Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hymn for Jorge

I'm so angry! Tomorrow, I will attend a vigil for 19 year old Puerto Rican Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado who was decapitated, dismembered and set on fire just for being gay. The rally is 5pm Sunday at Christopher Street Pier: info here.

What insane rage that allows another human being to so wickedly kill another human being? In the case of an anti-gay crime, the rage is fueled in part by legislation and policies that reinforce a homosexual's status as a second class citizen. They don't know whether they're going to charge his murder as a hate-crime? The police officer in charge of the investigation has suggested Jorge Mercado had it coming...because of the way he lived his life?

What is with this re-victimizing of the victim?

Jorge's mother posted this message on Facebook about her son:

"When my son told me he was gay, I told him, 'Now, I love you more.' I want to tell the world that hatred is not born with human beings, it is a seed that is planted by adults and is fostered creating a climate of intolerance and violence. We must change our ways and understand that anyone could have been my son. And I want everybody to know that Jorge Steven was a very much loved son."
-- Miriam

Where is hatred born? May I argue against religion for a second? I presume the officer who has blamed the victim is religious. I also presume Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado's killer is religious. He has been apprehended and in the capture photo, a long crucifix dangles around his neck.

I wish I were one of those people that could just accept that religion is a good, helpful medicine that makes some people better. But how much is religion to blame for these kind of crimes? If not for the crimes, then in part for the political/social climate in which they are perpetrated.

When the topic of religion comes up, I get instinctively combative. Not enough to lop anyone's head off, sever their limbs and burn their corpse, but it makes me angry. Like when I meet a Catholic and know that the pope is liable for so many lives for refusing to condone the use of condoms. Not to mention Catholic accountability for its refusal to do or say anything against people such as...Hitler.

All religions make me angry because they put superstition before humankind. I met a guy the other night who told me he was a Mormon. I have Mormon friends and they are sweet but they don't listen to logic, just faith and scripture. So the first thing out of my mouth to this man is:

"How can you believe that? Nobody ever saw these golden tablets Joseph Smith supposedly transcribed."

And you know what he says to me?

"Nobody ever saw AIR, either."

At this point I totally lose it because---that's your argument? Sophistry?

I love how believers mix specious reasoning with ("you can't see molecules!") science to make their point. As if I had written morality into air, like that charlatan did into invisible tablets. Nobody ever saw fire-breathing dragons either, but there are so many stories about them it gets confusing! All it takes to twist an otherwise sane, intelligent person into a nutcase? Blind faith.

If you are told that you're in danger of losing the planet you're to inherit upon your passing, you would not think twice about voting against my equal rights. How much farther does that logic extend before you are willing to take my life? Muslim honor-killers consider it a duty!

It's no coincidence that locations where all of society is under the stranglehold of religion (Africa, Middle East, Latin America) are the same places it is so much more mortally dangerous to exist outside of rigidly enforced gender roles. I'm surprised anyone leaves their house! Living on the *brink*, how do any of us stay sane and not spiral into paranoia? Seriously, how do you do it? Because that's where it feels like I'm headed.

Of course, it's not all religion's fault. Some people are just sick puppies. My favorite part is when an alleged killer is arrested, and relatives and friends are ALWAYS flabbergasted! The 8 year old girl, killed after being sold into prostitution by her mother last week? Mother's sis speaks up, "My sister could never have done that! She would have done anything for her little girl!" The father of the Fort Hood shooter, "It wasn't my son. My son loved the USA!" A man decapitates a rider on the Greyhound bus in Canada, and friends and neighbors all chime in together, "He's the LAST person you'd suspect could do this kind of thing!"

I am starting to want to be the FIRST person you would suspect of doing this kind of thing. In this world, that is harmless! How do we tell right from wrong? How long have we been subverting fact in favor of denial? What the hell is real? I can't even see the air I breathe.


carmel said...

jesse i grew up in an area that was really religious (think footloose and i'm kevin bacon, no joke...) and i have the same low tolerance to right wing religions either...
i was told that dinosaur fossils were just odd shaped rocks. lol and almost got kicked out of school for playing solitaire cos i was trying to foresee the future with the devil's instrument... and the list goes on...i know my gay friends in that community certainly weren't welcomed with open arms. Often they were ostracised by family and friends and most definitely kicked out of the church unless they stood before the congregation to repent their "sins" - usually a widely attended day so everyone could listen in for juicy bits...
anyway, you know it's a fucked up world - for homosexuals, for women, for people who want to live life freely in peace... racism, homophobia, misogyny, war, hunger - if we could legislate a few off (and we have in certain countries!) at least a few would have a harder time existing in the world...
big hugs my friend!!

Seth R. said...

I don't get it.

Are you suggesting that Mormons are equivalent to murderers and child abusers because of the way they voted on Prop 8?

That's quite a position to be taking.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you completely! More people have been killed in the name of god and religion, than for anything else. Ironically, this world would be a much more peaceful and orderly place without religion and ultra-nationalism.
As far as the question of where hatred is born, I would say that there are some people who are born evil. Its sad but true. Haven't you known people, even children, who always do the wrong thing? I have and there is no other explanation than the existence of inborn evil. Think about Michael Vick. He reveled in torturing innocent, defenseless animals. Where did his evil come from?
Its a shame that religion fans the flames of hatred. I will try to attend the vigil. Please keep it peaceful.

Your friend, Jimmy

Jesse Archer said...

Hi Seth,

No, I don't suggesting that Mormons are equivalent to murderers and child abusers because of the way they voted on Prop 8.

I am suggesting religious people (not only Mormons) can find a way to divinely defend their actions that hurt other people: Everything from voting to take away equal rights to honor-killings.

Of course there is not an equivalency between the above two actions, but there is similarity in their "justification".

Seth R. said...

I would say this sort of rationalization you speak of is not restricted to religious contexts, but happens just as much among people who are not religious at all.

But in any case, I doubt most Mormons thought they were taking away rights from gay couples with Prop 8. California already offered most of the rights in question via other laws, and those that were not offered could be equally serviced by generic "civil union" laws. What most Mormons felt they were doing was denying the label of "marriage" and the implicit societal approval that goes with it.

Agree with it or not, as you choose. But most Mormons I know who wanted to restrict marriage did not see themselves as taking rights away.

Jesse Archer said...


The thing is that Prop 8 did not say, "We are changing the term marriage to civil union". It blatantly said "We RESCIND the right for gays to marry". How could Mormons not think they were taking away rights? Of course they were, that is not even a question. If Mormons thought they weren't removing rights already granted, that's the religious delusion I'm talking about.

These rights included tax benefits, burial rights, hospital visitation, parental rights, and over 1000 more CIVIL rights. That vote took away those rights and hurt human beings.

scott hawley said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

God didn't write a book. Men write books. The bible is based on "feelings" men had. We’d lock these guys away in an institution if they tried to tell us God was chatting with them today. The bible was altered along the way by word-of-mouth, translations, printing devices and politically-motivated kings who used the power of the unknown to their own advantage. Not that it doesn't contain some philosophies on how to love each other and ourselves, but it didn’t come from a “magic time.” It’s such a ridiculous argument when passages of any scripture are debated word-for-word in order to limit, discriminate, or justify the actions of anyone who would use them as weapons. The word "spiritual" is quickly replacing the word “religious” because we’re moving closer to admitting that most organized religion is nonsense, and makes no sense to us anymore. But some of us fear that if we question any of this we are betraying our grandmothers, hurting our parents, and invalidating all those beautiful Sundays or holidays from our childhood. We are afraid of ruining our own memories. Religion is a cultural blanket, not a moral or factual one, and if we could just say it we could all get along better.

We hold dinosaur and neanderthal bones in our hands, but we choose to believe that an ark carried two of every living species through a flood so the world could start again once it docked at the Mt. Ararat Marina and everyone got off. Have you seen how many millions of species there are in this beautiful world? Can we not agree that religious "events" are merely stories we pass down, like the one where humanity began with two white people who ruined it for mankind when they picked an apple? Seriously, can't we let it go? Be brave. Be honest. Have we not come far enough to stop believing that Jesus was a ghostly alien who did tricks? Can’t we believe that "God" is the mystery of how this whole shindig came about and have love in our hearts for the birds, the bees, and our fellow man without having to whip ourselves while we do it? Aren’t we obligated to observe, absorb and evolve? Maybe it's OK to find God within ourselves, if we can accept ourselves on a level that high. Ironically, that’s probably what Jesus was talking about. I wish he had been able to post directly to YouTube.

Why does all this matter? Because we are killing and discrimating against each other based on the principal that these stories and fables which are merely part of our mythology are factual. Let's stop using the manipulative words of men who died hundreds or thousands of years ago to make other people feel like less than they are, or to beat ourselves up for following our own good instincts. Let's enjoy the process of discovery. Be interested in all of the questions. Be good to other people. Love and be loved. If all the fighting over religious principals and territories was turned into creating food, shelter and family, can you imagine how....Spiritual....the world would seem? Amen.

Jesse, thanks for being brave enough to be honest.

Scott Hawley

Seth R. said...

Well, first off, I don't think that government approval of "marriage" is a right that anyone is entitled to in the first place. Personally, I'd like to see government out of the marriage business altogether.

I resent that, as a Mormon, I had to go down to the local county courthouse and request the government's permission to be married to my wife.

Who the hell put them in charge of something that was between me, her, and God anyway? When I married my wife, it was in a temple. And if some county judge had said we weren't married, we would have been married anyway as far as I'm concerned.

Marriage is a matter of personal belief and the government has no business handing them out or denying them to anyone. If government wants to hand out civil unions to EVERYONE, fine by me. But I'd just as soon see them out of the marriage business.

I blogged about this the summer prior to Prop 8 here:

Either way, government approval of your beliefs is not a right at all, much less a civil right.

Furthermore, claiming a child tax credit on your Form 1040 isn't a right either. It's something the legislature can either give you, or take away from you. Tax benefits are not a right at all. Neither are a lot of the things that the gay movement is calling for.

Note: I am not saying gays shouldn't get tax benefits. I think a committed partnership should get a fair deal, no matter what the gender mix is. Likewise with hospital visitation. I'm not even all that bothered by the adoption issue either (I figure with all the abusive hetero couples out there, a kid has as good a shot at a decent life with a gay couple as with anyone).

I've got bigger worries with society than whether two guys want to throw a ceremony, adopt a kid, and get tax benefits.

That doesn't mean that I accept gay marriage as a theological matter. As a Mormon, my theology is centered around the ultimate union of male and female. It's rough, but there it is.

But I'm also concerned about people in my mortal society being treated fairly. And I don't think gays are treated fairly. As an attorney, I've had several gay clients, and I don't think they are being treated equally under the law in my field, and I'd like to see that stop.

But the issue isn't rights here.

The issue is trying to force societal approval of personal behavior via the big stick of government. And I don't approve of that.

Seriously though, think it over.

Civil unions for everyone is a place where Mormons and gays could eventually "meet in the middle." It's a compromise I think both groups could ultimately live with. And I think it is absolutely crucial if we are going to have a working society together.

Both of us need to stop using government as a stick to try and force the other side to change its own beliefs. I suggest dropping the stick and focusing instead on a system we can both live with.

Eddie in OKC said...

Oh boy, Seth. Can't wait to see the replies to this one ...

Jesse Archer said...

Hi Seth,

I agree. I don't see the problem with civil unions so long as they bestow the same rights to all as guaranteed by the 14th amendment.

I do disagree (at least from a personal standpoint---I'd rather remain "deviant" in the eyes of society--) that the marriage issue is to get societal approval of personal behavior. I saw nowhere, anything that declared a particular religion would be forced to perform SSM.

I also saw nothing that the LDS church, or any church, had to gain by spending millions to deny these rights to one class of people - except perhaps the self-righteous claim that we aren't equal.

Your solution in getting government out would absolutely be a way to meet in the middle. It would prove that a) believers are for equality and not discrimination and b) gays don't need societal approval to have equal rights under the law.

As you acknowledge in your blog, SSM is ultimately a foregone conclusion. So if religious people truly want to save the word, why aren't they drafting this kind of "meet in the middle" legislation, instead of drafting legislation that merely rescinds rights and gets perceived as simple "hate"?

The way it looks now is: "Whatever happened to LIVE AND LET LIVE?"

I wish all church going folk were as open and fair-minded as you are. I have a relative who is LDS and he refuses to speak with me on the subject (when confronted), avoids me at all costs, and it makes me so *#&@* angry!

Thanks for the dialogue.

Seth R. said...

Well, note I said eventually.

I'm not delusional. This isn't something that Mormons are going to warm up to overnight. But you never know.

Even Dobson from the right-wing Evangelical "Focus on the Family" advocated for civil union laws here in a Colorado a few years ago (kind of pissed off a few of his own faction with that one). Of course, he was only advocating it to hamstring the gay marriage movement. If you've already got the same rights as hetero couples, you can't complain about not having "marriage" right?

Well... maybe...

All I'm saying is that whatever the motives of the parties, there are possibilities in this area.

But at present, I'd say those in the LDS Church are a little too nervous on the issue for this stance to happen quickly. They're all worried that civil unions would be some sort of slippery slope to places they definitely don't want to go. I think the worries are overblown, but there you are.

I have few illusions about the feasibility of abolishing the marriage license system in favor of a comprehensive and fair civil union law. It's not an easy sell right now.

But you've got to start somewhere.

And the recent LDS actions supporting Salt Lake City ordinances protecting gays from discrimination gives at least some grounds for optimism.

Bob Frank said...

In Los Angeles, you actually can see the air.

There were a lot of interesting comments here. Religion is "faith" and not "fact". If someone has thought through his beliefs and decided that they made sense to him, then fine. However, no religion should be dictating the rights of any individual in society, period. To me, it's more about control and trying to be relevant, and these churches are desperate to control us and be relevant. You may believe that marriage is between only a man and a woman, but that is your, and your religion's definition. By saying that, you are telling a gay teenager that his or her love is not the same as heterosexual love, that it is inferior somehow, and therefore the gay teen is inferior somehow. That is just plain mean-spirited and wrong.