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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

January 13, 2009


One Week to Go and Bush Still Doesn't Get It

He still thinks he did a good job. President Bush still thinks that his, FEMA's, and the whole federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina was a job well done. The quote that will live in infamy will be this:

"People said, well, the federal response was slow. Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed. Thirty thousand people were pulled off roofs right after the storm moved through. It's a pretty quick response,"
-President Bush, angrily and pointing fingers at a packed White House press room

Did he not see the news? Did he not realize the loss of human life which could have been avoided had real, serious people - people who should have been HIS people - been put in charge of FEMA, the preparation leading up to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath? Was Katrina just another "bad luck" moment in an administration - HIS administration - full of bad luck?

Certainly in HIS - George W. Bush's - thinking, it was.

"I've thought long and hard about Katrina - you know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge. The problem with that and - is that law enforcement would have been pulled away from the mission."
-Bush to the same audience

George W. Bush doesn't even know that he is playing the fool here. It wasn't the landing which America wanted Air Force One to do - we wanted that same guy who stood on the rubble which used to be the World Trade Center and promised that those who did this would hear us. Whether you agree that it was a genuine moment or a contrived photo-op (which it obviously was), we wanted leadership in Katrina's wake.

Instead, we got a photo-op. All we saw was President Bush looking out of an Air Force One window feigning - yes, feigning - concern.

We all remember Bush visiting John McCain at McCain's birthday party as people in and around New Orleans lost their lives. We remember the "festive" pictures of the two men contrasted against images - horrific images - of the New Orleans Superdome, crowded with desperate people with nowhere to go, living with their own feces and without food or clean water.

No, President Bush... the response wasn't good; Brownie did not do a "heck-of-a-job"; and you sucked at yours.

The Army Corp of Engineers told you that the levees weren't strong enough to withstand a storm of Katrina's might. And when the Governor of Louisiana asked for your help PRIOR to when it became clear that the storm was going to hit the Crescent City, you and your staff first said that no help was asked for. Then, when presented with the proof of that request, your answer changed to the excuse that the request didn't appear to be an official one.

Your excuses are lame, President Bush, just like your administration.

And you will be remembered by the numbers: the numbers of lives lost; the trillions of dollars spent; and the number of years it will take us to recover from the past eight.

I've labeled the administration of George W. Bush The Administration of Diminished Responsibility over the past four-plus years, but it's worse than that. They are, in fact, The Administration of Zero Liability. Does George W. Bush and those who helped design his administration's policies bear no responsibility at all for what has happened over these past eight years? Does President Bush still believe that he did a "Good job?

You bet he does.

-Noah Greenberg

Q on the Tube: Best (Queer) Life TV
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2009 PGN, Inc.

It’s easy enough to worship at the altar of Oprah. Who else has the power to turn Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” into a best-seller with her book club, rebuild over 1,000 houses post-Katrina and draw the extra millions of votes that elected the first African-American president?

Yet even though the wealthiest and most influential woman in America asserts she is all about inclusion, watching Oprah’s “Best Life Week” was anything but inclusive for queers.

In recent years Oprah has done a number of excellent shows on LGBT issues, including several on transgender kids which have been ground-breaking. But when it comes to including queers in her world view, that just doesn’t seem to happen. Unless queers are an “issue,” we don’t really exist for Oprah.

It’s an interesting disconnect, because Oprah’s brother was gay and died of AIDS. Oprah herself has been dogged by rumors that she and best friend Gayle King are lovers and that her partner of nearly 20 years, Steadman Graham, is actually a gay man. Why doesn’t Oprah get that being queer is part of the panoply of society and sexuality?

Queers were absent during her “Best Life Week” series. We’re not disputing that straight married women are a major demographic of Oprah’s audience, but featuring these people to the exclusion of anyone else is, well, exclusionary. Queers do watch Oprah.

On the Spirituality 101 episode, two of the spiritual advisors on Oprah’s panel referred to being gay as a gift from God, which made Oprah veritably squeal that she had never heard a minister say that before. (It was not a good squeal.)

The comments were in response to a black gay man from Alabama who said his gayness had made him miserably unhappy. Rev. Ed Bacon, an Episcopal minister and Michael Beckwith, one of Oprah’s regular spiritual gurus, head of the Agape Spiritual Center, said he had to stop feeling that way because as Bacon said, being gay was a gift from God.

After Oprah’s gasping response (God and gay in the same sentence?), Beckwith said he agreed, “so you definitely heard it.” (Beckwith high-fived Bacon.) Beckwith added that since people are born gay, they don’t make the choice to be gay, it has to be a gift from God because God made them gay.

Oprah cut to commercial, but when the panel returned, she reiterated that she was still reeling from that comment. Since there was no further discussion, the implication was clear: Oprah thought the pastors were out of line to make such a pro-gay statement involving God.

This was the one queer moment during the entire “Best Life” week: A superlatively unhappy gay man who was overspending to fill the void and was thus stereotypical. (No one gay can be happy that way.) Then two pastors who seemed to think being gay was perfectly fine. (Anathema.) Then the queen herself getting queasy and stopping the discussion.

Not exactly a pro-gay message, because the ministers were undercut by Oprah herself. Oprah reprised the comment on her Jan. 12 show, and brought Bacon back to expand on his comment.

Bacon said he meant exactly what he said and that gay and lesbian people are wrongly marginalized and made “outcasts in so many areas of life” and that they need to recognize that they are God’s creations.

Oprah’s Sex 101 show, featuring renowned gynecologist and sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman was again an all-hetero event. Although Berman referred obliquely to masturbation, it was in reference to heterosexual sex between couples. All her references to couples were hetero and there was no sense that women could have sex without the involvement of a man. There wasn’t even a mention of bisexual fantasy, let alone lesbianism. Yet every woman featured on the show was anorgasmic–including a woman who had been faking orgasms with her husband for over 20 years. Wouldn’t it have been at least balanced to add in a lesbian or bisexual to give a sense of the range of female sexuality? Or at least delve into the reasons why women–straight or queer–might be unable to achieve orgasm?

When we consider what it means to be fully included in the panoply of straight life and culture, it means having our lives represented fully. We aren’t just the topic du jour, we have real lives that are not just about being queer, but in which being queer is definitely key. Yet how queer lives are generally depicted on non-fictional TV is as “an issue” or “a problem.” There is no sense whatsoever that we are “normal” or “ordinary”–and yet the majority of us are. Oprah did not, for example, have the gay man with spending issues on the money show–she had him on the spirituality show. Why are his spending issues representative a crisis of soul when the spending issues of the heterosexuals on her money show–all way more in debt than he was–just bad with money and filling their own non-sexual void?

Part of “Best Life” TV for queers needs to be a refusal to accept being invisible. When we aren’t included we have to protest. Why weren’t we on Oprah, why aren’t we on Dr. Phil, why aren’t we on talk shows as something other than a social problem? We need to demand our ten percent of the TV landscape. According to Oprah’s “Best Life” scenario, this is something every queer in America should be doing to make our lives better. We could start by telling Oprah she needs to stop leaving us out of her inclusivity equation. (Write to her at Oprah.com.) She needs to listen more to Rev. Bacon and to us.

Send your comments to: NationalView@aol.com

-Noah Greenberg