The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Happening (2008)

I don't think I'm being too sensitive, but 99% of the time when I hear someone advocating against gay marriage, down at the core of their argument seems to be the kernal of "gay is bad". Just heard too many arguments that seemed to stem from this assumption. Too many of the people who have protested it squirmed when asked directly of their attitudes. The basic assumption that "We" are the norm and that others must conform to our notions is very powerful. And the advantages that come from being born into a group often escape those so blessed.

Do gays feel their relationships are as blessed and sacred as straights? terms of their feelings AS feelings, separate from social context, sure. But human beings are herd beasts. And children can be like blank slates. I distinctly remember how much work it took to get Nicki to look at her reflection in the mirror and say "I like myself." I remember how black lawyers had to demonstrate that black children preferred white dolls due to social programming: and remember VERY clearly when some of the reaction publicly was sympathetic, but other reactions skirted the "well, of course they like white dolls more. They're prettier."

And unfortunately, some of the people with those opinions were black. The vast majority of people are not particularly inner-directed. They find a pack and run with it. Pure survival tactic.

When gays are children, they are told stories of weddings, of beautiful brides and groom and sacred ceremonies, and are told in absolutely countless stories, television episodes, movies, books, songs, rituals, and more that THIS is what they should aspire to. Yes, marriage began to protect children in all likelihood. But as its been pointed out, unless we deny licenses to the elderly or infertile, this is a boondoggle, an attempt to distract us from a form of legalized bigotry.

I'm sorry, I don't see straights having the right to say "you cannot marry" without having to cop to the "because you are less than us" meme that I have heard my whole life. Covering it with polite euphemisms isn't enough. The fact that there are probably decent non-hateful reasons (I'm willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to anyone on this blog) doesn't change the fur on the pack you're running with. I haven't heard that kind of hateful rhetoric since white Southerners screaming about integration. People act as if the marriage of two people who love each other somehow influences what will happen in THEIR house. I don't get that.


Did the guy assigned to investigate Abu Gharib and so forth really just say that the entire thing was a web of illegal behavior? Remember back when those photos came out, and people said they were fakes? And then isolated behavior? And that poor stupid little trailor-trash twit got convicted, while claiming that her actions were approved of by others up the line? Oh, no, that couldn't be. And now, even before Bush leaves the White House (where he has massive ability to influence investigations) we have a pretty clear picture that decisions were made up and down the line.

Gee. Wonder if her case will be reopened? Naw. Probably what she's really being punished for is being stupid enough to get caught.


Glad to see that some of McCain's policies are energizing his base. I have no interest in Obama winning by a walk. Actually, I have no interest in him winning at all unless he is the best for the office. The fact that I think he is doesn't mean he is. I mean, he could be just a freak political talent with an EQ off the charts. Does that make a good commander in chief? No. Of course, I believe I also detect in him qualities of thought that I have admired all my life, and see quite rarely, especially in public life. Still, the only way for this to shake out is a good, solid fight. Let people see both, and decide. America will get the President it deserves.


I have to admit to having a nasty thought running through my mind about McCain's invitation for Obama to visit Iraq. Yes, he should go. But...

Let me just put on my novelist's cap for a minute. Let's say there was a political candidate that challenged the system. Say there were powerful people afraid of him. Let's say it was decided that something had to be done.

We have a situation in Iraq where legal jurisdictions are confused. Where there are both American and foreign soldiers, as well as thousands of armed mercenaries. If one wished an "accident" or "tragedy" to oh man oh man, what better place. So the writer in me has the trailing candidate sucker his opponent into traveling on HIS itinerary.

Hey: how many times do I have to hear people mention assassination, when I have NEVER heard such speculations before about a candidate, before I assume that there is a chance that demons are rumbling. The technique is to make public suggestions, deny their importance, and pray that a nutball will step up and do the wrong thing.

If people have died to preserve economic, political, racial or social privilege in the past, they will in the future. Such a convenient kill zone makes me a little nervous.


I saw Shamylan's "The Happening" yesterday. Nice premise: mysterious force is causing people to commit suicide (graphically, and frankly, amusingly). As the contagion spreads, people panic. That's pretty much the story, and it's solid. But the writing, acting, and direction are spotty, and I never had a sense of the SIZE of this thing. How many people died? Or fled? It's never specified, and that leaves me with a disjointed sense of time, place, and impact. Mark Wahlberg isn't the most expressive actor in the world, and here he does some pretty poor work. I think that M. Night is an extremely talented filmmaker trying to step in the same piece of water twice. It's killing him.


Nancy Lebovitz said...

I don't think all talk about Obama possibly getting assassinated is provocation. There's a higher risk than there would be for a white candidate or president, and it hasn't exactly been a safe job for whites.

I'm looking forward to eight and a half years of worrying about Obama getting assassinated.

I do think he's the better candidate, but do you have an opinion on the idea that the Republican party must be punished?
I hear it often enough, and it would imply that other things being equal (or even if the Democratic candidate is slightly inferior), one should vote for the Democrat.

Marty S said...

Steve: There is an individual who was a coworker of mine, since 1977. We began to work closely together and became friends about twenty years ago. He was gay, but hid from everyone until our facility was closed down eight years ago and he was no longer afraid that the knowledge he was gay would hurt his career. He never even admitted it those of us he was fairly close to although we were with him enough to be fairly sure he was gay. So in one sense you have it right. Being gay can hurt you and it is tough. On the other hand I still say that if a majority or a substantial minority of the population are anti-gay, then you don't make the problems for gays go away by legislation or judicial fiat. If Bernie and his partner Tony had the right to marry and Bernie still had to fear that being openly gay would hurt his career, then they would not have married and he still would have hid his gayness. The problem is better solved by educating the bias out of society.

Anonymous said...

that same argument was made
"you can't legislate. . . "
about blacks
with repect to affirmative action
in colleges and universities
and it was as invalid then
as it is about gay people

right you can;t legislate
bigotry and homophobia away
but if you wait for it to go away
before you assure that gay people or black people
get a fair shake
then you wait for

I'm nt sure gay people care whether you are comfortable
about their intimacy choices or not
really it's none of your business
(or mine or anyone else's)
it has nothing to do with any straight person's marriage
or how they raise their kids
but tweo people
who are committed to each other
and responsible for each other
have a right
to all the rights attendant
upon being responsible
and sharing a life committment

whether its attendance at a critical care unit
or a deceased's social security
or whatever

legislation is not about
forcing people to be comfortable
it's about asssuring rights
and fuck whether people are comfortable
waiting for that is just an excuse
to do nothing

Christian H. said...

There is and never will be a comparison of the lives and lifestyles of blacks and gays.

I have no problem with two men or two women being married. My problem comes when we say that one or both have been assigned the wrong gender and so one or both act like the other gender.

From the religious side, how can we say we believe in God, but we pick and choose which things we follow and which we ignore as "old-fashioned."

But all in all, knock yourselves out. I don't want to be married.

Marty S said...

Suzanne: Did I miss something. Did the CA legislature make gay marriage legal. I thought it was the ruling of a single judge. In my mind your argument has something of a chicken and egg nature. If we are talking about legislation, then attitudes have to already have changed for the legislation to have been passed. Of course once the legislation has passed, if it's good legislation more people may see that it is good and so attitudes may change further.

Now as far as gay rights go domestic partnership laws can resolve issues such as attendance in critical care units. As for social security issue you brought up

1) As with tax benefits for married couples there is some question in my mind as to whether the benefits should apply to married couples who don't have children and

2) Secondly the spousal benefit is becoming more and more irrelevant as the percent of women in the workforce increase. My wife earned much less than I, but do to the nature of the benefit calculation she already gets eighty-five percent of my benefit on her own.

The spousal benefit was created in a time when most women stayed home to raise the children and would have had no social security without it.

Josh Jasper said...

Christian, no one is comparing lifestyles. We're comparing the judicial decisions that allowed interracial marriage, and same sex marriage. The courts have to do that. You may not want them to, but it's reality. You can't deny it.

Anonymous said...

christian howell,

The various religions and denominations constantly choose and change which precepts, tenants and commandments to emphasize and obey, and which to downplay or downright ignore. Catholics conspicuously ignore the "No Graven Images" commandment, while Muslims adhere to its Koranic transliteration with homicidal vehemency. Thankfully, most modern Christians and Jews ignore injunctions to kill witches, disobedient children, Sabbath breakers and gays, as well as the tacit Biblical condonement of slavery and the Leviticus prohibition against contact with blood (adherence by Jehovah's Witnesses to this archaic folly causes incalculable suffering and death since the ban prohibits transfusion). Given that the sensible religious have a long history of interpreting scripture so as to conform with civilized and enlightened mores, let them do so once again and recognize gay and straight matrimony as equally sacred and beautiful in the eyes of "god".

Unknown said...

"Did I miss something. Did the CA legislature make gay marriage legal. I thought it was the ruling of a single judge. "

Yes, Marty, you did miss something. The CA legislature passed a law legalizing same sex marriage. Schwarzenegger vetoed that law, saying that the courts needed to rule. The CA legislature, in a subsequent session, passed a law legalizing same sex marriage. Schwarzenegger vetoed the law on the same grounds. Finally, the case that had been making its way through the courts reached the CA Supreme Court (which had earlier invalidated the San Francisco same sex marriages performed by Mayor Gavin Newsome, but which hadn't yet ruled on the substantive issue, just the "major jumped the gun" issue). The CA Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage. The Governor then declared himself in favor, and against overturning the court decision by initiative in November; evidently, for reasons I don't really understand, he really did want the decision made by the courts rather than the legislature (rather than actually being opposed to same sex marriage).

So, all three branches of our government have now declared themselves in favor of same sex marriage, though the order in which they did so is a little odd.

Anonymous said...

Hell, to paraphrase a comedian: Why should straight people be the only ones allowed to be miserable about making a grave mistake of sharing their life with the wrong person?

And to Steve, concerning this: "Gee. Wonder if her case will be reopened? Naw. Probably what she's really being punished for is being stupid enough to get caught."

Guess the same could be said, NOW, about Bush on down who have been caught, as well.

But you are correct. The military, to my knowledge has NEVER gone back on a charge. Trust me on this: The UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) is more archaic and much more stringent than civilian law.

And IF there has ever been an enlisted military individual (I'm talking low ranking enlisted, here) whose sentence was overturned, I have never heard or read of it. I would love to hear of it happening, though. Too many have been raked over the coals and hung out to dry for bull shit.

Marty S said...

Lynn: This is a quote from the article in the Los Angles Times describing the ruling.

"The California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday in a broadly worded decision that would invalidate virtually any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation."

Reading this description certainly led me to believe there was a law banning same sex marriage. But your description of the situation is probably right since you seem to follow the whole thing closely and I certainly don't. Frankly, I am more interested in the issue of judicial activism than of gay marriage. While fun to debate the issue of are gays entitled to the right to marry, versus should they be allowed to marry, versus should they not be allowed to marry is very low on my importance scale. I really don't care either way.

Anonymous said...

-- "My problem comes when we say that one or both have been assigned the wrong gender and so one or both act like the other gender." --

Sorry but this actually does happen sometimes. It's extremely rare and I think that probably the majority of people who say they've been "assigned the wrong gender" have no basis for that claim. But there are a few cases in which "wrong gender" can be proved medically.

Anonymous said...

lynn an dall
I have a nephew
who alas I don;t know very well at all
who was born as a niece of mine

when I finally got a chance
to meet and speak with him
at my mother's funeral
he told me
how clear it was to him
that he'd been born
into the wrong kind of body

there is no way
if I hadn;t known his history
that I would weever have thought him
anything but a man

and as my father said
after his alterations
(the wisest thing I ever heard my father say:
"the thinfgs you think will kill you
are NOAt the things that kill you."

but I loved my father
watching his Mind disappear
was one of the worst things
I ever experienced

Elzabet said...

Regarding the original posting:

1. I think your statements are compelling but I disagree with them.
But that's okay. If we all thought the same way, the world would be about as interesting as white bread.

2. Obama is in more physical danger than any other candidate in history. It's the part of The Burden of the First. By the time the second comes along, the "dangerous novelty" will be past and those in power will be of another generation. Praise God.

Unknown said...

"Reading this description certainly led me to believe there was a law banning same sex marriage."

There was an initiative that got passed way back when it looked as if the courts in Hawaii were going to legalize same sex marriage there (and prior to when it actually was legalized in Massachusetts), which could be interpreted either as barring same sex marriage altogether here, or as barring out of state same sex marriages from counting in California without California having legalized them. Some time after the initiative, our domestic partnership law got souped up to be as close to marriage as the legislature could make it, and still later, the legislature made the two attempts to legalize same sex marriage (which Schwarzenegger vetoed in favor of having the courts rule).

It's a complicated history, and I can understand that people not in California might miss all the twists and turns.

Marty S said...

With respect to my friend Bernie, he has never indicted that felt he was born the wrong gender, but I do find their relationship somewhat amusing in the sense that Tony still works and Bernie stays home and some of their conversations when Tony gets home sound like something out of a 50's sitcom between husband and stay at home wife.

Anonymous said...

"..Tony still works and Bernie stays home and some of their conversations when Tony gets home sound like something out of a 50's sitcom between husband and stay at home wife."

I do find it fascinating that the power and sex dynamics of gay relationships appear to often echo those common to straight sexual relationships, as opposed to striking a distinctive cord. In both cases, one partner is often more dominant, the other largely submissive. Gay dominance/submissive dynamics are even expressed through imitation of traditional male/female postures, gestures and psyches.

Steven Barnes said...

It actually seems to me that marriages are a lot like other kinds of relationships: friendships, boyfriend-girlfriend, business partners, etc. In other words, its just human stuff.
Nancy--I don't necessarily think this is deliberate provocation. I'd feel reassured if it were. No, I see this as largely (but not exclusively) subconscious anger, fear and tribalism. You can't change human beings directly, but you can change the laws that bind them into societies.
Yes, I think the Republicans should be punished, but not horribly. In my opinion, they went over the line the last eight years. Without a correction of some kind, they will be encouraged to maintain the same tactics. Of course, once the Democrats are in power for a while, they'll need a little chastisement as well.

Anonymous said...

what I described about my nephew
does not apply to homosexuals
he is tranasgendered
which is a different thing
from homosexuality

he had breast reduction surgery
and takes male hormones
so he has chest hair
and a beard
and a low voice

he did not
9at least the last time I had contact with him
some years back) had not had
surgery to turn his vagina into a penis

as he said to me
"it doesn't take a penis to be a man."

he vividly described the horrors
of knowing he was in the wrong sort of body
which began for him before adolescence

he is in an intimate relationship
with a woman

as to homosexual relationships
having hetero relationship features
the example given of wife - submissive
and husband - dominant

please people!!!
that was then
several decades ago
it's not so relevant - thank the goddesses - today!

in any relationship at any given moment
I suppose you could say
one or the other person is
dominant by one criteria or another
in the best of all possivble worlds
as far as I'm concerned
it would be a constantly fluctuating thing
based on capability
with whoever's best ast a given thing being the dominant one
wheen that thing or activity
is what;s happening

that's what I currently strive for
in long term relationships

Steven Barnes said...


I didn't mean that gay relationships mirror heterosexual ones. I suggest that they mirror human ones. Whether business or platonic, some are roughly equal. Some are not, one person, friend or partner having more...well, more "juice" than the other. I personally would prefer the equal. I've run into women who were interested in being dominated. Not interested.