On the Road Home: Pickled Okra, Prop. 8, and Lt. Dan Choi

With the red jalapeño peppers, these pickled okra should have a bite!

Maybe it’s the summer heat, but lately I’ve been having trouble getting any posts written.  The work week evenings just don’t seem long enough, and weekends require getting accomplished all the to-do items that have accumulated through the week.

My best thinking time these days takes place after work as I make the 45-minute or a bit more commute home from downtown Houston out to my corner of the “burbs”.   Though I know my posts can be long-winded,  I thought instead of trying to write longer posts on just one topic, I’d start a new series of posts called “On the Road Home” and give a word or two about several of the topics that are on my mind.  (Keeping it to “a word or two” might be difficult.)  So here goes.

Okra is about all that’s left doing anything in the garden, and more of the plants are starting to produce, so I’ve had nice messes to eat for a couple weeks now.  Now that there are more to gather, I decided to try my hand at making some pickled okra.  With two days’ worth of okra, I have enough for a 1-pint jar.  There have been some trials and errors, but I’m hoping for good results after they’ve set for about 6 weeks.

The judge in California disallowed the ban on gay marriage that was passed in the elections of 2008.  The judge seems to have written a strong decision against the ban, but I’m sure we’re going to hear all kinds of screaming about activist judges and a lot of conservative candidates are going to try to use the ruling as fodder in this fall’s elections.  Rachel Maddow had a good recap on her show this evening.  She had a lot of interesting excerpts from Judge Walker’s decision.  Link to the entire decision here.

Actually, the raison d’etre for this new series of posts was what I caught on the radio this evening “On the Road Home.”  Usually, I switch around on the 6 eclectic stations I’ve got locked in, and tonight after making one of the switches,  I caught Democracy Now interviewing Lt. Dan Choi, the army officer, who has just been kicked out of the army based on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for admitting that he is gay.  I was totally impressed by his elequence and convictions.  Also, this interview shows him from quite a few different angles, not just an activist.  I was listening, but click here for the article and video of the interview, starting about the 9-minute point.

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View from the Suburbs: Spring Blooms and Washington Protests

"We made it through the winter!"

It’s great to have a free day, especially when it’s a beautiful, bright early spring one.  I’ve already mowed the back yard and weeded where it was needed.  Snapdragons and yellow lilies are already blooming.  These were in some of the pots that I dragged back and forth into the garage over the past few months, when we had such an unusual number of nights (and days) below freezing.  These bright beauties seemed determined to show off even after just a short period of days of warmer weather.

Since I moved out into my house a few months ago, I have become much mellower.  The yardwork and other household tasks keep my hands and mind busy.  Of course, work itself, along with the commute that gets me there, takes up a good portion of my week days.  That’s why I haven’t been writing here as much as when I lived in my apartment much closer to work.

I still keep up with what’s going on in “my world”.  I’m sure a lot of people who hit on my blog are interested in the same topics as I am.  If you like what you see, you can click onto what’s happening in the gay news, local Houston news and weather, and news about my home state, Kansas.  Just slide down to the side bars and you’ll find what I’m reading.  My favorites are: Towleroad, The Advocate, Pink News, and dosmanzanas (if you read Spanish).  I also take a look at chron.com and Kansas.com for local news in Houston and Kansas, and cnn.com and msnbc.com for U.S.  For world news, I often read abc.es and latercera.cl (again both are in Spanish). ( I mentioned before that I had been an Arab linguist in the Air Force. That was a long time ago, and the vocabulary I used most of the time was pretty specific, so through disuse over the years, I’ve pretty much lost my Arabic, but I studied Spanish in high school, college, and elsewhere, so even though my speaking is rusty, I still read most of what’s in the newspaper fairly well.)

And don’t let me forget, it’s March Madness, and I definitely have to keep up with the games, especially since both K-State and KU are in it.  (Both won in the first round.  I’m doing pretty lousy with my picks in the pool at outsports.

So speaking of linguists, Air Force, and gay news, even with all my yardwork and other tasks, I’ve been trying to keep up with what’s been happening to Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, who were arrested during a protest against DADT (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) yesterday, after they handcuffed themselves to the White House fence.  At the moment, it seems that nobody even knows their whereabouts, even though it was reported that they were to be arraigned today in a court in Washington, D.C.  Check Americablog and Towleroad for updates.  That’s what I’ll be doing.

Now, it looks like the sun is gone, and it might rain, so I’d better head out and put the lawnmower and extension cords back into garage.

“Did you learn to be a bigot or were you just born that way?”–One of the Best Lines from the Speeches at the National Equality March in Washington

The crowds at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C.

The crowds at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C.

I wish I could give credit for the quote in the title for this post, but it was given by one of the speakers at the National Equality March for LGBT rights, that’s taking place today in Washington, D.C.  Between checking out the NFL scores, I couldn’t find anything on CNN or MSNBC that showed the event.  Then with a mistaken click, there it was, right on C-Span.

I think going to the march would have been a great experience, but like so many other people, the cost of time and money just seemed too prohibitive.  Watching the speakers, though, on TV has been heart-stirring.  When I clicked on C-Span, actress Cynthia Nixon was speaking, and she, in turn, introduced, Judy Shepard, mother of murdered Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.  A number of lesser-known local and state officials were just as inspiring, especially an openly-gay state senator from Utah.  (I’ll have find out more about him later.)  Lt. Dan Choi, the Arab linguist, who was kicked out of the Army because of DADT, and Lady Gaga, the pop diva, exemplify the range and demeanor of the speakers, but both demanding that President Obama take action on his promises.

Lt. Dan Choi, Army Arab linguist, who was kicked out of the military because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Lt. Dan Choi, Army Arab linguist, who was kicked out of the military because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Maybe watching from my comfortable sofa isn’t the same as being part of the multitudes of participants there in D.C., but still I could feel the emotion of the event.  It gives me hope that change will happen.  But just like what people are asking of Obama, there has to be action, not just words.

Pop singer, Lady Gaga, speaking at the National Equality March and asking President Obama to take action.

Pop singer, Lady Gaga, speaking at the National Equality March and asking President Obama to take action.

I’m starting by writing to my conservative congressman.  It may not be worth it; I’ve done it before, and somehow his people now think I’m a republican.

Unite the Fight: This May Finally Be the Organization That Connects Gays and Lesbians and their Supporters in the Fight for Equality

Drew Barrymore in support of Unite the Fight

Drew Barrymore in support of Unite the Fight

Last fall, immediately after the Prop. 8 loss in California, there were rallies across the country, but it seemed like after a day or two of outrage and speeches, the steam went out of the engine.

But now after the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the proposition against same-sex marriage, it feels like people are getting organized in a way that will continue until change in the laws in California and across the land will continue.

In the recent past, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have really proven impotent in making changes. But now new spokespeople for the fight are emerging: people like Justin Lance Black, who won the Oscar for writing the screenplay for the movie MILK and Dan Choi, the Army First Lieutenant, who was recently kicked out of the Army, are making themselves known, and becoming the new leaders of the fight for gay equality.

This is what has been wanted for so long; since Harvey Milk there have been few with the determination and willingness to lead in this cause.

Today, in California protesters marched the fifteen miles from Selma, California to Fresno, California in support of same-sex equality, and since arriving, according to the Fresno Bee, there has been a rally of several thousand in front of the Fresno City Hall.

The rally, part of the new campaign called Meet in the Middle 4 Equality, has been streaming live for several hours. I’ve been watching and this definitely has the feel of the real beginning of a true, winning campaign.

Robin McGehee, the Lead Organizer of Meet in the Middle 4 Equality, has just given a moving speech finishing with a very emotional challenge to President Obama to follow through with his promises to the gay people who supported him in his campaign for office.

You can also see the rally live (if you read this today) and clips from the march from Selma and the rally itself at the Unite the Fight website.

When It Comes to Gays in the Military, Many “Developing” Countries Are Forward-Thinking, While the U.S. Continues To Discharge Highly Qualified Service Members

Growing up, I always saw my country as the one which was the most inventive, the most progressive, the one with the most forward-looking people. I mean aren’t we the country that put the first men on the moon, the country that fought in wars so other people could live in freedom?

What I see now is a country that has so many people that are not only afraid of being on the cutting-edge in all aspects, whether in science and medicine (think stem cell research), inventions (think new forms of energy), or social progress (think equal rights), but also people who want to live in the past, rather than help move the country forward.

south-americaI’m really amazed when I see what is happening in some “so-called” third-world, or developing, countries when it comes to equal rights, especially in terms of gays in the military. While President Obama has been waffling on his campaign promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, President Tabaré Vázquez of the South American country of Uruguay announced that his country would no longer deny entrance into their armed forces to someone who is gay. In a meeting with Vazquez, the President of the neighboring country of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, agreed, saying his country will follow suit because Paraguay does not discriminate in any manner, including on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.

Additionally from South America comes the news of the first same-sex couple to receive spousal benefits through the Armed Forces. Based on the decision of the Constitutional Court (Supreme Court) of Colombia, the gay couple of Fabián Chibcha Romero and Javier Osorio will be able to take advantage of these benefits because one of them is a member of the Public Forces (includes both the military and civil police). After processing their Union Marital de Hecho (which formalizes common law marriages after two years of cohabitation for both heterosexual and homosexual couples), Romero and Osorio sought the spousal benefits and were the first same-sex couple to be granted them based on military membership.

However, here in the U.S. even with the change to a new administration, valuable members of the military are still being drummed out based on their sexuality.

Lt. Dan Choi, discharged Arab Linguist

Lt. Dan Choi, discharged Arab Linguist

Less than two weeks ago, the U.S. Army told Lt. Dan Choi, a member of the New York National Guard, that he would be dismissed for being gay. Choi is a graduate of West Point, and an Arab linguist recently returned from Iraq.

Today, the Service Members Legal Defense Network said the the Pentagon is ready to kick out another highly-skilled, veteran service member for being gay. SLDN says the U.S. Air Force is about to discharge fighter pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Fehrenbach, after 18 years of service to his country. Among his long list of accolades is that he was especially selected to fly sorties over the U.S. capital after the 9/ll attacks. (I’m not going to do a “cut and paste”; read more about Fehrenbach’s illustrious career here and watch the eye-opening interview and report from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.)

It is really a sad situation that we have in this country when we are ready to kick people who have given so much of themselves for their country out of the military just because of their sexuality. Is this what kind of country we are? One that judges people based on antiquated social mores? Are we a country that would rather let some people’s bigotry get in the way of having able-bodied and well-qualified service members protecting our country?

I don’t get it. Our forefathers came to this land with the idea of making a better life based on the principles of individual freedom and strove to be the best. They and their descendants were creative and worked to invent the best and newest, whatever that might be.

Now we have become a country of too many stick-in-the-muds. They only want to hide themselves in their “moral values” because, in reality, they are scared of the future. How did we ever get so many of these who are so filled with their own self-interest–yes, really these political and religious conservatives are really very selfish people; though, they would claim otherwise–that they cannot see that this country has to be progressive and future-thinking in order to be the country that we used to be.