Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Emotional Byproducts of a Yes Vote on Prop 102

Dear Thoughtful, Emotional Fans,

My last entry encouraged everybody in Arizona to vote yes on Proposition 102, a proposition that would make it clear that same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. I stick by my convictions. I'm going to vote yes on prop 102.

But let's stop and think about what we're actually saying when we vote yes on 102. How will a yes vote affect our friends? How do we simutaneously tolerate homosexuals and prevent them from marrying?

I've given these questions a lot of thought, mostly because in my studies at college, in the theatre department, I've delevoped friendships with homosexuals. So homosexuality has become a very real subject to me, unlike, say dragons and Eskimos.

After a lot of thought, I wrote one of my homosexual friends the following letter: (names have been omitted/altered.)

Dear JS,

Hi, this is Telemoonfa. Remember me?

I looked up your address on the NAU search thing so I could mail you this letter. I hope you don’t mind. I wanted to mail you a letter rather than email you a letter.

I’m writing you this letter because I’ve been thinking about you lately, mostly because of recent political developments. But first, we haven’t talked for a while, so some small talk is in order.

How are you doing? Are things going well? I saw your name on the brochure for the 2009-2009 NAU theatre season. Looks like you’re directing a play. That’s awesome! Congratulations. I enjoyed your work in Directing One and in Directing Two, so I bet your next directing effort will be solid as well.

I haven’t seen you lately, but from I know of your personality, I assume you’re keeping yourself busy in the theatre department with classes, rehearsals, clubs, activities and etc.

As for me, I’m doing pretty well. I’m still here at NAU, and probably will be until the spring of 2010. I’m a graduate student in the English department now. I actually teach English 105 and JM, a freshman theatre major in Twelfth Night, is in my class. My wife works as a teller at Wells Fargo. I have a part time job in a warehouse, too, so I’m pretty busy these days.

But I miss the theatre department. (Well, I miss acting; I don’t necessarily miss the NAU theatre department.) I miss being in plays and rubbing elbows with creative theatre people. I miss the thrill of being before an audience, under those stage lights.

I don’t miss theatre with an unbearable ache, though. Maybe being a teacher is satisfying my self-centered desire to act in front of people, because I get to stand up and perform in the classroom when I teach English 105. Or maybe I’m growing out of the acting phase of my life. (I’m being dramatic. It’s not like I’ve been uninvolved in theatre for years. It’s only really been five months.)

How much I miss being personally involved in theatre is questionable, but my love for theatre is certain. There’s a certain spirit in the creation of plays that I have found nowhere else, and a certain camaraderie develops among cast mates that is unlike any other type of camaraderie I’ve come across. It’s interesting; I’ve gotten to know more people better in the theatre department than in the English department, even though I’ve taken more English classes here than theatre classes. In fact, the only club I’ve been a part of in college, with any significant amount of my participation, has been ETC, the Educational Theatre Company.

Sometimes around campus I run into people from the theatre department and chat. I can go over to the Performing and Fine Arts building now, and run into some of the same people I remember from plays and classes and such. Next year, though, I’ll recognize fewer people in the theatre department. And the year after that, I’ll recognize even fewer people. Finally, in a decade or two, the whole building will be remodeled, and the current theatre students, the familiar people we now associate with, will be replaced by an entirely alien group of theatre students. Those future students will have stranger voices and stranger faces and stranger bodies. Maybe, in a decade or two, some of the familiar faculty will remain, but maybe not. The point is, in a few decades, I’ll be a foreigner to everyone in the NAU theatre department.

OK, now on to why I was motivated to write this letter to you. This is a touchy subject, but for some reason I really feel like broaching it. I’ve recently become involved in a political group that supports proposition 102, a proposition on this upcoming November ballot. Have you heard about this proposition? The proposition is trying to add an amendment to the Arizona State Constitution that would read, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”

I thought of you because you're the homosexual I know the best, and I consider you a friend.
I said I’ve recently become involved in a political group supporting 102. To be more specific, I’ve made lots of phone calls telling people about prop 102, asking them if they are registered to vote in Coconino County and asking them if they would like to have an early ballot mailed to them. I’m not sure how much I’ll do with this political group, but soon I might actually be sitting at a booth in the mall or maybe downtown, informing people about prop 102 and encouraging them to vote for it. I’ve imagined what it would be like if you happened to come to the mall and saw me sitting there, at a pro- prop. 102 booth. Would you think I was a traitor?

Would you be shocked to see me openly opposing gay marriage, a cause that is so dear to you?
But you knew what my beliefs were all the time, didn’t you? All the time when we were in classes together, and in Rhinoceros together, and in ETC together, you knew what my beliefs were. I know you are familiar enough with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to know its position on homosexuality. And you knew that I was and still am a devout member of the LDS faith. And so, sadly, this issue divides us.

I feel like broaching this subject because I’m tired of small talk. I love small talk, but there’s comes a time when it needs to be replaced by more important things. I feel like my emotional life has suffered because I have declined to get past small talk. In fact, maybe I’ve had trouble developing and maintaining meaningful friendships because I’m so emotionally unavailable. Or maybe I’m intellectually detached.

I often withhold my inner thoughts because my inner thoughts aren’t polite or safe. I remember some advice that my father gave to me before I started my first job. He said something like, “There’s two things that you should never talk about at work: religion and politics.” That’s good advice really. Following that advice prevents confrontations in the workplace, but I feel like if people never talk about anything that might be offensive, that creates a whole new set of problems.

I remember one time in particular, backstage, JH brought up homosexuality, and he read or quoted from the Bible a passage basically saying that God disapproved of homosexuality. It got kind of quiet in the dressing room, and then MA, on the costume crew, said “Let’s not talk about religion backstage.”

At that moment, I thought, but did not say, “Why can’t we talk about religion backstage?” In my view, religion is one of the most important subjects in the world; religion has largely shaped history, and religion answers the terrible question people have wrestled with for ages: what happens after death? So, what could be more important than religion? Why couldn’t we talk about religion backstage? Were we avoiding religion because we weren’t mature enough to discuss it? Were we avoiding a fight?

There we were in the dressing room talking trivially about pop culture, the play, gossip, whatever, and that was all fine, but somebody mentions religion and the room gets quiet and people are afraid to talk.

So, I’m writing this letter because I want to talk to you about it. (And writing about things helps me to sort out my own thoughts and feelings.)

I’ve wanted to talk with you about homosexuality before. Once when I saw you and AC kissing in the lobby of the Studio Theater, part of me wanted to say, “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve seen two men romantically kissing each other.” But I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything. I was polite. I stayed silent.

Sometimes I’ve wanted to ask you, “What’s it like to be homosexual?” But the right moment for that discussion never seemed to come up.

Gosh, this is so hard…

I tolerate you; I tolerate the homosexual lifestyle. Please understand that this letter is not hate speech. Please understand that my moral and political stance on the homosexual issue is not one borne of hate or intolerance. (And by the way, for what it’s worth, some of my favorite artists, in theatre, literature, and music, are homosexual.) But, JS, the bottom line is, I don’t think that homosexuals should be able to marry the way that heterosexuals can marry.

Why? It all comes from my religion, from the wisdom of my forebears, and from my own thoughts and life-experiences. Please understand that my stance on homosexuality isn’t a thoughtless, careless opinion. It’s an opinion I’ve thought about heavily. I won’t go in doctrine now. You can look up my Church’s official stance and commentary if you so desire.

But I have to man up to what my stance is. I feel a responsibility to own up to what I’m doing. I realize that when I’m promoting proposition 102, I’m not just offending the abstract idea of homosexuality out there somewhere; I’m offending my friend, JS, a living, breathing person.

Please understand that I would regard myself as a hypocrite if I pretended to endorse homosexuality in social settings and then voted yes on 102. Wouldn’t it be deceitful if I, say, acted overjoyed when somebody came out of the closet, or if I acted ecstatic when a homosexual couple started going steady, and then voted yes on 102?

I despise hypocrisy. That’s why I’m writing you this letter. I feel as though telling you how I feel about homosexuality is a step towards owning up to my positions- and a step towards becoming an honest man.

I feel a responsibility to talk to you personally. Instead of creeping around, hoping that I don’t run into any of my homosexual friends when I’m out promoting proposition 102, I feel like it’s the right thing to inform you personally and up front about my recent political undertakings.
After all, I consider you a friend, and I think you ought to know my stance on homosexuality and on proposition 102.

I’d like to hear what you have to say in response to this letter, if you have the time or inclination to respond.

I look forward to seeing all the NAU plays this year, and I wish you success in all your endeavors. Thanks very much for your time and I’ll see you around.



Yes on 102

Dear Fans,

On November 4th, 2008, Arizona will be voting on proposition 102, a proposition trying to protecting traditional marriage. It seeks to add an amendment to the Arizona State Constitution that would say, "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."

I support this propostion for a few different reasons, but here's a couple of them:

I am of the opinion that there has been too much loosey-goosey interpretation of Constitutions by Supreme Court justices at both the federal and state level. A good example is Roe vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. The decision didn’t merely say that abortion was now legal, but that abortion was a constitutional right. In other words, the Justices that heard the case of Roe vs. Wade ruled that it was unconstitutional to refuse a woman an abortion.

This monumental decision about abortion didn’t come through the legislative branch of the government at all. The American people didn’t vote for it. Not even a hundred people voted for it. Rather, a handful of Supreme Court Justices suddenly discovered that there had been a right to abortion in the United States Constitution all along, and abortion became legal across the nation.

Curioser and curioser.

Isn’t law-making supposed to be left up to the legislative branch of the government, not the judicial branch? Aren’t the American people, all the millions of them, supposed to vote on the laws they are to be governed by?

I understand the need for lawyers and judges, people to interpret the law. It would neither be feasible nor logistically possible to have the entire American population vote on every tiny case, every area of unclear legislation, etc. etc. etc.

But the American people ought to be consulted on huge issues as much as is possible.

Furthermore, the laws and the Constitution shouldn’t be so confusing and mystical that average people can’t understand them. In my view, if the federal and state constitutions are so fuzzy, we ought to add tons of amendments, very clearly worded, straightforward amendments, so that supreme court justices won’t have to scratch their heads and wrinkle their brows when they’re trying to figure out what the drafters of constitutions meant when they wrote the things so long ago. Clearly worded, straightforward amendments will also help prevent judges with radical political agendas from “legislating from the bench.”

What I like so much about proposition 102 is its clarity. It seeks to add a clearly worded, straightforward amendment to the constitution, so we don’t have to wonder anymore about what the state constitution says about gay marriage.

(Because in my opinion, the Arizona Constitution doesn’t say anything about gay marriage. Kind of like how the U.S. Constitution doesn’t say anything about abortion. Homosexual marriage and abortion, in my opinion, were things that just never crossed the Framer’s minds when they wrote the constitution. They were too busy arguing and compromising on establishing a military, establishing the three branches of government, the manner of election, the manner of law-making, taxes, post-offices, the Bill of Rights, voting rights, and other stuff like that. )

Oh, and here’s big news: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has officially endorsed proposition 102, a rare move for the normally politically neutral religious organization.

Bottom line: I'm going to vote yes on proposition 102 and you should too.

And I don't take telling people how to vote lightly. I don't normally don't go around telling people how they ought to vote. But this issue seems important enough for the Church to take a stand on, and uh... I think you ought to vote yes on proposition 102 this November. Thanks.

(By the way, speaking of unconstitutionality, I think Northern Arizona University is doing something that’s unconstitutional, and if I weren’t busy with homework and busy with this blog, I’d sue NAU. Here’s what they’re doing: They’re building that big expensive health/wellness/recreation center, and the students are paying for it in fees. See, the Arizona State Constitution says that higher education in Arizona “shall be as affordable as possible.” I argue that the new health/wellness/recreation center is not a necessary part of higher education. It’s more like a luxurious amenity, and so making every NAU student pay for it is unconstitutional.)

Boy, if I ran a college or if I ran the country, things would be a lot different- I’ll tell you what.

Vote yes on Prop. 102!


Monday, September 8, 2008

A Sonnet Committed to My Memory

Here's a little paper I wrote for school recently.

A Sonnet Committed to My Memory

There was no single moment when I suddenly realized I wanted to devote much of my life to the study and teaching of English. My desire to study and teach English has come gradually, over several years and many different encounters with literature, both in and out of school. But one encounter with literature sticks out in my mind as being dramatic.

It was a few years back, late at night, in my apartment, and I was browsing through an anthology of American literature. Somewhere near the end of the book, a poem caught my eye: “Love Is Not All: It Is Not Meat Nor Drink” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I read the poem, then read it again slowly, and then read it again out loud.

It was a beautiful poem. A romantic poem. A life-affirming poem. A poem that evoked my emotions and my intellect.

I thought about the form and the content of the sonnet. Millay certainly had craftiness. Her word selection and her skill in fulfilling the strict requirements of the sonnet form, with its rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter, was to be admired.

But the content of the poem was also striking. That night, as I re-read the poem, each time gaining a little more insight, I tried to get at the meaning of the poem, without limiting it down to a single interpretation. Each line, each image was subject to my critical examination. And the more I probed, the more satisfaction I received from the sonnet. To put it simply, the more I thought about the poem, the more I liked it.

In particular, I thought about the lines, “I might be driven to sell your love for peace,/ or trade the memory of this night for food.” What an interesting scenario Millay has imagined: trading love for food. I tried to think of a time when somebody would have to exchange romance for sustenance. After some thought, I realized that many people have actually made such transactions. For example, people have been compelled to quit the theatre to join the military, and people have abandoned their goals to get the job with the bigger paycheck.

I could go on about how the poem impacted me and how brilliant and meaningful I think “Love Is Not All: It Is Not Meat Nor Drink” is, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed it so much that I decided to immediately memorize it. I stayed up later than usual, repeating the words of the poem out loud to myself until I could say them all without looking down at the page. And I’m happy to say that, to this day, I can still recite the sonnet from memory.

That moment wasn’t a turning point in my education or in my career plans, but it was one moment among many that have solidified my determination to further my study of English.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Hewlett Packard Laser Jet 1100

Hugh Let Pack Guard Lay Sir Jet 1000

Hue Lit Snack Garter Lace Seer Jig 900



It’s a stranger’s name to you,
an entry in an index you won’t use,
eight letters that strut across
the page, sounds that sing their
only song- one time.

Thatcher: two impotent syllables,
conjuring no colors to your mind.

Unless, of course,
you were there.

In Thatcher,
with me,
squirming our toes
into the cold
sand at the park across
from the gas station-
February, 2004.

Photograph of Me as a Boy

I was fat then.
Not well-rounded,
not hearty-

There I am photographed:
hefty-sized pants,
extra-large t-shirt,
empty potato-chip bag on the floor.

Alone, I hold the picture,
confronting it as I confront
all unpleasantness:
with tightening throat,
and silence.

Beneath the shirt is
a bulging, ashamed stomach.

Mother was the
photographer. Mother,
who must have felt my puberty
hadn’t been documented properly.

Mother entered my bedroom
with her new camera, a Christmas gift.
I adjusted my shirt, looked up, posing,
and Mother snapped.

Chomp Goosh Ka-pow!

A tyrannosaurus rex
chomped off the head of a grizzly bear
just for fun and swallowed it
and the bear’s mangled neck squirted
out a fountain of blood
and there was blood all over the place
but the T-Rex didn’t care because
he just stuck his claws out and roared,
“Kor-rath sublitt!”
which, being interpreted, is
“Presently I feel an enjoyable emotion.”
and the bear’s body was on the ground
shaking all over the place
and the blood was still squirting
out everywhere and then out of nowhere the
bear’s head inside the dinosaur’s stomach
barfed and the puke went everywhere
but the T-Rex didn’t care because
he just reached inside his own mouth
and pulled out the grizzly bear head
and threw it into a volcano
that just erupted out of nowhere
but the T-Rex didn’t care because
the tyrannosaurus rex could withstand
lava and so he said
which, being interpreted, is
“The exploding volcano doesn’t bother me

because I can withstand lava.”

I like people a little bit crazy

I like people a little bit crazy.
I like garbled speech,
disjointed thoughts, words skipping
like flat-sided stones on a pond,
a pinky that spins,
constant hand-rubbing,
angry invisible friends,
secrets they’ll tell you,
yellow teeth,
too much eyeliner.

Shrinks call it schizophrenic;
I just call it cool.

But I don’t like the homeless crazies,
the ones that want change,
or a place to stay.