Friday, December 22, 2006

If We Want it (and I do...)

John Lennon - Happy XMas (War Is Over)

Like all classic songs, this one still is relevant today. Please join me in my wish and prayer for true peace on earth. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Heart Toronto! (Part Deux)

What is it about this city? I thought when I left Seoul, that there would be no one to take it's place. Au contraire mon frere!
I'll admit there has been (and still is) transition and the stress that comes with that. However, lately I have been having these little slices of heaven and thought I would compile them for your enjoyment.!

*Having lunch at the True Love Cafe. They have musicians (who I believe play for food) come in and serenade diners. The first guy covered Prince's funky Kiss on electric guitar and vocals. Simply sublime. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Another guy came in and played on the piano, no singing. He began with Quiet Riot's Cum on Feel the Noize followed by Vince Guaraldi's Christmastime is Here from the Charlie Brown Christmas. I hated to leave!

*Taking a walk through Allen Gardens Conservatory. Although it's antique, old, open to the public free and so well done!

*Riding the TTC subway and having the stops being sung to me by the conductor. Love that!

*Seeing the morning sunrise over Lake Ontario from our apartment window.

*walking into the nearest dry cleaners and seeing pictures of Hallasan (on Jeju) and Geumgangsan (in North Korea) (Korean mountains I've been to.)

*reading the Advocate that the neighbourhood public library has a subscription to.

*encountering panhandlers in the Church-Wellesley Village. One offers shoe shines for spare change. Another has his cup on a fishing line and says funny things as we walk by.

*drinking herbal tea and reading the newspaper after working out and showering at the local YMCA.

*using my Korean at the local convience store to ask which phone card is the best for calling South Korea.

*walking past the fabulous homes in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood and dreaming of living there. (never gonna happen but still it's nice to dream!)

*looking through books in This Ain't the Rosedale Library (nearby indie bookstore).

*listening to musicians in the subway stations.

*using my Spanish on the elevator of our apartment building.

*getting a spur of the moment, out-of-the blue invitation yesterday from my friend to join her coworkers in seeing the sold-out performance of the musical Wicked at the fabulous Canon Theatre! (Hooray for the flu that's going around!)

What a great city, eh? But don't take my word on it! Come visit and experience for yourself what this city has to offer!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Here's Your Sign

I swear!

Okay this post is just going to be pure rant, devoid of the usual insight Danifesto usually tries to express. Readers be forewarned!

Is it just me or are there a lot of stupid people lately? Mind you, I've very tolerant because Lord knows I'm not the highest card in the deck but some of these folks lately have taken their stupidness and raised it to a new level that is shocking!

My first example comes from Oklahoma (no comments or generalizations about that- my Dad grew up near where this happened and there are fine people there I'm sure). Two women "claim" to have been attacked because of their sexual orientation. Local police aren't sure though.

"It’s almost like they didn’t believe the gay thing, like people wanting to beat someone else up because they’re gay," Kaspereit told the Evening News.
"I don't think people realize how much we get discriminated against. Being attacked because of your sexual orientation I found out isn't even considered a hate crime in Oklahoma. We're singled out. We're obviously singled out. They kind of proved that with my arm."
Kaspereit told the paper that police asked her several questions but did not take photographs of her arm or bloodied face. (

What's the deal with her arm you ask? Oh, they carved the word "lesbian" on it. Her friend had "Hellbound" written deeply in pen on her chest.

Yeah. I would have to side with her on this one. I don't think those donut-eaters really have a clue down there. I'm just sayin'! (*RETRACTION: She has since confessed this never happened! Even stupider!)

My second example of stupidity comes from Jim Rutz who writes for Much time has been spent wondering about gay people and where we came from and why. Ponder no more because Mr. Rutz has cracked this mystery for us! Apparently the reason for the rash of gayness is due to soy. That's right. Soy=Gay. It's all that soy milk and tofu in my diet as a child. (Never ate the stuff actually) Here's what he has to say (see above link for the whole article):

I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you're also getting substantial quantities of estrogens.
Estrogens are female hormones. If you're a woman, you're flooding your system with a substance it can't handle in surplus. If you're a man, you're suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your "female side," physically and mentally.

And we all know where that yellow brick road leads folks! Now this might come as a shocker to you but I'll just add that although he actually did receive post-secondary education, it was not in the field of science or medicine!

The final example of someone being hit upside the head with the "stupid stick" is a group of people actually. The Holocaust Conference in Teran, Iran was held earlier this week to discuss the authenticity of this tragic event. The attendees actually "believe that the volumes of documentation, testimony and living memory of the Nazi genocide are at best exaggerated and part of a Zionist conspiracy to falsify history so as to create the case for Israel" (source).

After I was done trying to explain this to my partner, he just said, "But that's soooooooooooooo stupid, honey!" He's absolutely right. I'm in favour of freedom of speech and others having the right to say as many stupid things as they want to. However I also have the right to point out what they are presenting as "fact" is actually just stupid bigotry dressed up in academic clothing. I'd wonder what Iran's president (and conference sponsor), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would say if he actually went to the Auschwitz concentration camp site. He'd probably dismiss it as all part of some great conspiracy, along with all the survivors with numbered tattoos on their arms. He actually used the word "myth" when referring to the most documented case of genocide in written history!

Although the Holocaust devastated whole generations of Jews and unquestionably impacted them the most, they were not the only victims. People who visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC learn that Sinti, Roma (some estimates are as high as 800,000 "gypsies" were murdered), Poles (6 million killed, of whom 3 million were Christian, and the rest Jewish), Serbs (estimates vary between 500,000 and 1.2 million killed, mostly by Croat Ustaše), Soviet military prisoners of war and civilians in occupied territories including Russians and other East Slavs, the mentally or physically disabled, homosexuals, Africans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Communists and political dissidents, trade unionists, Freemasons, Eastern Christians, and Catholic and Protestant clergy, were also persecuted and killed (source).

Historians have estimated that between 9-11 million people perished in seven years. Holding a conference for all the wingnuts who believe this never happened is just stupid.

Reading this over, I've noticed that all my examples of stupidity happen to be male. To be fair, and show that stupidity does not discriminate, I'll close with the lyrics of "Stupid Girl" by Pink.

Maybe if I act like that,
that guy will call me back
Porno Paparazzi girl,
I don't wanna be a stupid girl

Go to Fred Segal, you'll find them there
Laughing loud so all the little people stare
Looking for a daddy to pay for the champagne
(Drop a name)

What happened to the dreams of a girl president
She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent
They travel in packs of two or three
With their itsy bitsy doggies and their teeny-weeny tees

Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?
Oh where, oh where could they be?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My Hero Zero

The homily at mass this morning was about the significance of seemly insignificant things. The priest used the example of the number "0." If placed to the left of a number, things remain the same. However moved to the right of that same number and suddenly that number is compelled to take on new meaning and value. He went on to note that Christmas is really the celebration of insignificant events. At face value, there is nothing really extraordinary about the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born to a young girl and a poor carpenter from an insignificant town. They weren't well-connected and belonged to a small religious group in a small province in the mighty Roman Empire. And yet the life (chronicled by the historian Josephus) that began with this mundae event changed the world.

I love this paradoxical idea of how significant insignificant events can be! For example, the amazing story of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, came about from someone striking up a conversation with someone else next to them on an airplane! (How many times have I gone through entire flights and the only I said to the person beside me was "Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom, thanks?") The last book club I belonged to read a rather boring book about how random mistakes and insignificant events (such as the weather or coincidence) changed the course of human history. Christ celebrates a widow who gave a seemingly insignificant amount (a fraction of a penny). A random conversation with a substitute teacher during a boring recess duty lead to me landing a position at Seoul Foreign School. Another example would be making friends first with M, which led to me making friends with his Guri (a suburb of Seoul) friends from Canada (N and A) which then led to being introduced to M when she moved to Korea and through M, I met A! The best example is the 4-year relationship I'm in now that began with an insignificant dinner date that I didn't expect to turn into anything significant at all!

I was going through some boxes (I seem to have accumulated a few over the years!) and came upon some farewell letters written to me from students at Halstead Middle School before I moved to Korea. I was struck by how significant insignificant things were to these students. Some of the trivial events were humorous. One remembered a time I sang "Oops! I Did It Again!" by Britney Spears one time in the hall while when I made some mistake. Another recalled a craft project where we blew out the inside of an egg and painted them. One girl loved the origami cat head I taught them and said she would keep it forever. And some of the events were more personal. One girl thanked me for never interrupting her when she was talking to me. Another child said she loved the stories I read them and she discovered how fun reading books could be. I guess the saying is true "nothing you do for children is ever wasted."

These examples and others made me think of all the "random acts of kindness" we may do everyday that mean nothing to us but may mean a great deal to the people around us. For example holding the door open for a person with their hands full might change the attitude a person has that day. It also gets me thinking of all the activities we do to celebrate Christmas and that sometimes, it really is the "thought that counts." For example, someone going to the trouble to hunt down that special book, CD or that you offhandedly mentioned being interested in sometimes is more touching than the actual gift itself. I find this also to be the case with gifts that are made by the giver. I love to marvel over the time and effort invested and that makes the gift so much more special.

So during this busy holiday season, I hope we all can find ways to appreciate the significance of insignificant things! Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 08, 2006

What's So Amazing About Really Deep Thoughts?

"One can't believe impossible things," said Alice.
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," responded the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!"

The book I just finished had a chapter called "Doubt" that I keep coming back to in my mind and in my day-to-day experiences (I have found it best to listen when this happens). In this chapter the author explores the relationship between doubt and faith. "I had thought that as long as I still had doubt, I could not have faith. For all these years, I had assumed that God did not want to hear from me until I had resolved my doubts and vanquished my uncertainty (pg. 252)."

Somehow in this Age of Information, I think we have gotten hung up on the idea that we need to know everything before believing it. Most people have blamed our reliance on science, but I actually suspect that science is closer to religion than we think. For example, in both disciplines, the question is actually more pivotal than the concluding finding. Without the first, you can not have the other. In the same line of thought then, is faith the result of doubt?

Furthermore, scientific facts seem to me to be at best estimates, requiring our faith to accept them as such. For example, when scientists will tell us how much we would weigh on the sun, how can this be tested and verified? Or the distance to the "planet" Pluto? Or the communication skills of dinosaurs?

Many of the conclusions we have reached about our world are based on the accumulated knowlege we have available but could potentially change (and have changed) as time as gone on and we make new discoveries. For example, look at the changing facts in nutrition with regards to cholesterol and fatty acids. At one time, scientists considered tomatoes poisonous and now tell us wine, chocolate and coffee are actually beneficial!

Religion, like science, also changes as we make new discoveries about ourselves. I've talked at length before about how our views from the Bible have changed to adapt to our changing society. We don't practice slavery and unfortunately divorce is sometimes necessary (contrary to what is in the Bible). In our society, we now believe that women and racial minority groups should be treated equally without discrimination (contrary to what is in the Bible). Currently we are in dialogue about whether homosexuals should also included or not. Recently the Swedish Lutherans and the Conservative Jews have both said "yes" to same-sex equality in the form of unions whereas many other religious groups have said "no" or are still discussing it.

All these examples are not to make the point that everything in religion or science will eventually change. But I do think that we were given an advanced cerebrum for a reason (which would be to use it). God has this incredible sense of irony and I think at some point we'll realize how pointless all our struggles really have been.

Yes, there are many things in our lives and the world around us that make no sense. This is why we have science and religion. Not only does doubt beget faith but paradoxically faith also produces doubt, opening up further questions and contradictions.

I don't think I've ever shared before about the events that led up to my baptism. For a long time, I held off from making that decision because I wanted all my questions to be answered. By the time I was a teenager, I realized having all my doubts answered wasn't what was important at all. What mattered was the search and (because of my family and the society I was born into) I chose Christianity as my medium for that search. It's much like taking the plunge before getting engaged to be married, isn't it? You will never be able to plan for all the possible situations in the life before you nor will you ever "solve for all the unknowns" in your potential mate. But, on faith, you can chose to say, "I want accompany you (and future person you will become) on this journey."

It was Saint Augustine that said "Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand." Saint Anselm of Canterbury prayed "I yearn to understand some measure of the truth which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to have faith, but I have faith in order to understand. For I believe even this: I shall not understand unless I have faith."

Monday, December 04, 2006

To List or Not to List

I just finished a book given and recommended to me by my cousin. Our Lady of the Lost and Found really seemed like two books in one. In one part the author, Diane Schoemperlen, writes about an impromptu visit from the Blessed Virgin Mary to the humble home of the narrator(like the author, a single, older novel writer). Interspersed between the humorously subtle and mundae events were the narrator's thoughts on a wide variety of related topics such as faith, doubt, time, knowledge and most of all history.

The beginning of one chapter in particular captured my imagination. In it she says:
"There are many ways to divide up the world...the more usual demographic categories such as male and female, young and old, black and white, have and have-hot. I am sure that a detailed investigation of the propensity (of people who make) lists or (people who do) not list would yield remarkable new insights into the deepest psychological crevices (or crevasses) of human nature" (pp.288).

I love this idea of dividing up the world in different ways other than the usual gay or straight, crazy or sane, foreigner or native, butch or fem, sick or healthy, employed or unemployed, homeless or not! As I've demonstrated on numerous occasions on this blog, I have a propensity to fall into the category of people who make lists. So I'm about to continue in a similar vein as Schoemperlen and invite you to do the same if you feel so inclined!

The world could be divided between....

*people who can dance alone and people who can't (or won't).

*fiction readers and non-fiction readers.

*those who shower in the mornings and those who shower at night.

*those on-line and those off-line (perpetually or forever!).

*people who have traveled/lived abroad and those who never have.
(revised: those who hold passports and those who can't be bothered to get one.)

*those who always buy new items and those that frequently choose to buy items used.

*folks who have a few basic pairs of shoes and folks that have several for various occasions and moods.

*those who "double-dip" and those who abhor the practice.

*givers and takers

*people who prefer pencils to those who use pens.

*those who drink milk and those who don't.

*city people and country folk.

*people who use cash and those who use plastic (debit/credit/etc).

*those who enjoy children and those who don't.

*those who are continually making new friends and those who tend to stick to a chosen few.

*people who like to travel solo (backpack style) and those who like group package tours.

*those who go out on the weekends and those who are homebodies and like to relax at home.

*moviegoers who stay to watch the credits roll and those who find credits boring and leave during them.

*Macintosh users and Windows PC users

other ideas?

*Update: Thanks for all your comments and idea! New ones kept coming up yesterday in conversations and I added them above! Then today while reading The Toronto You are Leaving- I came across this related item: An English professor said that "There are only two kinds of people in the world-the people who prefer Mansfield Park to Emma, and the people who prefer Emma to Mansfield Park." (both by Jane Austen)

Monday, November 27, 2006


(and it loves me)

During my visit home for American Thanksgiving, I did something out of character that I have never done before at my parents’ home:

I drank coffee.

Our parents have never been coffee drinkers and mocked those addicts that needed their daily dosage to start their day as weak. Consequently, although I tried to drink coffee in all its various forms (mocha, latte, espresso), it was never something I could take to. Instead our family drank all kinds of tea, which, in retrospect, was probably healthier in the long run. (Although coffee is a good source of antioxidants.)

“But how can I take you out for coffee if you don’t drink coffee?” my favourite cousin would whine. Working as a barista at Marco’s or running a coffee shop, coffee was more than a frivolous pastime for her. Coffee, hot or iced, is an essential part of her day.

I clearly remember the day I accidentally fell in love with coffee. My boyfriend and I had been riding around the back roads of Korea and had finally stopped at a restaurant to eat some lunch. We removed our shoes and stepped up on the raised wooden platform and sat on square, flat pillows. After we ate a delicious bibimbap meal, a paper cup filled half full of coffee appeared in front of me. “Oh! Sorry!” my boyfriend apologized. “I forgot to tell them that you drink tea, not coffee. Do you want me to tell them?” Hating to cause a fuss and waste it, I decided that a half-glass of coffee (no more than three swallows at most) would probably be manageable.

It was delicious. I couldn’t believe it. It was sweet and hot. The slick it left on my tongue was reminiscent of chocolate. And it left me wanting more. From that day on, I branched out. The best way to do this was by signing up for “Coffee Tuesdays” at my school. Paying the equivalent of $5 weekly in advance allowed me to get a cup of whatever Starbucks delivered each Tuesday. Sometimes it was white mocha or sometimes it was latte. I began to learn what stronger coffee tasted like and how to add sugar or milk to make it work for me. Then my boyfriend got a coffee maker and we started having coffee on mornings we really needed the extra boost. People gave us coffee grounds for gifts so that gave us more reason to make coffee. Now we are living in Toronto, usually we have one cup in the morning with our breakfast and then some kind of tea after our dinner at night.

So I will have to say Korea opened my mind to the yummy goodness that is coffee. Other tastes I acquired while living there were mushrooms, eggplants and garlic. So good!! Before I didn’t go near them but now I love them and look forward to seeing them in the dishes I eat. Now I’ve left Korea, I await in anticipation of the culinary changes the country of Canada will bring me!

What tastes have you acquired since you've "grown up?"

*Danifesto Update: For Thanksgiving my cousin gave us a bag of coffee beans from Stumptown, a company known for good coffee. So this gift required us to break down and buy an actual coffee grinder. We found one cheap at Honest Ed's (a Toronto institution) on the edge of Koreatown. Haven't tried it out yet but looking foward to freshly ground coffee in the mornings!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

As Is

Not long ago, I examined the relationship between actions and resulting attitudes. Today I'd like to look at the reverse- how thoughts and words can affect our actions and character.

You may or may not have heard by now about Michael Richard's (Kramer on Seinfeld) recent racist remarks during his standup comedy act. This morning I watched his apology (oddly bypassing the traditional Oprah confessional for Letterman) in which he said the racial epitets came from deep within himself and came bursting out when constant hecklers enraged him.

Later today I came across the following quote in an inflight magazine while en route to see my family for American Thanksgiving (sidebar: I personally feel that the Canadian practice of lumping Halloween and Thanksgiving into one month not only robs both holidays but also pushes the Christmas season to a premature beginning).

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Choose your words, for they become actions.
Understand your actions, for they become habits.
Study your habits, for they will become your character.
Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny (source)."

This quote calls to mind a similar one from Jesus- Matthew 5:27"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'[a] 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." His point here is that intent is what's most crucial. (more examples) We somewhat adhere to this idea. An example would be when the punishment for an accident (manslaughter) is less than premeditated killing (murder in the first degree).

So after adding all these elements up, I have to wonder, "Are we bad people with good habits or good people with bad habits?" (to paraphrase a great Shel Silverstein poem).

I would say that I have subscribed to the latter school of thought. This positive and sunny philosophy was shared by Anne Frank, who said "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."

However what I'm realizing now is that this thinking isn't in keeping with Biblical teachings. (Romans 3:22b-23)There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So although we're all equally bad, at least we are all equal. That's good, right? Yeah not so much. How often have we taken comfort in knowing that we aren't as screwed up or dysfunctional as our neighbour or some celebrity in the news (Michael Richards for example)? Seems kind of hypocritical now though, doesn't it?

Furthermore, how often have we Christians spouted the cliched axim to "love the sinner but hate the sin?" The author of Gay Theology Without Apology states that this mindset "avoids the real sin of preventing people to become fully human." Humans are imperfect. Perhaps instead of spending energy condemning the mistakes of others, we should take others "as is" like objects in a second-hand store. In the motto of a dear friend,"Don't hate, celebrate!"

At the end of the day, we are left grappling with the mind-boggling concept that, although we are all bastards, God loves us anyway (to paraphrase a line from What's So Amazing About Grace?). This is called grace- undeserved love, freely given to all. It completely goes against our human conditioned responses. And it's this very mystery of faith that's our hardest daily challenge. Don't worry if you sometimes fail, disappointing others, yourself or God. In the words of Ani DiFranco: "and i've got no illusions about you,and guess what?I never did. And when I said, When I said I'll take it, I meant, 'as is.'"

Friday, November 17, 2006


Here's a few of the reasons why I love my new city!
(Thanks to and NOW Magazine - NOV 9 - 15, 2006)

*1937 -Casa Loma is opened to the public for the first time as a tourist attraction operated by the Kiwanis Club of Toronto. Today it is regarded as one of Toronto's premier tourist attractions, still profitably operated by the Kiwanis.

*June 1971-Toronto's first Gay Day was a picnic at Hanlan's Point (on Toronto Island) to raise money for an Aug. 28 march in the national's capital, Ottawa. (Aug. 28, 1971, was the second anniversary of the Canadian decriminalization of homosexual acts for consenting individuals 21 years and over. If anyone had tried to march for queer pride before Aug. 28, 1969, they might have ended up in jail.)

*1973- Facing the "conspiracy of silence that has robbed gay people of their history," the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives was started in Toronto. It is now one of the biggest treasuries of its kind anywhere in the world.

*March 1981- A "Gay Freedom Rally", effectively Toronto's first Pride event, is held. Speakers, including author Margaret Atwood and Svend Robinson, denounce the bathhouse raids. (Eight years later, Robinson becomes Canada's first openly gay Member of Parliament.)

*December 1986- Ontario amends its Human Rights Code to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

*June 1988- The Toronto AIDS Memorial is created. It is the first of its kind.

*June 1989-Toronto City Council finally votes to recognize Lesbian and Gay Pride Day. (However the decision will be later overturned.)

*June 1993- Although for only five months, the nation of Canada has a woman in charge. This is still five months longer than its neighbor to the south!

*May 1995- The law banning homosexuals from opening their homes to unwanted children (via adoption) is struck down as a result of Egan v. Canada. Egan's partner (since 1948) sued the government, seeking spousal pension. The Supreme Court rules that sexual orientation is a prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (comparable to the US Bill of Rights).

*November 1995- The Bata Shoe Museum opens.

*August 1996-Toronto residents in the Annex neighbourhood organize to save cafe Dooney's from a Starbucks takeover.

*October 1996-A one-day public service strike (transit, postal service, schools, etc) and massive demonstration as part of the Days of Action Against Mike Harris (conservative premier of Ontario). Over 100,000 people march up University Avenue to the legislature.

*March 1997-In a referendum vote, Torontarians reject the plan to amalgamate Toronto and surrounding suburbs into a megacity. The party led by Mike Harris, ignore the vote and pass the bill anyway.

*June 1997- Toronto Board of Education hosts the first gay prom at 519 Church Street.

*February-April 2000- Bill C-23 was passed in Canada's House of Commons, extending all-but-marriage rights to same-sex couples. Jerry Falwell calls it the source of the "destruction" of Canada. (One assumes he means metaphorically, not literally as Canada somehow manages to succeed as a country.)

July 2001- Ben Mulroney becomes a co-host of the interactive show "The ChatRoom", positioning him as the face of talktv (later known as MTV Canada). He goes on to become host of everything Canadian (Idol, eTalk, Salvation Army model?).

*July 2001- Canada becomes the first country in the world to sanction and regulate the use of medical marijuana.

*May 2002- Marc Hall takes the Durham Catholic School board to court and wins the right to attend his high school prom with the date of his choosing (who happens to be a boy).

*July 2002-The Ontario Supreme Court declares that any restrictions on same sex marriage are unconstitutional and that the legislatures of both the Province of Ontario and the federal government have up to 24 months to fix the problem. If they do not, the following change in the common law definition would automatically occur: from "the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others" to "the voluntary union of two persons to the exclusion of all others".

*March 2003- After months of demonstrations in Toronto and other cities, Prime Minister Jean Chretien decides Canada won't join the "coalition of the willing" in the invasion of Iraq. (Since this time, 655,000 Iraqis have died. Compare this to the death of 2,838 U.S. armed forces with 21,572 combat wounded.)

*February 2005-Toronto commits to reducing greenhouse gases by 20 percent of 1990 levels.

*July 2005- Canada joins Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands to become the fourth country in the world to extend equal rights to same-sex couples.

*June 2006-Pride Week celebrates its 25th anniversary. Newly-appointed Toronto police chief Bill Blair becomes the first chief of police in the city's history to participate in the Pride parade.

*August 2006- We become permanent residents of Canada! Come visit us in our fabulous city!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We Are the World

Run your eyes over this list of countries:
Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom.

These 25 countries have same-sex marriages or civil unions (also known as domestic partnerships)!

Today South Africa overwhelmingly passed a civil union bill and is set to join this group the beginning of next month, making it the first African country to do so!

In an effort to be fair and thorough, I should also include: the U.S. states of Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Vermont; and the U.S. District of Columbia (Washington, DC), Australian province of Tasmania, the city of Buenos Aires and the province of Rio Negro in Argentina, and most recently, Mexico City.

So this is what the world looks like now.

While there is cause for rejoicing, we still need to pray for those who live in countries where they face imprisonment (including life) or even the penalty of death.

Monday, November 13, 2006

His Gaze Always Passes Through Rose Coloured Glasses

Last week I read this story about a landscaping company in Houston, Texas that turned down clients because they happened to be gay. The clients were shocked and forwarded the email to their friends. The story got picked up first by blog sites and then major media. The fact of the matter was the landscapers didn't do anything illegal by refusing to do business with this gay couple. If the couple were African-American or Jewish, they could sue them for discrimination because the race and religion (along with age and disability) are protected groups in the law, federal, state as well as municipal. While there are some places that offer gay people the same protections (the entire nation of Canada for example), most places in the United States can legally refuse to do business with you if you are gay.

My first response to this story (and similar one) was pretty laid back. I feel that religious beliefs are as much a part of the fiber of one's being as their sexual orientation. On their website they are very clear about being religious. Why FORCE someone to do something that is against their religious beliefs? Besides, would you really want to have people who feel that way work for you? I think I would appreciate them being direct and upfront with me. Furthermore there are TONS of fab-friendly companies and businesses (I'm sure landscaping would be in the mix! It's like being an interior designer for the outdoors, right?) who not only would love to serve all people but solicit their business by supporting gay-related publications, events and charities.

However an experience yesterday made me see things in a different light. I was at Mass watching people receive communion. Now, I don't take communion at the Catholic Church for a number of reasons. First of all, I'm not a church member and it's limited to just members. Second, communion is symbolic for me. I don't believe the bread and the wine are holy nor have they actually transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. So although I could easily get in line and have had Catholics suggest to me that I do so (They don't have bouncer with a "list" like some nightclubs do!) , I don't out of respect for the Church and its beliefs.

Sitting there watching people hold open their hands and respond to the priest, I saw this precious little girl come up the line. She was clearly not old enough to receive communion and yet the priest bent down, laid his hand on her head and blessed her, making the sign of the cross. I had this sudden flashback to an experience in Wichita when I attended St. Alban's Anglican Church and when up with my boyfriend at the time to receive communion (which is open to all believers). The priest was a woman that I had met several times before at Integrity meetings and I really held (hold) her in high regard. As I knelt at the altar in front of the church, she made the sign of the cross on my head and served me the bread and the wine from her wheelchair. I got really teary and had to contain waves of emotion as I returned to my pew. Here was a beautiful person, flawed with that frailty all humans (including Christ Himself) possess, blessing my being in its entirety with joy, love and total acceptance.

Hence here is my epiphany (if you will). Exclusion by discrimination is ugly and it hurts. Acceptance of our fellow human beings is the best metaphor for what Christ was trying to do by "bending down" to our level and blessing us with His love. The landscape company may have profited monetarily from their decision, but humankind is a little poorer because of it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

P.E. N' Me

So after frequent conversations and suggestions from my partner (read: nagging), I finally broke down last week and went with him to sign up at the local YMCA. Yesterday we had an appointment to meet with a representative to get a tour and orientation of the facility.

Unfortunately we got there late (I will begrudgingly give props to my partner who not only correctly knew that it was to the south, not north, but also happily collected twenty bucks from our friendly wager on the matter!) . We rushed downstairs to the locker rooms to get our assigned baskets since they were out of the overnight lockers (for which we paid extra). Then we discovered that only one of us was given a basket and I had to leave the locker room and hunt down where said basket was stored. Then I forgot the door passcode to re-enter the lockerroom. Doh! By this point I was getting upset things were not going as planned. After that we realized we had misunderstood and that there were day lockers available to store our clothes in while we were there and the basket was for the rest of the time!

We finally got changed into our proper gym attire, found the face towels and tried to find the meeting room. After asking directions (See? Men do do this!) , we found the room but it was thirty minutes after our appointment by this point and we were sent back to the front desk to reschedule. Attempting to salvage what thus far had been a total waste of time and frustration, we decided to get on the crosstraining machines and get sweaty. We tried a couple of stairmasters but got kicked off because we didn't know we were supposed to sign up for them. We found these wave machines free but that got annoying fast and I got off after 5 minutes. Finally we snagged two stairmasters, signed the board and got into the groove of things. I love the data displays that tell me exactly how many strides I've done, how many per minute and how many calories I've burned.

After that we hit the showers and realized all the product we brought with us wasn't necessary as YMCA provides that. We tried out the wet sauna but saved the whirlpool and dry sauna for another day. After leaving and having a great meal at a nearby Korean BBQ, I was out of my dismal black mood and tentively happy we had taken this step towards physical fitness.

Now this probably won't come as a surprise to those of you who know me but physical education was my least favourite class in school. My P.E. experience from the get-go was sort of this vicious cycle of not succeeding because of lack of practice and exposure, followed by a deliberate avoidance of further activity because of the failure, which only led to further humiliation in class. As time continued, I extended my negativity to all forms of physical fitness and activity and viewed them in the same way I viewed asparagus; something to endure if one absolutely has to do.

Gym has been dubbed the gay man's "church" and yet ironically I feel extremely uncomfortable in such a space. This made me think about how others (gay people for example) might view going to church the same way I feel about going to the gym. (Sidebar- Church Street here in is the epi-center of the Toronto gaybourhood so queers joke about "going to Church" all the time. You have to specify if you are talking about the religious institution.)

For many, church experiences have been limited and what exposure they have had, was unfortunately negative. Sometimes is an unspoken dress code as well as activities and rituals one is not familiar with. It can be unclear what time services begin and then it's embarrassing if one is either early or late. Looking around the room, this person can not see anyone friendly, that looks like them or that they could relate to. All these factors add up to an overwhelming feeling of frustration (much like the one I had at the gym last night). I've met people who have transferred these feelings of unworthiness and unbelonging to religion and spirituality in general. They will begrudingly darken the door of a church only when a mother, wedding or death requires it.

So, in retrospect, I get it now. I didn't before but now I do. It's my hope that, as time goes on, and I keep attending "gay church," that I'll be not only more comfortable but also a healthier person. And I want to encourage others who may be in similar situations and are trying new directions, despite previous negative experiences.



This will be the first time I've posted a video on my blog. My philosophy has been to value the written word above an image. But this deeply moved me and I'm making a rare exception in honour of Election Day. I hope everyone in the States who was able to vote today, did. (I voted by absentee ballot.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

As election time nears, conservative politicians predictably seem particularly concerned with the bedrooms of queer couples across the nation. In light of that I thought I would reveal what my partner and I do every single night before falling asleep. Brace yourself folks. You might want to sit down.

We hold hands.

Samantha: He did something to me that was so perverse! Okay, I'm just going to say it. He tried to hold my hand.
Carrie: You mean to tell me that Smith is a hand-holder? And to think he once served us food.

There ya go. It is shocking thing I know. Oh well, in our defense holding hands helps us fall sleep. I've blogged before wondering how it would be to live in an environment where we could do this openly in public. Now we are living in such a place and see gay couples all around us holding hands. However, it's been hard for us to overcome years of lessons about avoiding this seemingly innocent act. All of our lives, we've learned not to stand too close, act too friendly and certainly never to hold hands!

Earlier this year the New York Times published an interesting article about handholding. What I thought was most interesting was a study, conducted by the University of Virginia, that examined "the impact of human touch, particularly how it affects the neural response to threatening situations." James Coan, an assistant professor of psychology and the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Virginia stated, “We found that holding the hand of really anyone, it made your brain work a little less hard in coping,” adding that any sort of hand-holding relaxes the body.

The study, which will be published this year in the journal Psychological Science, involved 16 couples who were rated happily married based on the answers in a detailed questionnaire. The wives were put inside an M.R.I. machine and were told they were to receive mild electric shocks to an ankle. Brain images showed that regions of the women’s brains that had been activated in anticipation of pain and that were associated with negative emotions decreased when their husbands reached into the machine.

“With spouse hand-holding you also stop looking for other signs of danger and you start feeling more secure,” said Dr. Coan, who led the study. “If you’re in a really strong relationship, you may be protected against pain and stress hormones that may have a damaging effect on your immune system.”

Handholding has many implications for gay couples. First of all, just as in straight couples, it defines your sexual orientation. At the same time, it shows that you are part of a couple. Because of these two factors, this leaves gay couples vunerable to verbal abuse or worse, violence. The irony is the study above shows that for many couples, holding hands makes them feel safer. In addition, a gay hospital patient often has to deal with his/her illness, temporary or terminal, without the comfort of their partner to hold their hand. (Gay partners are not allowed entry because they are not recognized as "next of kin.")

This brings me to the other night, when we were walking to the subway. I had rushed out of the apartment, forgetting my gloves and it was freezing cold. My partner grabbed my hand and held it inside his coat pocket and we walked like that all the way to the station. I know it's not much, but for us, it's a start.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lift Up Your Hands

The missionary at my brother's church read this scripture from The Message translation: (Ephesians 3:4-6) "As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board."

She went on to explain how at this time "outsiders" were considered Gentiles and "insiders" were considered Jewish Christians. It got me thinking in a new way about the mystery of Christ and His Message. As his life showed, he was not concerned with the "insiders" of the Jewish faith and very much interested with the "outsiders"-those on the fringes.

Finding myself somewhat on the fringes of the mainstream Church may partly explain why I like the musical/movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch so much. When I first saw this movie I was in Seoul, Korea with another gay friend. I was blown away by the witty risque humour and the accessible music. Then later my cousin and her husband took me to the musical in Portland and I liked it even more than the movie. Then my cousin-in-law bought me the tribute benefit album and managed to get John Cameron Mitchell (the star, director and writer) to sign it. It was a very cool gift! Finally just this weekend I put the DVD on while my friends were over getting their hair cut and one of them had worked on the movie (it was filmed right here in Toronto) and had never seen it!

The story Hedwig is about feeling excluded from the mainstream of society and seeking acceptance. First there is coping with ambiguous gender identity, then being a foreigner living in another country, then using the rock and roll medium (that many don't enjoy) to communicate who and what you are about. Finally there is a rebirth as a new person whose wounds have healed enough to walk vulnerable and alone.

For a long time, I didn't understand men who were transgender or drag queens or even cross dressers. But I've learned from Hedwig and movies like Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, this is a way for men (and women) to embrace parts of themselves that do not conform to traditional stereotypes. This can be very liberating. For example last night I was in Planet Aid trying to find some groovy pants to go with a shirt my partner wanted to wear to the Halloween festivities on Church Street. Everything was the wrong size or just plain dull. It felt really good to be able to go over to the women's side, find an amazing pair of pants (geisha print!) that fit him like a glove AND NOT CARE that they were women's!

I love that Hedwig starts out stuck in Junction City, Kansas! My homestate can be difficult for a gay person to feel at home at, although it's much easier if you are a native. I also love that Korean war-brides made up Hedwig's first band. I like how Hedwig seems oblivious and undaunted to the low attendance at her shows and it's almost as if she's singing more for herself or to connect with just one person than anything else.

The rock and roll aspect is great because it's not a medium that, until recently, many gay people have used. Traditionally gays have used lots of opera, Broadway musicals, pop songs, diva numbers and techo/house/dance music to express themselves. The rock music in Hedwig has some pretty amazing lyrics though that I think many of us can relate to. One lyric I especially like is: They cut me up into parts, I gave a piece to my mother, I gave a piece to my man, I gave a piece to the rock star, He took the good stuff and ran. We all (metaphorically speaking) give pieces of ourselves to the people in our lives and often feel "taken" at times.

Another song that really impacted me was the unique creation story in The Origin of Love. When I told my fellow Kansan in Seoul about this, he rolled his eyes and pulled Plato's Symposium off the shelf and suggested I read it. I was amazed to find the source of this creation story was so old!

So to belatedly honour October as GLBT History Month, I'd like to recognize all the movies like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, that challenged me to see the outsiders in a different way. In so many ways, they ARE us. In the lyrics from another Hedwig song, "We are freaks....That's the way God planned it."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

People Living in Glass Houses Should Use Windex

Last weekend, I had the privilege to be able to go back to Kansas for a quick visit and to attend a wedding and a reunion. This gave me a chance to visit with my family and I look forward to visiting some more next month when I return for a longer visit during Thanksgiving.

During my visit I had a conversation with my brother concerning the Mark Foley incident. I haven't commented on this before because the story seemed to speak for itself. However I am concerned with some of the spin it has received and would like to comment on that.

First of all, it should probably be restated that linking pedophila and homosexuality is misguided. It is analogous to pointing to a pedophile who has preyed on girls and then saying all heterosexuals must like little girls. Although there is a destructive worship of youth in the gay culture, this generalization clearly doesn't hold water. All this case really proves is that deviant behavior is often the result of supressed sexuality (Some priests have had these issues for example).

Secondly, Mr. Foley quickly declaring he was gay, alcoholic and molested as a child churns my stomach a bit as well. Regardless of any of these conditions, he still was responsible for his actions and needed to take responsibility for them, not try to come off like the victim in this whole ordeal!

Third, some have cynically stated that because an election was near, Mr. Foley was targeted. Mr. Foley's actions appear to have been ongoing for quite some time with at least the knowledge of some in Congress (exactly who remains to be seen). If this were some Democratic conspiracy, I'm sure there would have had more opportune moments for them to let the story break before this. (Interestingly enough it was once again bloggers, not traditional media that brought this to the public's attention.)

Finally, it has been said that if Mr. Foley had been a Democrat, the story would not have made the splash it did. I think this is a bit of a low blow. The reason that his story received so much attention was that he was co-chair of the Committee for Missing and Exploited Children. Additionally the Republicans have sold themselves as the party of "family values" and anti-gay. This irony and hypocrisy are what has drawn so much attention to this story, not that he is a Republican per se.

This reminds me of a story that Jesus told to illustrate the correct attitude we must have when we pray. Two very different men went into the temple. The overly religious man thanked God he was better than the tax collector next to him. The tax collector didn't even raise his head. He just asked God for mercy as a sinner. Jesus ends by saying "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Another passage just before the Lord's Prayer states "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

My mother and I often disagree about the place of religion in our government and how a person of faith should act when holding a political office. I personally would advise extreme caution when mixing the two after reading the scriptures above and pondering the example of Mark Foley.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Get Into the Groove

So I didn't want to go to church yesterday. There were a couple of reasons actually. One was that I would be going by myself as my partner needed to take the whole day to study for his test today. (Since English isn't his first language, it's twice as hard for him to understand what a textbook is saying, you know how textbooks can be!) Another reason is that it was a cold, rainy day, one that discouraged getting out and about. The final reason was that we had stayed up the night before (just because we could I guess, doing nothing really- puttering around) and I just felt like curling up with a book with a cup of tea followed by a nap.

However our neighborhood parish church, Our Lady of Lourdes, has numerous services all through the day so there was really no good excuse for me to NOT go, so I hurried up, showered, dressed up and went to the one o'clock Mass.

Now many times I've heard people (mostly Protestants) criticize the Catholic Church and the rituals they have in their service. Many Protestant services are stripped bare of an liturgy whatsoever except for bare essentials, to make it more "user-friendly" to someone who is "unchurched." The more I attend churches that feature liturgy in their worship, the more I have come to appreciate "going through the motions" as more than empty actions. Called "High Church" (Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran, plus Roman Catholic, etc.), these services have responses and prayers that are repeated at every service. And the service is divided up into sections like Introductory rites ,The Liturgy of the Word , The Liturgy of the Eucharist , The Communion rite and finally Concluding rite. As a Virgo, I love the organization of everything into specific categories. Growing up as an American Baptist, our worship service had a similar structure but not so clearcut.

At any rate, arriving yesterday, I was not in the frame of mind to worship God. I was rushed, tired and disoriented since I had arrived late and the service had already begun. However, as I started participating and joining in the liturgy (the prayers, the sung and spoken responses, the hymns, the kneeling and standing, making the sign of the cross, passing the peace), my mood drastically changed and by the end of the service I was very glad I had taken the trouble to attend.

This got me to wonder about this phenomenon of actions leading emotions, rather than what I've previously believed, which is the direct opposite. (If You're Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands, for example). For example when my coworker and I started taking TaeKwonDo classes our first year in Seoul, Korea, there were MANY days when we both moaned to each other about "soooooo not wanting to go" after a long day of work. But on the way back, we often expressed surprise at how great we felt and were glad that we made the effort in the first place.

I have also discovered what many of couples in committed relationships have known all along: sometimes your mate gets on your nerves and your fantasies are other-than-romantic ones! However sometimes the actions of fixing a nice dinner, a thoughtful gesture or taking the trouble to do something nice, brings out the feelings of affection that we always had.

Although I'm certainly no fan of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, there was one radio show I listened to that made an impact on me. The caller stated that they were depressed and felt there was no meaning in their life. Dr. Laura stated "To have a meaningful life, you must fill your life with meaning." She went on to suggest church, volunteer activities, visiting family and friends, taking a class to learn something new in addition to counseling. In otherwords, look out instead of always looking in. I feel like this is an extremely profound idea and granted, while there are certainly those with clinical depression that need treatment, I think that there are a lot of "pity parties of ones" out there that could benefit from her advice.

So that's my post for this first day of the workweek. Perhaps your "get up and go" has done "got up and left" and you are feeling uninspired and unmotivated to do much of anything. However give "going through the motions" a try and see if your mood and emotions follow! Let me know if it works! (or doesn't!)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

To Thine Own Self Be True

In honour of Coming Out Day (October 11th), I wanted to address some aquaintances and friends of mine who fall under the category of "questioning." I have had many discussions with you and have often been asked something along the lines of "How do you reconcile your religious beliefs with your sexuality?" This is a great question and it also comes up when I "come out" as a Christian to others. I've blogged about this issue before but thought I would return to it again from a different angle and perhaps it will help you on your journey to discovering who you are.

In the Methodist tradition (Charles Wesley), the living core of Christian faith is weighed by passing four criterion. Imagine, if you will, a stool that an issue has to "sit" on. The first "leg" is Bible/Scripture. The second would be church tradition and the third is personal revelation. Reason/logic would be seen as the fourth "leg."

I have frequently heard Protestant ministers proclaim that the "Word of God" is the first and last leg they will stand on. I think is where the Protestant Reformation (Martin Luther) went too far. By sweeping away church tradition and personal revelation, this left the Bible tottering on its own. Don't get me wrong here. The Bible is a beautiful document with relevance for today. However because it was written by multiple authors with multiple viewpoints over a huge expanse of time, it is often contradictory and must be read in the context of the time it was written, not literally. This gave way to the Age of Reason (Enlightenment) that became secularism, discounting religion as a valid part of the human experience.

This is where church tradition comes into play. While reading Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church , I learned that in the Catholic educational tradition, philosophy, reason and theology were all held in equal standing. Issues such as the virgin birth, the trinity, the divinity of Christ and the resurrection were all debated and settled by the early Church leaders. Scientific discovery was actually encouraged before the Protestant Reformation. And I love that the Catholic denomination is comfortable with the unexplained. Pascal, the French mathematical stated "Man is a mystery that can't be solved by mathematical equation." Church tradition does change as well. For example, ideas on unclean food, blood transfusion, organ donation, divorce, interracial marriages, slavery and unbaptised babies have all been discussed and have slowly evolved.

After an issue passes the bars of Scripture (subject to interpretation), church tradition (ever evolving), we have my favorite, personal revelation. Similar to when we are trying to learn a new concept, for religion to have real meaning, it must be personally relevant to our lives. As there are multiple intelligences and differing learning styles, everyone has a unique personal relationship with the higher power. "Religion recognizes that often an unexpected, ordinary encounter or experience rescues us from despair and gives us what we otherwise could not see or do by ourselves." (Triumph, pg 106) Again from Pascal, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." (I love that turn!) However this can't be the only "leg" you rely on either. I like this catty comment by Susan B. Anthony; "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

At the end of the journey, there lies reason/logic. These ideas and scientific discoveries have also evolved in conjunction with our understanding of the world around us. The earth is not the center of the universe nor is it flat. Dinosaurs walked the Earth even though the Bible does not explicitly mention God creating them. Genetically we have more similarities to monkeys than differences. Additionally the genetic differences between ourselves are miniscule, despite our outward appearances. Not all sex in nature is for the sake of procreation.

So what does this have to do with your sexuality? Well let's take an issue like women in the ministry for example. Does it pass the 1st bar? If you read the Bible in context women are certainly given the gift of ministry. If you read it literally, women should not. Does it pass the 2nd bar? In some denominations it does, in some it does not. What about your own personal experience? For example have you experienced God speaking to you through a woman? And finally what does reason/logic tell us? Is there evidence that shows women would be unable to perform such a task?

The exact same test can be done with the issues of being gay and Christian, same-sex unions or being a Christian leader in the church. I personally believe that this issue passes all four bars. Other issues, like snake handling, the death penalty, male circumcision and following false religious leaders (David Koresh, Sung Young Moon or Jim Jones) I believe fail. Others clearly disagree with me and I listen to their viewpoints as long as they give equal time to my ideas as well (9 out of 10 times this is not the case). This is called tolerance and understanding.

At the end of the day, it's like Ned Rorem (composer) said, "Anyone can be gay-it's no accomplishment- but only I can be me." Martina Navratilova stated, "The more people come out, the less it will be an issue. If we are ashamed of ourselves, how the hell can we expect the rest of the world not to be ashamed of us?" And finally from Ted Schmidt (played by Scott Lowell) in Queer As Folk, "Since God is love and God doesn't make mistakes, then you must be exactly the way He wants you to be. And that goes for every person, every planet, every mountain, every grain of sand, every song, every tear...and every faggot. We're all His, Emmett. He loves us all."

Happy (Belated) Coming Out Day!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Happiness=A Warm Puppy, not a Gun!

Today with a heavy heart I read about yet another school shooting. This one was a 32 year old guy with a 20 year old grudge and a semi-automatic. He lined up eleven little girls against the chalkboard and shot them (three died, eight wounded) execution style before killing himself. Two of the wounded girls have since passed on. This is the third school shooting in less than a week.

As a pacifist (registered with the Selective Service) and an elementary school teacher for a decade, I am very upset every time this happens. I'm torn between two strong emotions, deep sadness and bitter anger. I'm saddened that these children will never experience all the joys life had to offer them. I also grieve for what their parents must be going through. I'm angry that God could have prevented them from dying this way and yet did not choose to do so.

My religion teaches that God lets us freely make our own decisions but paradoxically also knows what will happen as all a part of "God's Plan." Basic logic tells us that these two concepts are mutually exclusive but in my experience God doesn't adhere to human logic. While I have faith in God in the driver's seat and resist the urge to be a "backseat driver," this is one of those times I wish he would use the bright headlights!

So although I cannot control what others do (and God won't) that leaves me with making my own choices. Today has strengthened my resolve to support federal, comprehensive gun-control legislation and those who work to make this legislation law. For too long the National Rifle Association has used the money of its members to make it possible for this man (and otherslike him) to legally buy weapons because it's his "right as an American to bear arms." I'm FED UP with a "fool's right to his tools of rage." How many more of our children have to die before we stand up and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!?

The Second Amendment long ago has outlived its purpose and our children are dying. There is no legitimate reason why anyone would need a semi-automatic weapon! The NRA is an accomplice in these killings and yet does nothing to stop it! Where does the NRA send its money? It funds the party that currently controls the White House and both houses of Congress. Also funded by weapons manufacturers, consequently this party has committed itself to pro-gun support and the war in Iraq.

I am OUTRAGED that a government "for the people and by the people" deliberately mislead us into this war that has killed thousands and then had the GALL to distract us into voting for them AGAIN by trumpeting "family values!" Unbelievable! I ask you: How many children have died as a result of two people somewhere getting married? Easy answer- NONE, ZERO, ZIP. How many children have died as a result of gun violence? Just ONE is ONE too many!!

My fellow Americans: do the math and vote your conscience next month! You can bet I will!

To The Teeth by Ani DiFranco
The sun is settin on the century and we are armed to the teeth.
We are all working together now to make our lives mercifully brief.
Schoolkids keep trying to teach us what guns are all about.
Confuse liberty with weaponry and watch your kids act it out.
Every year now like Christmas some boy gets the mildfed surburban blues.
Reaches for the avaliable arsenal and saunters off to make the news
And women in the middle are learning what poor women have always known.
That the edge is closer than you think when your men bring the guns home.
Look at where the profits are, that's how you'll find the source,
of the big lie that you and I both know so well, the time it takes this cultural death wish to run its course
They're gonna make a pretty penny and then they're all going to hell.

He said the chickens all come home to roost-yeah, malcom forecasted this flood
Are we really gonna sleep through another century while the rich profit off our blood?
True, it may take some doing to see this undoing done
but in my humble opinion here's what I suggest we do:
open fire on Hollywood, open fire on MTV,
open fire on NBC and CBS and ABC,
open fire on the NRA and all the lies they told us along the way.
open fire on each weapons manufacturer while he's giving head to some Republican senator.
and if I hear one more time about fool's rights to his tools of rage.
I'm gonna take all my friends and I'm gonna move to Canada and we're gonna die of old age.