Far be it for me to second guess the Pope (though I've been skeptical of his understanding of God in the past - see KOTCB dios llora (god weeps)) and the latest declaration allegedly handed down with the authority of Sancta Sedes is a real corker. I say "allegedly" because it's all hearsay told to a lapdog #FakeNews media by a gay victim of priestly homoerotic sexual abuse who had a private meeting with the Vicar of Christ and was told, “God made you like this and loves you like this.” A statement the Vatican neither confirms or denies but that's not important right now because... well, because "Francis’s reported words can help to build bridges between the Catholic church and LGBT people who have felt rejected and excluded from it." Such is the power of Absolute Monarchy and if that monarch decides that God made homosexuals the way they are then, as far as Roman Catholics are concerned, it's case closed (that letter from Bishop Gene Robinson must have had more of an impact than I thought). For myself, having been excluded from the Church for other reasons (my own free will), I will reserve my doubts on homosexual fatalism and how God made anyone or weather he loves or hates that which he hath made. God made lots of things. God made rats. My reading of the Gospels informs me that, thought God's love of me is unconditional and eternal, what I need to focus on is MY love for and dependence on God - Trying, however imperfectly, to do God's Will as my limited mind might be able to comprehend that Will and the only way to glimpse that divine Will is through prayer and good works. I love tits and pussy and I've never really wondered if God made me like that or if it was programed into me by our patriarchal, sexist society because it came naturally, as far as I can remember, around the time I reached puberty. It's not a problem - in fact, it's great.
Could I change my sexual habits and start fornicating with someone of my own sex for pleasure, or just out of boardroom with my conventional mode of copulation? - yes, yes I could. In my experience people do it all the time. Life long homosexuals fall in love with a woman and forswear gay sex to marry the girl and start a family. Conversely, a family man (or woman) might produce 3 children, presumably by means of heterosexual lovemaking, and then have a family meeting to spill the beans that they're a homosexual and will be leaving it all behind to shack up with their "friend" Pat from the gym. Sometimes, in an even more dramatic demonstration of God's handy work, the confessor will inform friends and family that they aren't even the sex that everyone else perceives them to be and that reconstructive surgery is what's required for them to "actualize" their authentic God made selves. So when is comes to sexual arousal I'm simply not sure what God is thinking or what he's making if he is thinking about it at all. Call me a heretic if you want but I don't believe the Pope has any deeper knowledge of how God feels about homosexuality (or even sexuality) than I do - the dude literally doesn't even know what he's talking about because he's never had sex,
One guy that God did make like this and does know a thing or two about homosexuality is Andrew Sullivan who wrote blathering bit of nonsense last month for New York Magazine proclaiming that Obama’s Legacy Has Already Been Destroyed. "Destroyed?" - you don't say? Now, before I even start on the "Legacy" that Sullivan defines in his piece let me say that, in my view, Obama has two legacies that no one can touch and the first one, which no one can destroy, is the fact that he was America's first "black" president and if that had been enough for him - if he had just placed THAT crown upon his head and let the country function like it normally does - then he never would have had to contend with legacy number 2 which is the election of Donald J Trump as his successor. In the history books, when students are reading about this era in the next century, those will be the two primary achievements credited to BHO. Today, few people know much about the specific policies of the first "confirmed bachelor" to live in The White House, James Buchanan, but if you google the name you'll see that his presidency lead directly to the election of Abe Lincoln.
According to Sullivan the only remaining "Legacy" Obama has after a year and a half of Trump is "marriage equality and legal cannabis" which resulted from a SCOTUS decision which "destroyed" the will of the people and overturned laws that had been voted on and approved by the majority (no gay marriage) and by defying Federal Law and arguing that States Rights permitted the sale of mind altering and, in some cases, debilitation drugs to that states citizens (legalized pot). These two policies are ones that Obama had little or no impact on making law and probably won't be in effect in 100 years because they're both kind of decadent, feel good (for some people) laws that #FakeNews journalists can focus on as a way of avoiding the big issues of the day. Issues like national debt, tax policy, trade deals, the environment, foreign policy, health care all of which would have sailed right along as navigated by FBPOTUS had Hitlery taken the hand-off and captained our ship of state but, sadly for HRC, Obama ran head on into a gigantic rock called Trump. Which, in Sullivan's reckoning, brings us to truly important aspect of Obama's sinking legacy:
More profoundly, Trump has managed to shift our cultural politics. He has baited the left to occupying new territory, thereby cementing his triumph. What drives Trump is racial essentialism, a rage at the post-racial, integrative center that the mixed-race Obama represented.Race. Barack Obama as a symbol of America's atonement for the “nation’s original sin of slavery,” which was not very "original" in the Western Hemisphere (or the world for that matter) and is viewed as a sin in hindsight but, at the time, was as conflicted and compromised as our modern day policy on abortion rights or climate change. So Obama's loss has sent everyone to their corners and all hope of racial harmony or peace in the war between the sexes is going down with the ship - endless strife in a zero sum game of political power and that's Trump's fault? Trump "baited" the left into this new understanding of "racial essentialism" that Obama had no interest in promoting or leveraging in his political rise from obscure IL State senator to FBPOTUS in 6 short years? Proof of Obama's purity is found (in Sullivan's view) in reviewing the famous, eternally remembered “A More Perfect Union” speech from 2008 when he was desperately trying to save his campaign. This "high-water mark of racial liberalism" is often referred to as the Jeremiah Wright speech because it was composed and given in direct response to the news that Obama had attended the church that Rev. Wright ministered for 20 years and had a close relationship with the flamboyant preacher who's Black Liberation Theology was causing great discomfort in the "post-racial, integrative center that the mixed-race Obama represented." How Barack decides to spend a few hours of his Sunday is his own business and if squandering his time taking in the show at Trinity United and listening to some old coot ham it up at the pulpit is his idea of a good time then so be it. God knows I've sat in the pews (on my hands) on many a Sunday (biting my tongue) while some know-it-all minister lectures his flock on some Biblical verse or parable and tortures the word of God or slanders the meaning of Christ to stuff their Truth into some formulaic box built at divinity school. If the knock on Jeremiah Wright is that he has it all wrong then I say welcome to the club Brother - you've got lots of company. Besides, TUCoC was much bigger then the showboat who lead the congregation - so says the one:
"That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America."The "untrained ear" has yet to hear the words “God made you like this and loves you like this” with all "the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance" you possess. God probably forgives your "bitterness and bias" (hatred and racial prejudice) and if God will not then the #FakeNews media certainly will while they simultaneously train your ear(s) to the "post-racial, integrative center" New World Order.
Which leads Andrew Sullivan (and me) to the subject of tyranny and the mind boggling miss the British born American "conservative" homosexual blogger makes when the target is standing right in front of him. Read this opening and see if you can guess where I'm going with this line of argument.
"I have to say that before I read Stephen Greenblatt’s new book on Shakespeare’s megalomaniacs, Tyrant, I’d never thought of Trump and Richard III as analogues. The comparison doesn’t work in every respect, of course. Richard is a much more sympathetic figure, because the core of his tyrannical soul is shaped from his very birth by physical deformity and social rejection. Born prematurely, his back hunched in a coil, his arm withered, he sees himself, from the very beginning of his life, as alone, unloved, unlovable, spurned even by his mother. There is a self-awareness about this that Trump lacks."
It is true that Trump does NOT suffer from a physical "deformity" and has never been socially rejected (unless you count UES bluestocking snobs turning their noses up at the Elvis from Queens) and he wasn't spurned by his mother leaving him feeling alone and unloved, but you know who did experience all those Richard III like core shaping characteristics - Barry Soetoro. Just before the 2012 presidential election and group of academics published "The Obama Presidency: A Preliminary Assessment" giving the 44th a good "objective" once over and one of it's contributors, William D. Pederson, wrote a piece called "Obama's Lincoln: Image to Ideology" which contains this beauty:
"Three common triggers of marginality involve derivations from the norm on physical, social and intellectual dimensions. Physical "outsiderness" could be any variation from the group norm including a deformity or perceived handicapping condition, size or weight, race or ethnicity (or even accent), or intellectual capacity."
Obama gets triggered from day one on race growing up in Hawaii (black population 7K circa 1970) in a white household, being a striver at Punahou School and depending on where you score Obama's IQ there's a derivation there too. I don't consider a persons blackness a physical deformity but even I, born with silver soup spoon in mouth, have been close (very close) to black people my entire life. While Barack (we're contemporaries) was living a life of black isolation in one of the most isolated places on earth, I was growing up in Chocolate Town and, on a normal weekend might stand shoulder to shoulder with more black people than the total Afro-American population in Berry's home state. Does a perceived "physical deformity and (subsequent) social rejection" resulting, in part, from that "deformity" have the power to shape a "Tyrannical soul?" Perhaps, but this question is besides the point for as Greenblatt points out in chapter one of his book, the tyrant irregardless of the roots of his tyrannical soul, can not assume power "without widespread complicity" and this phenomenon is the true subject of Shakespeare's "tyrant" plays. Indeed, this point is made explicit in Richard III in a way that can only be accomplished through a live theater performance by making the audience knowing accessories to all his crimes. Form the opening soliloquy, “Now is the winter of our discontent/ Made glorious summer by this sun of York”, the crowd knows what designs Richard has on the throne and then the good people sit back and watch him carry out his bloody deeds all the while enjoying his lies and treachery. This brings me back to the opening paragraph of Sullivan's essay where his says, "He (Obama) began as an alleged opponent of marriage equality, even though, of course, he was bullshitting" and, "of course", he was - and everyone "knew" that from the start. It wasn't just gay marriage - it was everything, his birth and youth, his education, his work, his church, his policy plans, his campaign, his executive orders and non-binding accords - even his promise to close GITMO!!! - was all a great big lie that everyone (everyone that mattered that is) went along with by turning a blind eye to the truth and spreading the "bullshit" around.
Making the proposition that Trump and Richard III are analogous is problematic on many levels, the first one being that the real life Duke of Gloucester was, in fact, very Trumpian (in a good way) and so Sullivan (and Greenblatt) are mixing fact and fiction because Trump is real and the bard's Richard is a fiction. Elizabethan England was nothing like the contemporary USA in almost any respect and the sedition laws (and punishments), court plotting and subterfuge, religious persecution and restriction of free speech would, I assume, qualify 1590's England as a tyrannical minor power in Sullivan's world view. The play in question was not about a king or queen but about the conniving court advisor Robert Cecil (think Valery Jarrett) and everyone at the time knew it, but the character Shakespeare created* has since been used by opportunists to smear various rulers - especially elected presidents. Knights of the Golden Circle have often interpreted the play as justification for bloody acts of treason and, in fact, if you play out Sullivan's argument to it's logical conclusion then assassination is the only remedy for the MAGA movement. The fears (fear being the opposite of hope) that Sullivan projects on Trump were already realized in the Obama administration:
"And this is indeed the kernel of what I fear: that if Mueller at any point presents a real conflict between the rule of law and
In truth, these machinations are NOT what a tyrant does and Obama, for all his faults, was no more of a tyrant than Trump is. A tyrant dictates the law and kills any officer that does not do his bidding - when I say kills I mean murders, in cold blood and with premeditation. A tyrant embroils the military in needless, ruthless war for vainglorious purposes squandering blood and treasure. A tyrant creates an internal spy network and uses it to oppress the people by limiting free speech and free association. A tyrant often scapegoats an ethnic or religious minority and attacks them physically either killing them or driving them from the country and forcing the unlucky into exile. So all the screeching about tyranny is really nothing more than a well educated and socially (journalistically) accepted swish having a case of the vapors on his drawing room couch. Get over yourself Andrew, right?. Wrong.
"Trump, it seems to me, has established this tyrannical dynamic with remarkable speed. And what we are about to find out is whether the Founders who saw such a character as an eternal threat to their republic have constructed institutions capable of checking him without the impact of an external intervention, of a disaster so complete it finally breaks the tyrant’s spell. Watching what has transpired these past two years, seeing how truly weak the system is, and how unwilling so many have been to recognize our new disorder, I see no reason to be optimistic. The play is a tragedy, after all."
Trump established nothing - he inherited everything and the "tyrannical dynamic", as Sullivan calls it, is nothing more or less than the New Deal political order established in 1932 by FDR and formalized by Ike in 1952. The Founders of the USA have almost nothing to do with this dynamic as it is a complete (or almost complete) inversion of their vision hanging on the dead words of their declarations and constitutions. The institutions the Founders created have twice collapsed - 1860 and 1932 - erupting in a bloody civil war the first time and a leviathan civil service the second. One wonders what manner of "external intervention" Sullivan is contemplating, probably assassination as was mentioned earlier but perhaps he is longing for a foreign invasion to teach Trump (and America) a lesson. Only now does he realize how "weak the system is" and how "unwilling" people can be to see things as he sees them. In other words, representative democracy and republicanism doesn't work and "I see no reason to be optimistic" because Donald J Trump is POTUS.
He probably should have stopped there but as a chaser Sullivan tags on a review of Paul Schrader’s "First Reformed" to add a powerful exclamation point to his argument. Abortion and Climate Change, the afore mentioned "slavery" issues of our day, are the plot drivers of this film and it centers on a small town minister in upstate NY with a dwindling flock and crisis of faith. Instead of reviewing the movie which I haven't seen because I, unlike Andrew Sullivan, did not receive an invitation to a special screening, will explore a moment shared between the gay "conservative blogger and the prolific (and profound) writer/director of the film. Before I delve into this "scene", so to speak, I should make the point that Paul Schrader is a screenwriter's screenwriter who has created an impressive body of work much of which explores faith, God's nature, religion and humanity and, in my opinion, asks a pointed pair of interrelated question? - 1. What is the price of redemption? 2. Are you willing pay the price? This 40 year, well documented, endlessly criticized, award winning career makes Sullivan's question to the great auteur almost incomprehensibly stupid:
“Are you in despair?” I asked Schrader in the conversation after. Not quite, he explained. He posited that there is a distinction between optimism and hope. He cited Camus in evoking the choice to believe, the act of will to see a future worth living, even when all the evidence around us, and the withdrawal of God from our lives, renders that choice seemingly quixotic. And I understood what he was saying. I have read Camus. I have also clung to the words of Thomas Merton, as the priest does. It is just that I could not summon the will, as I listened to Schrader, to make that choice myself.
That's a long way of saying, "He broke me."
Having seen Andrew Sullivan on TV over the years I can picture his stocky frame with shiny dome jostling through the crowd to approach Schrader and, once positioned, openly looking in the directors eyes and earnestly asking, "Are you in despair?"** Cut to close-up of Schrader: the confused look dissolves to resignation and the uncomfortable awareness that this smug British-American with a first rate education, gold plated resume and lap of licentious luxury lifestyle doesn't understand the basics when it comes to redemption and it's price. In fact, Sullivan is not willing to even calculate the price and he's certainly not willing to pay it, so instead he gets a brief lesson on the difference between "optimism and hope" from someone who has meditated deeply on that difference. It is the will - the will above all else - that redeems when that will is aligned with God's design and natures laws. And this brings us back to Richard III because one of the most amazing aspects of the play is something that modern audiences are almost oblivious to because there has been a "withdrawal of God from our lives" and modernity is built on lies. I'm talking about Richard's public pronouncements of faith and piety when in a crowed and his self-worship when alone which the audience sees played out and must have been almost heretical at the time of it's writing and certainly is subversive even today. The Andrew Sullivan's of the world brush it off the same way they ignore Obama expressing his "opposition" to same-sex marriage in 2008 when asked about it at Rick Warren's mega-church. From their front row seat they can discern what's "bullshit" and what's "legitimate" will to power and it's all good as long as the lies are helping their cause, but when when the deceit stops working they cry for a Richmond to kill the king and save the day. It never dawns on Sullivan that Trump was Richmond in this drama - the outsider who summoned the will, resources and small army to defeat a corrupt and dishonest regime which, on paper, was far more powerful but was also predestined to fall.
How does he miss it? Obama = the conniving Plantagenet usurper and Trump = the long odds Tudor savior. The fault is not God's or Natures - no one made Sullivan like this except himself. Harvard (Sullivan is an alum) wrote a log rolling profile titled "World's best blogger?" that contained this observation:
“He’s Catholic and gay and an exile,” says the writer and feminist historian Naomi Wolf. “That’s all very helpful—his background forces him not to be confined in any single identity.”Of all people, Naomi Wolf nails it - Sullivan has no identity or he has so many identities that he might as well not have one. Who are you? What are you? When are you? Where are you? WHY ARE YOU?!!! In my imagination, Kit Marlowe was also "Catholic (maybe), and gay (maybe) and an exile (definitely)" but, writing under the nom de plume "William Shake-Speare" he expounded his singular identity and created a mirror that his beloved country might see itself in his vision. His achievement is the wonder of the age and, 400 years on, has yet to be surpassed (or even equaled). God made him to be sure but it was the man alone who made himself "this way" by harnessing divine power and scribbling it down on paper. So don't let anyone - even the Pope - lay some "god given" identity on you, but create one yourself with the gifts that God gave you and BE the "be" in your unique human being.
*As KOTCB readers already know, I am a committed Marlovian and believe that William Shakespeare was the thespian contracted to perform the great works (Marlowe's Caliban) written by an exiled genius and it might well have been Cecil who forced the greatest poet and playwright in English history to fake his own death and escape capture so that he might continue his art.
** FYI - Schrader is the dude who wrote "Taxi Driver" so stifle with the "despair" crap and grow a pair, unless, of course, they've shriveled up into your vagina.