On May 31st, we were given a demonstration as to why declaring June as Pride month is a necessary message that no matter how deep your pockets, how loud you get, or how old you are, you do not get to determine who does or does not belong in our beloved city of Kingsburg.
Immediately following a twenty minute public speech by the Constitutionalists for California that simultaneously substantiated the facts I brought to the council and misrepresented them, an associate among them declared the LGBTQIA+ community an “abomination.”
The far right organization acknowledged the increased violent victimization experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community, but then attributed that violence to “aliens, for all we know,” as if violent victimization only counts from sources they deem valid. The twelve murdered transgender Americans in 2022 were also substantiated, but 12 dead transgender Americans is deemed by them to be low enough to be acceptable—much in the same way that 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school is deemed acceptable. Pro-life, am I right? Their factually deficient organization asserted life saving care isn’t life saving if it is merely preventing the suicide of American youths struggling to fit in a world where they are told time and again they are “abominations.”
Twenty minutes they stood here an opined on the audacity of one resident standing up and saying ‘here’s a problem and here’s a symbolic gesture that would make a world of difference to a marginalized segment of our community.’ They all but said, ‘because we showed up last year and were loud and intimidating, we win. Case closed.’ If that was the case, the segregation era they enjoyed as children would be present in America today.
White supremacy is more than wearing a white hood, burning a cross, and saying the n-word. It is gathering with a hate group (with whom they would partner with again that same holiday season) and an angry mob to enforce their narrow and bigoted views on the whole of our community. Literal, fascism. Not hyperbole. Fascism.
At some point change is inevitable, and while I wish I had twenty minutes to breakdown the fallacies of their arguments or school them in the 1946 introduction of the word “homosexual” to the Bible and its 1971 retraction by the same translating body, I don’t have the time, and this isn’t the place.
Neither is this about a flag. T-Mobile took care of that already. This is about sending a clear message that we don’t view our residents as abominations regardless of gender, orientation, identity, race, religion, or creed. It is simply, not acceptable.
And as long as we fly the Swedish flag outside City Hall, uplifting one cultural influence into the spotlight over others, the argument that we don’t shine a spotlight on some and not others is a lie at best—a malicious oppressive lie at worst.
And as for any that suggests we ought ‘accept the answer no’ in calling to the attention of the public the humanity of the dehumanized, “woe to you, O Pharisees and scribes.”
Finally, what took them four people and twenty minutes, I have now done in less than five. Do not let those who would associate openly with a Southern Poverty Law designated hate group be our voice. Please, for the good and confidence of our whole community, consider declaring June Pride month in the City of Kingsburg.
This weekend 31 members from “at least 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia, and Arkansas…” and only “…one from Idaho” (Bellisle) associated with the white supremacist organization Patriot Front were arrested and charged with “criminal conspiracy to riot” (Pietsch). The “little army” (White), bedazzled in matching military stylized outfits depicting stars and stripes, Patriot Front insignias, and shirts with typical fascist slogans such as “Reclaim America,” loaded up into a U-Haul truck outside of a hotel with plans to riot at a PRIDE event in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Security had been augmented when authorities were made aware of increased threats against the event and its participants, but it was a tip from an eyewitness who saw the gravy seals loading into a U-Haul outside a nearby hotel that ultimately foiled the plan for mass violence.
Right-Wing Extremist violence is steadily rising across America (O’Harrow, Ba Tran, Hawkins). The right-wing extremist groups, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, in partnership with the disgraced former president Donald Trump, for example, led the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 (January 6 Committee) after the national embarrassment failed to get re-elected.
The country is slowly crawling towards progress, and as a result, conservative values–which lean toward anti-diversity, exploitative practices and policies, white nationalist philosophies, etc.–are falling by the wayside.
Extreme conservatism is dying, and its death throes are being expressed through lies and violence. As the lies lose the power to hold the masses in check, violence increases. A cursory glance at the Civil Rights Movement in history provides a clear example of this–which plays a role in why conservatives and the GOP are actively putting forth anti-Critical Race Theory propaganda.
Divisive rhetoric from community leaders such as Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld continues to serve the Right-Wing Extremist agenda by reenforcing us vs. them narratives in order to pit the community against itself. The ol’ divide and conquer strategy.
In response to local clergy offering opening prayers at the Pride Flag Raising Ceremony in Fresno, Ca, Bredefeld tweeted:
DISGRACEFUL ATTACK ON TRADITIONAL CHRISTIANITY THROUGH “PRAYER” AT GAY PRIDE FLAG RAISING AT CITY HALL.
I’ll continue to speak out against these attacks on Christianity & never accept this kind of perversion of God and what God truly stands for as revealed in the Bible. Never.City of Fresno Councilman Garry Bredefeld via Twitter
Not only is this outburst entirely inappropriate for a sitting city councilmember in California’s fifth largest city, but it is entirely false and illustrates the far-right conservative tendency to lie, cheat, and steal when they don’t get their way. No one was attacking Christianity.
Prayer, for the record, is not the sole practice or intellectual property of right-wing conservative Christian nationalism. Prayer has been participated in by a variety of cultures, religions, and people throughout history. Written sources record prayer as far back as 5000 years ago.
Not only is Bredefeld incredibly mistaken, but his message attempts to divide the community into us (straight Christian nationalists with a priority for old world western European ideals) vs. them (everyone else) camps. The “us” camp often self-identifies as flag waving patriots–a dog whistle and moniker for white nationalists. While some might object to the fact that “patriot” has become a moniker for oppression, bigotry, and fascism, I simply point to the hyper nationalism common in hate groups and right-wing extremist organizations such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Patriot Front, Ku Klux Klan, Save California, Act for America, Mass Resistance, Occidental Dissent, and many more.
Now, more than ever, events and programs promoting diversity, inclusivity, and positive community building are crucial! Events such as PRIDE help to breakdown negative stereotypes, ignorance, fear, and reveal the humanity inside all of us. (Why do you think many of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents wanted to keep society segregated?)
Power is shifting away from those who have excluded members of our communities across the country. Their system is failing, and as their death rattles grow, so will their lies and acts of violence.
Only we, American citizens, can put an end to the madness gripping this nation. Only by voting out illiterate knuckle draggers like Bedefeld from local, state, and federal government, and replacing them with leaders who can build up and unite our country, can we ensure changes for the good of the entire community. By coming together and refusing to allow bigotry a place at the table, we can reduce the strength and violence of the far right.
Happy Pride Month, everyone.
It’s a headline no one should have to read, but every American must read. The title comes from a report written by Senior Breaking News Reporter for Insider, Cheryl Teh. The brutal and raw headline sums up the article succinctly. The first line reads:
Families of those involved in the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, were asked to give DNA samples to help investigators identify victims.Cheryl Teh, “The families of those involved…,” Insider, May 2022.
The report discusses how the use of DNA to identify remains is generally reserved for incidents, such as natural disasters, when bodies are not easily identifiable. Gently put, it is safe to assume many victims of the recent elementary school massacre were unrecognizable.
Like many Americans, I have wept and hurt for those lost and left behind. As a parent, I can’t imagine the horror of losing my children to gun violence. Especially so young and while at one of few places which should be safest for them. Regardless of how near or far I am from understanding the profound suffering of those parents who stare into empty bedrooms belonging to the children so cruelly ripped away from them, I am nevertheless filled with rage.
When is enough, enough? How many people–children–have to die before America can finally admit to its gun problem? This fetish has taken too many lives. How woeful and tragic it is that we have placed guns above the lives of our children. Dead. Never to dream or laugh or play or have hope in the future again.
Where is the outrage? Where is the outpouring of anger over the lies and propaganda that have led an entire segment of America to be okay with blood on their hands just as long as they don’t have to change–or, more importantly, think about what it is they stand with and for?
Midterm elections are drawing quickly upon us. Remember this horror. Remember your outrage. Remember who stood in the way of everything which could have prevented this tragedy. Let our vote be our voice. Let it speak our condemnation on those who sacrifice our children for profit.
But, most importantly, remember:
Families of those involved in the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, were asked to give DNA samples to help investigators identify victims.Cheryl Teh, “The families of those involved…,” Insider, May 2022.
“The Bible says…”
Last year, around this time, we heard this phrase during a good portion of a four-hour nightmare of public comments. Last council meeting, June Hess insisted Kingsburg was pro-God, pro-Life, and pro-America. In that same meeting, Councilman Pursell informed a group trying to take on the multi-faceted issue of homelessness, with regards to location, that Kingsburg was not a good candidate for the program because his constituents have made it clear it is not the kind of thing they want to see here. A bit ironic for an allegedly Christian prioritized community—it seems the least Christ-like thing. In fact, when I posed the question of Christ-likeness to an active community page online, I found some odd defenses for the seemingly contradictory behavior as well as those who perceived the general “Christian” nature of the town as a sort of ruse of hypocrisy.
I open by highlighting the way the Bible and Christianity have been used to oppress some things in this chamber while remaining silent on others where they ought to speak up. Inconsistency. None of us need hear what the Bible does or does not say on what I bring before the council today.
According to an interview with Melissa Block, an NPR Special Correspondent who covers Gender Issues, there have been “more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in nearly 40 states.” Many states are taking their cues from Texas and Florida which have all but declared war on their LGBTQIA+ citizens—their fellow Americans. More than 58,000 youth will see a loss of necessary, and life-saving, medical care as a result of these bans (Williams Institute).
The Human Rights Campaign reports there have been “at least 12 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means” in 2022 so far (HRC Foundation). They emphasize “…’at least’ because too often these stories go unreported – or misreported” (HRC Foundation).
According to the Williams Institute School of Law, LGBTQIA+ individuals 16 years of age and older are “nearly 4 times more likely to experience violent victimizations, compared to non-[LGBTQ+] individuals” (Williams Institute).
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the LGBTQIA+ community is at a 3-6 times greater risk for suicide than non-LGBTQ individuals. While some may point to this to say, ‘hey! See! This is a mental health problem,’ I point them to the testimonies which demonstrate that the poor mental health statistics are a result of mistreatment, bullying, violence, and other forms of abuse used to marginalize these human beings—your fellow Americans.
Last year, in light of similar statistics and testimonies, we failed to assert that Kingsburg stands with the whole of its community. The motion to declare “Pride Month” died without a second. The traditionally marginalized community members were told: the sensitivities of a prioritized group within this same community were of far greater importance than their public existence.
In failing to approve the motion set forth by the youngest and, arguably, bravest councilmember, the council affirmed the message of the bigots who stood outside with the hate group, Proud Boys, along with those who represented the far-right “Three Percenters” ideology. Councilman Palomar went as far as to say “the city has spoken” referring to the few hundred—not thousands as some reported—making noise outside.
“The city has spoken?” White supremacy, fascism, bigotry—this is who and what speaks for our city?
Worst was the invocation of our nation’s flag. Often associated with our troops. As a retired United States Sailor who served a career in the Navy, it may come as a surprise for some of you to learn that 6.8% of our military identifies as LGBTQ. They serve openly and honorably. I served with them. They put on the uniform every day and fought for the country they love. Tell me, how are they not worthy of an act of solidarity—especially from a uniquely, military honoring, patriotic city?
We have an opportunity to assert that Kingsburg is a place that welcomes to the public spaces all its citizens as equal members. Last year we hid behind the matter of a flag because there were ‘other flags’ that should have been prioritized. It has been a year. No flag requests. It was never about the flag. There was fear of a Pride Event taking place. It happened. It was family-friendly, showcased the talents and skills of our LGBTQIA+ community, was attended by a number of outside dignitaries with zero incidents, and no one was made gay against their will. The surrounding communities saw our shame in the headlines and, as a result, passed their own Pride Month declarations without incident and without fear.
I implore this Council to consider declaring June 2022 as Pride Month. Let us send a clear message to our community that we stand with our LGBTQIA+ members and that we will not engage in, nor tolerate the same abuse and discrimination that is facing their communities across this nation.
Block, Melissa. “Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have already been introduced this year. Here may be why.” All Things Considered, NPR.org, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/04/14/1092904560/hundreds-of-anti-lgbtq-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year-here-may-be-.
HRC Foundation. “Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2022.” Human Rights Campaign, HRC.org, 2022, https://www.hrc.org/resources/fatal-violence-against-the-transgender-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2022.
Williams Institute. “Bans put more than 58,000 transgender youth at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care.” Press Release March 2022, UCLA Williams Institute School of Law, 2022, https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/ga-care-bans-press-release/.
In the fast paced environment of a first-person shooter (FPS) game, details are easily missed. The setting is often carefully rendered with masterful precision and full of wonderful surprises awaiting discovery by a player patient and curious enough to slowdown and explore. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a recently released FPS action roleplaying game set in a post-apocalyptic world by 2K Games, offers a treasure trove of social criticism through comically inappropriate jokes, parody, and over the top dramatic storytelling. In line with Toni Morrison’s “Site of Memory,” Wonderlands functions as a compendium of facts presented in ways wherein the player might discover truths about their own world.
A setting within a setting, the playing field exists on a tabletop and in the imaginations of external characters in a Dungeons & Dragons parody. The setting itself functions as a kind of heterotopia where the external characters work through aspects of themselves often suppressed and resisted. Through their work, and the player’s often mindless acts of gratuitous violence, facts are captured, but truth is never given outright. The player is invited into the story, into the narrative, of the game to parse out what they find to be true “[because] facts can exist without human intelligence, but truth cannot” (Morrison 193).
Tiny Tina, the inappropriately young orphan filling the role of “Bunkermaster,” throws wave after wave of monsters, traps, and puzzles at the player to force the external characters directing the action from outside the tabletop into challenging positions. Tiny Tina appears to be working against the external playing characters at first glance. The player is made to face overwhelming odds that are difficult to overcome resulting in multiple deaths and resurrections throughout the entire campaign. As the narrative progresses and more facts about the world are revealed it becomes apparent that Tiny Tina isn’t working against the external characters or the player, but forcing them into great acts of heroism. Here it would be easy to assume that she wills those involved in her game to progress to higher levels and gain improved equipment and skill, but this, too, proves incorrect. She is processing the loss of her own playable character through whom she had experienced what it meant to be a hero.
Her initial understanding of heroism is defined by having power over one’s world to ensure the ‘good guys’ always triumph over the ‘bad.’ The young “Bunkermaster” believes being a hero means having power in a world where she—who has witnessed the murder of her parents by bandits, the death of her mentor by wicked oligarchs, and who continues to lose companions to tragedy—has had none. Loneliness and fear of abandonment surface as facts to a larger truth being revealed little by little. Through her narrative journey, and that of her companions Valentine and Frette, an agreement with Morrison arises. These characters “are my access to me; they are my entrance into my own interior life” (Morrison 195).
In the moment, in the heat of it all, when the virtual bullets are flying across the screen, the player is swept up in the action. They, we, are a part of something. Something big. Something epic. The player is in control of a world gone off course—what’s wrongs they alone can set right. Perhaps that’s both the alluring and damning part of the game. The modern world appears in many ways broken, or more honestly, the paradigm we have constructed and upheld appears broken. It is in need of heroes, but too many feel powerless. Like the many mindless sprites populating Wonderlands’ setting, we take care of our own and hope it is enough, but is it enough?
The facts about power structures, and the thrill experienced in the game’s action, archive for us facts about our own world. They lay the framework for truth to take shape. It might seem to be enough for us to take care of just our own, and we might believe ourselves powerless to change or move the world forward, but the thrill experienced specifically in setting right injustices, creating better paradigms between warring factions, and rebuilding communities in more beneficial ways—in game—seems to argue against this illusion of ‘enough.’ Truth appears to be more than we thought it to be. Maybe ‘enough’ is the conditioned response meant to keep us submissive—meant to keep us from moving the world forward?
Wonderlands is incredibly strange and arguably more interesting than the world we inhabit, but the impressions left on a contemplative player are as facts resonating within their own reality. Power structures corrupt and are corrupted. They don’t have to be. They are not fictional elements meant to convey a story, but real and tangible things which have been constructed and thus can be deconstructed and shifted. They can be corrupt now, and after some work, be not corrupted—or at least be made better for everyone. Perhaps this is what Morrison meant by: “’Truth is stranger than fiction,’ . . . it doesn’t say truth is truer than fiction; just that it’s stranger, meaning that it’s odd. . . . It may be excessive . . . but the important thing is that it’s random—and fiction is not random” (193). Truth is random. What is today may be something completely other tomorrow, if we choose to act.
Truth is elusive. This is why storytelling and art and literature matter. They shed light on facts which illuminate pathways towards truth. Even a video game such as Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands in its absurdity can cause one to pause and reflect on how many of our beliefs—especially about each other—have been conditioned in a specific manner. These glimpses, these facts, apply cracks along those things barring us from discovering truth.
And while it may be outside the scope of this work, perhaps these same glimpses leading to truth are really what’s behind the banning of books by authors and poets and artists of color, and of the same who identify as being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, from school libraries across the United States. Perhaps that is what has conservative white evangelical nationalists foaming and frothing at the mouth. Too many cracks exposing too many facts are drawing too many eyes to the truth.
Morrison, Toni. “The Site of Memory.” Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
A very intelligent and wise woman, Dr. Wilson, pointed out a lack of citations to provide evidence for the loaded claims made by Supreme Court Justice Samuel “I Hate Women” Alito. I read the passage again with this insight in mind, and that is when I saw it. The old white supremacist language I was raised to speak and hear and understand.
For those who don’t speak fascism, racism, or bigotry in the deeply rooted systemic dialect, I would like to offer a translation.
The lack of citation to provide evidence for his claims is standard practice in the fascist dialect. It is often employed when in the act of committing or supporting evil. Simply, a claim is made and we’re supposed to assume it to be unerringly true—like they do with the Bible.
The phrase “enflamed debate” means their argument is inferior and the claim lacks the weight of merit. In short, they can’t get their way by reason or debate. This is where the phrase “deepened division” comes into play.
Division is a dog whistle to rally defense of something generally indefensible. We don’t call out Uncle-Brother Billy Joe Bob for his racism at Thanksgiving because it would cause division.
Division is the phrase pulled out when fascists no longer want to debate, they just want their way. An example of this is excusing grandma because she grew up in another time, and we can’t reason her out of it, so we just give her a pass so not to cause division.
Where else do you see this use of division to rob power from the people so that it may be used to uphold oppressive structures, systems, and institutions? If you guessed white evangelical churches, you would be solidly right.
Now why do you see that similarity? Well, it’s not coincidental. The relationship between the white evangelical church and white nationalism in America runs deep. While that goes beyond the scope of what I’m doing here, I would invite you to consider how many of these far right wing fascists claim to be Christians. Then, consider all the ways in which these Christians argue for legislation against abortion rights, the entire existence of the LGBTQIA+ community, the poor, and women.
I’m not proud that I can still read white supremacy, but I feel it imperative that I should make very plain what has actually been said here. I would also ask that we pay very close attention to which States enact bans on abortion, birth control, contraceptives, and abortion medication. They’ll probably be the same ones enacting legislation targeting the LGBTQIA+ community and their families. Probably the same ones that are Republican run. Probably the same ones that have a long history with racism/segregation/slavery/lynching. They will probably rank low in education and high in poverty. Probably have some voter suppression history there, too.
Again, this not the scope of this writing, but do take notice of the common connection. GOP, white supremacy, and white evangelical Christianity always seem to be found hanging out at all the same clubs together. Just saying.
Tiktok’s @jolly_good_ginger shared a video that resonated deeply with me. In fact, if he grew up in an abusive environment and was raised in a cult, I’d think we were the same people. I’m not as good looking as he, but there are some physical similarities. We are both veterans. We are both poetic. And, it seems, we both have a unique insight into race, racism, anti-racism, and the part we’ve played in this very American problem.
Like @jolly_good_ginger, I wasn’t raised around racists, I was raised by them. I was them. And by God’s grace I escaped them, and continue to escape them. It is why I speak about racism with white people. My privilege, my insight, my experience—but especially my whiteness—grants me an open door to discuss these dehumanizing issues with people who refuse to even listen to the “other.” Those who—as Toni Morrison once pointed out—would rather these awful, horrific, and detestable acts of evil against our humanity be kept “drawn behind the veil” to protect our sensibilities.
It is not just our fellow humans who look differently from us that we mistreat. No. Those that are different—whose religion, race, ethnicity, sexuality, identity, poverty (that is, their poorness), family make up, etc., etc., etc. are “wrong”—we treat with the utmost indignity.
Let me draw the veil completely open. That which I shame are the same things I practiced. I speak to white supremacy with intimate knowledge which no amount of propaganda can ever dissuade—which can no longer dissuade.
And before any accuse me of suffering from “white guilt” caused by “CRT,” as some who cannot even spell “CRT” have already accused me, let me offer this:
Repentance is the turning away from something—an act, behavior, habit, etc.—in agreement that the thing from which you repented is wrong. This boldness of bigotry and racism in the American 21st century is wrong—is evil—and if I say nothing, do nothing, then I am equally culpable in that evil. If I go on pretending not to notice it because it doesn’t “hurt me directly”—which it does—then my repentance is nothing and my growth as a human being is a sham.
Those who have experienced, and repented from, the side of the aggressor like @jolly_good_ginger and myself, have an obligation to speak up not only of the blatant racial and bigoted injustice that plagues America, but of the tactics and strategies used by whites to further sustain and uphold white supremacy.
Racism, and all the other prejudices borne out of white supremacy, is not solely the problem of its victims. White supremacy dehumanizes all of us—transforms us into animals and a means of profit for a system which benefits only a few. This problem is a problem for all of us.
The Adventure Church/Tower District battle in Fresno, California has been, and continues to be, a glaring example of evangelical Christianity’s relationship with white supremacy, colonialism, and American nationalism. There were a number of red flags in this situation from a moral, ethical, and theological perspective.
One problematic example which stands out is that particular cult’s relationship with the white supremacist group ‘Proud Boys.’ When the modern KKK comes to defend your cause, it would do well to review and analyze your cause. One might ask, “why is a hate group so interested in supporting me?” Or perhaps it would be worth the time to consider what a designated terrorist group finds so attractive about the church in question.
Secondly, Adventure Church’s hostility, belligerence, and cruelty demonstrated a behavior which might arguably be called ‘the spirit of the antichrist.’ At the very least, it appears to indicate an absence of Christ among both the congregation and its pastor.
For example, the excessively loud and obnoxious ‘Christian music’ blasted through oversized speakers to harass the homeless seems to be far from any sort of Christ-likeness. The unwillingness to love the community and the intentional injury caused to the Tower District’s community echo more the behaviors attributed to the Sadducees and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew than of Christ.
Honestly, I suspect the whole stunt was an attempt to follow through with a decades long wet dream of area wide evangelical (nationalist) churches to slip into the Tower District and clean it up “for GEEZUS.”
I don’t understand how the irony of Christian nationalists continues to baffle me, but it does. How in Christ’s name do they claim to be disciples of Jesus while actively doing ALL OF THE THINGS he condemned of the religious elite in the Gospels?
In short, the whole burning dumpster fire serves as another example of the generally Christless Christianity practiced by specific segments of American culture.
What hurts personally is that I think about how similar Adventure Church is to the cult in which I was brought up—Calvary Chapel. The same symptoms were, and frankly, are, present in that place. Elitism. Us vs. Them perspectives. Isolationism. Ends-Justify-the-Means public motivation. Dangerous indoctrination by uneducated, ill trained, and ill equipped individuals. Fascist and authoritarian sentiment and philosophy. Toxic masculinity. Fragile masculinity. Sexism. Mysogyny. The list of abhorrent similarities goes on.
The worst of it, for both Adventure Church and the cult I escaped, is all the suffering was caused “for geezus.” As if nailing Christ to a tree wasn’t enough.
Reading Assignment: “Adventure Church Issues Response after City’s Recent Agreement to Purchase Tower Theater.”