtight plan to topple the Twin Towers, whack the president, or capture extraterrestrials?

Once in a great while, though, conspiracy wingnuts raise a point that might just pass the sanity muster. For instance, why couldn’t a part-time security guard who was probably trained for all of two and a half hours have accidentally fired his gun in the chaos at in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen?

But Sirhan’s lawyers say the security guard wasn’t the shooter. Someone else was — and their boy was a patsy.

Wrestling With Sirhan

Here’s where they lose me: Sirhan, they insist, was “hypo-programmed” by conspirators. His role was to serve as the fall guy while the real hit men did their thing.

Oy! You know what? A lot of people are gonna buy into this fever dream. Too many folks in this holy land can’t tell the difference between reality and cheap fiction.

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