Friday, July 31, 2009

The Fall Of An Empire

The hottest new host on Fox News this year, Glenn Beck, has launched The 9-12 Project, a site dedicated to sharing core principles and values that Americans are said to live by.The website defines essential American qualities such as believing in god, being opposed to income tax, being pro marriage (as long as your straight) and many other gems.

Beck claims that The 9-12 Project is designed to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001. The day after America was attacked when we were not obsessed with Red States, Blue States or political parties. We were united as Americans, standing together to protect the values and principles of the "greatest nation ever created".
It’s really just more of the same that we’ve seen from the hard right recently, the whole "Socialism is bad, our money is being stolen for us, Barack is a Communist, etc." While some of those points might be true, what they continue to overlook is that Bush created the mess the country is in today, and Bush was the one that ran up the foreign debt and started the bailouts. But no, it’s only bad now a new, black guy takes over the mess.

In the show launching the The 9-12 Project, Beck interviewed Chuck Norris, who earlier this year said that thousands of militia were preparing for a military takeover of the United States. If that doesn’t say batshit crazy, I’m not sure what else can.
Here is a list of Beck's 9 principles that he is telling Americans from all walks of life that they should live by:

The 9 Principles

1. America Is Good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
If, like me, you find this to all be some kind of tripped out right wing nut jobs brain fart, there is another way. Davis Fleetwood, a political comedian and in my opinion, true genius, came up with his own project, The 9/10 Project. Fleetwood's project asserts that the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the coordinated terror tactics of the U.S. Federal government in the months and years following have had the intended effect of turning the populace of the United States into a herd of servile, submissive stooges.
The 9/10 Project is a movement for those individuals who acknowledge that the United States is still, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “The Greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and who are opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.The 9/10 Project acknowledges that the United States of America is now an EMPIRE and we all know that empires fall, that's just how it is. Rather than wage endless wars to remain king of the hill, The 9/10 Project favors the peaceful break-up of the United States of America.

The 9/10 Project is for citizens of the world who have borne witness to the growing imperial reach of the United States in the post 9/11 era and have reached the only logical conclusion one came come to "the long-term survival of the human species requires the United States of America to dismantle peacefully and immediately". We acknowledge that the founding fathers were certainly “on to something” but it is time to hit the reset button. Small is the new big.

The 9/10 Project asserts that if we American citizens continue to pursue the “rags to riches” myth of the American Dream we do so at our own peril. We do so willfully ignoring the dark underbelly of said dream that lurks like a storm cloud in the form of a sense of entitlement bloated to the point of bursting as if on steroids. A sense of entitlement that we can, literally and figuratively, no longer afford. A sense of entitlement that has us clawing and scratching our way through our pathetic little existence. In a culture of competition that has backed us into a corner the only escape from which seems to be more competition, more violence; or borrowing from another Peter to pay off another Paul and for what?

So we Americans can remain blithely ignorant between the direct connections that links the blood soaked desserts of the Middle East and our beloved S.U.V.’s and McMansions with newly remodeled kitchens ready for a photo spread in Martha Stewart Living? Really? Is that where we are on the evolutionary scale?

The 9-10 Project is designed to bring us all back to the place we were before 9/11: when the liberal intellectual elite in the U.S. was not afraid to declare loud and clear that is was ashamed of its government. A time when a culture war held the promise of cleaving a wedge between those of us truly on the left and the gun show loving Glen Beck apostles that make Fox News a profitable network.

Here are the 9/10 projects 9 basic principles:

1. (The United States of) America is BAD.

2. Face it, GOD is a lie. However… if, in fact, there is a CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, she/he certainly did not write a book of laws for us to live by.

GOD George W. Bush claimed, many times, to be in dialogue with, and take guidance from, God. If he had said he took guidance from Tinker bell, it would have turned into a national emergency, or at the very least, a ratings monster of a reality television program. Rational individuals and mathematicians everywhere know that existence of Tinkerbell is just as likely as the existence of an all knowing creator who wrote the best selling book of all time… Furthermore, those daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations. America’s war on terror is finally being revealed for what it really is: a Jihad.

3. Fair trade! Show me a human who can spend an hour in WAL-MART or TARGET and emerge without blood on their hands and I will show you an honest human.

Honesty I hope that I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider to be the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man. But the finely woven fabric (created by cheap child labor in some country with dark skinned children and faces covered in dust) of the Mossimo® Ripstop Cargo Short” just speaks to me in a way that says: Summer! Plus, my calves look great in them AND (omg!) I got 20% off because I opened a new Target charge account.

4. Gay marriage? Sure it should be legal. However, be careful what you wish for. The family is not “sacred”; it is one of their most powerful traps.

Marriage is one of the more powerful trap’s exalted by the religious right that keeps us is subservience to a make believe God, an economy that relies on you spinning your wheels in the rat race, and a government that aims to control you. By all means, marry if you must, but when the moon is full and the mood strikes you, feel free to go and rape your slave women. Or slave men. Depending on your orientation. Whatever. It is all good, and those high yellow kids are so cute and make great clothing models for Benetton.

5. Laws were meant to be broken.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Justice is blind is a great slogan invented by Madison Avenue geniuses employed to keep people with their heads down and doing what they are told. Why? The trust funds, Heidi Fleiss harems, dinner reservations at The French Laundry, and other “rights and privileges” enjoyed by the wealthiest 1% are predicated on a massive and sustained outbreak of fear. Are they scared enough yet, or do we need to see some more towers come down, bitches?!?!

6. “The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a sham of historical proportions the consequences of which gave rise to death, incarceration, and the popularity of Glenn Beck.”

“The basic credo of the American way of life is encapsulated in that tidy and well sounding phrase ‘I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ With that as a scoring rubric, the U.S.A. puts the F back in Fantastic Fucking Failure.

A: Life.

22,000 Americans died last year from lack of health insurance. Not because they were sick, but 22,000 dead because they had no insurance. The number of Canadians, and citizens of Europe who died from lack of health care insurance, last year: ZERO.

B: Liberty.

The USA incarcerates 2.3 million prisoners at a (2006) rate of 738 per 100,000. For China, the rate is 118 prisoners per 100,000 people less than one sixth the rate in “the land of the free.” No other country comes close to the American rate of incarceration. Are American Citizens that bad?

C: The pursuit of happiness

The United States ranks 23rd on the “happy planet index”. Above the so-called best country in the world include such smaller, socialist leaning countries as Denmark, Switzerland, and France.

7. I work just as hard as the average CEO. It is only the arbitrary criteria set by the ruling class that smiles benevolently on the fact that corporate CEO’s earn, on average, 543 times that of the average worker.

Equity “If we are to be truly free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained we must engage in Non-violent, meme warfare that would end the U.S.A.

8. It is not Un-American to assert that America must cease to exist.

Dissent “If there should come a time when the only hope for the survival of the American dream is the destruction of the nation that gave birth to her, then matricide is indeed a form of patriotism.” – Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father.

9. Fuck Wall Street, but make love to Mother Nature.

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues” – Dr. Suess, The Lorax

While Fleetwood's 9-10 project may seem extreme to some it actually draws the logical conclusions that mankind will eventually come to: that the American project has failed and it is time to move on to something better. America has become an empire and, unfortunately, all empires are destined to fall. The fall of this evil machine will inevitably take one of two forms: either enough people will wake up from the junk food and television induced god-fearing coma that most Americans live their lives in, learn to think on their own, and rise up against the powers that be in revolution or in the not too distant future we will have exploited and abused one population to many and the world themselves will tear us to shreds like a pack of ravenous wolves.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Vulcans Take Lessons From The Zionists

In the run-up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration had failed miserably to win any international support or backing for the war from the UN Security Council. There was a wide spread global consensus that this upcoming war being waged by the US was going to be an illegal one. But the US was not going to give up hope just yet. President George Bush knew that he had a comrade in Tony Blair and Britain would soon join the so called "coalition of the willing". Britain and Spain as well as a handful of others were more than willing to support and endorse Bush's war on terrorism despite opposition from virtually every other country.The Bush-Blair announcement of the new "road map" was timed and orchestrated for maximum global visibility, it highlighted the links between Iraq and the Israel-Palestine conflict just days before the Iraq war was launched. It was Bush's intent to raise sympathy for Israel in their ongoing struggle with the "terrorist" state of Palestine. He was hoping to instill in the minds of the people a connection between Israel's struggle with terrorism and their infallibility with America's victimization and the war on terror he was about to begin himself.

In May 2003, just 2 months after the US invasion of Iraq, the UN Security Council recognized the US and their allies as "occupying powers", with all the accompanying international legal obligations. Under the fourth Geneva Convention the Palestinians and the people of Iraq were now both considered "protected populations", living under foreign occupation.
Long before the US invasion of Iraq the Pentagon was looking to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians as the model for their forthcoming invasion and occupation. They saw clearly how every since the 1967 Israeli occupation began Israel had been able to get away with serious violations of international law, with almost 4 decades of experience under their belt, Israel had perfected the art of violating human rights. The Bush administration was impressed by the laundry list of international crimes that Israel had somehow manged to get away with, including: Illegal imprisonment, assassinations, expulsions, house demolitions, torture, the destruction of agricultural land and civilian property, extended curfews and closures, and other forms of collective punishment as well as what most would consider, ethnic cleansing.

Increasingly, the two occupations have come to resemble each other, as the occupiers have actively collaborated to consolidate their control over angry populations. In April of 2002, over a year before the US invasion of Iraq, Israeli troops were sent to re-claim the West Bank. The Israeli attack on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin led to the deaths of dozens of civilians including 9 children and 7 women. Rather than viewing this as the atrocity it truly was, the United States saw the Jenin attack as a model for its planned invasion of Iraq. US military officials met with the Israeli military to learn the urban warfare techniques that Israel had used in Jenin. Two years later the US would use these tactics in their attack on Fallujah, including the wide spread killing of women and children. Ironically the use of white phosphorous on the Fallujahan civilian population then became a tactic that Israel copied in their 2006 war in Lebanon.
Not only did the US receive a lesson in urban warfare, they also gained a valuable insight into the art of torturing Arabs, a practice that Israel had long since mastered. Palestinian detainees have reported to being subjected to the same techniques the US has used in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere in the global war on terror. Some of these include: Sleep and toilet deprivation, being hooded for long periods of time, beatings, being forced to remain in painful positions, sexual humiliation, and the use of dogs to cause fear.

The truly valuable information gleaned from Israel's years of occupation was the advice and training in tactics designed to exploit specific national , cultural, and religious Arab traditions. What the US labeled "spreading democracy" was viewed by the Arab world as nothing more than a parallel occupation to the US backed Israeli occupation of Palestine.

An even clearer connection emerged in 2006 during Israel's war against Lebanon and Hezbollah. The Israeli goals of attempting to wipe out and destroy all resistance to its control and domination of the region matched almost word for word the United States goals being fought out in Iraq, the two strategies even had similar origins.
In the early 1990's a group of neo-conservative American analysts and policy makers set forth a vision for US foreign policy known as The Project For The New American Century. In 1996 several of the PNAC authors traveled to Israel at the request of a US oriented Israeli politician who was in the process of running for the office of Prime Minister. They drafted a strategy paper that they entitled "Making a Clean Break: Defending the Realm". It proposed a focus on military power rather than diplomacy, let all of Israel's neighbors know that force rather than negotiations would be the new basis of relationships, and make a clean break with all earlier peace processes. When Israel went to war against Lebanon, many people saw the clean break strategy coming to bloody life.

In 1998 George W. Bush was introduced to this same group of people that penned the PNAC as well as the Making a Clean Break strategy. This group became know collectively as "The Vulcans" and was spearheaded by soon to be US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The name "The Vulcans" alludes to a huge statue of Vulcan, the Roman God of fire and metalworking , in Rice’s home town of Birmingham, Alabama. Vulcan was known as a cold, unfeeling and analytical God, attributes the group all shared, wanted to emulate and eventually be associated with.When Bush took office in 2000, The Vulcans were all given key cabinet positions of power and put in charge of US foreign policy. Some of the most well known Vulcans were Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State; Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense and President of the World Bank; Richard Armitage, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; Robert Blackwill, U.S. Ambassador to India and later U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor; Stephen Hadley, U.S. National Security Advisor; Dov Zakheim, Comptroller of the Pentagon and Robert Zoellick , U.S. Trade Representative, United States Deputy Secretary of State and nominated as World Bank president in May 2007.

Ironically George W. Bush was originally mild on military matters, his proposed budget plan had even less money going into military spending than Al Gore, he also proposed greater nuclear arms reductions than Gore and made statements such as , “I don’t want to try to put our troops in all places at all times. I don’t want to be the world’s policeman.” and "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us, that's why we have to be humble. " and "I want to empower the people. I want to help people help themselves, not have government tell people what to do. I just don't think it's the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, we do it this way, so should you.”
This humble foreign policy outlined by Bush during his campaign, however, was quickly dropped after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in favor of a more aggressive policy written and put forth by The Vulcans. This policy was later dubbed the Bush Doctrine and bore a strong resemblance to Making a Clean Break, Israel's foreign policy , probably because they were both written by the same group of people.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We're Straight, They're Skewed

I have a lot of friends who are gay and lesbian and I wanted to stand with them in solidarity against the LDS church. The main argument the church has given is that their reaction was one that had nothing to do with sexual orientation, that they would have done the same thing with anyone who had been acting inappropriately - which a kiss on the cheek apparently qualifies as. This is a bald faced lie, anyone who has ever actually been to temple square can tell you there are constantly couples in various states of heterosexual public displays of affection.

From a purely legal stand point the LDS church was within their rights to ask the couple to leave their property and press charges when their request was ignored. However, it seems to me that the issue at the heart of this controversy is one that needs the attention of both the local community and the national public eye. Where do property rights end and civil rights begin?

Civil disobedience has often been the vehicle for social change. Our nation may have never seen the civil rights movement if large groups of African-Americans had held more respect for private property above their own dignity. Remember, it was a PRIVATELY OWNED bus that Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of.

Even public works were segregated, bathrooms, water fountains, etc. Only by standing up for their civil rights, in defiance of the rights of bigot property owners, were the wheels of social change set into motion. Only by swarming privately owned establishments who refused to serve 'blacks' and refusing to leave were activists able to bring the terrible biases into the public eye and usher in the civil rights movement.
The protest itself was an amazing experience. I brought my two younger children along with me because I wanted them to have the experience, they are three and six and on the way up to Salt Lake we explained to them how two boys had been arrested because one boy had kissed the other on the cheek. Naturally their reaction was that this was a stupid reason for the police to arrest someone, I told them that I agreed and that other people who thought so too were all meeting in Salt Lake to kiss each other to show how stupid we thought this was.

When we got to the Main Street Plaza there were about 100 protesters already gathered, many of them fighting with a half dozen bigots with giant signs telling us that we were unnatural, godless, unamerican, against religion and that homosexuality was just as inappropriate as pornography and prostitution - all of which was news to me! Yelling matches broke out between the bigots and the protesters until eventually the crowd simply wound its way around them to enter the plaza... as we passed I could hear some protesters telling the sign holders that they loved them despite their close-mindedness. The throng gathered all throughout the plaza, holding hands, talking, laughing and dancing. The majority surrounded the reflecting pool at the foot of the Salt Lake temple. Randomly people would kiss one another while the surrounding crowd cheered them on. Moving about amongst the protesters a number of journalists were taking pictures and interviewing the smiling kissers.As the hour wore on people started to not only kiss their partners and friends, but many would randomly walk up to complete strangers and ask if they could kiss. The air was filled with laughter and shouts of encouragement. To the church's credit their security guards stayed to the background, not interfering or hassling any of the gathered protesters. Salt Lake City police officers also made an appearance but seemed to be more concerned with staying under the shade of a tree than with the going ons around them. My children truly seemed to enjoy all the attention and high spirits, the happiness of those gathered together in a common purpose was infectious. In all I kissed eight different people: many of my closest friends, including my best friend Cammie Chatwin who rode up with us, and several complete strangers. The photo background of choice was to get same sex couples kissing with the LDS temple as a backdrop.I am proud that even in this deeply red state there are still people courageous enough to stand up for what's right, regardless of the law. Disappointment in gay rights protesters is no different than being disappointed in women who were arrested for putting their votes into ballot boxes when it was against the law, or for African-Americans who refused to go to the back of the bus, or for early Americans who threw tea into a harbor as a giant 'screw off' to the powers that be for their unfair taxation without representation. I believe we have the moral duty to break laws that enable sexism, racism and bigotry and was more than happy to stand with my friends in doing so.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Honduras And The School Of Coups

A controversial facility at Ft. Benning, Ga., formerly known as the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA), is still training Honduran officers despite claims by the Obama administration that it cut military ties to Honduras after its democratically elected president was overthrown on June 28.

A day after an SOA trained army general ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint, President Barack Obama stated that "the coup was not legal" and that Zelaya remained "the democratically elected president."

The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires that U.S. military aid and training be suspended when a country undergoes a military coup, and the Obama administration has indicated those steps have been taken. However, Lee Rials, public affairs officer for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, confirmed Monday that Honduran officers are still being trained at the school."Yes, they're in class now." Rials said. When asked about the Obama administration's suspension of aid and training to Honduras, Rials said, "Well, all I know is they're here, and they're in class."The decision to continue training the Hondurans is "purely government policy," he said adding that it's possible that other U.S. military schools are training them too."We're not the only place." Rials did not know exactly how many Hondurans were currently enrolled, but he said at least two officers are currently in the school's Command and General Staff course, its premier year- long program.

"I don't know the exact number because we've had some classes just completed and some more starting," he said. "There's no more plans for anybody to come. Everything that was in place already, is still in place. Nobody's directed that they go home or that anything cease."

The school trained 431 Honduran officers from 2001 to 2008, and some 88 were projected for this year, said Rials, who couldn't provide their names. Since 2005, the Department of Defense has barred the release of their names after it was revealed that the school had enrolled well- known human
rights abusers.
The general who overthrew Zelaya, Romeo Orlando Vásquez, is a two- time graduate of SOA, which critics have nicknamed the "School of Coups" because it trained so many coup leaders, including two other Honduran graduates, Gen. Juan Melgar Castro and Gen. Policarpo Paz Garcia. Vasquez is not the only SOA graduate linked to the current coup or employed by the de facto government. Others are:

* Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, the head of the Honduran air force, who arranged to have Zelaya flown into exile in Costa Rica.

* Gen. Nelson Willy Mejia, the newly appointed director of immigration, who is not only an SOA graduate, but a former SOA instructor. One year after he was awarded the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal, he faced charges in connection with the infamous death squad, Battalion 3- 16, for
which he was an intelligence officer.

* Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza Membreño, the Honduran army's top lawyer who admitted that flying Zelaya into exile was a crime, telling the Miama Herald that ''In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime," but it will be justified.

* Lt. Col. Ramiro Archaga Paz, the army's director of public relations, who has denied harassment of protesters and maintained that the army is not involved in internal security.

*Col. Jorge Rodas Gamero, a two- time SOA graduate, who is the minister of security, a post he also held in Zelaya's government.

The "School of Assassins" has a very impressive roster of alumni, it is a Who's Who of the most infamous dictators, death-squad directors and mass murderers in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. Panama's Gen. Manuel Noriega, who now resides in a Florida prison for international narcotics trafficking, is an SOA alum. So was the godfather of the Salvadoran death squads, Roberto D'Aubuisson, who masterminded the 1980 murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero and hundreds of other killings. So was the violent former dictator of Bolivia Gen. Hugo Banzer. The list goes on and on.

According to the Center for International Policy, The School of the Americas had been questioned for years, as it trained many military personnel before and during the years of the dirty wars in the Southern Cone and the civil war years in Central America, in which the armed forces within several Latin American countries ruled or had disproportionate government influence and committed serious human rights violations in those countries. SOA graduates continue to surface in news reports regarding both current and new human rights violations.

On September 20th 1996 the Pentagon released seven training manuals prepared by the U.S. military and used between 1987 and 1991 in Latin America and in intelligence training courses at the U.S. School of the Americas . The manuals were based in part on lesson plans used by the school as far back as 1982. These manuals taught repressive techniques and promoted the violation of human rights throughout Latin America and around the globe. The manuals contain instructions in motivation by fear, bounties for the deaths of enemies, false imprisonment, torture, execution, and kidnapping a target's family members.These manuals taught tactics that come right out of a Soviet gulag and have no place in civilized society. The Pentagon later admitted that these manuals were a "mistake".

After an investigation the Department of Defense discontinued the use of the manuals, directed their recovery to the practical extent, and destroyed the copies in the field. U.S. Southern Command advised governments in Latin America that the manuals contained passages that did not represent U.S. government policy, and pursued recovery of the manuals from the governments and some individual students. It should be noted that David Addington and Dick Cheney retained personal copies of the training manuals.Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Bolivia have all come out condemning the school and its practices, refusing to send any more of their soldiers to be trained there. The fact that this school exists today defies comprehension and sets a new low for America. So much for the Obama administration's policies of transparency and upholding of democracy. Not surprisingly there are already groups that have formed to protest the continued existence of the SOA whose mission it is to see their doors closed forever. For further information on how you can help keep our tax dollars from funding this US terrorist camp click here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Mormon Fortune Telling

Sister Crystal Ann Busenbark, by the authority given me as an ordained patriarch in the Orem Suncrest Stake of Zion, I give you a special blessing.

You are already blessed to have received the Gospel, to have been baptized and make the covenants of baptism that you will always remember our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ , and that you will attempt to keep yourself worthy, free from sin, that you will repent of the errors that you make so that you may hold fast to the guidance of the Plan of Salvation and stand spotless before the Lord.

I bless you with health and strength of mind and body. You realize Crystal, that your body is in your own care now that you have decided to leave your parents home. Planning meals, cleaning and sanitizing the home, and all other practical worldly chores are now your responsibility. These things affect how you live, how healthy you become or stay and how well you protect this body as the tabernacle of your spirit.

I bless you that you will enjoy the beauties of the world around you, and that you will share and create for your family, particularly your husband, art, music, and any other efforts to show the greatness of God's creations.

I bless that you will be protected from violence of any kind, that you will be able to communicate with your husband and children your desires, your wishes, and the principles that you know are true by which all of us should be worthy of. That you will live, and endure to the end.

Crystal, you, like your husband, are from the lineage of Ephraim. Together with your husband study this great heritage. Promises made to Abraham come to you through this lineage and through your husbands priesthood. They are promises that will be yours as long as you merit them, as long as you are worthy of them. Live so that you will merit them and so that you can pass them on to your own descendants.

Crystal, the world is full of evil things. Many of these things are associated with our public media and they are not worthy of any of us, and they offer great temptations which can be very alluring. I bless you that you will be protected from them through your prayers, through your faith, and through the support of your husband and his priesthood.

I bless you that the pursuit which you are following of your own ancestors will be successful so that you may offer them and others whom you may choose to serve vicariously the blessing of baptism into the one true church so that they may have the worldly ordinances completed and accept them on the other side of the veil.

You are very young and life has been short. I bless you that it will be long in mortal terms, though at best it is short in eternal terms. I bless you that when the times comes you will be worthy to go to the temple and seal your marriage into an eternal contract in which you will look to your husband and your husband will look to the lord, and the promises made to those who are worthy to be sealed, may be yours through your worthiness so that at the end of this mortal probation you will be able to return to the presence of your Father in Heaven, and he will say to you, "Well done my good and faithful daughter. Enter into my rest, into my Celestial Kingdom on the morning of the first resurrection". These blessings , with those unspoken that you faithfully desire and seek, I bless you with in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Dean Burton Farnsworth , Patriarch
Orem Suncrest Stake
January 2nd, 2000

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Ties That Bind

We could hear the music blasting from beyond the trees at our rear, the lights and fire were left behind and the dark of the night wrapped about us. As we settled down in a circle on the ground Jeffrey sat down next to me, tears still running down his cheeks. Without any prompting we took one another by the hand, or wrapped our arms around each other, completing the circle of human contact, of love and support. Voices from the party floated out to us on currents of air, but their words were lost as we gave our attention fully to Rick as he began to speak...

I was still in high school when I told my family. I had known myself for as far back as I could remember but I knew that it was something that my family would never be able to accept, and at first I felt like something was wrong with me, or if I denied it long enough maybe it would go away. Until my senior year I had carried on okay, I had come to accept it about myself and believed that it was something that I would be able to open up with once I moved out on my own. But all that changed when I met Nate. Never before had I met someone who I connected to on such an intimate level. Being attracted to another man was nothing new for me but with Nate it was different, there wasn't anything about him that I didn't love.

To throw suspicions off and be able to lead a normal life Debbie and I had been 'dating' for the last year and a half. She knew the truth about me and she had come out to me as well. But as the school year went on Nate and I became inseparable and our love blossomed into something more beautiful than I had ever imagined. He made me happier than I had ever been in my life and having to hide it from everyone I knew was so smothering that at times I could barely breathe. Finally I decided that I needed to get my feelings out into the open and that I didn't really care what happened from there. I knew that my secret would break my mothers heart so I decided to start by talk to my dad, man to man.

Once my confession was out he just stood there, staring at me like I was a complete stranger. I tried to get him to talk to me but he was silent and still as a marble statue. I told him that I loved him and that I hoped he could understand before turning around and quietly leaving. I was almost back to my bedroom when he grabbed me from behind, the blow to the side of my face was so powerful and unexpected that it laid me out flat. He didn't say a word as I began to rise but just before I stood up straight he pushed me backwards. I remember my world spinning about like I was on the tea cups at Disneyland, only instead of being thrilling my body exploded with pain as I tumbled to the bottom of the stairs. Before I could even move to protect myself he was on top me, blows falling down on me like rain. Kicking me over and over with all of his strength, his silence was replaced by hoarse shouts that made it clear on no uncertain terms that I was no longer his son and that he never wanted to see or hear from me again. Just as abruptly as it had begun the assault was over and my father turned his back on me and walked out of the room.

Left to myself I crawled out of the house and collapsed on the sidewalk outside. I barely had enough strength to use my cell phone to call Nate to come take me to the hospital, where I was informed that I had suffered five broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and facial lacerations that would require extensive stitching. Since that day I have never spoken to those people again, they're no longer my family... I'm an orphan.

Strangely enough the sobs that broke the night air were not coming from Rick's throat but from my own. The circle was small enough that by leaning forward we were able to hold each other, and although it was he who was comforting me rather than the other way around I could feel his body shake as his detachment broke and he began to cry with me.

As a mother myself I have never been able to understand how a parent could love their child one moment and not the next. No matter how terrible the child's course of their life may be to them I cannot understand how someone could throw away the son who they had held as a baby, had watched their first steps, had kissed away their tears and comforted them when they were scared. I had known Rick for less than four hours and already I felt that I loved him more than his father had ever been able to. After a few moments, as our crying quieted, Amy went next...

Rick says that he is an orphan, and I think that a lot of us have been orphaned from our families by coming out, but it's especially true in my case. I was one of those 'crack babies' that you hear about, my mother took drugs throughout her pregnancy and when I was born I was as chemically dependent on cocaine as she had been. I was severely underweight and I spent three months in the newborn intensive care unit, my tiny body ravaged by such terrible withdrawals that they were unsure whether or not I would survive. The day after she gave birth to me the woman that had brought me into the world checked out of the hospital and out of my life.

The family I grew up in adopted me while I was still in the hospital and raised me as their own. Coming out to them was something that I had put off as long as I felt that I could, like most everyone in the state they were strict LDS and I knew that they would not take it well. Never in my worst nightmares did I think that they would take the news as terribly as they did, 'If we had known that you were going to be a queer we would have just let you die in the NICU' was the only response my mother gave. I felt so betrayed by the family that had raised me that I decided to attempt to find my biological parents. After a lot of digging I found out that the man who had fathered me had died of a drug overdose when I was eight years old. Eventually I was able to track down the woman who had given birth to me. When I explained who I was she embraced me warmly, told me that she had never stopped thinking of me and hoping that I was okay and happy... and then she asked if I had a couple hundered dollars that she could borrow to go buy drugs with. I walked away and never saw her again.

The warm night was a blanket that held us together, like childhood friends snuggled up in our tent at a slumber party. Each of us were sharing our stories and drawing strength and comfort from one another. In the silence that followed Amy's words Rick got up and walked around the ring of friends to sit beside her and wrap his arms around her. After a few long minutes of shared love and compassion it was Taylor who spoke next...

When I was little I always wondered why everyone called me a boy. It didn't make sense to me because I had always thought of myself as clearly being a girl like my sister, not a boy like my brothers. Even when I was old enough that my parents could explain the physical differences that decide who is a boy and who is a girl I was never able to consider myself a boy. I tried a number of times to explain this to my parents however they were adamant that Heavenly Father didn't make mistakes and that he had put me in a male body because I was a male spirit. I remember as I was growing up I would often take my sister's clothes and lock myself in the bathroom to dress up like her and put on makeup and perfume like my mother. I was careful never to be caught doing this because I knew instinctively that there would be hell to pay if I was ever found out.

Around the same time that I started to go through puberty I began to cut myself. I hated my body and felt ashamed of who and what I was, I even took to cutting my penis because I hated it and wished it weren't a part of me. The cutting didn't really concern my parents, it wasn't until I began to dress up like a girl in public that they checked me into the state mental hospital. After a couple days of testing and treatment the doctors called my parents in and explained that while I did suffer from depression and seemed to have issues with my identity there was nothing about me that constituted commitment... in short being gay did not a crazy person make.

Not one to listen to advice that conflicted with their worldview my parents checked me out and told me not to come back home until I was 'fixed'. To get back at my parents I borrowed my friends prettiest dress, curled my hair, did up my makeup and showed up at their church just as Sacrament Meeting was getting out. I strolled up to my parents and gave them each a big hug, then spent the next twenty minutes or so introducing myself to all of their friends and neighbors as their daughter. When I was done I walked back to my friends house with a broad smile on my face, out of their church house and out of their lives forever.
In the faint light from the stars I couldn't help staring at my new friend. I had talked to her earlier in the evening, telling her that she was probably the most beautiful girl at the party. She had almost started to cry as she thanked me, explaining that she had to fight testosterone for her femininity. She went on to tell me she had been on estrogen therapy for some time now and was looking forward to a gender reassignment surgery in the near future. In all of my life I don't know if I have met a more strong and brave young woman. Not having a coming out story of my own I decided to share the experience of my husband's uncle...

Growing up in Box Elder county Utah Paul was raised as a Mormon, just like everyone else he knew. He was one of four boys and always felt as though he was competing for his fathers approval. His eldest brother followed in their father's footsteps and went to work for the same military contractor their father had worked for all of his life. The next eldest was the only of the sons to serve an LDS mission and the third brother joined the army, much to his father's pride. Paul had a steady girlfriend all through high school, the two were virtually inseperable and talk of marraige followed them about like bees around flowers. During their senior year Paul's girlfriend died in a fatal car accident and his life came to a screaming hault. After graduation, in an effort to prove his masculinity to his father, Paul enlisted in the Marine Corps - considering them the toughest of the tough. After his time was up he left the military to pursue other avenues of life that held more interest for him.

The family was shocked one Sunday afternoon when Paul announced to his father that he was gay. His dad told him that no son of his could be a queer and Paul, who claimed to have been a closet
homosexual his entire life, told him that this wasn't a choice he was making but rather a part of who he truly was. In the years that followed Paul's mother allowed him to move on to some land she owned in West Jordan where he and the man that he loved and called his husband would spend the rest of their lives residing. Though Paul was able to maintain infrequent communication with his mother and several of his siblings he spent the rest of his life estranged from many members of his family and his father died without ever speaking to him again.

As my story ended and I fell silent we sat in each others arms, the sounds of the night surrounding us with the noise of the party raging in the distance. Thinking of Paul and my husbands family my mind drifted to consider the families of the makeshift band of friends I had made earlier this evening who were now circled about me. The common theme this summer night seemed to be less about coming out of the closet than it did about families.

So many of my new friends had been estranged from their families to one degree or another, many of them cut off entirely, thrown out like yesterdays garbage. It's little wonder, I realized, that they had come to form such tight intimate bonds with one another, they were not united in their homosexuality... in one another they had found the love and acceptance that their families of origin had lacked, they were more than friends, they were a family; one filled with more compassion and love for each individual based solely on who they were than any genetic family I had ever met.

We sat together for a few minutes more, drying our eyes and sharing our love and admiration for one another. Finally I picked myself up and invited my new friends to come 'hippie dance' with me, twirling about the fire and singing at the top of our lungs while the stars faded away and the sun broke out over the mountain tops.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The LDS Church Plays Smear The Queer

Two men were singled out and treated unfairly by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint because they were gay. Salt Lake City police arrested the two for trespassing when they were asked to leave the Church's Main Street Plaza when they asked, as many of us would, on what grounds they were being asked to leave.

On Thursday night, Derek Jones and his boyfriend, Matt, walked through the plaza holding hands. One reportedly kissed the other, and that's when security guards asked them to leave.

"We were called at about 10:25 p.m. by LDS security to come over to their property where two males were in custody for refusing to leave the property," explained Salt Lake police Sgt. Robin Snyder.

The couple was cited for trespassing. Snyder says the law allows the owner of a property to kick someone out for any reason.

"A property owner has the right to ask someone to leave their property. If they do not leave that property, then they have violated an ordinance, a Salt Lake City ordinance, which is trespassing. So, the police became involved," Snyder said.

The Church released a statement saying the couple was "asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior just as any other couple would have been. They became argumentative and used profanity and refused to leave the property. They were arrested and then given a citation for criminal trespass by SLPD."

"If this is a public place, such as a park, that's a whole different story," Snyder said.

But Jones paints a different picture. In a blog, Jones wrote: "This especially irked the both of us because having walked through on a frequent basis (we often walk to work through there) and every time I have been through there are either marriage ceremonies going on, young Mormon couples cuddling in front the fountain, hugging, holding hands, etc.

"Matt then tried to get them to admit they were singling us out because they just didn't approve of ‘gay' public displays of affection, baiting them into revealing their bigotry."

This story has already been completely warped and changed by the media as well as the church. This is the true account of what happened Thursday night and it's nothing less that bigotry, intolerance and an abuse of the law.....Matt and Derek were only passing hand-in-hand through the plaza on their way home from the Twilight Concert Series at the Gallivan Center. The couple did not know the public-access through way was also private LDS church property. A large number of Utahans and most non-resident visitors are unaware of the controversial 1999 sale of Salt Lake City's Main Street, from North Temple to South Temple Streets, to the LDS church resulting in our current legal conundrum.

Derek and Matt live opposite the plaza from the Gallivan Center. Because the plaza consumes such a large amount of the downtown area, expecting pedestrians to circumvent it to get to the other side is simply unreasonable. For this purpose, a condition of the sale was that it remain open to the general public. While the property was purchased by the church, Matt and Derek have as much legal right to pass through holding hands as "Brother and Sister Jones" do.

To say Matt and Derek were kissing is misleading. Unlike LDS couples' open-mouthed kisses for photographers on the plaza following their temple ceremonies, Matt simply put his arm around Derek and gave him a peck on the side of his head as they walked along. While open-mouthed kisses, indeed an intimate display of affection, remain controversial even among straight couples in public areas, closed-mouthed kisses on heads are a rather platonic expression of affection, often exchanged between parents and children. Matt and Derek are subjects of a pernicious double standard.

Derek and Matt did not refuse to leave the open public plaza, but were arrested by church security guards when they attempted to question their legal right to pass through the public easement (a point on which, as I've already established, they were uninformed). It seems a brief explanation of the Church's ownership of what was previously government property might have been appropriate. Instead, Matt and Derek were brutally thrown to the ground and handcuffed with zip-ties by church security guards even though they were in no way exhibiting violent or threatening behavior.

It has been implied that the couple were drunk at the time of arrest. This is simply not true. Derek purchased and consumed a beer at the Gallivan Center during the concert. A beer. One. One beer does not a drunk make. Furthermore, they were walking home, not driving. Derek's alcohol consumption was in no way irresponsible, illegal, or disruptive and as such completely irrelevant to the incident and not included in the charges.

Ultimately, the couple were cited with Class C misdemeanors of trespassing, even though they would have passed quickly through the plaza had they not been detained by church security guards.

Matt and Derek inadvertently broke the law (the law being ambiguous contractual language which allows the church to decide what behavior is vulgar and disruptive and apply it unevenly according to its political agenda). But these gentlemen did not break the spirit of the law as they passed peacefully through the plaza. They meant no harm. I'm convinced the intentions of the church security guards (being both employees and members) who assaulted the couple, and the institution (whose separation from state remains dubious and problematic) which pressed charges against them, were not as unbiased as they would have us believe.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


~Beautiful Willamette~

From the Cascades’ frozen gorges,
Leaping like a child at play,
Winding, widening through the valley,
Bright Willamette glides away;
Onward ever,
Lovely river,
Softly calling to the sea,
Time, that scars us,
Maims and mars us,
Leaves no track or trench of thee.

Spring’s green witchery is weaving
Braid and border for thy side;
Grace forever haunts thy journey,
Beauty dimples on thy tide;
Through the purple gates of morning
Now thy roseate ripples dance,
Golden then, when day, departing,
On thy waters trails his lance.
Waltzing, flashing,
Tinkling, splashing,
Limpid, volatile, and free—
Always hurried
To be buried
In the bitter, moon-mad sea.

In thy crystal deeps inverted
Swings a picture of the sky,
Like those wavering hopes of Aidenn,
Dimly in our dreams that lie;
Clouded often, drowned in turmoil,
Faint and lovely, far away—
Wreathing sunshine on the morrow,
Breathing fragrance round to-day.
Love would wander
Here and ponder.
Hither poetry would dream;
Life’s old questions,
Sad suggestions,
Whence and whither? throng thy stream.

On the roaring waste of ocean
Shall thy scattered waves be tossed,
‘Mid thy surge’s rhythmic thunder
Shall thy silver tongues be lost.
Of thy glimmering rush of gladness
Mocks this turbid life of mine!
Racing to the wild Forever
Down the sloping paths of Time.
Onward ever,
Lovely River,
Softly calling to the sea;
Time that scars us,
Maims and mars us,
Leaves no track or trench on thee.

- Samuel L. Simpson

The lovely dappled up-and-down land called Oregon, it has an ever-green beauty as seductive as the lotus of ancient myth....
The mighty Columbia River flows from East to West like a master sculptor who has left his mar, chiseling and cutting the rocks to form a gorge in which each ripple leaves a spark.

The caves are carved through unreckoned ages, they are weirdly beautiful caverns in which clusters of intricately sculptured marble hang from frescoed ceilings like frozen flowers. Out-thrust from the walls are shelves adorned with bric-a-brac fashioned by nature, some of it grotesque, but all of it arresting in its cold brilliance.

The beautiful Crater Lake is nature’s mirror. As the sky admires its own beauty and surrounding glow, so perfect is the scene that even the wind forgets to blow.
The forests make a claim upon my heart, the wonderful smell that emanates from old trees change and renew my weary spirit. The silence of an ending path, leaves moving in one long whisper. A forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. The ecstasy of nature, every blade of grass, every fir tree, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.

The farms are endless and lush, boundless and filled with billowing stalks of grain.
The ocean reflects back to me my dreams, I know that eternity will forever begin and end with its tides. The unfathomable depths, the dreamy quietude that washes over me when I behold it's tranquil beauty and brilliance. The sounds of the waves, a severe, ascetic music, calm and inviting, monotonous by virtue of its serenity, anti-sensuous and yet so intense that it verges on ecstasy.

The rain falls down and kisses my face. I am child again, running around, trying to catch every last drop in my mouth. With my hands held high, I worship the sky. I dance and I splash, never ceasing to laugh.

I am homesick......

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dare To Dream

~Where The Sidewalk Ends~

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
~Shel Silverstein

This poem has always held a special place in my heart. To me it's about finding a place that's better than here, a place where, "The grass grows soft and white and where the sun glows crimson bright." Shel's beautiful words take me away to an imaginary world, a place where I can go and nothing bad can happen to me, a place where all the troubles that I'm running from disappear and I am at peace. "For the children they mark, and the children, they know the place where the sidewalk ends" according to Shel, children live in a world of possibility and imagination, of beauty and magic. To find ourselves in such a place would be a return to innocence, to purity, to trust and to love.

Where the sidewalk ends can be anywhere, a dream, a secret place that you go to, even some place in the corners of your own mind. When you get to this magical place, everything that you worry about just seems not to matter anymore and the doubts, fears, and insecurities of anything that has happened to you or is happening to you goes away. There is no judgment. It's just a place where you are free to be who you truly are. It's a place to make secret plans for the future, a place to open your heart to the possibility of forever love and most importantly, it's a place where you can dare to dream......

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Shakespeare In The Bush

By Laura Bohannan

Just before I left Oxford for the Tiv in West Africa, conversation turned to the season at Stratford. “You Americans,” said a friend, “often have difficulty with Shakespeare. He was, after all, a very English poet, and one can easily misinterpret the universal by misunderstanding the particular.”

I protested that human nature is pretty much the same the whole world over; at least the general plot and motivation of the greater tragedies would always be clear—everywhere—although some details of custom might have to be explained and difficulties of translation might produce other slight changes.

To end an argument we could not conclude, my friend gave me a copy of Hamlet to study in the African bush: it would, he hoped, lift my mind above its primitive surroundings, and possibly I might, by prolonged meditation, achieve the grace of correct interpretation. It was my second field trip to that African tribe, and I thought myself ready to live in one of its remote sections—an area difficult to cross even on foot. I eventually settled on the hillock of a very knowledgeable old man, the head of a homestead of some hundred and forty people, all of whom were either his close relatives or their wives and children. Like the other elders of the vicinity, the old man spent most of his time performing ceremonies seldom seen these days in the more accessible parts of the tribe. I was delighted. Soon there would be three months of enforced isolation and leisure, between the harvest that takes place just before the rising of the swamps and the clearing of new farms when the water goes down. Then, I thought, they would have even more time to perform ceremonies and explain them to me.

I was quite mistaken. Most of the ceremonies demanded the presence of elders from several homesteads. As the swamps rose, the old men found it too difficult to walk from one homestead to the next, and the ceremonies gradually ceased. As the swamps rose even higher, all activities but one came to an end. The women brewed beer from maize and millet. Men, women, and children sat on their hillocks and drank it. People began to drink at dawn. By midmorning the whole homestead was singing, dancing, and drumming. When it rained, people had to sit inside their huts: there they drank and sang or they drank and told stories. In any case, by noon or before, I either had to join the party or retire to my own hut and my books. “One does not discuss serious matters when there is beer. Come, drink with us.” Since I lacked their capacity for the thick native beer, I spent more and more time with Hamlet. Before the end of the second month, grace descended on me. I was quite sure that Hamlet had only one possible interpretation, and that one universally obvious.

Early every morning, in the hope of having some serious talk before the beer party, I used to call on the old man at his reception hut—a circle of posts supporting a thatched roof above a low mud wall to keep out wind and rain. One day I crawled through the low doorway and found most of the men of the homestead sitting huddled in their ragged cloths on stools, low plank beds, and reclining chairs, warming themselves against the chill of the rain around a smoky fire. In the center were three pots of beer. The party had started.

The old man greeted me cordially. “Sit down and drink.” I accepted a large calabash full of beer, poured some into a small drinking gourd, and tossed it down. Then I poured some more into the same gourd for the man second in seniority to my host before I handed my calabash over to a young man for further distribution. Important people shouldn’t ladle beer themselves. “It is better like this,” the old man said, looking at me approvingly and plucking at the thatch that had caught in my hair. “You should sit and drink with us more often. Your servants tell me that when you are not with us, you sit inside your hut looking at a paper.”

The old man was acquainted with four kinds of “papers”: tax receipts, bride price receipts, court fee receipts, and letters. The messenger who brought him letters from the chief used them mainly as a badge of office, for he always knew what was in them and told the old man. Personal letters for the few who had relatives in the government or mission stations were kept until someone went to a large market where there was a letter writer and reader. Since my arrival, letters were brought to me to be read. A few men also brought me bride price receipts, privately, with requests to change the figures to a higher sum. I found moral arguments were of no avail, since in-laws are fair game, and the technical hazards of forgery difficult to explain to an illiterate people. I did not wish them to think me silly enough to look at any such papers for days on end, and I hastily explained that my “paper” was one of the “things of long ago” of my country.

“Ah,” said the old man. “Tell us.” I protested that I was not a storyteller. Storytelling is a skilled art among them; their standards are high, and the audiences critical—and vocal in their criticism. I protested in vain. This morning they wanted to hear a story while they drank. They threatened to tell me no more stories until I told them one of mine. Finally, the old man promised that no one would criticize my style, “for we know you are struggling with our language.” “But,” put in one of the elders, “you must explain what we do not understand, as we do when we tell you our stories.”

Realizing that here was my chance to prove Hamlet universally intelligible, I agreed. The old man handed me some more beer to help me on with my storytelling. Men filled their long wooden pipes and knocked coals from the fire to place in the pipe bowls; then, puffing contentedly, they sat back to listen. I began in the proper style, “Not yesterday, not yesterday, but long ago, a thing occurred. One night three men were keeping watch outside the homestead of the great chief, when suddenly they saw the former chief approach them.”

“Why was he no longer their chief?”

“He was dead,” I explained. “That is why they were troubled and afraid when they saw him.”

“Impossible,” began one of the elders, handing his pipe on to his neighbor, who interrupted, “Of course it wasn’t the dead chief. It was an omen sent by a witch. Go on.”

Slightly shaken, I continued. “One of these three was a man who knew things” — the closest translation for scholar, but unfortunately it also meant witch. The second elder looked triumphantly at the first. “So he spoke to the dead chief saying, ‘Tell us what we must do so you may rest in your grave,’ but the dead chief did not answer. He vanished, and they could see him no more. Then the man who knew things—his name was Horatio—said this event was the affair of the dead chief’s son, Hamlet.”

There was a general shaking of heads round the circle. “Had the dead chief no living brothers? Or was this son the chief?”

“No,” I replied. “That is, he had one living brother who became the chief when the elder brother died.” The old men muttered: such omens were matters for chiefs and elders, not for youngsters; no good could come of going behind a chief’s back; clearly Horatio was not a man who knew things. “Yes, he was,” I insisted, shooing a chicken away from my beer. “In our country the son is next to the father. The dead chief’s younger brother had become the great chief. He had also married his elder brother’s widow only about a month after the funeral.”

“He did well,” the old man beamed and announced to the others, “I told you that if we knew more about Europeans, we would find they really were very like us. In our country also,” he added to me, “the younger brother marries the elder brother’s widow and becomes the father of his children. Now, if your uncle, who married your widowed mother, is your father’s full brother, then he will be a real father to you. Did Hamlet’s father and uncle have one mother?”

His question barely penetrated my mind; I was too upset and thrown too far off-balance by having one of the most important elements of Hamlet knocked straight out of the picture. Rather uncertainly I said that I thought they had the same mother, but I wasn’t sure—the story didn’t say. The old man told me severely that these genealogical details made all the difference and that when I got home I must ask the elders about it. He shouted out the door to one of his younger wives to bring his goatskin bag. Determined to save what I could of the mother motif, I took a deep breath and began again. “The son Hamlet was very sad because his mother had married again so quickly. There was no need for her to do so, and it is our custom for a widow not to go to her next husband until she has mourned for two years.”

“Two years is too long,” objected the wife, who had appeared with the old man’s battered goatskin bag. “Who will hoe your farms for you while you have no husband?”

“Hamlet,” I retorted, without thinking, “was old enough to hoe his mother’s farms himself. There was no need for her to remarry.” No one looked convinced. I gave up. “His mother and the great chief told Hamlet not to be sad, for the great chief himself would be a father to Hamlet. Furthermore, Hamlet would be the next chief: therefore he must stay to learn the things of a chief. Hamlet agreed to remain, and all the rest went off to drink beer.” While I paused, perplexed at how to render Hamlet’s disgusted soliloquy to an audience convinced that Claudius and Gertrude had behaved in the best possible manner, one of the younger men asked me who had married the other wives of the dead chief. “He had no other wives,” I told him.

“But a chief must have many wives! How else can he brew beer and prepare food for all his guests?” I said firmly that in our country even chiefs had only one wife, that they had servants to do their work, and that they paid them from tax money. It was better, they returned, for a chief to have many wives and sons who would help him hoe his farms and feed his people; then everyone loved the chief who gave much and took nothing—taxes were a bad thing. I agreed with the last comment, but for the rest fell back on their favorite way of fobbing off my questions: “That is the way it is done, so that is how we do it.”

I decided to skip the soliloquy. Even if Claudius was here thought quite right to marry his brother’s widow, there remained the poison motif, and I knew they would disapprove of fratricide. More hopefully I resumed, “That night Hamlet kept watch with the three who had seen his dead father. The dead chief again appeared, and although the others were afraid, Hamlet followed his dead father off to one side. When they were alone, Hamlet’s dead father spoke.”

“Omens can’t talk!” The old man was emphatic.

“Hamlet’s dead father wasn’t an omen. Seeing him might have been an omen, but he was not.” My audience looked as confused as I sounded. “It was Hamlet’s dead father. It was a thing we call a ‘ghost.’” I had to use the English word, for unlike many of the neighboring tribes, these people didn’t believe in the survival after death of any individuating part of the personality.

“What is a ‘ghost?’ An omen?”

“No, a ‘ghost’ is someone who is dead but who walks around and can talk, and people can hear him and see him but not touch him.”

They objected. “One can touch zombies.”

“No, no! It was not a dead body the witches had animated to sacrifice and eat. No one else made Hamlet’s dead father walk. He did it himself.”

“Dead men can’t walk,” protested my audience as one man. I was quite willing to compromise.

“A ‘ghost’ is the dead man’s shadow.”

But again they objected. “Dead men cast no shadows.”

“They do in my country,” I snapped.

The old man quelled the babble of disbelief that arose immediately and told me with that insincere, but courteous, agreement one extends to the fancies of the young, ignorant, and superstitious, “No doubt in your country the dead can also walk without being zombies.” From the depths of his bag he produced a withered fragment of kola nut, bit off one end to show it wasn’t poisoned, and handed me the rest as a peace offering.

“Anyhow,” I resumed, “Hamlet’s dead father said that his own brother, the one who became chief, had poisoned him. He wanted Hamlet to avenge him. Hamlet believed this in his heart, for he did not like his father’s brother.” I took another swallow of beer. “In the country of the great chief, living in the same homestead, for it was a very large one, was an important elder who was often with the chief to advise and help him. His name was Polonius. Hamlet was courting his daughter, but her father and her brother . . . [I cast hastily about for some tribal analogy] warned her not to let Hamlet visit her when she was alone on her farm, for he would be a great chief and so could not marry her.”

“Why not?” asked the wife, who had settled down on the edge of the old man’s chair. He frowned at her for asking stupid questions and growled, “They lived in the same homestead.”

“That was not the reason,” I informed them. “Polonius was a stranger who lived in the homestead because he helped the chief, not because he was a relative.”

“Then why couldn’t Hamlet marry her?”

“He could have,” I explained, “but Polonius didn’t think he would. After all, Hamlet was a man of great importance who ought to marry a chief’s daughter, for in his country a man could have only one wife. Polonius was afraid that if Hamlet made love to his daughter, then no one else would give a high price for her.”

“That might be true,” remarked one of the shrewder elders, “but a chief’s son would give his mistress’s father enough presents and patronage to more than make up the difference. Polonius sounds like a fool to me.”

“Many people think he was,” I agreed. “Meanwhile Polonius sent his son Laertes off to Paris to learn the things of that country, for it was the homestead of a very great chief indeed. Because he was afraid that Laertes might waste a lot of money on beer and women and gambling, or get into trouble by fighting, he sent one of his servants to Paris secretly, to spy out what Laertes was doing. One day Hamlet came upon Polonius’s daughter Ophelia. He behaved so oddly he frightened her. Indeed”—I was fumbling for words to express the dubious quality of Hamlet’s madness—“the chief and many others had also noticed that when Hamlet talked one could understand the words but not what they meant. Many people thought that he had become mad.” My audience suddenly became much more attentive. “The great chief wanted to know what was wrong with Hamlet, so he sent for two of Hamlet’s age mates [school friends would have taken a long explanation] to talk to Hamlet and find out what troubled his heart. Hamlet, seeing that they had been bribed by the chief to betray him, told them nothing. Polonius, however, insisted that Hamlet was mad because he had been forbidden to see Ophelia, whom he loved.”

“Why,” inquired a bewildered voice, “should anyone bewitch Hamlet on that account?”

“Bewitch him?”

“Yes, only witchcraft can make anyone mad, unless, of course, one sees the beings that lurk in the forest.” I stopped being a storyteller and took out my notebook and demanded to be told more about these two causes of madness. Even while they spoke and I jotted notes, I tried to calculate the effect of this new factor on the plot. Hamlet had not been exposed to the beings that lurk in the forests. Only his relatives in the male line could bewitch him. Barring relatives not mentioned by Shakespeare, it had to be Claudius who was attempting to harm him. And, of course, it was. For the moment I staved off questions by saying that the great chief also refused to believe that Hamlet was mad for the love of Ophelia and nothing else. “He was sure that something much more important was troubling Hamlet’s heart.”

“Now Hamlet’s age mates,” I continued, “had brought with them a famous storyteller. Hamlet decided to have this man tell the chief and all his homestead a story about a man who had poisoned his brother because he desired his brother’s wife and wished to be chief himself. Hamlet was sure the great chief could not hear the story without making a sign if he was indeed guilty, and then he would discover whether his dead father had told him the truth.”

The old man interrupted, with deep cunning, “Why should a father lie to his son?” he asked.

I hedged: “Hamlet wasn’t sure that it really was his dead father.” It was impossible to say anything, in that language, about devil-inspired visions.

“You mean,” he said, “it actually was an omen, and he knew witches sometimes send false ones. Hamlet was a fool not to go to one skilled in reading omens and divining the truth in the first place. A man-who-sees-the-truth could have told him how his father died, if he really had been poisoned, and if there was witchcraft in it; then Hamlet could have called the elders to settle the matter.”

The shrewd elder ventured to disagree. “Because his father’s brother was a great chief, one-who-sees-the-truth might therefore have been afraid to tell it. I think it was for that reason that a friend of Hamlet’s father—a witch and an elder—sent an omen so his friend’s son would know. Was the omen true?”

“Yes,” I said, abandoning ghosts and the devil; a witch-sent omen it would have to be. “It was true, for when the storyteller was telling his tale before all the homestead, the great chief rose in fear. Afraid that Hamlet knew his secret he planned to have him killed.”

The stage set of the next bit presented some difficulties of translation. I began cautiously. “The great chief told Hamlet’s mother to find out from her son what he knew. But because a woman’s children are always first in her heart, he had the important elder Polonius hide behind a cloth that hung against the wall of Hamlet’s mother’s sleeping hut. Hamlet started to scold his mother for what she had done.”

There was a shocked murmur from everyone. A man should never scold his mother. “She called out in fear, and Polonius moved behind the cloth. Shouting, ‘A rat!’ Hamlet took his machete and slashed through the cloth.” I paused for dramatic effect. “He had killed Polonius.”

The old men looked at each other in supreme disgust. “That Polonius truly was a fool and a man who knew nothing! What child would not know enough to shout, ‘It's me!’” With a pang, I remembered that these people are ardent hunters, always armed with bow, arrow, and machete; at the first rustle in the grass an arrow is aimed and ready, and the hunter shouts “Game!” If no human voice answers immediately, the arrow speeds on its way. Like a good hunter, Hamlet had shouted, “A rat!”

I rushed in to save Polonius’s reputation. “Polonius did speak. Hamlet heard him. But he thought it was the chief and wished to kill him to avenge his father. He had meant to kill him earlier that evening. . . .” I broke down, unable to describe to these pagans, who had no belief in individual afterlife, the difference between dying at one’s prayers and dying “unhousell’d, disappointed, unaneled.”

This time I had shocked my audience seriously. “For a man to raise his hand against his father’s brother and the one who has become his father— that is a terrible thing. The elders ought to let such a man be bewitched.” I nibbled at my kola nut in some perplexity, then pointed out that after all the man had killed Hamlet’s father.

“No,” pronounced the old man, speaking less to me than to the young men sitting behind the elders. “If your father’s brother has killed your father, you must appeal to your father’s age mates: they may avenge him. No man may use violence against his senior relatives.” Another thought struck him. “But if his father’s brother had indeed been wicked enough to bewitch Hamlet and make him mad that would be a good story indeed, for it would be his fault that Hamlet, being mad, no longer had any sense and thus was ready to kill his father’s brother.”

There was a murmur of applause. Hamlet was again a good story to them, but it no longer seemed quite the same story to me. As I thought over the coming complications of plot and motive, I lost courage and decided to skim over dangerous ground quickly. “The great chief,” I went on, “was not sorry that Hamlet had killed Polonius. It gave him a reason to send Hamlet away, with his two treacherous age mates, with letters to a chief of a far country, saying that Hamlet should be killed. But Hamlet changed the writing on their papers, so that the chief killed his age mates instead.” I encountered a reproachful glare from one of the men whom I had told undetectable forgery was not merely immoral but beyond human skill. I looked the other way.

“Before Hamlet could return, Laertes came back for his father’s funeral. The great chief told him Hamlet had killed Polonius. Laertes swore to kill Hamlet because of this, and because his sister Ophelia, hearing her father had been killed by the man she loved, went mad and drowned in the river.”

“Have you already forgotten what we told you?” The old man was reproachful. “One cannot take vengeance on a madman; Hamlet killed Polonius in his madness. As for the girl, she not only went mad, she was drowned. Only witches can make people drown. Water itself can’t hurt anything. It is merely something one drinks and bathes in.”

I began to get cross. “If you don’t like the story, I’ll stop.”

The old man made soothing noises and himself poured me some more beer. “You tell the story well, and we are listening. But it is clear that the elders of your country have never told you what the story really means. No, don’t interrupt! We believe you when you say your marriage customs are different, or your clothes and weapons. But people are the same everywhere; therefore, there are always witches and it is we, the elders, who know how witches work. We told you it was the great chief who wished to kill Hamlet, and now your own words have proved us right. Who were Ophelia’s male relatives?”

“There were only her father and her brother.” Hamlet was clearly out of my hands.

“There must have been many more; this also you must ask of your elders when you get back to your country. From what you tell us, since Polonius was dead, it must have been Laertes who killed Ophelia, although I do not see the reason for it.” We had emptied one pot of beer, and the old men argued the point with slightly tipsy interest. Finally one of them demanded of me, “What did the servant of Polonius say on his return?”

With difficulty I recollected Reynaldo and his mission. “I don’t think he did return before Polonius was killed.”

“Listen,” said the elder, “and I will tell you how it was and how your story will go, then you may tell me if I am right. Polonius knew his son would get into trouble, and so he did. He had many fines to pay for fighting, and debts from gambling. But he had only two ways of getting money quickly. One was to marry off his sister at once, but it is difficult to find a man who will marry a woman desired by the son of a chief. For if the chief’s heir commits adultery with your wife, what can you do? Only a fool calls a case against a man who will someday be his judge. Therefore Laertes had to take the second way: he killed his sister by witchcraft, drowning her so he could secretly sell her body to the witches.”

I raised an objection. “They found her body and buried it. Indeed Laertes jumped into the grave to see his sister once more—so, you see, the body was truly there. Hamlet, who had just come back, jumped in after him.”

“What did I tell you?” The elder appealed to the others. “Laertes was up to no good with his sister’s body. Hamlet prevented him, because the chief’s heir, like a chief, does not wish any other man to grow rich and powerful. Laertes would be angry, because he would have killed his sister without benefit to himself. In our country he would try to kill Hamlet for that reason. Is this not what happened?”

“More or less,” I admitted. “When the great chief found Hamlet was still alive, he encouraged Laertes to try to kill Hamlet and arranged a fight with machetes between them. In the fight both the young men were wounded to death. Hamlet’s mother drank the poisoned beer that the chief meant for Hamlet in case he won the fight. When he saw his mother die of poison, Hamlet, dying, managed to kill his father’s brother with his machete.”

“You see, I was right!” exclaimed the elder.

“That was a very good story,” added the old man, “and you told it with very few mistakes.” There was just one more error, at the very end. The poison Hamlet’s mother drank was obviously meant for the survivor of the fight, whichever it was. If Laertes had won, the great chief would have poisoned him, for no one would know that he arranged Hamlet’s death. Then, too, he need not fear Laertes’ witchcraft; it takes a strong heart to kill one’s only sister by witchcraft.

“Sometime,” concluded the old man, gathering his ragged toga about him, “you must tell us some more stories of your country. We, who are elders, will instruct you in their true meaning, so that when you return to your own land your elders will see that you have not been sitting in the bush, but among those who know things and who have taught you wisdom.”