The Raleigh Rant

#NeverAgain

It's taken the anger of a bunch of high school kids to embarrass some of the corrupt politicians who have been bribed for decades by those who profit from the sale of guns or gun violence. The inane justification that "guns don't kill people; people do" is laughable in the lack of logic in the statement. I won't cite the statistics of mass shootings in this country in recent decades, but I will note the comparison with other countries. Most other developed nations have regulations and effective enforcement of gun laws, and when you compare the level of violence in those countries with the US the contrasts are striking.

Assault rifles were designed for use by the military to kill people quickly and effectively. They have no place in civilian society for any purpose, including self-defense. We had a ban on assault weapons that was lifted, and with it came the accompanying spike in mass shootings. The issue is a moral question more than a legal one although better laws and enforcement of who can get guns are parts of the solution.

Yes, we have a mental health crisis in this country, but that encompasses a much broader scope than simply gun violence. Because we also have failed to deal with this other issue, we have millions of wasted lives, a significant drain on our economy, and broken families who receive inadequate support or treatment for those in need. Those who are mentally disabled need treatment not judgment after they have committed a crime. We need preventive measures, not retribution or revenge.

It seems ironic that the American people can accept the need for laws regulating alcohol, cars, dangerous drugs, and fraudulent products but cannot rationalize the need to regulate dangerous weapons. We're not talking about second amendment rights - just read it. It is quite explicit. We're not even debating the need for self-defense. No one is considering outlawing the possession of guns for sport or self-defense. The debate is about the irrational and fear-mongering propaganda promoted by the National Rifle Association in defense of gun manufacturers from any liability over the use of their products. The automobile manufacturers for decades fought the requirement for seatbelts, and eventually they lost that battle in favor of common sense safety requirements. The tobacco manufacturers lied for decades about the cancer-causing addictive effects of their products, and eventually they also lost but not before millions of people had died of cancer.

It is a simple question of profit before people, and there is no moral or economic justification for the continuing debacle of gun violence in this nation.

Call Me By Your Name Review

Call Me by Your NameLast weekend I went to a nearby suburban cinema to see a matinee of Call Me By Your Name. Later I read some of dozens of reviews of the film, and they clearly indicated whether the reviewers were gay or straight by how they saw the film.

For me, it raised a hosts of ghosts. Although I was never that beautiful at 17, I was just as skinny when I fell in love with a boy for the first time. We never consummated that relationship, but we remained extremely close until he died of AIDS in 1990. A weekend in Venice with a midshipman (again never consummated) came flooding back in my memory as I recalled the most romantic setting. I was 44 when my 19-year old partner-to-be descended upon my condo looking out of desperation for someplace safe. We lasted for eight years before circumstances broke up our relationship. It has been many years since I was in a relationship, and the loneliness and regrets have taken their toll on my life that was spent too much hanging out in bars hoping for love and only finding empty sex.

The implication of the film is that when people are coming to terms with their sexuality, their inherent bi-sexuality is dominant and externals may determine which way they choose to develop. For me, being gay never was a choice even though I remained in the closet for a decade. The pressures to marry were especially strong back there, and I almost took the plunge once. That would have been a big mistake for both of us.

I won't comment on the scenery or the acting since everyone else already has beaten that horse to death. I will say that in the end, I didn't find the story line romantic even though this clearly was Elio's first real love. The film wasn't just another "coming out" story. In retrospect, it came across to me that Oliver was just taking advantage of a beautiful summer fling that wouldn't have turned out any different if it had been with a girl. To me he appeared arrogant, self-absorbed, and cruel.

So what is love, and how is it expressed, depending upon your sexual orientation or gender identity? In the most simple terms, love is when we intimately and deeply connect with another human being, which usually is expressed in a sexual relationship. Of course, we have familial love of parents and children and other blood relatives. We have love between long-term friends who have shared many interests and experiences together. A lot has been written about "male-bonding" in sports and in war time that usually does not include sex.

The Christian and Jewish religions have a hard time with considering the beauty of sex as anything other than the simple biological act of procreation. Of course, sex without love is as common place as the world's oldest profession which caters to fill one of our basic human needs for sex.

But our first love is always special, simply because of the process of discovery and all of the emotional intensity that involves. That was the beauty of this film.

It's Time for a New Political Strategy

We're into a new season of demonstrations and political action committees raising funds to support their causes with the new year. Neither the strategy nor the circumstances are really anything new. But the power of corruption has spread through all levels of government at both the executive and legislative branches of federal and state government. The impact of the Citizens' United Supreme Court ruling has morphed into a democratic crisis in which the power of money not only influences elections, it also dictates the policies and regulations (or lack therefore) at all levels of government. The chaos has run amok with no limits. We may not have the direct bribery of 150 years ago, but the effects are still the same.

We've had calls for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling, but I agree that I don't think that's politically feasible. That doesn't mean, however, that it is impossible to take any remedial action. The court struck down some specific legislation, but we could create new legislation that still could survive another conservative court decision if narrowly targeted toward the issue of corruption in public affairs.

Read more: It's Time for a New Political Strategy

Abuses of Power

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The #MeToo movement has brought media attention to the dirty secret that the U.S. is a patriarchal nation similar to many other countries. Sexual favors are regarded as just one of the perquisites of power, such as a yacht, limousine, or private jet. In other words, it is just one more form of entitlement of the rich and powerful.

We have been surprised how quickly the reaction has spread among media moguls, politicians, and corporate executives. The glare of notoriety has brought swift response from corporations that wanted to protect their public image, but politicians have largely been exempt from retribution because they claimed the charges were just part of another witch hunt and based upon lies. Although women make up more than half of the population, in many cases they still are a minority in the seats of power. A lot of attention has been drawn to the examples of the "glass ceiling" in board rooms, sports, IT industry, and various levels of government. That is changing, but not without a struggle.

Read more: Abuses of Power

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

What does that mean? If you live alone, do you have a home? If that is just someplace where you feel secure and comfortable, the I guess it's home. What about homeless people who live on the street, in a tent, or a shelter? By definition they have no home or physical security. For the first time in several years, I stayed home for Thanksgiving rather than travel to visit friends.

To me, home always meant where my parents lived even many years after I had left. Going home meant going to visit my parents and my sister. Now that most of my family and many of my friends are gone, that is no longer an option for me. Both of my former partners are gone.

Read more: Home for the Holidays