In the second edition of the political column FULL STOP progressive NYC based TV host and journalist Jim Morrison welcomes a new TV season for his show For&Against on HereTV on his way back from Charlotte. And he decides to boycott Sochi.
You just got back from Charlotte – what feeling did you get from the democratic convention there? What were the hottest topics?
Honestly, I hate what these conventions have become. They’re scripted, choreographed productions made by Hollywood producers for mass consumption. I miss what seemed to be the case in the old days, when things actually happened and were decided. But I was actually struck by something, and it was hard to ignore. Not just the fact that in comparison to the Tampa GOP snooze-fest convention, which was a sea of white, angry straight old faces, the DNC was full of excitement and energy…not just that glaring fact. In Charlotte, LGBT people and our issues were, for once, not relegated to outside the convention, shouting our demands from behind the barricades. This time, just about EVERY speaker made mention of LGBT people and our rights. And it wasn’t just people talking ABOUT LGBT issues, there were LGBT speakers: Jared Polis, Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank. And both Michelle Obama and President Obama made LGBT issues important parts of their speeches. Being out on the streets is certainly fun, but it’s hard to beat being included in the conversation. And that was, indeed, pretty moving, and awesome. And there’s even more: This year there were something like 486 actual LGBT delegates….voting participants in the process and the issues. There were even something like 12 or 14 Trans delegates, and I talked to a few of them. I can guarantee you that that didn’t happen at the GOP American Taliban convention in Tampa. While walking around the floor interviewing people I couldn’t believe how when I mentioned I was the host of an LGBT political show how people lit up when they heard that. My gayness made me some kind of cool superstar with people. I wasn’t sure if I liked it or hated it. Sometimes it’s more sexy to be the despised outsider, right?
There was one maddening moment: That was when they added “god” and “Jerusalem as the recognized capital of Israel” as part of the party 2012 platform. They took this vote at the very beginning of the second day’s events, when not all the delegates were in the hall. Mayor Villaragossa had to take the voice vote three times because the “nays” were clearly louder. It was sad for a number of reasons: 1. “God” has no place in our politics. 2. The United States, along with the vast majority of the world does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; our embassy is in Tel Aviv. This is, and has been, official US policy. This was simply a political reaction to griping by the Republicans about Democrats not caring about god and “throwing Israel under the bus.” It was total BS and didn’t need to happen. It was the darkest and lowest point of the convention. That night I went outside the barricades to interview Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein….an awesome awesome woman. It made me feel a little better.
The Pussy Riot case proved not controversial enough to provoke a strong official international reaction – Is Putin ever going to end his dictatorship over Russia?
I’ve been talking about Russia off and on, in my show, mostly in the “For & Against” list for the past year. It was both frustrating to me, as you say that the Pussy Riot case didn’t get more attention. But even more, that the issues that have been happening there for the better part of the last two years haven’t gotten as much attention as even the Pussy Riot case. The level of anti-Lgbt violence and state-sanctioned hate, discrimination and harsh legislation has been been part of a pattern of which the Pussy Riot case is merely one sadly typical chapter. And hearing people talk about Pussy Riot as the first thing on their radar vis-à-vis Russia was frustrating, but at least felt like finally people were going to start paying attention… The anti-gay St. Petersburg law, anti-gay court rulings in Moscow about permits for gay events/marches, images of police attacking LGBT marchers, banning a “pride house” at Sochi…and on and on and on. The US boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of the invasion of Afghanistan. I’m not gonna re-litigate that right now….well maybe I will a little, because I’m a nerd. I don’t think countries should invade other countries as a general rule. But at the risk of oversimplifying Soviet history and foreign policy, a topic I studied at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown (and a country I actually visited when I was 15 or 16 in the late 1980’s just before the fall) I will say that the government the Soviets were trying to prop-up, while a puppet, client-state, was far more liberal, pro-women and human rights than both the Mujahadeen warlords we supported in ousting the Soviets, and the Taliban that eventually ended up in power and provided the base for Al Qaeda. So, so much of what we’re dealing with now is blowback from Afghanistan. All I’m saying is, too bad the Soviets didn’t actually work it out there; things would have ended up a lot different. Ok back to my point. We boycotted the Soviets over Afghanistan…and probably shouldn’t have…so why not boycott Sochi over what have been clear violent and legislative attacks on people and their human rights in Russia?
Should we really care about Anderson Cooper coming out or is he better off without our attention?
I kind of think this was pretty lame. Full disclosure: I know Anderson. Not well anymore; I havent talked with him in about two years. But I like the guy. He’s smart, funny, and on the whole does great things. But I just fee like “ok, enough.” It’s just starting to smell like PR bullshit now. So now being gay is a boost to someone’s cool-factor? This is the danger of TOO MUCH ASSIMILATION. The danger when we focus too much energy on fighting to gain full admission to all the heteronormative stuff that has literally made this world a crappier place for centuries. I’m all for fighting for marriage equality, even if I have no interest in getting married. I’ll fight for it, and stand with anyone who demands his or her Constitutional rights. Full stop.
But just like Afghanistan, there’s blowback here too. And Anderson actually provides a good example. There was a big facebook/internet blowup about Anderson’s boyfriend getting photographed kissing some guy. I cant tell you how many posts I read that went something like this “Oh poor Anderson. That boyfriend of his is total scum. Kick him to the curb” and on and on and on. You get the idea. But here’s the problem: What the fuck do you or any of us know about his relationship? What exactly is “cheating”? Who are you or we to define that for anyone else but our own relationships? Maybe that guy was someone they both had three-ways with. Maybe Anderson set up the date because it gets him off. Who-the-fuck-knows. The whole point of “our” Queer critique is that there are no rules…or at least it’s worth challenging the set of hetero rules that have been pushing us down and making the world a pretty repressive….and less sexy…place. My point about blowback is that this is what happens when we want to so badly to gain admission to the hetero institutions that suddenly we start sounding and behaving just like them. And before we know it we’ve lost what I think makes us special and important as a force for change and critique. What’s next? Gay pro-life cathlolics in favor of wars of choice in the middle east and across the board tax cuts. Oh wait isn’t that Andrew Sullivan? I think he “broke” Anderson’s original coming out piece. Hmmm.
30 Rock is entering its last season this year. What shows are making you laugh?
I’m looking forward to new Arrested Development stuff that’s supposed to be coming out sometime soon. Probably the funniest show ever (probably a tie with Mr Show with Bob and David, an HBO show from the 1990’s….look it up). I’m hoping VEEP on HBO will have another season, totally funny.
What is getting better?
My friend Tony is getting better. Tony broke his ankle in three places and I’m going to feature his story on my show. He doesn’t have health insurance and needed surgery. Total price is over $15,000. Tony isn’t poor, but he isnt rich. He lives in NYC, works really hard and spends almost all his money on rent and food. People who don’t have insurance just have no idea how much this stuff costs, the scam that the hospitals and the insurance companies have going, at all of our expense. And people who don’t have insurance because they simply cant afford it and make TOO MUCH to get public free healthcare plans end up being financially destroyed when something like this happens to them. The first hospital where his surgery was scheduled demanded he pay $16,000 up front. They basically told him tough shit and hung up on him. Luckily his awesome doctor agreed to reduce HER fee by half and found another hospital to take $2000 up front and bill him later for the rest. Our system in this country is completely broken and too many people who get their insurance through their jobs have no idea how bad it is. The plan that Obama put through, will make things slightly better, but sadly not in any real, systemic way. And that’s a tragic shame. And people need to wake up. Stay tuned.