The Last Closet: Why I Won’t Be Home For Christmas

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by Zinnia Jones
on December 23, 2012

“Just don’t tell grandpa.” It’s been my family’s constant refrain throughout the entirety of my out, public queerdom. It should be easy enough, right? We just… won’t tell him. But no matter how well you keep it, a secret won’t stay contained. It seeps from the black box where we tried to censor it out of our lives, growing little tendrils that infect everything they touch. Any other thing your secret would change is a secret now too. We always end up with more than we bargained for, until we’re desperately leaping across the chasms it leaves in our world.

My grandpa doesn’t know I’m a woman. How am I supposed to hide something like that?

Sure, it was easier when I was 19 and came out to my family as a “gay man.” As I tearfully hugged my mom and sister, I was so grateful just to be accepted that I probably would have gone along with anything in return. But it was my own cowardice too. It did seem safer, after all. What was the harm in letting grandpa – racist, Palin-loving grandpa who goes to church every morning and evening and gets mailers about the UN’s “homosexual agenda” – keep believing whatever he wants?

 The holidays and birthday parties at his house, the weekly dinners together that had become a tradition for us since grandma passed away, the avoidance of politics as we barely concealed our disgust, everything continued as usual. It’s not like I ever had any boyfriends to hide, anyway. Maybe that should have told us all something.

By the time I first came out, I was well on my way to feminine territory. But breaking out of assumptions, especially big ones like what gender you are, can take some work. You’ve lived as a guy all your life, you find you have an attraction to men (even if not an exclusive one), you lean toward the effeminate, and that’s the role society offers you: gay man. It was just the nearest place I could find for myself. I wasn’t yet ready to consider that I might actually want to be a woman instead.

Sometimes I wish I were one of the people who had “always known” in some sense that they were really a man or a woman, the people who eventually have that epiphany all at once, and know exactly what their path is if they choose to take it. Sure, I knew what it would mean to be trans – and people who knew me online were already starting to see me that way – but I had to carve away at the space of possibilities until the only remaining option was too obvious to ignore.

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For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

From The New York Times:

Published: December 22, 2012

GALVESTON, Tex. — Angelica Gonzales marched through high school in Goth armor — black boots, chains and cargo pants — but undermined her pose of alienation with a place on the honor roll. She nicknamed herself after a metal band and vowed to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.

“I don’t want to work at Walmart” like her mother, she wrote to a school counselor.

Weekends and summers were devoted to a college-readiness program, where her best friends, Melissa O’Neal and Bianca Gonzalez, shared her drive to “get off the island” — escape the prospect of dead-end lives in luckless Galveston. Melissa, an eighth-grade valedictorian, seethed over her mother’s boyfriends and drinking, and Bianca’s bubbly innocence hid the trauma of her father’s death. They stuck together so much that a tutor called them the “triplets.”

Low-income strivers face uphill climbs, especially at Ball High School, where a third of the girls’ class failed to graduate on schedule. But by the time the triplets donned mortarboards in the class of 2008, their story seemed to validate the promise of education as the great equalizer.

Angelica, a daughter of a struggling Mexican immigrant, was headed to Emory University. Bianca enrolled in community college, and Melissa left for Texas State University, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s alma mater.

“It felt like we were taking off, from one life to another,” Melissa said. “It felt like, ‘Here we go!’ ”

Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store.

Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.

The story of their lost footing is also the story of something larger — the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.

“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”

The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

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FBI Investigated ‘Occupy’ As Possible ‘Terrorism’ Threat, Internal Documents Show

From Huffington Post:


According to internal documents newly released by the FBI, the agency spearheaded a nationwide law enforcement effort to investigate and monitor the Occupy Wall Street movement. In certain documents, divisions of the FBI refer to the Occupy Wall Street protests as a “criminal activity” or even “domestic terrorism.”

The internal papers were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice fund via a Freedom of Information Act Request. The fund, a legal nonprofit that focuses on civil rights, says it believes the 112 pages of documents, available for public viewing on its website, are only “the tip of the iceberg.”

“This production … is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” wrote Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the fund’s executive director, in a press release Saturday.

According to the documents, the FBI coordinated extensively with private companies, including banks, that feared they could be affected by Occupy protests. Occupy, which took root in New York City’s Zuccotti Park in September 2011 and spread to cities across the country, targeted corporations and other forces it believed to perpetuate social inequality. The FBI’s investigation included the movement’s manifestations in New York; Milwaukee; Indianapolis; Anchorage, Alaska; Jacksonville, Fla.; Richmond, Va.; and Memphis, Tenn., among others.

The FBI did not immediately respond to The Huffington Post’s requests for comment Sunday.

In September, the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents that detailed the FBI’s surveillance of the Occupy movement in that region. At the time, the FBI told the San Francisco Chronicle that its investigations were being performed in a way that “respects liberty and privacy and avoids unnecessary intrusions into the lives of law-abiding people.”

According to the new documents, the FBI began meeting with representatives of the New York Stock Exchange and other businesses as early as August 2011, a month before the Zuccotti Park protests.

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Ask a Democrat: On Social Security, Which Side Are You On?

From Common Dreams:

by Richard Eskow
Published on Sunday, December 23, 2012 by Campaign for America’s Future

This is a moment of moral clarity. Right now there are only two sides in the Social Security debate: the side that says it’s acceptable to cut benefits – in a way that raises taxes for all income except the highest – and the side that says it isn’t.

It’s time to ask our leaders – and ourselves – a simple question: Which side are you on?

Nancy Pelosi says she can convince most Congressional Democrats to “stick with the President” as he pursues his gratuitous and callous plan to cut Social Security benefits as part of a deficit deal – even though Social Security does not contribute to the deficit.

Excuse me: Stick with the President? What about sticking with our seniors and our veterans? What about sticking with our disabled fellow Americans? What What about sticking with the more than 4,000 children on Social Security who lost a parent in the Iraq War?

If you want to “stick with” Americans on Social Security, it’s time to call everybody who represents you in Washington – your Representative, your Senator, your President – and tell them that they’ll lose your support if they do this deal.

It’s time for an end to the Orwellian doublespeak. Cutting benefits won’t “strengthen” Social Security, as Nancy Pelosi claims. Cuts of 6.5 percent for a 75 year old and 9.2 percent for a 95 year old aren’t so small that “folks won’t even notice ‘em,” as President Obama claimed. They’re not a “technical” adjustment, as his press secretary argued, nor do “most economists believe … this about getting a proper measure of inflation.”

The smart economists know that even today’s cost of living formula isn’t enough. It under counts the things older and disabled people use the most, like health care and public transportation.  Some other people know the formula’s inadequate, too: Seniors. They live with the costs every day.

So let’s stop all the double-talk and get down to the real question at hand:  Which side are you on?

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From Apocalypse to Dystopia

From The New York Times:

Published: December 22, 2012


WE’RE a little overwrought now.

The N.R.A. understands that. It’s as patient with us as a husband with a tremulous pregnant wife prone to crying jags.

This is just a passing meltdown. We’ll get ourselves back under control soon and things will return to normal.

For decades, when the public has grown more sympathetic to gun control after an attempted assassination or a spike in gun murders or a harrowing school shooting, Wayne LaPierre and his fellow N.R.A. officials have hunkered down to wait for the “emotional period” or “hysteria,” as they call it, to pass.

They rule in the back rooms on Capitol Hill and rein in panicked senators and congressmen who fret that they should support some measly legislation to pretend they are not pawns of the gun lobby.

They defend anyone owning anything with a trigger, reiterating that military-style semiautomatics are just uglier hunting guns.

While there were more heartbreaking funerals in Newtown, Conn., with long hearses carrying small bodies, LaPierre stepped to the microphone in Washington on Friday to present the latest variation of his Orwellian creed: Guns don’t kill people. Media kill people.

“Rather than face their own moral failings,” he said in high dudgeon, “the media demonize gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws, and fill the national media with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action, and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.”

So it’s our fault.

LaPierre, who literally trembles when the omnipotent gun lobby is under siege, went ballistic painting a threatening picture of the dystopia that awaits if we don’t protect our schools from guns by putting guns in schools.

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O’Donnell calls NRA’s LaPierre a ‘lobbyist for mass-murderers’

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Saturday, December 22, 2012

Friday night on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” host Lawrence O’Donnell excoriated NRA head Wayne LaPierre’s press conference from Friday morning. In an extended diatribe, O’Donnell called LaPierre a “lobbyist for mass-murderers,” and sarcastically marveled that of course the NRA’s response to the Sandy Hook massacre is the one that poses the organization the least inconvenience.

O’Donnell, like many liberals who watched Friday’s press conference, was taken aback by LaPierre’s glibness and his rote refusal to acknowledge that his organization might have had any role in making heavy weapons too readily available. The half-hour spectacle, noted O’Donnell, “did not include a single word of apology.”

Washington stopped on Friday to listen to LaPierre and to see what he would have to say about his organization with regard to the tragic shooting last week in Newtown, Connecticut. O’Donnell disputed his legitimacy, saying that in a country of 400 million people, a man who represents only about 4 million card-carrying constituents should draw the cameras of every network in cable TV.

LaPierre, said O’Donnell is mostly in opposition to the majority of NRA members on topics like background checks and the availability of assault weapons.

“So what did this man have to say today?” O’Donnell asked, “This man who got all this attention, this man who is the CEO of a $200 million business that plays with the dues money of four million people, most of whom disagree with this man on some of the issues he cares about most?”

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NRA’s Wayne LaPierre doubles down on schools gun plan as anger rises

I am a target shooter. 

I hate the NRA and every evil thing it has become.  The NRA does not represent me.  Indeed listening to them causes people to think all gun owners are insane like LaPierre.

From The Guardian:

Lobbyist holds his ground as Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence releases plea from parent of Sandy Hook survivor

in New York, Sunday 23 December 2012

The National Rifle Association doubled down Sunday on its controversial push for armed guards to be stationed in every US school, despite anger among gun control advocates over the group’s “tone deaf” proposals.

Responding to widespread condemnation of the lobbying group’s press conference on Friday – which broke a week-long silence over the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut – Wayne LaPierre, the NRA‘s chief executive and executive vice president, refused to back down or enter into a new debate.

“If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” LaPierre said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think the American people think it’s crazy not to do it. It’s the one thing that would keep people safe.”

In response to the NRA’s entrenchment of its position, a gun control campaign group released a statement Sunday from a Sandy Hook parent which urged “responsible” gun owners to distance themselves from LaPierre’s organisation.

LaPierre launched the NRA’s response to the school shooting at a briefing on Friday which was twice interrupted by protesters. His comments attracted widespread criticism, even from many pro-gun Republicans and conservatives. Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, called LaPierre’s comments “very haunting and very disturbing” and said he had missed an opportunity “to create another conversation at a higher level where the American people are right now”.

Chris Murphy, a Democratic representative and senator-elect for Connecticut, described LaPierre’s response as “revolting” and “tone deaf” while an editorial in the New York Times said it was “almost deranged”.

In the wake of the Newtown shooting, which left 27 victims dead, including 20 children aged six and seven, there have been mounting calls for greater gun controls, including a ban on military-style assault weapons, a cap on high-capacity magazines and tightened background checks on private gun sellers. President Barack Obama has said he will make firearm legislation a “central issue” of his second term in office. Meanwhile, polls show that a slight majority of Americans now favour restrictions on guns.

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See also:  The Guardian:  NRA chief breaks post-Newtown silence to call for armed guards at schools

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