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    Ann Rostow: Big Little Lies

    By Ann Rostow–

    Big Little Lies

    Things are getting worse and worse. Toxic. 

    The racism of Trump’s attacks on The Squad do not appall me as much as the patently false rhetoric that goes basically ignored in the media. Squad members did not call America “garbage” or say that they “hate” this country or praise Al Qaeda. Yet after each of these accusations, commentators frown and observe that the four Congresswomen are American citizens and women of color, and the debate veers off along these lines, never to return to what Hitler called the “big lie.” 

    Of course Trump is racist. But what the hell? We cannot let this man get away with those underlying accusations, and that’s exactly what happens when the criticism begins and ends in the whirlpool of racism.

    Forgive me if I quote Hitler in Mein Kampf:

    “In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie … .

    “It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” (Emphasis mine.)

    And, of course, the lies aren’t limited to past comments by the squad. We have the cleanest air and water in history. The economy has never been better. Thousands of criminals are coming over our southern border. There’s no more room in the country. The administration runs like a well-oiled machine. China is paying us hundreds of billions in tariffs. Democrats hate our country. We’re building the wall. We’ve defeated ISIS. The Mueller report exonerated the Trump campaign. Climate change is a hoax. 

    Nor are they all big lies. There are plenty of small ones. And even as the Washington Post and others might factcheck and point out these lies, we are allowing Trump to turn them into background noise, and I’m not sure how we will ever hold him accountable in this new world of fake news and fake videos and alternative facts, where there are two or three or four crazy variations for every proven truth. Is Earth flat? Well, some people have said so, and some others disagree.

    And Another Thing

    Sorry for the rant. Believe it or not, I intended the first paragraph to lead into a discussion of frigging Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister of Great Britain. Not a homophobe, I suppose, but a toweringly incompetent egomaniac who will add to the destabilization of the post-war alliances that have mostly upheld humanitarian instincts throughout the West for decades. 

    But I have already exhausted my non-GLBT observations for one column, so I will have to step aside in favor of more germane topics. First, let’s remind ourselves that when Trump was asked about Putin’s statement that “western style liberalism is obsolete,” Trump replied that Putin: “sees what’s going on, I guess, if you look at what’s happening in Los Angeles, where it’s so sad to look, and what’s happening in San Francisco and a couple of other cities, which are run by an extraordinary group of liberal people.” 

    No, Putin wasn’t referring to California politics, you ignoramus. And that’s another area of Trumpism the media has started to treat like background noise, if I may repeat the simile. His grasp of history, spelling, grammar, vocabulary and abstract reasoning is at a middle school level. Literally. Yet we now take these intellectual deficits for granted from the President of the United States, barely pausing to note references to the “Prince of Whales” and the like.

    No Promo Homo

    Speaking of Putin, he has gradually turned Russia into an unforgiving landscape of antigay animus, harping on traditional values and promoting gay bashing policies under the guise of protecting minors against sexual predators. On July 20, lesbian activist Yelena Grigoryeva was found strangled and stabbed to death near her home in St. Petersburg, the city where much of the homophobia of the last decade or so was birthed. 

    For all I know, she was killed by random criminals, so forgive me for juxtaposing Mr. Putin’s bad actions with her murder. I’m suspicious, that’s all. 

    In other Russian news this week, something ominously called the “Investigative Committee” has opened a criminal case against official social workers who allowed two gay men to adopt two sons back in 2010, a move that is now in violation of Russia’s antigay rules. The ambiguous 2013 law against “propagandizing non-traditional sexual relations” to minors expands to cover any and all alleged infractions involving gay people. And this is the law that the social workers, and presumably the fathers, have theoretically violated (although it’s not clear how the social workers could be charged retroactively). The family’s situation was brought to the attention of authorities by a doctor who called police after treating one of the boys for a stomach problem.

    According to an article in The Advocate, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of Parliament, Valentina Matvienko, subsequently won the hyperbole award for the month of July by observing that letting gay couples adopt would “simply lead to the extinction of humanity.” 

    Finally, I haven’t seen Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews, but the conspiracy theorist recently asked Putin to be the godfather to his 22-year-old daughter, and said that the antigay propaganda law “seems sensible.” 

    “I don’t know what is going on with the American culture. It’s very strange right now,” Stone told Putin last month, according to a transcript of his word salad from the Kremlin. “So much of the argument, so much of the thinking, so much of the newspaper, television commentaries about gender, people identify themselves, and social media, this and that, I’m male, I’m female, I’m transgender, I’m cisgender. It goes on forever, and there is a big fight about who is who … . It seems like we miss the bigger point.” 

    We Know It When We See It

    Moving right along, I was struck by the story of a gay artist from Melbourne, Paul Yore, who submitted a mixed media textile piece to an exhibit in Wales titled “Taste the Feeling, 2018.” The piece, which included words and pictures, was removed after other gay people attacked it as hate-filled, in part, I’m assuming, because it included harsh antigay slurs and ugly imagery that (again, I’m assuming) were deliberate efforts by the artist to dramatize homophobia. 

    To add to the complexity, Yore was previously accused of spreading child porn through an artwork that superimposed children’s heads on adults in sexual positions, again, I’m guessing, to make a point. Those charges were dismissed, but it all raises profound questions about art, speech and intent, don’t you think? 

    Who gets to draw the lines between art and pornography, poetry and abuse, politics and violence? After all, we live in the age of college students who demand trigger warnings and spaces safe from unpleasant ideas. What would they think of Mr. Yore’s recent handiwork if someone hung it in the common room? Would they like it more if they knew Yore was officially a queer artist? What if someone put the “child porn” piece on display? Would they defend it to the death or tear it off the wall? I have no idea.

    Let’s just say I’m not a fan, personally. His work feels self-indulgent and colorful and gratuitously sexual. Provocation for its own sake. Then again, I’m not an art critic, and like many others of my ilk, I don’t feel qualified to judge art. If a thousand official art critics said his stuff was astounding, I would assume that they were right and that I lack the ability to see art. I would further assume that Yore had every right to share his genius with the world and that any protestors were interfering with his artistic freedom. 

    Until that day, however, I remain torn. I didn’t see the “child porn” piece, but I suspect, like Justice Stewart, I would be able to evaluate its constitutional status one way or another if I did.

    Like a Rock

    So, the zoo in Munich has some gay penguins, but like Trump’s many eccentricities, these little fellas are old news at this point. Gay male penguins are everywhere. Week after week I encounter them, flapping around, tending eggs, fawning over each other in a loving manner. What is it with penguins anyway? Did Noah put three of them on the ark? I recently reported on a bunch of penguins in Dingle, Ireland, where eight out of the aquarium’s fourteen penguins are in same-sex relationships.

    Oh, and the Munich penguins are trying to hatch a rock, which seems unkind on the part of their zookeepers. 

    In other news, there’s a “Straight Pride” festival of sorts scheduled for August 31 in Boston. Organized by a group calling itself “Super Happy Fun America,” the event has been using the TripAdvisor logo without permission, and received a cease and desist letter from TripAdvisor’s lawyers.

    “I’m Coming Out and saying this clearly: you are infringing upon TripAdvisor’s intellectual property rights,” the letter began, adding, “We have become a well-known brand for our reviews of hotels, restaurants, experiences and even the occasional YMCA, but we weren’t Born This Way—we obtained that recognition through significant advertising and promotion since as early as 2000.” 

    The entire letter was filled with references to iconic GLBT songs, indeed the company said that their lawyers stayed up all night composing the text, meant to hammer home the company’s position. “We believe the organizers of this event owe the LGBTQ+ community an apology,” the missive ended, “even if SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD to say.”

    Interesting that the people running “Straight Pride” have managed to come up with the gayest possible title for their organization. I’d be tempted to team up with anyone calling themselves Super Happy Fun America. Paging Pharrell Williams!

    Imposter Syndrome

    Now is the moment when the rest of my notes to myself for this column fall through the time-sensitive cracks into news oblivion. I forget what I meant by “check out the soccer player.” I was going to mention the homophobic comments by the Israeli education minister, but I skipped that. “Elliot Resnick” referred to another barrage of mean statements, this time by the publisher of the (orthodox) Jewish Press

    The Gavin Grimm transgender rights case continues at lower court. A Christian daycare center in Waco refused to admit the child of lesbian parents. A gay man, Mounir Baatour, is running for president of Tunisia, and the taxpayers of Iowa will foot the bill for $6 million in legal fees and damages after a gay man won his wrongful termination suit against former governor Terry Branstad. Most of that sum was the cost of litigation, which could have been avoided had the state settled with Chris Godfrey, Bradstad’s former assistant who was forced out due to his sexual orientation. Godfrey himself was awarded $1.5 million.

    But topping all of these is the bizarre story of Elizabeth McCarthy, a gay woman who has been running for the Florida house of representatives. McCarthy built her reputation, in part, on her heroic lifesaving after the Pulse nightclub shooting of 2016. Working as an ER doctor at a local hospital, McCarthy described removing 77 bullets from three dozen victims. At a town hall in March, McCarthy grew emotional as she told the tale, the Washington Post reports. “That night, because I’m gay, it struck me even harder, because these were my people … . We’d never experienced something like that, something so horrific. But when you’re trained, you go into automatic mode.”

    But McCarthy did not have a shift in the ER that night. Indeed, she was not a doctor to begin with. She had a nursing license that expired in 2005 and has never been renewed. When the press began to unravel these and other fictions, McCarthy complained of a smear campaign, until finally admitting that she made up the whole story. In late June, she withdrew from the house race, and now faces fines for misrepresenting herself as a doctor.

    “I wanted to be somebody in the community, and I’m sorry,” she said.