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Elusive Skies
ramblings on the edge of insanity
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Mark W
I had mentally prepared myself for going to a minority church since making the begrudging decision to attend the night before. Yet, living it was quite different from acknowledging the fact. I began to analyze my every move, feeling a bit out of sorts. I suppose that’s only natural when faced with a case of role reversal. Suddenly I was about to be immersed into an entirely new culture.

Curious, I did what I’ve always done in situations where I am unsure of myself; pretend I don’t notice and act natural. We made it through the jungle of minivans, sedans, and gas guzzling SUVs and to the entrance. There was already a praise song blasting its way out into the narthex. I had never seen anything like the sanctuary I walked into. The first thing that struck me was the vibrant colors. The seat cushions on the pews were honest to God (pardon the pun) a faux-velvet, vibrant blue. They weren’t hard and stiff, but the type of cushions that begged old women to hunker down and fall asleep. Yet I‘ll assure you, there was no sleeping in the temple today, my friends! Oh no.

There was what I believe the bible calls, ‘much rejoicing’, but then again my Bible and I aren’t exactly close… so I could have that wrong. What I do know is I had to be the only one who wasn’t singing. I gave up singing in church when I realized faith, for me, was something my parents believed in. To sing, I surmised would be hypocritical and I wanted to respect those who sang from the heart. Yet, those around me had no qualms. A few elderly ladies were even swinging hideous green flags with gold trimmings in the front isle. They reminded me of gypsies, without the fun belly flaunting, metal jingling ensemble.

Yet, outlandish jubilance and maximum capacity restrictions aside, I was happy for them. They were celebrating something they believed in with the utmost intensity and I could not help but have immense respect for that triumph. I might not have been ready to jump from my seat and pick up a flag, but I was certainly awed by their devotion to their faith.

Eventually the pastor came up to speak and after many long and mind numbing announcements, introduced us to the guest speaker. As it turns out Mr. Guest Speaker was a black man of intimidating stature with glasses, a goatee, and an unappealing but expensive looking brown suit. I would come to learn throughout his speech that he not only did the Lord’s work, but had his hands in politics as well. I should have prepared myself for a train wreck then and there, due to the combination of a conservative politician and a pulpit, but I sat in my pew quietly, hands in my lap, looking forward to hearing what he had to say.

He started out with how we need to be warriors for God, saying, “This isn’t the love boat, this is a battle ship!” I nodded along well enough for that. Okay, nothing wrong with a little “HOORAH!” for Jesus. Then he discussed the resent whiplash the church had been experiencing in the media, quickly moving on to Christians in general and how they must deal with controversy for Christ. Finally, once he had beaten that horse into submission, he talked at length about himself and his experiences, especially his bout with the media where he had gotten into what he called, ‘heated debate’ about same sex marriage.

Now controversy I can get down with. I can deal with people stirring up a ruckus, fighting for their rights and beliefs. That’s all well and good… but now the alarm bells began to ring loud and clear in my mind. Images began flashing through my consciousness; my bisexual best friend, my gay shoulder to cry on, ‘the boys’ I go out with on Wednesday night. I fought them back, hoping beyond hope that this wouldn’t go down the path I knew lay ahead.

He talked about life as a politician in Washington and how he fought the legislation to recognize same sex marriages from out of state, putting together a protest and raising money to fight against what he deemed ‘the corruption of our families‘. He even had the gall to say that we were headed down a path where our kids would wonder, ‘why does my friend have two mommies?’ with enough venom in his voice to knock out an elephant. I felt my heart sink. Just because we’re moving away from traditional values… does that is the gays fault? Does that mean it’s going to bring this world to its knees?

I know how I would feel if I was that little girl’s friend. Give me two mommies any day! Extricate an adulterous father who barely sees me once a year from my life and give me two estrogen charged, loving parents! Are heterosexuals any more moral than those he condemns? Are homosexuals any less in need of god’s love? I found my chest clenching, fists balling into my skirt.
Behind me there was constant reverent, muttered agreement for his cause. When he said we have to stand strong despite this controversy, ‘yes Jesus’ ’ rang throughout the pews. Never mind the fact that they were agreeing to work to restrict the rights and beliefs of others. Forget the fact that if someone tries to pass legislation telling them they can’t pray in schools they get all up in arms, but heaven forbid others be allowed to marry in their own state. Never mind the fact that they are judging as only God can judge.

My arms crossed over my chest out of reflex and my friend leaned over to whisper in my ear. Flags that were a sign of joy and hope became abrasive picket signs. A positive, joyous public now, to me, seemed a mindless mob.

“Are you upset?” she asked me. Those words didn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I felt as if someone had just spat in the face of people I loved. I felt like I was swimming in a sea of hypocrisy. Her words sent an emotional charge through my body and tears brimmed in my eyes, one overflowing silently. I simply nodded and held my seat.

Now I could have walked out. It would have been easy enough. But I didn’t for he has his right to his opinion. I don’t have to agree, but I can respect it on principle alone. I just wish somehow everyone could share that view. That they could open their eyes, look around at people of different backgrounds and opinions and love them as people… not make them into some enemy they have to battle against.
14th-Sep-2009 01:22 am - Lipstick on a Pig, Speech
Mark W
I’m sure most of you sitting here today have watched the news, the Great Media Machine that’s supposed to spew out ‘facts’ at a steady rate with hope that the American people can grasp them. Well I was watching the news late one night, as I often do, and an odd headline caught my eye. “Lipstick on the pig” was what it read and I had to do a double take. What on earth? Are they serious? I thought to myself.

Hopefully, if you all follow the election you already know the story I’m about to tell you, but let’s sum it up quickly for those of us that don’t. Sarah Palin, the minor half of the republican ticket had made a comment to the media that the only difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull is lipstick. Then, sometime later Barack Obama made the comment, “If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig” in regard to McCain’s economic policies.

This started a huge wave of tension that rippled through the two parties. The republicans saw it as a personal attack against Sarah Palin. They immediately demanded that Sen. Obama apologize for his statement. In return the democrats argued that Sen. Obama was not making a jab at Palin, and that the backlash over his comment was a “pathetic attempt” to play the gender card and distract from the issues.

Let’s take a look at this folks. Let’s strip away all of the political rhetoric and get to the bottom of the issue. That is, that grown, intellectual men who could be the next president of the United States are having what appears to be a juvenile debate over the use of a age old phrase. Are we learning anything about their plans for governing our nation by reading reports on the latest scandal? I highly doubt it.

The phrase, ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ simply means ‘making the unattractive superficially attractive’. Whether Obama meant this to say that Palin is the “dressing” on the McCain campaign, that she herself is pig-like, or McCain’s plans to give us more of the same thing in his presidency, is so minuscule in the scheme of things that these allegations are laughable. In fact, every word that makes it to print, every speech we hear on the news is nothing but a waste of space. The saying can be traced back all the way to the mid-16th century, when people would say, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear"! You would think that somewhere between the 16th century and the 21st we would have grown up, would you not?

It’s been on the political stage as a common phrase for decades. To name just a few, it has graced the lips of Ann Richards (past governor of Texas), Dick Cheney (Vice President), John Edwards, Torie Clarke (former McCain supporter), and get this, John McCain himself. McCain said it in regards to Hilary Clinton’s health care plan and in regards to the Iraq war, stating, "It gets down to whether you support what is being done in this new strategy or you don't. You can put lipstick on a pig, [but] it's still a pig, in my view."

Now at this point you’re probably scratching your head. How can McCain get all in a huff about something he has said himself? Well, it’s “personal” and he says, “Obama shouldn’t have said it”. Now I’m sorry if you have a deep and profound love for our Republican candidate but this student would like to take her palm and give him a good smack upside the head. Grow up! I feel like both candidates are acting like a five year old tattle-tales, pointing fingers and yelling, “Hey, that boy’s a big ol’ bully!”
Granted, perhaps Barrack was out of line but get over it, John. Yes, Barrack, perhaps John did overreact, suck it up and go to the debates with him like a good boy. Come on gentlemen, let’s get back to politics… you know, that thing you do for a living?

I bet by now you see my point. The media is quite the weapon I’m afraid. It turns responsible adults into bickering children; it confuses the masses, and makes the respectable look downright foolish. If I could sit down with those grey haired preschoolers, I’d remind them that sometimes things are better left unsaid and beg them to please, for the love of all things holy, focus so that when I have to finally make the decision on who I will vote for, I’ll have something more thrilling to read than a pigs latest cosmetic accessory.
14th-Sep-2009 12:53 am - Essay for Principles of Writing
Mark W
Reminiscing about it now, I can't tell you why I decided to attend church that Sunday. I had been avoiding that very activity like the plague for nearly a year, but something convinced me it was a stroke of genius. I guess I was a bit stir crazy, having just returned home from spending the summer working out of state, far from my friends and family. So, when a friend from my college asked me to come with her to a friend’s church in the area I couldn’t think of any other plans I‘d scheduled. Puttering around on the computer for most of the day and relaxing in my queen size bed just didn't seem to cut it as a believable excuse.

Therefore, I was coerced to pry myself from beneath my bed sheets at around nine in the morning. Usually this wouldn’t have been such a tumultuous task, but since returning home I had made it a habit to rebel against my former job schedule by sleeping in to all hours of the afternoon.

It’s funny, when I go to a church service my whole outlook on life changes. I’m a self proclaimed activist against the girly-girl movement; I don’t participate in wearing dresses. I do not do my nails with anything but a file or wear enough make-up to fill the grand canyon, and I certainly am not afraid to sweat. Yet that morning I actually had a knot in my stomach about what on earth I should wear. Since I have a total of one dress in my closet I decided it best to err on the conservative side of the wardrobe. Overall the decision wasn’t that hard, yet for some reason convincing my racing thoughts of that fact was quite the task. The way I was feeling, you would have thought I was preparing for an interview at the convent… if my dress had the decency to reach past my knees that is.

In the end I wore a black knee length dress with pink accents. It was a light fabric that cinched below my chest and a-framed out to cling loosely around my knees. The heels that I settled on were more practical than the ones I initially came across. Hobbling through the parking lot just didn’t seem like a good strategy in my book. So instead I went with boring, black pumps. They seemed like they’d keep me safe from any ankle shattering excursions I might happen upon.

Finally I wish finished; I had properly prepared myself for my awaiting public. So I got in my little green Grand AM and clunked my way across the street to our meeting place we were picked up by a mutual friend. I was surprised to find his car equaled mine in that they were both destined to take the trip to the garbage heap in the sky in the formidable future. I climbed in the back, careful to tuck my skirt around me lest the squirrel to my right get an eyeful. Not used to wearing anything without fabric securely fastened around my thighs, my movements were awkward but I made it inside with minimal embarrassment.

Then we were off. Since purchasing a car with little hope of ever having something that could classify itself as ‘an air conditioning device’, I’ve always enjoyed riding with the windows down. I was relieved to find that my companions agreed. The last thing I needed when taking the one way train to salvation was to feel like I was trapped in a steel box.

‘You only have a half an hour and if you’re not at your destination by then you run out of air!’ (Que maniacal laughter)

Yes, that would have made the ride just grand. The side of the backseat where I sat had been cleared of possessions, everything moved to the right so that I could slide in and not find everything from a man’s sock to a tube of toothpaste stuck up my skirt.

I let my eyes wander, since I could barely hear any of the conversation from the front seats over the hum of the wind. Beside me, tucked beneath a bag of extra clothes wrapped in a grocery bag was a Maxim magazine, and I flicked through because while I might not find half nude women sexually stimulating it had to be better than the scenery. Since childhood I’ve avoided looking out car windows when sitting in the backseat. After years of road trips you learn to safeguard your entrails, to steer clear of nausea at all costs. The ride was uneventful, just listening to the purr of the overloaded engine and smelling the crisp clear air, the fresh grass of lawns we passed. Inevitably; we arrived.

Turns out the church was a stone's throw away from a friends, and the closest thing I have to a ‘party house’. I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that I was traveling down the same streets I have driven many times at 3 in the morning after a night on the town with my boys. Only this time instead of a questionable club with shabby lighting as my destination I had what turned out to be a dull brown bricked church. The parking lot was crowded and I found myself thankful I wasn’t at the wheel. I’m infamous for poor driving. Throw in a parking lot and you might as well slap a driver's education sticker on the side panel and tell people to get out of my way. We crawled amongst the rows of iron beasts, docile and stagnant and I began to watch as other people emerged from their vehicles.

I had mentally prepared myself for going to a minority church since both my companions are black, but living it was quite different from acknowledging the fact. I began to analyze my every move, feeling a bit out of sorts. Was my dress too short? Should I have worn pants? Would I be the only Caucasian in attendance? Is that blade of grass really green? You know, the usual questions I suppose anyone would ask when faced with a case of role reversal. Suddenly I was the minority about to be immersed into an entirely new culture.

My interest peaked, I did what I’ve always done in unknown or awkward situations; pretend I don’t notice and act natural. We made it through the jungle of minivans, sedans, and gas guzzling SUVs and I strode into the church like I went there every Sunday, my friends by my side. We were either just on time or a bit late because there was already a praise song blasting its way out into the narthex. I let my companions lead and followed them into the sanctuary, of which I had never seen anything like it. The first thing that struck were was the vibrant colors. The seat cushions on the pews were honest to God (pardon the pun) a faux-velvet, vibrant blue. They weren’t hard and stiff, but the type of cushions that begged old women to hunker down in and fall asleep. Yet I‘ll assure you, there was no sleeping in the temple today, my friends! Oh no.

There was what I believe the bible calls, ‘much rejoicing’, but then again my Bible and I aren’t exactly close… so I could have that wrong. What I do know is I had to be the only one who wasn’t singing. I gave up singing in church when I realized faith, for me, was something my parents believed in. To sing, I surmised would be hypocritical. Yet, those around me had no qualms. A few elderly ladies were even swinging hideous green flags with gold trimmings in the front isle. They reminded me of gypsies, with out the fun belly flaunting, metal jingling ensemble. I found it best to look away less my smile give away my bemusement.

Now I grew up in a church where music was an event, not a common theme throughout. It was called, ‘special music’ for a reason - due to it’s rare appearances, and the choir only sang on scheduled Sundays. Not here. Here the stage was packed with hand raisers, and people who wouldn’t know what their ‘inside voice’ was if it slapped them in the face.

However, maximum capacity restrictions aside, I was happy for them. They were celebrating something they believed in with the utmost intensity and I could not help but have immense respect for that triumph. I might not have been ready to jump from my seat and pick up a flag, but I was certainly awed by their devotion to their faith.

When everyone had been calmed down the pastor got up to speak. He was a rotound white haired caucasian man, of about forty-five that waddled when he walked. (That’s right, I wasn’t the only one in the building) He had an air of confidence and a voice that could command the room. To be honest I don’t remember much of what he said. He did the usual announcements. You know the ones, where you pretend to be listening while your eyes glaze over? Where your only worry is whether you’re going to rest your eyelids and end up with your face planted in the wood of the next pew? Yea, those announcements. There was one part however, that I did tune in to. It was about the recent controversial news articles printed about their church.

I know what you’re thinking. I should have seen red flags right there, right? Well, I didn’t. He talked about the ’struggles’ the church as a whole has endured and how positive it was because it was all a part of ‘God’s work“. I would later learn that the controversy was about he himself, some financial indiscretions, and just about as close to Gods work as I am to throwing on a tu-tu ‘because I want to feel pretty’. Nevertheless, the sermon plunged on as he introduced the guest speaker.

As it turns out Mr. Guest Speaker, as I will refer to him, was a black man of intimidating stature. He had glasses, a goatee, and an unappealing but expensive looking brown suit. I would come to learn throughout his long and arduous, self righteous speech that he not only did the Lord’s work, but had his hands in politics as well. Now if you’re anticipating a train wreck, due to the combination of a conservative politician and a pulpit, you would be right on the money, so straighten up and enjoy the ride.

He started out with how we need to be warriors for God, saying “this isn’t the love boat, this is a battle ship!” I nodded along well enough for that. Okay, nothing wrong with a little “HOORAH!” for Jesus. Then he moved on to the topic of the day; controversy. First he discussed the church like the pastor before him, and but quickly moved on to Christians in general. Finally once he had beat that horse into submission, he talked at length about himself and his experiences, as it is inevitably every man’s duty to do. He had a bout with the media where he got into what he called, ‘heated debate’ about same sex marriage.

Now controversy I can get down with. I can deal with people stirring up a ruckus fighting for their rights and beliefs. That’s all well and good… but now the alarm bells began to ring loud and clear in my mind. Images began flashing through my consciousness; my bisexual best friend, my gay shoulder to cry on, ‘the boys’ I go out with on Wednesday night. I fought them back, hoping beyond hope that this wouldn’t go down the path I knew lay ahead.

He talked about his life as a politician in Washington and how he fought the legislation to recognize same sex marriages from out of state. How he put together a protest and raised money to fight against what he deemed ‘the corruption of our families‘. He even had the gal to say that we were headed down a path where our kids would wonder, ‘why does my friend have two mommies?’ with enough venom in his voice to knock out a horse. I felt my heart sink. Just because we’re moving away from traditional values… does that mean the gays started it? Does that mean it’s a bad thing?

I know how I would feel if I was that little girl’s friend. Give me two mommies any day! Extricate an adulterous father who barely sees me once a year from my life and give me two estrogen charged, loving parents! Are heterosexuals any more moral than those he condemns? I found my chest clenching and my fists balled into my skirt.

Behind me there was constant muttering, constant reverent agreement for his cause. When he said we have to stand strong despite controversy, ‘yes Jesus’’ rang throughout the pews. Never mind the fact that they were agreeing to work to restrict the rights and beliefs of others. Forget the fact that if someone tries to pass legislation telling them they can’t pray in schools they get all up in arms, but heaven forbid others be allowed to marry in their own state. Never mind the fact that they are judging as only God can judge.

My arms crossed over my chest out of reflex and my friend leaned over to whisper in my ear.

“Are you upset?” she asked me. Those words didn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I felt as if someone just spat in the face of people I loved. I felt like I was swimming in a sea of hypocrisy. Those words sent an emotional charge through my body and tears brimmed in my eyes, one overflowing silently. I simply nodded and held my seat.

Now I could have walked out. It would have been easy enough. But I didn’t for he has his right to his opinion. I don’t have to agree, but I can respect it on principle alone. I just wish somehow everyone could share that view. That they could open their eyes, look around at people of different backgrounds and opinions and accept them as people… not make them into some enemy they have to battle against.
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