Thursday, December 01, 2005


Open Letter to Steve Westly

Dear Mr. Westly,

You started out so well.

I didn't know much about you, other the fact that you are a Democrat and independently wealthy. That independent part appealed to me.

I thought to myself, "Hey, here's someone who has a good track record in business, isn't beholden to money interests, and seems to be right there with me on social issues."

Your early ads on TV were positive and told me about your capabilities. Positive and upbeat, I liked what I was hearing.

A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me whom I was going to support in the primary and my initial response was "Westly." "He's new, he's fresh and he's running a positive campaign."

That's not to say that I don't like Phil Angelides. I do. I've watched him over the years and feel as though he's been a competent "work horse" on behalf of the Democratic Party and the values I hold dear.

This morning, after being bombarded yet again by your attack ads telling me what an awful politician Mr. Angelides is, I finally decided that I have had enough.

I thought you were different. Sadly, you're not. You're campaign has just become another exercise in negativity and I'm sick of it!

I'm tired of hearing about "what's wrong with the other guy."

I already know that positive and affirming political campaigns are not only possible, but can yield a win for the individual who wages such a campaign. When Supervisor Bevan Dufty first ran for his office here in San Francisco, he never once descended into negative advertising or accusations leveled at his opponents. His was a clean and positive campaign. His consistent message was "I'm the better candidate and here's why."

If you and your supporters really believe that you're the better candidate, then tell me why. I'm tired of campaigns that attempt to tear down the opponent in hopes of seeming to appear better of the candidates. It doesn't work with me.

Sorry, Mr. Westly, but the only positive thing I'm finding in your campaign now is your first name.
© Stephen Schwichow
E-Letter to Arnold re: AB00849

The purpose of representative government is to give to one's representatives the responsibility for doing the right thing, studying the issues and looking to the common long-term good. Our system is being perverted by those who vote for the sake of expediency, not for the long-term common weal. Never forget, Hitler was voted in democratically, saying what the people wanted to hear and doing what the majority wanted. It didn't make it right; it simply made it popular. And, as an Austrian, you – of all people – know what the consequences were for millions of people who were considered second-class citizens by the majority. Do the right thing, governor. Allow AB00849 to become law and allow all citizens of California to be treated equally.
© Stephen Schwichow
Open Letter to Senator Boxer & Congresswoman Pelosi
September 6, 2005
Dear Senator Boxer and Congresswoman Pelosi,

Thank you for your consistent, strong and vocal leadership for all Californians.

As I watch the catastrophe in New Orleans unfolding tears well into my eyes at the sights of a tragedy on a scale I never thought to see in my own country. I spent some time in Africa a few years ago and never thought that I would live to see similar sights at home.

I’m well aware of the possibility of a catastrophic earthquake here in California and, having lived in Sacramento for nearly twenty years, I know from personal experience the fear engendered by the possibility of the failure of levees.

While nothing can be done about hurricanes, the destruction and loss of life in New Orleans could have been, if not averted, at the least mitigated by a government leadership that cared more about the safety of its own citizen than waging a war in Iraq, which war was based on lies and deception from the beginning.

The amount of money we are told that needs to be spent on “homeland security” becomes ludicrous when seeing just how ill equipped and inept our so-called “Homeland Security” is in the face of a real disaster in our homeland.

I feel that it is my money being thrown down a black hole built by George Bush and his rich cronies. I don’t believe that the California National Guard has any business being in Iraq, when we might have need of them right here in California.

The head of FEMA should be sent back to his horse farm and George W. Bush should be impeached for incompetence. Were this a Parliamentary democracy, this government would receive a vote of “no confidence” and the bunch of them would be sent packing, back to their safe, warm, dry mansions.

I have the greatest respect for both of you. I voted for both of you and I am thankful for your respective leaderships and am proud of your respective accomplishments. However, I do have a deep sense of anger and shame at my Democratic Party in general. All I seem to see is hand-wringing and “woe is me”-ing. It’s been said: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” And that seems to be the Democratic Party song from the time Bush took office.

For too long the majority of democrats in Congress have played nicey-nice, not rocking the boat. Heaven forbid we “tell it like it is.” Someone might accuse us of being UN-American. To be perfectly blunt, it seems to me that the only Democrats in congress with any “cajones” are the women – specifically both of you.

I’m tired of supporting a party that plays second fiddle to a disaster on two feet called George W. Bush. It’s time to take off the gloves and tell the American people the truth. Not that the Emperor has no clothes, but something much worse.

The president has no heart and no brain and couldn’t lead this country out of a paper bag open at both ends. This modern Nero needs to go back to Crawford where he keeps his fiddle and play it there while the rest of us put out all the fires that he has started!

Keep the faith and keep up the good work. I am “mad as hell” and I want you to pass that on to the Republicans!

In hope of a brighter future,

© Stephen Schwichow

My Early Assessment of the Election
Looking at the red and the blue - it seems to me that those parts of the country that look outward and have a more international perspective went for Kerry. Those that look inward and are white, white, white voted Bush.
Fear, hate and self-interest prevailed over acceptance of difference, loving one's neighbor and accepting that we all are connected in subtle and unseen ways to each other.
Believe it or not, I've actually got a gay coworker whose partner is Republican and voted for Bush. Talk about Jews for Hitler! The narrow-minded Red South and Center will ensure that more fundamentalist "values" will encroach on our courts and, I fear, the Constitution.
If we thought this country was divided before, we ain't seen nothin’ yet! The way I'm feeling right now, I've pretty much decided that I will not be going to the UUA's General Assembly in Fort Worth in June, 2005. Not one penny of my money will go to the coffers of any state where I'm not welcome, as in the words of the Negro Spiritual, "just as I am.”
I guess we'd best all fasten our seatbelts, the guaranteed continuing degradation of the environment and the increasing international isolation we're about to suffer, are going to ensure a bumpy ride.
During the last election, people outside the U.S. could look at the results and say that they didn't like our government, but made the distinction between the Bush administration and the people. Most folks outside the U.S. believe he stole the election.
This time, that won't work. Bush's majority of the vote, I'm afraid, will change that separation to one of enmity for Americans in general.
I highly recommend that we all buy Maple Leaf patches to wear when traveling outside the U.S. The Stars and Stripes are going to be very unwelcome in a lot of places. Primary among those places will be the European Union.
This morning, I’m proud to be a Californian (and a former Pennsylvanian), despite some of the initiatives that were passed and defeated. Based on what happened to me in Texas many years ago, if nothing else, this election shows me where I am, and am not, welcome.
I’m not depressed by nature, but I’m really depressed this morning.
I better stop. I'm starting to rummage around for a razor blade ;-)

© Stephen Schwichow

Hypocrite Exposed

During the Republican convention, a conversation with a coworker led me to write down my thoughts and fears. Yet another conversation yesterday afternoon with that same coworker, and supporter of the Republican Party, has prompted me once again to write down my thoughts.

In trying to understand the political temperament I see in this country, I went to a website having to do with Hitler’s rise to power. In my previous essay I mentioned the fact that there must certainly have been good-hearted Germans who voted for Hitler, ignoring or trivializing the agenda he had laid out in “Mein Kampf,” i.e.; that he would cleanse Germany and the world of those he considered inferior, including homosexuals gypsies and, believe it or not, Jehovah’s Witnesses. For their part, many of the people that supported Hitler simply wanted to restore their country’s national integrity and reverse the terrible economic problems they were suffering.

I found in my research some specifically enumerated points about how Hitler had appealed to specific segments of the population with specific “hot button” issues, thus assuring that those groups would support him. At the same time that he promised unity, prosperity and nationalism, while denigrating minority populations, accusing them of attempting to destroy the national ethos.

While Bush may not be openly calling for the deaths of minority segments of our country’s citizens, he and his party’s platform have most certainly fanned the flames of bigotry (and thus violence) against BGILT people. Especially through his rhetoric and his support for a constitutional amendment to codify second-class citizenship for BGLT Americans.

I definitely found parallels between the Republican Party of George W. Bush and the National Socialist Party of Adolf Hitler. The parties may be different but the methodologies are similar in many respects.

In my conversation with my coworker I mentioned the fact that two dear friends of mine were forced to leave the United States in order to stay together, because of our unfair marriage laws.

Dave, a U.S. citizen, and Guillermo, a Spanish citizen, had met in Spain in 1988, fell immediately in love and began a committed relationship. For 6 years that tried to stay together, continuously enduring visa problems with the conservative Spanish government.

In 1994, after hearing about the possibility of legal, same-sex marriage in Hawai’i, they decided to come to the United States, hoping to at last have legal recognition for their relationship, including the right for Guellermo to stay in the U.S. as the spouse of an American citizen – the same right enjoyed by bi-national heterosexual couples.

With the terrorist attacks of 9/11 everything changed and Guellermo, a Basque Spaniard, had his visa renewal request rejected and my friends were faced with being separated, after 15 years together or leaving the United States. They chose to stand on the side of love and in 2002 they left the United States, emigrating to England, where Guellermo, a citizen of the European Union, had the right to both settle and bring with him his same-sex spouse, Dave, who received a permanent residence visa.

Back to my coworker, who then made a remark about the fact that, of course, Guellermo couldn’t stay with Dave – they weren’t married. The fact that these two loving individuals were being forced by discriminatory laws to have to chose between their love for each other and the inhumane laws of this country had no meaning what-so-ever for her.

She joked that allowing BGLT people the right to legally marry, and receive all the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexuals, would open a can of worms. Sarcastically, she said that she could then just say that she and her sister were “having sex and should be allowed to marry.” After all, they’ve “been living together for 10 years.”

This remark abruptly ended our conversation. I don’t know whether or not her remarks were meant to be trivializing and demeaning of loving and committed BGLT couples but this I do know. I felt that her remarks specifically demeaned, trivialized and denigrated my dear friends and made fun of what they have been forced to go through because the president and government she supports have shown themselves to be hateful and mean-spirited.

Today she got on the same elevator as I and asked me how I was. I told her that I, quite honestly, I had found her remarks to be demeaning, denigrating and trivializing of BGILT people.

Her response was to turn red, stomp out of the elevator and yell: “I don’t want my government doing things for you people.” If nothing else, I’ve exposed yet another hypocrite in Republican clothing.

© Stephen Schwichow

2004 Republican National Convention

My conversation with a coworker, who is unabashedly Republican, coupled with hearing the religious invocations at the Republican convention, calling Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter a hedonist and comparing those who are supportive of BGLT people as being like those who supported Hitler during the lead up to the Second World War, have led me to put my thoughts on paper.

I’ve wrestled with this hurt for quite a while. I’m not a violent person, even though I’ve had violence directed against me and I’m not one who wants to hold onto negativity or be attached to “being in the right,” but I do have to express myself in a way that is honest to my feelings. If you feel my musings are worth passing on, please feel free to do so.

There are Republicans floating around who have no idea just how hurtful the party they support is and intends to be. Just look at their party platform. Many of them actually have friends whom they know to be gay or lesbian. Perhaps hearing what I have to say may cause them to think twice about hurting someone they care about. I contend that every vote for Bush is a potential bullet in the heart of someone they may care deeply about.

As I listen to the Republican lies, one following another, being paraded before the American people at their convention, I despair. How can anyone buy such drivel?

When I ask myself the question: “Am I better off today than I was four years ago?“ My answer is a resounding “NO!”

Financially, I’m not seeing any salary increases yet I’m paying more for health care now. How can Dick Cheney say we have the best health care in the world when, according to the World Health Organization, the United States ranks 37th in national performance, behind not only most European nations and Japan, but also Chile, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.

Since Bush was appointed President, this so-called “Compassionate Conservative,” has supported and egged on the fundamentalists in their hatred of BGLT people and that, quite simply, means hatred of me. The simple fact is that the Bush-Cheney team is the most anti-gay administration in the history of the modern gay rights movement and it has actively opposed every major policy initiative from federal nondiscrimination laws, hate crimes laws, protection for families, and AIDS prevention and research, to name a few.

George W. Bush is not about compassion but rather fundamentalist ideology and to that end he has joined forces with the homophobes, who scapegoat BGLT people and their families in order to promote the broader Republican agenda based on religious fundamentalist hate.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, FBI statistics show an increase in reported hate crimes that are based on sexual orientation, perceived or known. Despite this, Bush and the GOP oppose hate crimes legislation. I feel that it’s not just opposition but, through their words and actions, encouragement to commit hate crimes.

What am I to think when Bush's appointments to the Faith-Based Advisory Committee makes derogatory comments about Jews and Muslims, while another member of the committee warns people about an alleged "homosexual invasion" and suggests quarantined cities for people with AIDS?

When I traveled to South Africa last October, for the first time in my life, I felt ashamed of being an American; seeing the suffering that didn’t need to be, had another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, been willing to even admit the existence of AIDS. I believe that we should be nearly a decade ahead of where we are now, were it not for Republican, religion-based hatred of homosexuals. And their “I got mine and you can go to hell” disdain for the poor is also based on their religious texts; the same texts they used to justify slavery! Living in an economy ravaged by Republicans, is it any wonder many poor, especially African American men, turned to drugs as their respite from the loss or non-existence of economic opportunity? Why should the Republicans care about AIDS, when those falling victim to this dreadful disease belong to hated subgroups, who deserve it anyway?

Are there good Republicans out there? Probably. Just as there are good Muslims who abhor the death being wrought on innocents by their homegrown fundamentalists. Sadly, threats, intimidation and fear of retaliation drive many people of good heart into a fearful silence. And as has been said: “Silence = Death.”

I believe there are other good-hearted people who identify as Republicans but they just don’t have a clue, or else they consciously refuse to face reality - a reality that wants to strip me of my rights and make me a second-class citizen.

The most difficult problem for me is the fact that I know people who support the Republican Party; people whom I otherwise consider good and decent. How can they do that?!?! How can they not care about me?!?! Don’t they understand that I am afraid?

I have experienced religion-based hatred first hand. I’m partially deaf in my left ear as a result of an attack I suffered years ago at the hands of three teenaged boys who identified as Christians doing their God’s work; i.e., not suffering a homosexual to live.

In considering these supporters of Bush, what I see are people who are like the good-hearted people of 1930’s Germany. They are willing to ignore their party’s social agenda for the sake of economics. As I watch my country slide slowly into social repression of minorities, I lose heart. How can they not care that their party wants to amend the Constitution of the United States, in order to take away and specifically disenfranchise a minority group of citizens? It happens to be a minority to which I belong. That hurts me on a deep and personal level.

Thomas Jefferson penned the words that “all men are created equal.” What he meant was that all white, land-owning men are created equal. We should never forget that he owned slaves. As for Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, he may have signed the “Emancipation Proclamation,” but he certainly didn’t consider the newly emancipated slaves as equal to whites. After all, he didn’t even consider women equal or worthy of being able to vote, and he ranked blacks below them. Thankfully, good ideas can ultimately be interpreted in order to bring about good outcomes, even when not intended, and thus lead to true growth and the inclusive spread of freedom. This time, I fear that a bad idea, based on hate and fear, may actually become a part of our constitution.

It makes me sad to see African Americans supporting Bush. They know first-hand the sting of prejudice, but I reserve my strongest anger and despair for BGLT people who represent and/or support the Republican Party and, by that support, its hateful Party Platform. I have no sympathy for the likes of “outed” politicians, like U.S. Rep. Edward L. Schrock, R-VA, or New Jersey Governor, James E. McGreevey. Both of them have worked to prevent or take away my rights as a citizen, while privately living their homosexual lives, hubristically believing their wealth and position will protect them.

To me, this is no different from Ernst Roehm and his Nazi SA troops who believed they would be safe because they had supported the rise of Adolf Hitler. During the Night of the Long Knives up to four hundred of them perished at the hands of SS troops. The reason? They were homosexuals. And before the war was over, hundreds of thousands of others would die in the concentration camps simply because they were known or suspected of being homosexual. The fact is that whether one was a rich or a poor homosexual, the ashes piled up in the Nazi crematoria looked exactly the same.

I will work as hard as I can to see the defeat of George W. Bush and his hateful agenda. I will not mince words with those people I know who tell me they are Republicans and plan to vote for George W. Bush. If anything I feel sorry for the fact that, should Bush win in the upcoming election, many of them, the basically decent ones, will end up looking in the mirror and seeing a dupe looking back, regretting their vote and deservedly so.

But more than that, while Republicans of good heart scoff at my fears and tell me “it couldn’t happen here,” I take the Republican Party platform seriously and will have to consider leaving this country, should my worst fears come to be.

To BGLT people I say, vote! And encourage others to do the same. It still is our democracy, despite the best efforts of the Republican Supreme Court. To those who are not gay, but have friends who are or if you are simply a caring person who believes in fair play and the American ideal of “equality for all,” vote!

And to those of you who vote Republican, I can only hope that my worst fears don’t come to pass, but if they should, I will see your hand on the knife that draws my blood, actual or metaphorical.

© Stephen Schwichow

First They Came for the Communists

"In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me--and by that time no one was left to speak up." - Martin Niemöller - (1892-1984)


The issue of full and equal personhood for LGBT people in the United States is, in my opinion, heading for the same culture clash that the Black Civil Rights movement found itself in back in the 1960's.

Where African Americans were beaten, lynched and denied equality under the law (separate but equal?) based on the amount of melatonin in their skin, we LGBT people, whether perceived by others or self-identified as such, are dismissed from their jobs, beaten, murdered and otherwise denied equal treatment under the law because of our sexual or affectional orientation.

In seeing what it took for African Americans to achieve at least legally defensible equality, I have no reason to believe that LGBT people will have any easier row to hoe.

Do I think self-identified Christians will commit acts of violence against those whom they believe to be endangering their attachment to being right? Absolutely. Don't forget, the Afrikaaner justification for actual slavery and then the factual slavery, and concomitant atrocities, of Apartheid were entirely justified by the Bible.

Did African Americans die at the hands of bigots? Yes, and so did non-African Americans who stood beside them because they believed it was the right thing to do.

Will LGBT people continue to be killed at the hands of bigots? Yes, and so will our heterosexual allies who choose to stand with us for the sake of what is right.

If there were ever a reason for "coming out of the closet" that reason is more pressing now than it ever was. And, if there were ever a reason for "outing" someone, unfortunately I feel that also is more urgent than ever. Sadly, I never thought I would have to hold such an opinion. However, I will no longer abide the likes of a Roy Cohn or a Terry Dolan.

In relation to AIDS the button said: Silence = Death. That is equally true of remaining silent in the face of bigotry and the persecution of any minority.

In 1990 Armistead Maupin was quoted in Australia's "Outrage:"
"I regard the greatest villains today to be those famous closet cases who are not being open about their lives. These people could make an enormous difference in enlightening the general public about the nature of homosexuality. And I'm tired of hearing their feeble excuses for why this isn't possible. It almost always boils down to money in the long run."

I think many of us will be faced with the possibility of violence and making the choice of staying in the United States or seeking asylum elsewhere.

© Stephen Schwichow

An Open Letter to

I would first like to say that I am neither a Christian, a Jew nor a Muslim. I am nearly 60 years old and for my entire adult life I have been Buddhist. A significant reason for my becoming Buddhist was the hypocrisy I continuously encountered as a child, growing up in a society which preached love, compassion, forgiveness and turning the other cheek, while continuously being inundated with the reality of bigotry, selfishness, vengefulness and retribution.

I have always tried to live the teachings of my religion and have spent years attempting to manifest those beliefs with the people I encounter. This can be seen in my participation in the anti-war movement in the U.S., my going to South Africa to work with women and orphaned children with AIDS and my efforts to forge inter-faith alliances here in the United States.

I have come to know so many kind and sincere people spanning all religious traditions who want nothing more than an end to the violence and the right to live together in peace. It hurts so deeply to see children having bombs strapped to them so that they can go and blow up other children. Imagine that those kids might actually have grown up friends were it not for their parents and the other adults around them who have taught them to hate.

I hear far too much rhetoric from each side saying they want peace but it's the "other guy's fault" that it can't happen. While the fingers are being pointed at the other guy, whose fault it always is, the environment around us is dying. As we kill ourselves we kill our world.

I know from my study of Islam and from my Islamic friends from Turkey, Jordan and, yes, Palestine, that Islam does not teach the killing of children. It does not condone the killing of any "innocent," whether an adult or a child. Why then is the Muslim world so silent in the face of children killing children? Where is the condemnation of the kidnapping of three Japanese citizens, whose only crime was in going to Iraq to help the suffering people?

There are many cases in the west of religious people offering themselves in exchange for an innocent whose life is being threatened. Where are the Muslims who abhor such barbarism done in the name of Allah? Why does no one speak up?

My heart weeps for all those innocents who are dying every day, in Iraq and elsewhere, all because men on both sides of the issue are so attached to being "right" that they are willing to send innocent kids out to die, just to prove that they are more "right" than the other guy.

Who, I ask you, in the Islamic tradition can help me to understand why there is an unwillingness to speak out against the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of Allah.

There is no dearth of religious people in the west who speak out and demonstrate against war and killing. Where are our Muslim brothers and sisters who are speaking out and demonstrating against the butchery being perpetratedin their names?


© Stephen Schwichow

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