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    Ann Rostow: A Cancer on the Internet

    By Ann Rostow–

    A Cancer on the Internet–

    Before I start, may I share something? I’m no Luddite, and I can get enjoyably lost online as I may have mentioned in previous asides. But I’m not prepared for the unexpected encounters with the horrific and repellent excesses of the modern internet. Sometimes it’s just a glance at a page, and I quickly scroll away. Sometimes it’s my poor eyesight. “Hmm. What’s that? I’ll get my glasses … oh God, no.” Recently, my curiosity was captured by the story of a three-foot “coconut crab” that attacked a bird. Yes, it sounded a bit gruesome, but also intriguing. A three-foot crab on a remote island? My my! 

    I clicked.

    The article described a giant crab that attacked, killed and tore apart an innocent wild hen of some sort, at which point some other crabs joined the killing spree! There was a snuff video accompanying the article, and although I did not watch it, I could not help seeing the cover shot of a bloody bird in the clutches of a grotesque orange crab. Three feet in diameter.

    When I was younger, I would not have hesitated to watch the video. Indeed, I would no doubt have surfed through all sorts of violent or squalid offerings just for the hell of it. In college, we all happily attended a screening of Salo, 120 Days of Sodom. I’m sure the shadowy parts of the internet can produce far more disturbing scenes, but back then this was the worst we could find (so of course we had to see it).

    I have since learned that not only do the things you see have an impact on you, but also, to be trite, you cannot un-see them. Mindlessly clicking on things that are gross or shocking and watching whatever comes up is not a passive thing to do. It is a decisive action and it can diminish you if you’re not careful. It can desensitize you to shock, pain, nausea or even sexual desire for those who overdose on porn. It can warp you. 

    We were not meant to bear witness to other people’s abscesses; we were not meant to read about personal bodily functions or to see blackheads popped on cable TV. We were not meant to watch animals die as we check the political news first thing in the morning. We were not meant to watch rape pornography in sixth grade. We are coarsened by all of it, and we may never recapture our innocence.

    That said, we got rid of floor-length petticoats and chaperoned dates a hundred years ago with no ill effects, so maybe we’ll be fine. I’m still not watching the crab video. And decades later, I’m still haunted by that disgusting movie. 

    Roll Tide

    I’m not sure I was “wrong” in my last column when I said Kevin Spacey should not be judged on a single episode from his 20s. But now that we’ve heard from several other victims and now that we’ve learned that he stuck his hands down the pants of an unwilling teenager the summer before last, I think we can safely throw him under the bus. Bye bye, Kevin! That said, I’m still giving the benefit of the doubt to George Takei. Take us out of orbit, Lieutenant Sulu, warp two!  

    Meanwhile, what do you think of our old buddy Roy Moore, who insists that, after he returned from military service, he never dated any girl “without the permission of her mother?” Oh. Okay then! 

    You know, of course, that Roy personifies the lascivious old Christian white guy who spends an inordinate amount of time waving his finger at anyone and everyone who leaves the sexual straight and narrow. A year ago last March, nearly a year after marriage equality was imposed on the nation, Roy wrote:

    “Homosexuals who seek the dignity of marriage must first forsake the sexual habits that disqualify them from admission to that hallowed institution. Surely more dignity attaches to participation in a fundamental institution on the terms it prescribes than to an attempt to wrest its definition to serve inordinate lusts that demean its historic dignity … . Sodomy has never been, and never will be, an act by which a marriage can be consummated.”

    Of course, the emphasis is mine. And speaking of inordinate lusts, isn’t it almost always the case that these arch-homophobes conceal deep sexual insecurities, sometimes made manifest in an embarrassing park sting, and sometimes just hinted at by kinky rumors of, let’s say, sporting lace underwear or cruising the malls for teenage girls? They’re never normal, are they? The fact is, normal men do not obsess over the sex lives of total strangers. They do not salivate or pant; they do not rave or rant. They frankly don’t care about anyone else’s sexual orientation but their own.

    As for the U.S. Senate, I’m tempted to say, elect him. Elect Roy Moore and let the Republican Party answer for their despicable representative all next year, all the while failing to pass legislation, because Roy Moore won’t vote for anything Mitch McConnell wants him to vote for. It’s a win win! 

    I say “tempted” only because I celebrated back when the Republicans nominated Donald Trump for President rather than someone like Jeb Bush, and my smug pleasure at that state of affairs was profoundly shortsighted—not to mention short-lived. At any rate, it looks as if the tide is going to roll right over Roy regardless of the political machinations on both sides.

    Those Lion Eyes

    I should let you know that Australia’s postal vote on marriage equality will be wrapped up as we go to press, but in keeping with my news blackout of Aussie politics, I’ll leave it at that. Google the results and remember the adjective “non-binding.”

    I should also stop messing around and get going on GLBT law and politics, and I will. Soon. But first, I was just reading about a crazy African, the head of the Kenya Film Classification Board, who is upset over news that two gay lions have been spotted in the Maasai Mara national game reserve.  

    I almost thought this was Fake News because there are two shots of the lions, Simba and Mufasa, which look like they’re posing for the engagement photographs in the Lion Social Register. They are simply adorable! They are so cute that just looking at them eased the inner discomfort I was carrying from seeing the crab picture. Could something that charming really have been haphazardly captured on film by a wildlife photographer? I had my doubts.

    But much like the sordid Moore stories we read about and heard on TV, we have to decide if we are prepared to believe what we see. We are not going to get further information. We are not going to see proof or evidence. I choose to believe Leigh Corfman and Beverly Young Nelson, and I choose to believe that Simba and Mufasa are committed partners.

    Film censor Ezekial Mutua told the Nairobi News that the lions might be possessed by demons, or perhaps picked up an interest in same-sex action after witnessing some hanky panky by gay tourists. Also, he speculated, it’s possible that one of the lions was female (even though they both have spectacular manes). 

    “I mean where on Earth have you ever heard of something like this happening?” Mutua told the press. “The demonic spirits inflicting in humans seems to have now caught up with animals … . That’s why I say isolate the crazy gay animals, study their behavior because it’s not normal … . Two male lions cannot procreate and therefore we will lose the lion species.”

    It wasn’t clear why the newspaper was interested in Mr. Mutua’s views on the matter to begin with, but whatever. 

    I Do Not Like Thee, Mr. and Mr. Fell

    Here’s a new twist on a familiar theme. Consider a farm and wedding venue in Blendon Township, Michigan, that is openly in favor of traditional marriage. The Post Family Farm does not discriminate against gay couples, and insists that same-sex clients will be treated professionally and provided with all of the services available to their heterosexual counterparts. However, a public statement also makes clear that the family “holds a traditional view of marriage, which we believe to be a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.”

    I’m no fan of a business or a family that disdains same-sex unions based on conservative interpretations of faith. But it’s not prejudice that the law prohibits; it’s discrimination. (Actually, Michigan does not ban gay discrimination in public accommodation, but bear with me anyway.) So, do we have a right to legally object to the Post family posture?

    “Much of our service is very personal,” the Posts warn prospective gay clients. “[B]efore reserving our venue, we would encourage you to 1) determine if your awareness of our view on marriage will dampen your wedding celebration and 2) consider providing your own wedding coordinator for the day of your event. Serving as a wedding coordinator is a very personal service that we offer as an option to brides and grooms, but a role that might be much better filled by someone who has experience with non-traditional weddings.” 

    Once you overcome the insulting premise, the suggestions are quite reasonable. After due consideration, I’m guessing most gay couples would pick another spot for their wedding. At the very least, they’ll select their own coordinator. So, let’s ask again: is this discrimination? 

    Even though the Posts are offering respectful treatment to their gay customers, they are withholding the warm solidarity that all engaged couples expect from the businesses they hire. In a way, we think of that warmth as part of the service we’re paying for and that’s why we instinctively feel as if the Post family is not treating their gay clients as well as their straight clients. But no state can regulate warmth, and it’s not against the law to keep a straight face even when people expect you to smile. 

    I think the Post family’s strategy is unfortunate, but perfectly legal. I wonder if they will change their views after a dozen gay couples choose to make full use of their services.   

    Now What?

    I know we had a great election night November 7, but you’ve already read all about it elsewhere. Of course, a problem with timing never stops me from rehashing weeks old news if I so desire, but I can still use it an excuse if I like. For the record, I think there were at least three dozen LGBT winners throughout the country, including seven new transgender officeholders. 

    We should be encouraged, and of course we are! But we’re still stuck in Never Never Land with an incoherent child President who thinks his Asian summit was a success because they rolled out the red carpets and everyone clapped when he entered the room. Speaking to the press in his trademark elementary school vocabulary, Trump made vague references to “$300 billion” couched in incomprehensible half sentences like: “we are going to have $300 billion—I think you’ll see—probably triple that, it could be a trillion or more.” 

    Three hundred billion of what? With whom? I read elsewhere that Trump and various leaders discussed a lot of high dollar plans in theory, but made no promises, no deals, and obviously signed no contracts. Yet, I’m starting to fear that this buffoon of a man actually believes his own hype, a truly chilling thought. If Trump recognized by now that being President of the United States is a lot harder than he thought and that concrete progress was difficult to achieve, he might start to respect his predecessors and feel some humility. Instead, he is insulating himself from reality in his own mind, living a fantasy that could lead us all into very dangerous places.

    Sometimes I have a sick feeling that we’re standing on the precipice of some vast historic era. Future scholars will write dissertations on the extent to which the rise of social media heralded the end of 20th century political norms and structures and others will speculate on why a fearful 2016 American electorate decided to fold the country in on itself, abandon international trade, military and cultural partnerships, and gradually roll a once great country into a small inconsequential ball.  

    The question is, is this liminal moment the beginning of the end? Are we living through the transitional years between the American Century and whatever is to come? Or will we perhaps claw ourselves back from the brink, link arms with the rest of the world and face the future once again? 

    arostow@aol.com