C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I'm Watching: The Anatomy of a New Yorker Cartoon

New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff explains what works, what doesn't work, and why:

Mankoff's eleven favorite cartoons are here.

If you're in the mood for more, here's a slideshow of readers' favorites to enjoy.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Two Gay Weddings: 1971 and 2013

Oh my, what changes have happened in your Head Trucker's lifetime. A few weeks ago, I posted a clip of an interview with Jack Baker and Michael McConnell of Minneapolis, who after being married in that state - under false pretenses, it must be said - took their case all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, and lost. 

Now a clip has surfaced of their actual wedding, and the kiss they sealed it with - totally shocking to straight America by the standards of the time. WCCO in Minneapolis reports:

The narrator says the couple doesn't plan to get married after Minnesota joins the ranks of same-sex marriage states on August 1, because "they already are" married. But I hope they think twice about that complacent attitude: the courts already ruled their marriage invalid - and when only one is left, he will have a hard time collecting social security and other benefits on his husband if their marriage isn't all sewed up, nice and proper.

But now compare the tiny, rather closeted affair that was with the wedding of Dwayne Beebe and Jonathan Franqui in Pensacola, Florida, on March 30 of this year: presided over by a U. S. Navy chaplain, no less, and held in the community center complex of the historic district there, complete with a jazz band march down the street from the church to the reception.

Jonathan & Dwayne | A story about love. from Celia Hilton on Vimeo.

Your Head Trucker marvels at how they found so many chunky chicks to play bridesmaids in bedsheets strapless minidresses, but he does like the rainbow color theme. All in a all, a very joyous and very public celebration of two men's commitment, unthinkable in 1971 - but what a wonderful development, we need many more like this, all over the country.

The couple were legally married in Maryland on January 1, but waited to have the big ceremony and celebration with friends and family in Pensacola, where Dwayne, a naval petty officer, was stationed. The marriage is not recognized in Florida, or in Dwayne's new posting in Tennessee, but it does give them access to all federal and military benefits.

Marriage News Watch, 7/29/13

Ya know, fellas, if I were going to be on TV, the least I would do is wear a pressed shirt, and show some respect for my job and for my viewers; but I suppose that's just too much to ask in this don't-give-a-damn modern age. The cute but always sloppily dressed Matt Baume reports:

Monday, July 29, 2013

What I'm Watching: If Walls Could Talk

It's not every day that there's something newsworthy to report here on the Blue Truck, or something I want to write about.  So it occurs to me that some few of my readers might enjoy watching some of the videos I pass the time with here - nearly all of them factual history stuff or biographies.  So this might be the start of a regular feature, or not, but it may give you some insight into your Head Trucker's mind - which could be a little scary, I don't know.

First up, here's a fascinating look at the history and development of something we all can relate to:  the ordinary family home.  It's written and narrated by Dr. Lucy Worsley, Curator of Historic Royal Palaces (yes, those royal palaces) in London, and she does a lively, sometimes irreverent job of walking us through the centuries.  See what you think.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Drive: Poor Butterfly

This tune was just in my head this morning for some reason; here's a sinuous rendition by the great Sarah Vaughan:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: Maurice

Steve Hayes reviews the 1987 gay romance:
James Wilby, Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves turn in subtle and brilliant performances in Merchant Ivory's adaptation of E. M. Forester's romantic gay love story, Maurice. Published after Forester's death and hidden for decades, it concerns the romance of a two young men at Cambridge at the turn of the century, what their love affair costs them and how they manage to find peace and happiness in a society which forbids, admonishes, and punishes them for their inclinations. Gloriously photographed, meticulously directed, and exceptionally cast, it is one of the greatest and most honest love stories ever filmed.

What I Say: Your Head Trucker has written before in the Blue Truck about reading the newly published novel one weekend when I was 17, and what a seminal experience that was in my young gay life - seeing all my deepest feelings portrayed in print for the first time.

But although the film is indeed beautifully photographed, it left me cold: I just could not believe that the three leads could actually be attracted to one other, despite their best attempts at acting that way. So the movie was completely unconvincing from first to last, for me: as if they were all just reading the lines but not feeling them. (For the record, all the other Merchant Ivory films were likewise disappointing, for the same reason - lovely to look at but played without real emotions, and deadly boring to watch.  I would have thought two gay guys could have done better on that score.)

Maybe one day it will get remade with actual gay actors who can deliver the umph of passion and attraction that this version lacked. What did you fellas think of the movie, I wonder?

Catch more fabulous movie reviews at Steve's YouTube channel.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

For the Record

Unknown male couple from the late 1800's
seem to peer at us through the mists of time;
found at Antique Erotic.

Your Head Trucker just wants to say a thing or two for the benefit of any posterity who may read these lines, years distant from now. Not that I really expect anyone to do so; I write simply for my own pleasure, without trying to be any sort of noteworthy author - that I leave to the big dogs who have more ambition, more energy, and more finances than I do.

First, there was a country song popular about twenty years ago with a title and chorus of "one step forward and two steps back" - which certainly seems to describe the progress of equal rights for gays and the rest of the unpronounceable alphabet. While we are still basking in the happy glow of last month's Supreme Court rulings, it seems the antigay forces have quickened their step and gotten even more vicious and violent. Your Head Trucker is aware of the utterly horrible things that have been happening in recent days in Russia, Cameroon, Haiti, Jamaica, and in other parts of the world, and even in some of our own big cities. But for reasons of my own personal equanimity, I just don't have the heart to write about all that - the links to news stories in the sidebar will give you all the updates you fellas can stand on those terrible things.

Which just goes to show that merely gaining all the legal victories we deserve to establish our civil rights and equal dignity before the law does not mean that hate and contempt will melt away in a puff of green smoke, like the Wicked Witch of the West. A change in the laws does lead over time to greater acceptance by the majority of decent folks, perhaps, as happened in the formerly segregated South - but even now, fifty years after the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement, there remains among a certain percentage of the population - and not only in Dixie, mind you - a residuum of bigotry and disdain for blacks. As well as for women, Latinos, Asians, and all the other minorities you care to name.   The bitterness of hatred and resentment is such an addictive bone to chew: always tasty but never satisfying.

Rogers and Hammerstein wrote the famous song that says "you've got to be carefully taught" - to hate. But your Head Trucker wonders if they didn't get that backwards. It seems to me that fear, contempt, and hatred of the Other is the default attitude of human nature, perhaps an atavistic reaction to the presence of strangers not of "our tribe," and henceforth dangerous and not to be trusted: certainly not one of Us. In my view, it takes careful education and good upbringing - the achievement of an enlightened mind, which does not come without effort - to have a truly broad, tolerant outlook on humanity and its manifold variations.

Your Head Trucker is also aware, but likewise not minded to write about, the rash of lawsuits now breaking out across the country, seeking to overturn state marriage laws and constitutional amendments. Some of these seem premature and ill-advised to me, jumping the gun a bit, but I'm no lawyer, so I really can't say for sure. But I did note what one of the lawyers still trying to keep Prop 8 valid in California said the other day: something to the effect that liberals should be wary of state officials picking and choosing which laws they will defend, or exercising their individual judgment on constitutionality, because one day the tables may be turned, and it will be officials upholding some conservative measure against the will of the majority. Which is a point worth thinking about. There's a right and a wrong way to do everything, you know? But someone else can run with that ball, I just note my concern about sensible strategy and proper procedures for the record here.

But in any case, it will not do to think that because we have won a couple of great victories that the war is over, and only blue skies and pink clouds lie before us. Your Head Trucker recalls the case of the Jews in Europe, who were continually harassed, persecuted, and driven out of one country or another for the better part of two thousand years. Not until the French Revolution were Jews accorded civil rights in France and its territories, and fifty years or more later in the rest of Europe. All well and good.

But the deep roots of contempt and hatred - as deep and ancient in Christendom as those against homosexuals - remained, though the trunk and branches had been lopped off by law. And then it all burst out again, magnified and barbaric, in the Holocaust. Who can say that such a thing can never happen to the gay community? History takes strange turnings and windings as mankind lurches and stumbles along. Many nations in Africa and in what used to be called the Soviet Bloc are already unleashing a sort of gay Holocaust, it seems - spurred on by the devilish propaganda of American evangelists.

Don't think it can never happen here. Anything can happen, anywhere, anytime, under the right conditions. But as your Head Trucker will likely have been gathered to his ancestors by that time, if ever it does happen, he leaves the question to be considered by another generation.

But one thing is certain, and that is the continuing responsibility to do as you would be done by, which is incumbent upon all civilized people. This is what it means to be fully human, exercising freedom in accordance with reason and with brotherly love; to do less is to sink to the level of the beasts, a waste of the human potential for good.

Liberty is a fine thing, but it is not license. Freedom is not permission to run wild and say or do anything that pops into your head without considering the consequences for yourself and others: that is merely puerile ego let loose, and is unworthy of civilized men and women.

Apart from the moral considerations, it is also eminently practical - because of course, what goes around comes around, and that is just as true for the gays, individually and collectively, as it is for everybody else. For one thing, violence in any form is completely unacceptable: there was an incident a week or two ago at the Pride parade in Seattle, I think it was, where a group of lesbians for some reason beat a lone antigay protestor (a man) to the ground - I saw a short clip of it, and it seemed that he was just holding a sign and was attacked by the women, not the other way around.

I haven't followed up on the story, but not only is it revolting to witness public violence, started by whichever side, but it's also very stupid: we gays are only 3 or 4 percent of the population, and 99 percent of us have probably never been in any kind of fight since kindergarten. What do you think the repercussions would be on individual gays around the country if the lower sort of bigots got the idea that we were prone to violence? We are already seeing a surge in the number of antigay assaults and beatings and hate crimes around the country - if we start beating up on people, it will only add gasoline to the flames. A very, very stupid idea.

For another thing, in his final remarks in the House of Lords over the eminent, unstoppable passage of the same-sex marriage bill last week, Conservative peer Lord Cormack - the very picture of an English gentleman - made a rather moving plea against a spirit of triumphalism among the gays - which Baroness Barker, a lesbian and Liberal Democrat, agreed would be highly inappropriate, although the happiness of the event was something to be celebrated. This courtly exchange is wisdom, for those who have ears to hear.

And for the record, your Head Trucker wants to say that some of the well-known gay bloggers and perennial "spokesmen" for gay rights who are often seen on TV or quoted in print simply do not represent me. I could give a long, long list of examples here, but I think just one will suffice: this week, the articulate but foul-mouthed and arrogant Dan Savage, on the Bill Maher show, during an exchange about marriage and procreation, said the biological arguments were irrelevant to him, for he was going to "keep on inseminating my boyfriend and hope for the best" - i.e., a baby. Which visibly shocked one of the conservative panelists. This sort of deliberate rudeness does not win us any friends; it just feeds their loathing for the "filthy queers." And this kind of prickish disrespect of opponents, even when they are in the wrong, will not escape a payback in the scheme of things. Again, a word to the wise is sufficient.

Finally, I just want to say, when future generations try to penetrate the great cloud of chatter and squawking and theorizing and bitching that envelops all questions of gay rights like a thick fog, that what the big-city folks and the hipsters and the radicals and the cool people, and all their ilk, have to say is, a great deal of it, irrelevant to me. What I am all about is very simple: My Story is linked in the sidebar, for those who care to know where I am coming from. And where I have always been headed is exemplified in the photograph at the top of this post: just the simple, homely fact of two men loving each other, happy together, unscorned, untrammeled, undespised. Which is to say, just the same sort of simple hope that every straight couple has for love and happiness and a quiet place in the sun.

That's all I really have to say, and all I ever really wanted. All the rest is just vanitas.  Life is so short in this cramped, confused, and often brutal world - in the end, love is all that really matters, and all that remains of us beyond the grave.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Marriage News Watch, 7/22/13

Matt Baume reports:

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's a Prince!

At 9 p.m. BST, an aerial view from the Telegraph's live coverage shows
a small crowd gathered in front of Buckingham Palace to cheer the news.

The Telegraph reports:
The baby was born at 4.24pm, weighing 8lbs and 6ozs. The Duke of Cambridge was present at the birth, and both mother and baby are said to be doing well.
Well done, Kate.

Clarence House, home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, announces:
The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry & families have been told and are delighted.

What I Say: A monarchy would never do over here, of course, and we Americans are rightly proud of all that we have achieved and ensured through our republican traditions. Still, from a wider view of the life of nations, there is something about the continuity and renewal that each new generation of a monarchy, especially this one, provides that is satisfying at the level of the human heart, and for a moment makes one feel that all is right with the world and things are unfolding as they should.

Mere illusory sentiment and nonsense, you say. But Reader, pray tell me what feeling, great or small, have you ever had in your entire life that from the standpoint of cold science and remorseless logic was not, at bottom, a mere illusion? The right sort of illusions, or we may call them ideals, are both proper and indeed necessary to civilized life.

Man does not live by logic and science alone, not nearly. What lifts him above the level of mere animality is the enfolding sense of belonging to the human race, nobler than the beasts and a little lower than the angels, touched by something warm and tender and enduring - the human capacity for the divine which comes hopefully into the world all over again at the birth of each new child - that is to say, a freshly minted spark of the Love that moves the stars.

The editors of the Telegraph seem to agree with your Head Trucker:
A baby, to be welcomed into the world, does not have to show any qualifications. The nation welcomes this particular prince not just because his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have exhibited charm, humour and a sense of duty. Nor is an heir to the throne a good thing just because the present Queen is so admirable. It is the case, though, that Britain is readier now to declare itself in favour of the monarchy than a generation ago. This only reflects the arguments of republicans, which are threadbare and theoretical, whereas the benefits of the monarchy have been tried and tested by any Briton alive. Nor is it an objection that an heir comes by accident of birth. Accidents of birth are the way that families continue in being, and a family is a microcosm of the kingdom. . . .

The Prince arrives at an interesting time in the history of the United Kingdom. It is in a period of transition, though not, we are confident, a transition to a dismembered Union. Gone is the weary presumption that we are a small island in decline. We have always been quite a large island, as islands go. The sense of nationhood need not run out like North Sea oil. “No future” sang the Sex Pistols for the Silver Jubilee of 1977, but there was a future, of our own making – and there still is. The monarchy is part of it. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, exhibited a welcome historical perspective in commenting on the birth. When this child is old, he observed, “the 1940s will be as far away as the Crimean War and the charge of the Light Brigade is today”. Many of us will not be there to look back from that standpoint, but it shows vividly that (like any child) a prince is a declaration of confidence in the future. By embodying history, monarchy is implicitly conservative; by investing in generations to come it is implicitly progressive.

So we are left with emotions as warm as the weather. These are not irrational if founded on a fact, and a fact weighing 8lb 6oz is a solid enough fact. We wish mother and son well. When any baby is born we may want to ring bells in celebration. For a prince, we can, and the big guns too will fire 41 times in salute. This is something we are not shy to make a noise about.

Update, 7/24/13:  The Telegraph reports that the little tyke is to be named George Alexander Louis, formally known as HRH Prince George of Cambridge.  Which is a very nice name, to be sure, but I was a bit disappointed that Philip was not one of the names.  I don't think the Duke of Edinburgh, still convalescing now at Windsor Castle after abdominal surgery last month, has ever gotten his props for being the rock of the monarchy in this queen's reign. 

But George certainly is a good remembrance of the Queen's father and grandfather, both beloved and very successful monarchs.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Queering NASCAR

OMFG.  Is nothing sacred anymore?  Now even the holy precincts of NASCAR are about to be invaded by teh gay - what is this world coming to?  Must be the end times for sure. 

Boys, this is some serious gay lib shit going down here, when you start fucking with the good ol' boys and their racecars.  I tell you what.

Lordy, lordy, I never expected to see this day.  Steve is kinda studly, too - and a great role model for the younger generation of Southern boys.

Well, God bless him and send some angels to watch over him, on and off the track, is all I can say.

Sunday Drive: Ashokan Farewell

July 3rd was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the high-water mark of the Confederacy and the great turning point in our national history. All that came before flowed into that moment, and all that has happened in these United States since has flowed from it. Jay Ungar composed the haunting and lovely "Ashokan Farewell," which Ken Burns put to such memorable use in his masterpiece of filmmaking, The Civil War - a documentary every American should see at least once.

Why?  Because, as Faulkner said, "The past is not dead.  It's not even past."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Get Ready for Obamacare

A friendly little presentation about our soon-to-be wonderful new nationwide healthcare program half-hearted attempt at national health insurance - not even close to what it should be, but at least it's a start. Maybe in another generation or so, we'll catch up with Canada and the rest of the civilized world. I hope.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Waitin' for the Weekend


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Taking the Struggle to Mississippi

A world away from the United Kingdom, which passed a same-sex marriage bill this week, two gay couples were refused marriage licenses in Jackson, Mississippi this week:

Which was only to be expected. But my God - making a protest for gay marriage in Jackson like this? You fellas from the big blue-state wonderland have no idea how fucking brave these couples are.

The We Do campaign is making such demonstrations all across the Magnolia State this month:

Monday, July 15, 2013

House of Lords Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill

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Today in London, the House of Lords approved by voice vote the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill on its third reading. A video excerpt by the BBC from today's proceedings is viewable here.  Peers supporting the bill wore pink carnations in the chamber during today's session. The Telegraph reports, with a whiff of reactionary disapproval:
The Queen is expected to be asked to give her approval to the Bill – one of the most radical pieces of social legislation of her reign – by the end of this week. It opens the way for the first legally recognised same-sex weddings to take place in England and Wales by next summer and brings the centuries-old understanding of marriage as being solely between a man and a woman to an end. Peers gave their assent to the third reading of the Government’s same-sex marriage bill without a formal vote after a short debate in the Lords, also backing plans for a review of pension arrangements for gay couples. Unless MPs object to the bill at the eleventh hour during a short Commons debate set to take place on Tuesday, it is expected to receive royal assent within days.
A transcript of today's debate is here. Of particular note are the remarks of Labour peer Lord Rowlands, recounting the remarkable changes he has seen over nearly a half-century in Parliament:
My Lords, I rise to make a brief contribution — my one and only contribution to the Bill — because listening to the debates and reading the correspondence has brought vivid memories back to me of voting at 4.27 am, 46 years ago this month, by 99 votes to 14 for Mr Leo Abse’s Sexual Offences Act decriminalising homosexuality. I was a 27-year-old Member of Parliament who had only been elected the year before, totally unexpectedly so because I was not expected to win a Conservative stronghold. That brief political experience did not prepare me for the vehemence of the reaction to my stance in that year. I have never since come across anything quite like the level of abuse and vehemence that I received in certain quarters of the constituency because of my support for that Bill. How could I possibly legitimise such horrid, heinous and sinful practices? The church, at that time, took rather a curious position on the Bill. It kind of supported it because it could help in the mission to save the sinful souls of homosexuals. The Bishop of London of the time said that it would allow, “the reformation and recovery . . . of those who have become the victims of homosexual practices”.  
I do not know how well that mission has succeeded since.  
I have alluded to this past experience for two reasons. First, I have been impressed and pleased by how much more measured, more sensible and more mature a debate we have had this time on such sensitive issues as opposed to way back in 1967. It shows that society itself has matured and, I believe, become more capable of handling such issues in a sensitive and helpful manner. Nevertheless, passions and fears have been aroused by the Bill. Therefore, the second reason why I have referred to this past experience is that, in such situations, I have always found that a bit of historical perspective is helpful. Has anyone ever tried to repeal that heinous, horrible Bill of 1967? No. Did all the dire consequences, which my constituents at that time said would happen to society if we supported the Bill, come to pass? I do not think so. Therefore, I believe that, with the passage of time, we will also find with this Bill that some of the fears that have been expressed will prove unfounded, as they were after 1967.  
In my personal relations, I am as old fashioned and strait laced as can be. I had a 35-year marriage to one woman until death did us part, so I have had the experience and joy of a long and happy marriage. I do not believe that I should deprive gay people of that same opportunity. It is about equality before the law. As I said, the vote to which I referred earlier took place at the uncivilised time of 4.27 am. We can support the Third Reading of this Bill at a civilised time because the Bill itself is civilising.
And the noble lords for a final time brought the peripatetic George Clooney into view with this observation by Labour leader Baroness Thornton:
To noble Lords who opposed the Bill I say that you have tested the Bill to within an inch of its life, and for that I congratulate you. No one expected that getting the Bill through your Lordships’ House would be a walk in the park, and I think that noble Lords have done their job as they see it with dedication and commitment.  
There were moments at midnight when we were again discussing adultery when I thought we were never going to reach this point. Those moments were made all the more memorable by the description by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, of what is adultery and what is not. I refer noble Lords to column 146, 8 July 2013, if they are in any doubt. I wish her well with George Clooney, and I myself do not think that he is anything like worthy of the noble Baroness.
Update, 7/16/13:  The House of Commons today passed the amended bill, after two hours of debate - though your Head Trucker can't find anywhere what the vote was, so perhaps it was done by a mere voice vote.  The bill now will be sent to the Queen for her Royal Assent, and thereupon will become law. 

Your Head Trucker also cannot find any mention, even in the text of the bill itself, of an effective date - but all the news stories for some reason say that gay weddings will begin in the summer of 2014.  Hurrah!

During today's brief debate (transcript here), Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth ranted that the bill had been "bulldozed" through Parliament [note:  the bill was fully supported by the leaders of all three major parties, and was passed by actual votes in both houses by majorities of about 70 percent] and railed against the "aggressive homosexuals" who will just use this victory as a "stepping stone" to something further.  What could that be, I wonder?  Anyone got a copy of the Official Gay Agenda (United Kingdom) and can look it up for me?

And just how is it that our tiny 3 or 4 percent of the population wields such enormous power over everyone else?  Damn, we're good - huh fellas?

Note:  The legislation, whenever it does come into force, will apply only to England and Wales.  Scotland has a separate legal system, but a same-sex marriage bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament on June 27.  The Northern Ireland assembly defeated a motion calling for same-sex marriage legislation last October.

Update, 7/18/13:  It's official:  John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, announced yesterday that the Queen had given Royal Assent to the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act, which is now the law in England and Wales.  Parliamentarians responded to the good news with cheers in the Commons, while the usual suspects - the Catholic hierarchy and the evangelical churches - bemoaned the now "meaningless" state of "traditional marriage," supplanted by the "legal fiction" of "genderless marriage." Whatever. 

Meanwhile, gay Labour MP Chris Bryant tweeted: "The Queen has given Royal Assent to Same Sex Marriage. Aggressive homosexuals, please note. Go forth and propose." Bryant also raised a question on Twitter about why marriages would not start until the summer of 2014. In response to a media inquiry, the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport gave several reasons for the delay:
The Department responded by saying "work is already underway" to address the many legal and practical technicalities of marriage equality, and the transition of civil unions to marriage, including adjustments to registrations, court rules, IT systems, and other paperwork. “Parliament will also need to scrutinize a number of statutory instruments setting out how the new arrangements will apply to other legislation [and work out procedural details] to ensure that marriages of same-sex couples in England and Wales are treated in Scotland and Northern Ireland as civil partnerships.”

And on this side of the pond, Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, sponsors of the lawsuit against Prop 8, reports on developments in this country:

David Boies, one of the lead attorneys in the case, spoke with a reporter from Reuters about the nationwide significance of the Prop 8 ruling a couple of weeks ago at the Aspen Ideas Festival:

And here is Boies giving a fuller exposition of his views at the Festival itself:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Drive: Debussy, Clair de Lune

Pour la belle France - et pour ma très chère Maman.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Voice of a Girl, the Hope of the World

Reuters reports:
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for demanding education for girls, marked her 16th birthday with an emotional speech at the United Nations on Friday in which she said education could change the world.

"Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution," a confident Yousafzai said to cheers from the podium. Wearing a pink head scarf, Yousafzai told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and nearly 1,000 students from around the world attending a Youth Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York that education was the only way to improve lives.

Yousafzai was shot at close range by gunmen in October as she left school in Pakistan's Swat Valley, northwest of the country's capital Islamabad. She was targeted for her campaign against the Islamist Taliban efforts to deny women education. "They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed and out of that silence came thousands of voices," she said in Friday's speech. "The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born," Yousafzai said.

She wore a white shawl draped around her shoulders that had belonged to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated during a 2007 election rally weeks after she returned to Pakistan from years in self-imposed exile. "I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I'm here to speak up for the right of education for every child," she said. "I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists," she said. "I do not even hate the talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him."

Your Head Trucker also recommends this 2009 documentary about Malala, her family, and her home town from the New York Times - caution, some scenes are gruesome:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Poor George

The House of Lords is a jollier place than you might think. Baroness Stowell of Beeston is one of the leaders of the Conservative party in the House of Lords; and the Conservatives, in union with their coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, are pushing the same-sex marriage bill with the full support of the Labour party, making it all but certain that the bill will ultimately pass by an overwhelming majority.

Last month, in one of the first Lords debates on this bill and its effects on "traditional marriage," Baroness Stowell made a small quip about what might happen in the remote event that George Clooney were to marry her.  In subsequent debates, she and other noble lords have briefly returned to this little joke in making points during the course of debate. But on Monday, Baroness Stowell really gave George a workout:
She said: ‘As the law stands, if I was married to George Clooney and he was to have a sexual affair with, say, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton [Labour leader in the Lords], that would be adultery. If I was married to George Clooney and Mr Clooney had sexual relations with the noble Lord, Lord Alli, that would not be adultery because he would not be able to do the sexual act which is very specifically defined in law. Should I wish to divorce Mr Clooney on those grounds, I would do so on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.

Stowell added: ‘In future, if the noble Lord, Lord Alli, was to marry Mr Clooney, and Mr Clooney was to have an affair with me — and who would blame him in those circumstances? — that would be adultery and the noble Lord, Lord Alli, should he choose to, would be able to divorce Mr Clooney on those grounds.’

She then pointed out if Alli, an openly gay ally for same-sex marriage in the Lords, was married to Clooney and Clooney had an affair with the openly gay Lord Black of Brentwood (to which he gave a firm ‘Hear, hear!’), then Alli would be able to divorce Clooney on grounds of unreasonable behavior.

Finally, Stowell said: ‘We hope that all marriages, whether they are between a couple of opposite sexes or the same sex will continue, and that they will be faithful and remain happy and contented. If that is not the case, we believe that the existing provisions are perfectly adequate for divorce to take place.’

I'll bet that wherever in the world Clooney is right now, he must be feeling exhausted, and wondering why.

The noble lords continued their debate on the same-sex marriage bill today; click here to see the live coverage of the day's proceedings.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Same-Sex Marriage Bill in the House of Lords

The noble lords are now at the report stage of the bill, and conservatives are making a last-ditch effort to derail or change the bill.  Click here to watch the entire day's debate from the start.

Or read a much-abbreviated live blog of today's debate here.

For the record, your Head Trucker agrees with a couple of points the conservatives have raised:

1. It makes no sense, and is manifestly unfair and unequal not to allow adultery or non-consummation as a reason for divorce with same-sex couples, as they are for opposite-sex couples.

2. I would allow a grandfather exemption for current marriage registrars who do not wish to perform same-sex marriages on grounds of religious conviction; though of course any future registrars hired after the act comes into force should be told that it is a condition of employment in the job. There is nearly always more than one marriage registrar in local offices, or one from another area can be brought in to do the job. Your Head Trucker does not like to see anyone lose their livelihood on account of personal conviction of any kind.

But the noble lords on the Government benches keep airily and blithely waving away all such objections, and the vast majority keep voting them down, so there you go. Charmingly, all the noble lords of whatever persuasion are unfailingly polite and respectful of one another, even when they bitterly disagree, which is so astonishing to see in this modern world - very refreshing.

Your Head Trucker also emphatically agrees with this conservative British columnist that calling someone "gay" - or, I will go further to say, even calling someone "queer" or "faggot" - is not and should not be considered a hate crime.  If you start making every insult a crime, then there is no end and no limit to all that; and you will only embitter the speakers and breed in them a vengeful fury.  There must be no thoughtcrimes or Thought Police in our land of the free. 

In the flush of victory and social change, if we are to deserve all we have won, we must all resist the cruel, Stalinist urge to rub people's noses into the dirt and force them to bend to our every last demand of political and personal correctness.  If you are sincere in believing that liberty is a great American principle, you must concede that freedom of dissent and disagreement, even the expression of disapproval, are essential to our democratic values.  Otherwise, how are we morally different from the bigots who tyrannically demand silence, singularity of opinion, and extreme conformity to their point of view?

As I have said many times before here on the Blue Truck, it is but one small tiny baby step from being oppressed to being an oppressor - you have only to read the daily headlines from all around the world, not to mention any history book.  Victims can, and have, and do switch with great glee to being full-throttle victimizers in a heartbeat.

And yes, I am talking to you, Miss I'm-So-Liberal-It-Hurts-My-Fake-Tits.  That's not liberalism - it's self-righteousness, and very, very ugly.

So behave yourselves, guys, and have some humility, and some humanity.  It's the right thing to do - and much sexier, too. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Past and Present

A couple of clips of longtime gay couples that your Head Trucker stumbled across this week:

1. I remember reading in Life magazine way back when I was a scared, closeted high-schooler about this brave couple, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who actually dared to apply for a marriage license up in Minnesota in 1971, and then had the balls to take their case all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it "for want of a substantial federal question." And of course I've read about the case from time to time over the years since then - they are still living together happily and quietly up there in the North Star State - but never before have I seen a video of them. Here is an excerpt of their appearance on the David Susskind show in 1973:

Note for any of the children reading this post:  Mike, on the left, is sporting the totally cool, extremely fashionable shag haircut, which everybody who was hip at that moment in time had or wished they did - men and women, straight and gay.

2. The Economist this week republished a video about Gary Payne and Dick Dehn, who have been a committed couple for over 50 years, and as far as I can tell by googling around, are still going strong today in retirement in South Florida. The stories of couples who met in the 1950's and managed to survive all the homophobia and discrimination for decades are really touching:

And just to bring you boys up to date with our oh-so-modern world - or is it? - in today's news, Pope Francis has issued his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), which was largely completed by Pope Benedict before he resigned earlier this year. In no uncertain terms, the Popes once again declare that marriage is strictly for procreation by one man and one woman.

So much for any hope of a new attitude by this Pope. In the eyes of the Catholic church, we are still sinners and evildoers, and quite unworthy of full human dignity, the equal respect and protection of the laws. Our loves, even if faithful, committed, for-better-for-worse, in-sickness-and-in-health, lasting for more than half a century, are merely unnatural, disordered passions oriented towards what is objectively evil, according to the official pronouncements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Chastity, friendship, and "holiness" are all that us homos can expect to have in life, and all we should want, they say.

It is encouraging to note, however, that three out of five of American Catholics disagree with the hierarchy - why they keep putting up with it is more than your Head Trucker can understand.

Or if you think you agree with the Church's teaching, here is a rapping priest to guide you in the way of truth and holy living - from Courage, the official Catholic (anti-) gay outfit that Justice Scalia's priest son, Paul Scalia, works with:

On the other hand, if you think it's all a crock, you will be deeply moved by this video of the Washington State parents who spoke at the recent - and last ever - Exodus International conference, and the story of how they prayed so hard not to have a gay son, and got what they prayed for. If you haven't got time to watch the whole video, the essence of the story is here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Waitin' for the Weekend

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day 2013

Cartoons from NPR.

Ya know fellas, your Head Trucker ain't no spring chicken anymore, and can't keep up with what all those crazy kids are doing these days. But over the weekend I ran across this number sung by some little girl who isn't half bad - she has a mature, powerful voice, and I think she should keep up with her singing, she might even make a career out of it one day.

And normally I don't like anyone messing around with the National Anthem - but I'll make an exception in this particular case, and I think you boys will like it too. Enjoy, and have a good one now, ya hear?

And then there's a voice from the past:

Excerpt from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, June 24, 1826, declining with regret an invitation to attend the 50th Independence Day celebrations in Washington, D. C. (spelling and capitalization as per the original):
may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion.

all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

By a curious chance, Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, a few hours before his friend and fellow co-signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams.

From the National Archives via Andrew Sullivan.

Update, July 5:   Hey pardners, check out the fabulous light show at the Empire State Building last night:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Deer Hunter

A fascinating half-hour with Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who attended the Aspen Institute this week.  If you don't have time to watch the video, a summary of her sporting exploits with fellow gun-lover Scalia is here. Seriously - I'm not shitting you guys.

Yeah, I know.  Whodathunkit?  But then, you know what they say about strange bedfellows. Skip ahead and start at the 2:53:00 mark, if it doesn't do so automatically.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Game of the States

I always wanted to have that board game as a kid, but never got it.  Anyway, here's the latest marriage map of the country, courtesy of Freedom to Marry:

Note that same-sex marriage is not effective in Minnesota and Rhode Island until August 1st.

BTW, the latest USA Today poll shows a record high of 55%-40% nationwide in favor of same-sex marriage. The only groups with majorities not in favor are, as you might expect, Republicans, Southerners, and the over-65's.

Having said that, it's rather amazing how closely their views align with those of Russian President Putin, who has just signed a law banning all gay pride rallies and any other public form of support - "to protect the children," of course. American conservatives have in fact already been sidling up to the formerly dreaded Ruskies, and the notorious Scott Lively, who got Ugandan politicians all fired up to pass the "Kill the Gays" bill a few years back, has just finished a 50-city speaking tour in Russia. He boasts that the new law substantially follows recommendations he made.

May he rot in hell, is what your Head Trucker says. Meanwhile, a small contingent of pride demonstrators was beaten and arrested in Moscow this weekend. This is exactly what them good ol' boy, Bible-believing, God-fearing American patriots want to see happen here - and worse, and would do in a heartbeat to you and me, if only they could.

And in St. Petersburg, antigay thugs broke through police protection to beat up the gays:

Bottom line: While we're all deservedly a bit giddy over the Supreme Court rulings here, give a thought to our persecuted brothers and sisters in other lands.  And don't bitch so much about life in America, Miss Thing. You could living be in a much worse place.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bonne fête du Canada! - Happy Canada Day!

Your Head Trucker will always have a warm place in his heart for Canada, whose adoption of marriage equality nationwide on July 20, 2005, was a rare note of joy in the year after my husband's death. I did daydream several times of moving there during the dark days of the Bush regime in this country - if only it weren't so damn c-o-l-d! This Southern boy just doesn't think he could survive one of those brutal winters.

But still I say, Hooray for Canada! Vive le Canada! And bless their little frostbitten hearts. Today is their national day, and you can watch live coverage of various events from all over here at CBC or on CTV throughout the day and evening.

And Canada has a really lovely national anthem, did you know? Here's a bilingual version, with some awesome pictures of that beautiful country. Use the full screen on this, guys.

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