I'll Have Your Sacred Cow Medium Rare, Please
by James Killough
Incidents like the protests in Afghanistan over the accidental Quran burnings a couple of weeks ago are always surprising for a post-atheist like me. I am so on the other side of the religion discussion that I refuse to be ‘a-’ or ‘non-’ anything; why should I be labeled as the negation of something that doesn’t exist in the first instance? The reason these fatal protests were alarming is it becomes increasingly hard to imagine why anyone would lay down his life in the defense of religion, much less in indignation over an unintentional slight.
Nothing is sacred. Period. To proclaim an object, a place, a grouping of words and stories written by a bunch of deranged men centuries or millennia ago as something inviolable and worthy of veneration is heresy against humanity. All scriptures, be they the Quran, the Bible/Torah, or the Vedas are instruments of tyranny and oppression.
Yes, scriptures educate to some degree. Yes, they comfort. True, they enlighten some aspects of the mankind’s condition, with the exception of that crap about the soul, and ritual and the afterlife. But none of those positive elements need to be shrouded in “sacred” religiosity. Oprah and Paul Coehlo do just fine without getting God and his commandments and restrictions involved.
This doesn’t excuse disrespect. We don’t tear down the Sistine Chapel because it depicts impossible fictions. It is understandable that the Afghanis would think we burned their Qurans on purpose after we’ve burned them in Florida and urinated on their dead. Still, there are better things to die over. Well… To be honest, I can’t think of anything worth laying your life down for right now, but I promise to keep thinking about it.
It’s very hard to rid yourself of this notion of things being sacred. My establishment Republican father was never particularly religious when I was growing up, but that’s before he joined the cult of Alcoholics Anonymous and embraced the notion of a “higher power.” Now he has become fervently religious, increasingly so as the clock winds down for him. A very common phenomenon.
Dad kept asking me for years if I wanted the Bible given to me for my confirmation into the Episcopal Church as a child, which he had in his library. I will admit I put myself through Confirmation; I went to church and catechism class by myself, mainly just to get out of the house and have a destination. I kept telling Dad no, I didn’t want it, ever, but sure enough one of his strange packages showed up on my doorstep one morning in London, containing various sentimental bric-a-brac from my youth, among it the Confirmation Bible.
This book just didn’t fit into my life. Anywhere. I didn’t want it on the library shelf where people could see it. Rather than being worthy of reverence, something you sworn on in court to tell the truth, a guide for a pure life and the answer to the mysteries of existence, it was now an embarrassment, an affront to who I had become. Still, the old habits and reactions were so ingrained that the Good Book lingered in various hidden spots of the apartment for months. But I could still feel its presence like a large black malignant tumor even when it was out of sight.
Finally, one day during a deep house cleaning I just grabbed it, popped it in my backpack and threw it quickly and furtively into a dumpster on my way to my one true church, the gym. It felt very weird doing that, and for days afterwards I continued to feel guilty. I suppose I could have given it to a used-book store, even better a Salvation Army. But if I see it as my one small gesture to further ridding the world of filthy religious nonsense by sticking it where it belongs, the trash heap, then I know I did the right thing.
My new Twitter friend was the surprise little darling and star of this year’s Sundance Festival, video blogger Chris Crocker. Most people remember Crocker from his seminal lachrymose viral video “Leave Britney Alone!”, which kicked YouTube to a whole other level of content and viewership. Crocker has since reinvented himself as what might be described on a gay hook-up site as a muscle twink. The documentary he stars in, Me @ The Zoo, was a smash hit in Park City this winter.
Even more than YouTube, Twitter is the perfect place for Crocker to vent his views, his likes, his hatings, his sharings. A typically Crocker-esque spat erupted last week because of the stance he took on pop icon Rihanna reuniting romantically and professionally with the man who so severely abused her emotionally and physically, Chris Brown.
Crocker’s own childhood in a small town in Tennessee was scarred by watching his young mother being abused by a string of men, which some commentators on his phenomenon have attributed as the reason he was so distraught about how Britney was being treated by the media and public at large.
Crocker took an outraged stand against the Rihanna-Brown reunion, which was countered by another gay tweeter from Atlanta, Qaadir Faheem, who led an assault against Crocker claiming it was hypocritical of him to object to the couple when Crocker had done porn, which in fact he hasn’t—he almost did it. There are some great nude images of him out there, though.
Of course, I sided with Crocker. “You’re totally in the right. There is nothing wrong with sex, there is everything wrong with abuse. We are all products of an x-rated act,” I tweeted in a private direct message. “Stand your ground. You do this sort of thing well.”
Indeed, he does. Despite his previous operatic histrionics, Crocker is a powerful force of reason in the pop-culture-gay-tween world. And despite Faheem’s assertions to the contrary, Crocker is a good role model for young Gheys in this social-media age.
So keep snuffing out the trite moralizing of lesser beings, Chris. I very much look forward to seeing Me @ The Zoo.
A recent poll found that Americans dislike California more than any other state, including New Jersey. Gawker insists this isn’t because everyone’s jealous, which gave me pause for a second because I’ve just assumed that jealousy excuse was valid ever since my friend, New York-based Alan Linn, surmised one day when we were driving around LA, “I don’t know why everyone hates LA. I think it’s because they’re jealous.”
If I remember my own feelings towards California before I lived here, I disliked it, for some inexplicable reason. That the reason was inexplicable and based on nothing in particular—or nothing that made sense, at least—never seemed to bother me. But that amorphous reason kept me from ever moving out here in my twenties, when I should have if I’d been sensible and truly serious about a film career.
What I did instead was move to India. My flippant excuse was the drugs were cheap and plentiful, but that’s hardly a viable reason to choose Bollywood over Hollywood—this place is Sodom and Gomorrah before the fall, as long as we’re talking Bible.
The way I felt about California before I moved here is the same as most of the world feels about America in general. There is some element of envy, but most of all it’s weariness from the nagging disappointment that you can never keep up or match it. This is combined with an unrequited schadenfreude; mighty, big, handsomer-than-thou America always seems on the brink of failure and collapse, but never quite makes it. Same with California.
So the rest of the world—just like the rest of America does with California—latches onto our shallowness, our fundamentalism, our perceived tyrannies, while steadfastly ignoring the positive. Yeah, well, it’s a tough world: whatever it takes to make people feel better about themselves and get through the day in the freezing cold and the rain, even if it means putting down their betters, is fine by me.
If I were Nicki Finke, I would say “TOLDJA!” Last night’s Oscars were no surprise to anyone, and is already being proclaimed the dullest in recent memory. The set was horrendous and pedestrian; the highlight was the Cirque du Soleil performance, of all things, and one of the acrobats even fumbled. The entire show and the top portion of Billy Crystal’s face were frozen in the 80s, while his jowls hung around his knees. Awful.
I usually know a couple of nominees or presenters in any given Oscar show, but this year there were none. Instead, someone I was very close to as a kid, legendary French actress Annie Girardot, was among the tribute to the deceased, which I didn’t allow to remind me what time of life I’m in. The dead will slowly start marching in from now on, which is why I have taken a Logan’s Run approach to new friends and lovers and am keeping everyone under thirty. Luckily, even though I hadn’t spoken to her in many years, I had found out about Annie’s death when I was researching Michel Haneke’s The Piano Teacher a couple of weeks ago, which she starred in opposite Isabelle Huppert; otherwise, it would have been a nasty shock, never good when I’m as drunk as I was steadily getting while watching that awful show. I’ll blog more about her later this week.
The only thing gayer than the Oscars is the Tonys, which is why I like to watch them in a gay bar. Last year I saw them at the seedy Hollywood hustler bar The Spotlight, sitting next to toothless old Johns, but that revered establishment has sadly closed, so I went to Gym Bar, “the only gay sports bar in LA.” Watching “masc” bears play darts and pool on the side at least kept this wolf awake during the ceremony.
Our Schizo of the Week is someone I stumbled on coming out of the Gym Bar. Meet Steve, who was hanging out on Santa Monica Boulevard strumming a single note on a toy guitar over and over. He didn’t have much to say because he was too focused on his music: