Monday, September 15, 2008

On Slaps and Seething Rage

This morning while I was writing a piece entitled “Facts are Not Privy to Opinion” my mother called. This is not unusual, as my mother and I talk at least five or six times a week. What was unusual was how the conversation ended. Actually it did not end. It digressed into a screaming match that culminated in me slamming the phone down (as much as you can slam down a cell phone with a Bluetooth ® ear piece).

Before I go on I should fully disclose something. The entire maternal side of my family are fundamentalists Christians. Most belong to the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination of Christianity founded on the principle that slavery was not only tolerated, but also ordained, by God. This legacy of slavery has left an indelible stain on the convention that permeates its theology even today. And, sadly, many in my family still cling to the notion that African-Americans are inferior. The word “n*gger” is a word that still is used by many in my family (including my father who, incidentally, is gay but that is another post[s] for another time).

Many say that marijuana is a “gateway drug”. Well religious based racism is a gateway bigotry. Because while I do not doubt that my mom loves me, she does believe that the seven verses in the Bible that – and this is highly debatable – deal with homosexuality (out of the over 35,000 verses in the Bible which is .02%. Read that again. Point. Zero.Two percent) are clear in their condemnation of gays. As such, homosexuality is therefore not in accord with the will of God.

Growing up in such a toxic environment is dangerous for any child. But growing up while realizing I was gay along the way made it close to deadly. At the age of 21, after years of not being able to reconcile my upbringing with my sexuality, I attempted to take my own life.

I was living in a tony apartment in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. I seemingly had my entire life, and the world, ahead of me. But one morning, facing such despair of which I could not overcome, I went to the medicine cabinet and began taking entire bottles of my roommate’s prescription medications. I chased the pills with 150 year old scotch.

When I came to, at the George Washington University Medical Center, I was surrounded by at least forty of my friends, my father and his partner and…no one else. I asked my dad if my mother knew. He said she did. For two days I sat in that hospital. As friends came and went, there was not one phone call from my mother’s side of the family. No flowers. No cards. Only deafening, undeniable silence.

This was not only odd, it was downright antithetical of my maternal family’s behavior towards the sick. They visit hospitals when someone has a hangnail removed. Granted, I was in Washington DC and they were in Texas. I did not expect them to visit. But I did expect to hear their voice.

Instead, I learned later, my mother (in Texas) sent over two men from a Washington “ex-gay” group. When my father discovered this he made sure they were not allowed in my hospital room. But the damage was done. It was clear that my mother’s answer to my shame of being gay was to send over two men who believed that one could “pray away the gay”. It is something that, to this day, is still the source of tremendous pain and heartache.

The suicide attempt was just three months after my mother found out I was gay. I write “found out” because I did not tell her. Instead, shortly after I moved to DC, my mother broke into my voicemail (keep in mind she lives in Texas) and listened to my messages. One of them was from a guy I was dating at the time. The language he used on the voicemail left no room for anyone that heard it to deny who this guy was in relation to me. Within a week my mother told me she knew. I told her I knew she knew.

My mother repeatedly claims that she does not lie. Never. She says it, you can believe it. That’s that. It has almost become a mantra of hers. In fact, she says it with such frequency and such ferocity that it is borderline clinical in its redundancy.

But on the phone with her the night I confirmed I was gay, I pleaded with her not to tell anyone. She promised me she would not.

She did.

I found out a year later that she had almost immediately told not only my aunt but my grandparents as well. My aunt was (and still is) the director of a pregnancy center that tries to talk women out of abortions and my grandparents (my grandfather, really) were, at one time, big time leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.

She lied.

This was on the heels of her swearing that she would never file for divorce from my father (although, admittedly, she had every reason to). “Jon-Marc, I will never be the one that files. I promise you that”. Not two months later, she filed.

These were the two most agonizing things in my life – my shame of my sexuality and my parents’ divorce. And in the midst of those two things, my mother lied. She lied big. If I were to quantify the lies I have been told in my life those two would be at the top, hands down.

I write the backstory to put into context the conversation I had with my mother this morning.

She called and we basically talked about nothing. The weather. My grandmother. What my mother had for breakfast. My plans for the day. My weekend.

Then we started talking about Hurricane Ike. This is what went down as I remember it (although I do realize that there are two sides and, as Dr. Phil says, no matter how flat you make a pancake, it still has two sides):
Mother: You know, if it were not for Christians, the victims of the hurricane would not be getting any help, except from the government. The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Southern Baptist Men…

Me: Wait, do you really believe that there is no other charitable organization other than “Christian” organizations that are going to help the victims?

Mother: Um, well, yes. Pretty much. I believe that. Why does that make you mad?

I should note something. “Christian” has a very strict definition for fundamentalists such as my mother. Although they will all claim that anyone that believes in Jesus Christ, that he was killed and rose again three days later, is a Christian, their actions speak louder. That is why you will see Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America etc. put quotes around the word Christian when referring to a ministry like Soulforce, a gay Christian ministry.

I should also note that my mom is the assistant director at the pregnancy center where my aunt is the director. The center, incidentally, is a direct beneficiary of Focus on the Family. They receive sonogram machines, money and who knows what else from Daddy Dobson. Dobson has also contributed much to the misery of gay people.

Now back to the conversation. This is where it gets a bit fuzzy.
Basically it got to the point where she said something along the lines of “You slap me in the face with things you say you believe”.

Me: I don’t tell you anything I believe!

Mother: You do on your blog. And you know I read it! You slap me in the face with what you write on your blog! You are trying to hurt me with what you write! I'm hanging up now
(Not sure if she hung up or not)

Me: Slap you in the face? Are you kidding me? You want to talk about being slapped in the face? Try the time you sent two ‘ex-gays’ to my hospital room, try the time you blabbed about me being gay to gran and granddaddy and B (my aunt). Don’t give me this sanctimonious bull-shit about being slapped in the face!

At which point I “slammed down the phone” by pressing the button on my Bluetooth ® headset.

People ask me why the Sarah Palin thing bothers me so much. It bothers me because I know Sarah. She is my mother, she is my two aunts, she every girl and boy I grew up with who ever wore their faith on their sleeve. She is my youth-minister in junior high who told me to stop singing the words to “Jesus Christ, Superstar” because it was blasphemous. She is my best friend in college who told me, in all seriousness, that he thought Bill Clinton was the anti-Christ.

Truth to these people is something they scream from every pulpit and discuss ad nauseum. Hell, they even capitalize the word. We know the Truth…Some people do not know the Truth…Jesus is the one source of Truth.

But when it comes down to the actual truth for fundamentalists, the “Truth” is as malleable as silly-putty, meant to be discarded when it is inconvenient, used as a weapon when it is advantageous, and hidden when it is dangerous to their cause.

It has been proven that Sarah Palin is an outrageous liar. In fact, it has been proven that she is a complete fraud. But in the mind of my mother, and those of my mother’s mindset, they dismiss these “truths” by blaming the “librul (spelled wrong on purpose) media” or “left-wing bloggers”. They throw the baby out because they believe the bathwater has been dirtied by people who do not “know Jesus” the way they “know Jesus” – the gays, the abortionists, the mockers of God. Radical Muslims have a name for them; Infidels. Radical Christians do too. They call them unsaved.

In the minds of the fundamentalists, the scrutiny of Palin feeds into the absurd notion that “Christians” are somehow “persecuted”. The more “truth” that is disclosed, the more resolute they become in their support. It’s the world against the Christianists. They are most comfortable when they believe that the world is out to get them.

Meanwhile the real victims of persecution get further marginalized. Gay kids hide voicelessly in the closet lest they get disowned by their parents and friends, African-Americans get followed in department stores because they are likely to steal, immigrants are blamed for lack of jobs in this country.

And the poor, poor Christianists? You know, the ones who claim the very president of this country as their own and who controlled congress six of the last eight years. Yeah, them! They have the audacity to claim that it is their faith that is in danger of being outlawed. Is this the fucking twilight zone?

So the perceived persecution of poor pitiful Palin is just more reason for them to love her. When it is all said and done, they have no use for the “truth”. The decriers of relativism use truth as their most relative concept.

And Sarah Palin is not a slap in the face I am willing to take. She angers me for the very same reasons my mother angers me – a lack of integrity and intellectual honesty with regards to the truth.

It is times like these when the rage is so hot and the resentment is so acute that I feel like tearing down the dam I have built with all my family secrets. I feel so furious and want to hurt them as badly as they all, while hiding behind their religion, have hurt me. Let the waters flow, let the secrets out and when the flood recedes, let them take inventory of the skeletons amidst the debris. I want to unleash the secrets that only I know. I want the world to know them too. I want the world to see them for the frauds and liars they are.

Let loose the “truth” that they would be forced to face. Let them confront the closet cases, the adulterers, the black blood in the white heritage, the ones that have had abortions and the ones that have mistresses, all within our big “happy” family. Take no prisoners and let them grapple with the consequences and twist in the wind.

Sometimes, times like this, I want nothing more than that.

But in the end I realize that my need to exact revenge serves no purpose beyond temporary satisfaction. Instead I have this blog to vent and to calm down.

Slap, slap!

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