23 March 2015

Jesus is Coming: a few songs about an old friend

I take a very long time putting together song lists of this sort. I began with the idea that Easter is coming, and that Jesus is Love. And so, I proceed through songs that explicitly mention the Lord but also love songs, with all of Love's disappointments, excitements, false leads, re-routs, blind faith, and Faith. This list leads through reversals, achievements, passions, angers, understandings, misunderstandings, word-associations, and deeply-felt connections.

To love Jesus is its own love affair; and we would do a lot better than to stop denying that that is the case. It's a long story, and it deserves all the backtracking, backsliding, intuition, and insight that comes with any long relationship. This is a very personal, perverse, and real grouping of songs on a theme. I hope you are able to enjoy it and understand it. 

Jesus is just alright with me, as long as he looks just like you.

And Jesus was a sailor,
When he walked upon the water,
And he spent a long time watching
From a lonely wooden tower,
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him,
He said, all men shall be sailors then,
Until the sea shall free them,

But he, himself, was broken,
Long before the sky would open,
Forsaken, almost human,
He sank beneath your wisdom,
Like a stone.

12 March 2015

On Watching "The Walking Dead"

A few years ago, my ex used to be annoyed at how the culture--its films, television, and narratives--had become overrun with vampires and zombies. I don't know what he thinks about it now, because I haven't asked him, but it seems clear that the futile fantasy of beauty, glamour, boredom, and power that is the undead vampire is on the wane (reality television, among other things) and zombies, the mindlessly persistent idea of us, as dead, as relentless consumers of everything, is ascendant--that and the sense of outlaw survivalism against the worst odds that we see in Sons of Anarchy, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, and, of course, The Walking Dead.

Our books, our comic books, our movies, and our television shows are our dreams, as a culture. Read them awake. Awaken.

07 March 2015

On Enfranchisement; On Suffrage


en·fran·chise \in-ˈfran-ˌchīz, en-\

Full Definition of ENFRANCHISE
transitive verb

1: to set free (as from slavery)

2: to endow with a franchise: as

a : to admit to the privileges of a citizen and especially to the right of suffrage

b : to admit (a municipality) to political privileges or rights


suf·frage \ˈsə-frij, sometimes -fə-rij\

Full Definition of SUFFRAGE

1: a short intercessory prayer usually in a series

2: a vote given in deciding a controverted question or electing a person for an office or trust

3: the right of voting : franchise; also : the exercise of such right

I. On The Law, Marriageability, and The Supreme Court

This begins with a very long sentence, inclusive of serial digressions on the topic:

While I have never had any significant personal interest in getting married and--less topical but still significant--I am critical of the prized, exemplary status accorded marriage culturally, and even more so of the economic and legal advantages awarded by the State to any two adult individuals--formerly white, formerly of the same skin color, and now formerly of differently sexed bodies (is it not interesting how discriminatory animus, as the Law itself, shows its sad obsession with excluding specific bodies from its irregular protections and its unearned patronage in this neat, capsule history?)--who, whether foolish or wise, whether loaded and living it up and leaving it in Las Vegas or sober at St Patrick's, decide, for any reason or no reason, for love or money or loneliness or status or spite, to claim their right to this contract that we call an institution, I nonetheless have never found the curiously overwrought desire in The Law to segregate same-sex adults from this contract (without entertaining even the condescending lip-service of "separate but equal") to be credulous or even intelligible.

I am less perplexed by the impulse two people may have to enunciate a ritual declaration of union between them than I am by the State's longstanding preoccupation with singling out this dual relation for its imprimatur, while other relationships and other adults, paired but unmarried or--Heaven forfend!--single--nearly all by dint of birth not among the 1% that enjoys the wealth of the nation--are effectively punished for their willful failure, or their legal ineligibility, to submit to this contract. And thus this structure makes a demand of the institution, a demand whose call is heard no less by those able to heed it under The Law's latest grudging concession of whom it will accept as a person (even then only under certain conditions and in specific locations) and those still shunned by its embrace and ridiculed by its exceptional promise--a promise it guards jealously in its bosom, as a child does with a secret or rather an old toy, carefully withheld from play by the merest interest from another child.

The value of the Other Body does not derive from the ban placed on its marriageability, rather the Body in question--though unmarked by any outward sign of its intrinsic, alien difference, except, of course, the same difference displayed by nearly everyone: the supposedly unified, immutable sex of the body itself, now cleverly redeployed as the mark of difference, of Cain, by its proximity to another body displaying the same mark--is the very reason for its exclusion from the contract. The spatial dimension, and the arena of the social, are thus conscripted to render the familiar strange, and theorize the discovery of essential difference, of identity, in an otherwise undifferentiatable body. It is through this guilt by association, this conspiracy theory, that the Law discerns the identity that marks this unmarked body. And this is how, as Foucault memorably demonstrated, the action, the crime, the trajectory of the act defines the past and future of the body, becomes an identity, the crime becomes the body itself--becomes the Other Body--or as the Bible clarified so much earlier in the King James, the Strength of Sin is the Law. And in these latter days the struggle for civil rights has effectively removed much of the need for policing, because now we nominate ourselves for the State. The act is eclipsed by the name. And the Law is still catching up to what this means in regard to its strictures, prejudices, and punishments.

But the weakness of the Law in this case is that it is based on the notion of Sin. It is not Sin that determines the Law, and despite the important genealogical relationship between Commandments and Religious Laws and the field of American Law, they in fact are not coextensive, rather they take a very different interest in a series of similar topics and dilemmas. And though under Religion these topics do not represent dilemmas, under the Law, they must.

But let us return to the question of the problematic, intractable, ungovernable Other Body that even though the Law has spent centuries trying to define, detect, dissect, and force into submission, this Other Body keeps slipping away, as the Law realizes and re-realizes that it has never had ethical ground to stand upon in the first place in this matter. The Law of Desire is not subject to the Law of Man. And despite the paucity of reference in history books it is surely as old as the oldest profession, which is not prostitution as the romantics would have us believe, but the profession of love.

II. On Intercession, The Marketplace, Voting Rights, Racism, and The Law

As a kind of late introduction, I should mention that I had always written the first part of this post--which is a repost-of-a-post--as a commentary on the nearly simultaneous release of two Supreme Court rulings, not one: the grudging concession to the unconstitutional status of parts of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) and the chronologically precedent evisceration--a much more important and far-reaching and enormously damaging ruling--of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The second always drained any pleasure from the first. I don't care a fig for same-sex marriage when the same week thousands of people are declared second-class citizens, unworthy of the right to vote in racist Southern states, and other places--places put on permanent watch for good reason, as they have shown in this aftermath! As soon as the 1965 law was declared obsolete and unnecessary, the very states in question pursued the exact actions prohibited by the law under which they were formerly bound. This is repugnant and embarrassing to the extreme for all Americans. I feel that today, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches in protest for the right to vote, it is only appropriate that I finally finish this post.

We are watching the fascinating conflict among, and intersection of, a series of Higher Court edicts, Legislative/Executive workarounds, Late Capitalist imperatives, animus-based Religious intractabilities, States vs Federal Rights issues, dilemmas of the Franchise, and Republican-Democratic open questions (not the political parties, I speak here of principles of democratically-elected representatives of a republic: "...and to the Republic for which it stands....") simultaneously coming home to roost. Where will it lead?

Let us begin with a certain kind of franchise, which is the only one anyone seems to care about, which is the business franchise, which allows us to sell to anyone, no matter how depraved they are. This is the foundation of Arizona's gubernatorial veto, which recognized the tacit and provisional LGBTQO "community" as a realistic, even necessary, factor in the marketplace. Yet why is the ability of same-sex couples to marry such a powerful factor in the marketplace of ideas and cash, when the ability of so-called "minority" bodies to participate in the electoral process is not equally or more powerful? I am baffled by this inconsistency. Are gay bodies white and not black? Are gay bodies monied and black bodies negligible? What moronic calculus accounts for this... this unspeakable idiocy? Under what jaundiced optic of The Law are black bodies allowed to marry but not to vote?--an optic that includes one's neighborhood and income bracket?

I realize now why I have taken so long to write about this: it is because my language fails before this pathetic Racism. It is Racism on its face; and The Law should hang its head in shame before this monstrous abdication of its essential role--its protection of fairness--in our society. And let all of you who say there is no Racism in American culture incline your heads in shame as well.

I'll write more later when I've cooled off.