Tell us, when will these things happen?

Well!

Signs of the End of the Age

Matthew 24:3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 24:4 Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many.24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. 24:7 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 24:8 All these things are the beginning of birth pains.

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See Comment: Why Trump’s threat to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea is extraordinary — even for him

President Trump took to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and, in his maiden speech there, called the leader of North Korea “Rocket Man,” decried “loser terrorists” and said certain parts of the world are “in fact, going to hell.”

But Trump’s perhaps oddly chosen colloquialisms masked what was a pretty astounding escalation of his rhetoric when it comes to North Korea. Just to be clear: The president of the United States threatened to wipe a country of 25 million people off the map.

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Reject Chicken Little!

This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald has a Chicken Little from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose sister, you may recall, wrote an excellent but opposite piece in the same paper recently. She wishes to marry her partner and hopes the law will change to allow that to happen. Be interesting for Tony going to that wedding; indeed I gather brother and sister do in fact get on quite well.

Before saying more about Tony Abbott’s piece, which is absolutely typical of the way the NO case is being run, let’s remind ourselves of the fact that we are being asked in the Postal Survey a very simple question: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? The NO case I have called Chicken Little-ism, and we have had case after case of it from the Australian Christian Lobby through ex-PM John Howard to last night on The Drum where we had ponderous journalist Paul Kelly and some Canadian Catholic academic whose name escapes me. Everything short of earthquakes and asteroid strikes it seems will follow if YES gets up!

Tony Abbott seems to have looked at Benjamin Law’s Quarterly Essay, to which I referred in the last post. Or rather, he has mined it for a telling quote: “it might be stating the obvious but same sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the in the battle against homophobia.”

Indeed Benjamin Law does say that, though hardly as the threat Tony Abbott makes it appear by quoting the line out of context. Go to pages 41-42 of Law’s essay and read on. Let me offer just a sentence extra to clarify:

…in the United States, where same-sex marriage is legal and consistently supported by the majority of Americans, the organisation GLAAD found 29 per cent of Americans are still uncomfortable seeing a same-sex couple holding hands, and 28 per cent would be uncomfortable if they learnt their doctor was lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It might be stating the obvious, but same-sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the battle against homophobia.

You can see this has no relation at all to what Tony Abbott is suggesting!

I think a point well worth repeating is that the Postal Survey is NOT about Safe Schools, or “gender theory”, or religious freedom, or the possible existence of the thylacine in the 21st century. It is about whether the STATE should recognise those same-sex couples who wish to commit to marriage to a life’s partner. Some will, maybe many won’t. But they will have the option. They do not at this time have that option in this country.

And whatever the outcome of the Postal Survey, refining the way we talk about and understand sexuality and gender will continue. Voting NO will not stop NO RELIGION as being the greatest religious growth area in Australia, nor will it stop people questioning whether “male and female created He them” is any longer an accurate formulation of the facts of human diversity.

What we can be sure of is that voting NO will profoundly affect the lives of quite a few families in our country that are still struggling to gain full dignity in the eyes of the law.

See also Legalise same-sex marriage for the ‘common good’, says Catholic priest Frank Brennan.

And here, courtesy of norrie, are my friends from South Sydney Uniting Church.

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And that reminds me. Tomorrow is R U OK Day. To me that this should be 14 September is particularly poignant. I wonder, were he still alive, what Rob would have had to say about it all, and I reflect on the fact that his mother and her partner were, in 1989, among the first same-sex couples I met – but under such sad circumstances in which homophobia had undoubtedly played a role. In my story Rob is “J”.

Did you know J was bashed last year?
Yes, he told me.
So much hate.
You know he told me a year ago he didn’t think he was going to win.
The most he could hope for was to live with it.
So much love.

When the Reverend Fred Nile and his fundamentalists march into Oxford Street set on a bit of cleansing I am out there with the crowd. I wear my Mardi Gras T-shirt with additions:

FOR JAY

Sept. 1961-Sept. 1989

‘Gone where fierce indignation
can lacerate his heart no more.’

AND FOR LUKE
WHO LOVED HIM

Fred has his thousand, harmless-looking folk pushing strollers, mingled love and fear on their faces as they march up Oxford Street.

But we have five, ten thousand voices chanting NO MORE GUILT! NO MORE GUILT!

Come to think of it, how many same-sex couples do you know/have you known? I can think of at least ten off the top of my head. And you? When I reflect on it, I would say the first couple I met was in the 1940s! They were friends of my aunt.

Update:

I must be careful how I put this, as I have met the person involved and liked him for his eccentricity.  Since writing the post I have read David Flint’s piece in today’s Daily Telegraph. It saddens me. I have also read Miranda Devine’s version of Benjamin Law. I find it, to adapt her characterisation of Law, utterly unhinged.

If that is the best the NO camp can do, God help them! And us, if they succeed.

 

Do vote YES! Because it is the right thing to do…

Some items. I have already mentioned the NO case being a farrago of side issues and Chicken Little arguments. One such argument concerns the – irrelevant really — matter of the Safe Schools programme, which if I were still teaching I would without doubt use. I have argued that before. Then all sorts of rather amazing things are being said about children and gender — also strictly irrelevant to the Postal Survey question. Nonetheless, if those items and more concern you, I commend the following — and that’s me using the Diggers Club free wi-fi, by the way.

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See Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal. Four stars from me! And see The Resident Judge of Port Phillip:

This Quarterly Essay is not about the SSM survey, but because of the advertising campaign prompted by the ‘No’ side, it has been drawn into the whole debate.  It is a good and, unfortunately, very timely read.

I find Benjamin Law’s essay has a strong and loud ring of truth about it. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Second item: you may have heard some on the NO side rabbitting on about the religious freedom of cake shops and florists. Well, if you want the TRUTH about one of their star examples, read Mike Seccombe.

Even if you don’t recognise the names Melissa and Aaron Klein you probably will have heard their story. It is told over and over again by opponents of same-sex marriage.

They were the couple whose Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham, Oregon, was forced to close due to a “smear campaign and boycott” and a $US135,000 “fine” imposed by the state because they refused to make a wedding cake for two lesbians.

That’s the short version, the one the anti-same-sex marriage people put out as an example of the intolerance of the queer community.

The full story of the wedding cake, however, presents quite a different picture…

Third item: the moving letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald by Tony O’Grady. I didn’t know his brother the late Paul O’Grady MLC, but I did teach the brother of Paul’s partner. Russell is now living in the USA and is a regular Facebook friend. The letter is worth quoting in full. The more who read it the better!

For all the uncountable words written about the marriage equality issue, Tiernan Brady hits the nail on the head when he writes that marriage equality is a confirmation of “those [family and community] values we hold dear” (“Lesson from Ireland”, September 8).

My brother Paul left home in 1976, at the age of 16, to live in a same-sex relationship. We were raised by conservative Catholic parents, and to say that we were  shocked  would be an understatement.  However, there was never any question about supporting a son and brother.  We helped him move,  and it was always a joy to have him visit (no matter how briefly). Like all families we had disagreements, and liked some of his partners more than others. We also lost contact at times, but whenever he needed us we were there (as he was for us). After Paul resigned from Parliament, he and Mum did an interview for a TV program. Mum was questioned about her support for a gay son and her reply was to the effect that, “He is my son. Of course you support your children”.

Paul championed equality and fairness across all areas of society, not just for the LGBQTI community. When he died in 2015, my siblings and I were amazed at the number of chance meetings with people who had been assisted by Paul: a former prisoner whom Paul had regularly visited in jail; a funeral director whose partner had been helped by Paul on an immigration matter; victims of domestic violence.

I doubt if Paul would have wanted to get married, but I do know that the core values instilled in us by our  parents, and which guided his life and work, were all about family and community. These values dictate equality for all.
Why do we need so many words?

Tony O’Grady Epping

Update:

A distant Whitfield family cousin emailed me from regional Callala Bay. Let’s hope there are more out there like him!

Neil just looked at your web site and I agree that we should vote YES… I have a nephew, who is gay and has cost him jobs because he is gay.

It  has to do with the DNA which you have no control over. If your DNA makes you gay, so what can you do to change that, NOTHING…

Jason has a masters in Business management and a lovely fellow. He has my support,and also one of his friends has become our friend. David is a lovely person and a solicitor with the Government here in Nowra. We hear from him regularly…

Hope the vote goes the right way.

From sunny Callala Bay

 

Voted today

In the Local Government election, that is!

Coming up of course is the Postal Survey I referred to yesterday, which unlike actual voting is not compulsory. (Here in Oz voting is normally compulsory, with fines if you don’t turn up at a polling station. This is a practice I totally endorse!) There is a clear danger that the Survey could yield a negative result — especially if some boycott it. So don’t! See Support for same-sex marriage falling and ‘no’ vote rising

The NO campaign is a farrago of Chicken Little-ism. Tony Abbott’s sister chops that down very efficiently!

The question put to the people will be simply whether they think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry under Australian law. It is not about the freedom to preach or practice religion, or what is taught by whom to our children, or being politically correct or otherwise. It is just about whether or not every Australian and their family, friends, neighbours and colleagues should have the same right to marry.

Because ultimately the yes and the no campaigns are arguing about the same thing: the special nature of marriage. Everyone intrinsically knows that marriage is a relationship exalted above all others, not just by religious people but by all people. It is the only way, other than by birth or adoption, that we can choose our family. That is why it is enshrined as a secular institution in our constitution and is now administered under our federal Marriage Act.

But it’s the special status of marriage that makes the yes case so compelling. I don’t know a single person who wants to wed – straight or gay – who does not wholeheartedly respect the significance of marriage. All of them believe marriage will strengthen their commitment to each other, their families and ultimately their community, and it defies logic to suggest that letting them into the club will in any way diminish the special relationship of any heterosexual couple. On the contrary, allowing more people who profoundly revere and desire marriage to take that step can only provide greater security for the institution.

And on another matter altogether: I am abandoning my Virgin prepaid internet. It is utterly unreliable now, and very expensive. While I shop around for a replacement I will be availing myself of the free wi-fi in my clubs. Could be a solution that, except I do need internet access at home as well.

Vote “Yes” for sure!

So, the weird postal survey is go!  I waited until the High Court gave the nod before posting on this, but let me be clear from the outset. As far as I am concerned there are no good reasons to vote NO to a proposition that does not alter the status of any existing marriage or make compulsory any particular views about marriage. All voting YES will do is enable a sizeable minority, if they so choose, to have their relationhips recognised by the state as marriages. Churches within their own communions will be free to do what they think best. No doubt there will be many same-sex couples who don’t want to be married according to law, just as a substantial number of man-woman couples these days choose not to be married. But they can be if they want, and all the YES will do is extend that to same-sex couples. There are indeed conservatives who are voting YES because they want to encourage all couples to enter into legally binding committed relationships.

Eric Abetz, to take just one example, encapsulated everything wrong with the NO case brilliantly on the 7.30 Report last night. See also Same-sex marriage postal survey: the five worst arguments for voting No. I may have more to say — politely of course — about such piffle later on.

Meantime, let me replay Random Friday memory 20 – July 1990.

…And today in 1990 in a pub that is no more, in a century that is no more, I met M…

A year or two on from 1990:

memorabilia 13: 1993-4

Posted on January 24, 2009 by Neil

Clearly this is Christmas, and it is here in Elizabeth Street, but I am guessing which year*. Oh my, have I ever aged! But fifteen years or so is a long time…

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George, me, M

* It may well be Christmas 1992, the first in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills.

And the pub of course (12 July 1990) was The Albury: mais où est l’Albury d’antan?

And someone comments on Bruce’s album:

Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed! I was saddened when I finally moved to Syd and it was gone. I met a lovely guy there on my first visit around 1996 and didn’t leave empty handed….a big deal for a country boy!!!

“Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed!” indeed. I hope Bruce finds a few more to share in that “boot box full of photo memories.”

I have cropped a couple and given them the art makeover treatment.

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Here is a 2007 post:

M’s 18th 19th Australian Christmas

16  DEC 2007

Even if he will be spending it on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

M arrived in Australia from Shanghai in December 1989. He has told me how disappointed he was that year in Christmas, thinking it would be something like Chinese New Year back in Shanghai, only to find the streets of Auburn were less than vibrant on Christmas Day! (I met him around six months later.)

Christmas 1999 – New Year 2000 he was in Bodh Gaya being taught by the Dalai Lama.

Gets around, does M.

Finally, from 2009:

I too was offered a free trip to China…

28 MAR 2009

… and M was once thought to be a Chinese spy.

Back in 1990 when I first met M, then very recently arrived in Australia, I was living in Paddington at PK’s place – and a nice place it was too. The first morning M appeared at breakfast PK was quite nonplussed – being of Lithuanian background he had fairly strong Cold War views in some respects, though not in others. He did indeed suggest soon after that M may be a Chinese spy. He later changed his mind and may even deny the story today. 😉

No doubt among the very large influx of Chinese students at that post-Tiananmen time there would have been some spies, mostly there to monitor the other students. Chinese were used to being monitored. M solved the problem back home in China by joining the neighbourhood spooks – hiding in plain sight, you could say. The neighbourhood committee of spooks also had a benign role; as well as reporting suspicious activity they were agents too of social welfare. M claimed he was particularly lax on the reporting side, especially given his own association with quite a few westerners.

My students at the language college I then worked in more or less assumed someone could be a spy, or “a boss” as they tended to say, and sussed one another out before they started opening up about certain topics.

About a decade later I was offered a free trip to Shanghai by the parents of one of my SBHS students – and not to influence me, as it was offered after the exams. As M said, they were just being Chinese and were grateful I had helped their son. I found a face-saving way of refusing the gift…

25 years ago, July 1990! I can’t believe it!