Saturday, November 14, 2009


For the first time today, I saw a group of protesters in front of a shopping center in Shirley. It was damp and rainy, and they were there with American flags and signs that said "Take back our republic!", and "Honk for no new taxes." After just having written my little ode to the protesters, I have to admit that I still find it astonishing that these people are so up in arms over a thing like healthcare.

I don't want new taxes, of course. No one does! But compared to all of the awful things the Bushies did for the better part of this decade, I still don't understand why they weren't protesting then. George Bush inherited a surplus...he squandered it and put us into the heaviest debt we've ever seen. Obama comes in, and he's trying to fix it. I don't necessarily agree with all the decisions he's made so far, but it doesn't take only eleven months to fix such a problem.

"But, he's adding to it," you say.

Here's a surprise for you: I agree! Still, all of this pales in comparison to the many, many things Mr. Bush did that wasted way more money than Obama ever will. As a writer and a conscientious patriot, I feel a duty to add my voice to this discussion in the hopes that someone will see all this ruckus for what it is.

No, this is not Nazi Germany. What liberties are we losing? I could argue that I lost the freedom to take some toothpaste on an airplane with me in 2004. Teabaggers will argue, "well that was for your own protection!" Well, I say that mandating that everyone has health insurance carries the same mantra.

I need to think some more on this...

Where were you? : A question for today's protesters

Where were you?

Where were you when $9 billion vanished into thin air?

Where were you when $1.7 billion was paid to some friends to do some housekeeping in the desert?

When the paid mercenaries out-earned the boys and girls doing us proud?

Where were you?

Where were you when a big wind blew, and another $30 billion was given to the same friends, with only a fraction of it trickling down to make any sort of difference?

Where were you when $3 trillion, with a T, in taxes was given back to those who needed it least?

Where you one of them?

Maybe you were!

Do you remember?

It seems to me you've forgotten,

especially when I see you so angry,

carrying signs, making all that hateful noise

at the chance of spending only $1 trillion, with a T, going to a very worthy cause;

to give a chance at life and death relief to the millions who need it.

Is that so terrible?

I don't think so!

It all doesn't seem so terrible to me.

I just don't understand!

You say what we've got is a good thing,

that a clerk in a private company has more expertise than one that works for the government.

Funny... they're both our comrades.

You say it's a good thing when big companies earn their market shares

by doing whatever they have to to earn a profit,

squeezing and squeezing the common people to financial ruin and sometimes even death.

The truth is, they fear competition, from a worthy adversary,

one that just might force them to do what they're meant to do.

I'm not sure what you fear exactly.

Is that so terrible?

I don't think so!

It all doesn't seem so terrible to me.

I just don't understand!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Marcelo Lucero: One Year Later

One year ago , one of the most horrific hate crimes happened right here in the town where I live. On the night of November 8, 2008, a group of 7 teens embarked on an evening of "beaner hopping", which is what the defendants named their despicable hobby of going out and attacking Latinos. Late into their evening of terror, they came upon a couple of Ecuadorians making their way home from watching a movie at a friend's house.

The group immediately surrounded the two men and began to harass them, pushing them around and yelling racial epithets. Luckily, one of the two men was able to escape the assault, but the other, Marcelo Lucero, 38, was not as fortunate. Lucero was stabbed in the chest by Jeffrey Conroy, then 17 years of age and the only one to face murder charges, and later died of his wounds as the defendants made their escape.

Yesterday, one of the seven defendants in the case pleaded guilty to first degree gang assault and fourth degree conspiracy in connection with the murder. Nicholas Hausch, 18, of Medford, also pleaded guilty to second degree assault as a hate crime and second degree attempted assault in connection with an earlier attack that same day. He faces 5 to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced once the prosecution of the other defendants is complete, and he has agreed to cooperate with authorities in the cases against his co-conspirators.

Excerpts released by Newsday in connection with Hausch's statements reveal the mindsets of these young haters:

"We agreed to go to Patchogue knowing there were always Spanish guys walking around down there. We saw a Spanish guy walking on the street near a Jewish temple...We never caught the guy."

"We all got out of the SUV and began walking looking for Spanish guys to beat up. As we walked in a parking lot near a train station, we saw two guys and realized they were Beaners...the rest of us were popping off at them. Calling them Beaners."

"As I walked away, Jeff caught up to me first saying we gotta go. The others were still near the guy and Jeff yelled at them, 'Let's go.' As we all walked away, Jeff told us he stabbed the guy...We told Jeff to toss the knife, but he kept it. He said, "no, I washed it off in a puddle."

Violence is despicable in any form, but committing acts of brutality solely because another person belongs to a certain group is contemptible beyond words. Whether it's a Spanish person, an African American, or a gay person doesn't matter. To commit violence against another because of blind hate is the most heinous of crimes.

The cheerless anniversary will be marked this evening at 6PM, when a vigil takes place in Patchogue Village, at the spot where Mr. Lucero was brutally murdered. Lucero's mother and sister flew in from Ecuador to take part in the ceremony, to be presided over by individuals from various faiths.

This Wednesday, WLIW21, a local PBS station will air a documentary about the murder and it's after affects entitled "Running Wild - Hate and Immigration on Long Island." The film was produced by Tamara Bock and Angel Canales, two recent graduates of Columbia University's School of Journalism, and discusses all the ramifications coming out of this eye-opening event.


Eltman, Frank. "NY town marks year since immigrant fatally stabbed." Associated Press (2009): n. pag. Web. 7 Nov 2009. .

Reddy, Sumathi. "Teen admits guilt in deadly hate crime." LI Newsday 06 Nov 2009: A9. Print.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Candy Companies: The trick's on us

Happy Halloween everybody! It's a relatively nice day here on Long Island and a great day for all of those little trick or treaters to go out and do their thing. Being that the holiday falls on a Saturday and the weather forecast called for unseasonably warm temperatures, I figured there'd be lots of princesses, ghosts, vampires, and bumblebees knocking on my door and I wanted to be prepared, but when I woke up this morning I was unpleasantly surprised by what I found. Warning: this is a rant!

On one of my regular jaunts to Target a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pick up my Halloween candy a little early. In the past, this would've been a dangerous thing since I'd always be sure to dip into the stored bags of goodies so much so that I'd have to pick up some more right before Halloween. But these days I'm a lot more disciplined when it comes to eating candy. When I brought it home, I left the bags of candy inside the plastic store bag and threw it into a drawer, not even thinking about it again until this morning.

When I went to Target, I had armed myself with coupons for Halloween candy. I can never bring myself to buy the cheap stuff...I wouldn't want to get that junk if I was trick or treating, so I would never want to give it out either. I had coupons for Hershey's Kisses and Mr. Goodbar, Kit Kat bars, Reeses, and all those other candy delectables I love to eat. Needless to say when I went to the seasonal candy section of the store I became confused.

As with seemingly all products on the market today, there are a plethora of choices for the shopper to make when deciding on a purchase. No longer do you need to decide between Crest and Colgate, but the mind-boggling choices of whitening formula, baking soda, advanced enamel protection, extra cavity fighting, healthy gum formulas, and all the other specialty offerings, in either gel or paste form no less, always causes me to spend a lot more time in each section than I would normally like to spend. It's just so downright confusing! Choices can be good, but this is ridiculous!

I figured my Halloween candy purchase would be simple. Just grab a couple of bags, take my coupon, pay and go. As I expected, this same multi-choice phenomenon exists in the world of candy. I had no idea there were so many different varieties of Hershey Kisses, but that wasn't my problem. The Kisses, peanut butter cups, 3 Musketeers and practically everything else came in a variety of different sized bags, the cheapest was "on sale" at $3.99 a bag. The store's shelves were packed to the gills with bags sold by the piece (a 52-piece bag for $6.99, a 100-piece bag for $9.99), by the size of the individual candies (super-mini sized, big bite size), and some were sold simply by weight (and these bags are a lot smaller than they used to be!).

I realized this morning how all of these "convenient" varieties offered by the candy companies are simply an elaborate ruse to rip me off by confusing me. After spending about a half hour in the department, I finally ended up buying four bags of the traditional (?) sized bags of my favorite candies at $3.99 each (My coupons weren't good for any other type bag!). I took out my Halloween bowl that I always use to set by the front door and opened up the bags. By the time I had finished opening the bags and putting the candy into the bowl, I immediately became infuriated. The bowl is not a large one, about the size of a large soup bowl, and it wasn't even half full! Sixteen dollars worth of candy and I'm probably going to end up running out for more later!

So while we're handing out treats to our little Frankenstein's, goblins, witches, and hobos, the candy companies are playing the tricks on us. Why do we need so many choices? The only reason I can think of is a clever scheme they've come up with to confuse and conquer. This needs to stop!

There, I feel better!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka Wields God's Word to Promote Hatred

On Monday, local politicians, community and religious leaders, and police held a meeting to formulate a plan of action for upcoming demonstrations in Great Neck, Long Island. On Friday, September 25, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, will be demonstrating in front of synagogues and schools in the area. The church is one of the most notorious hate groups in America, stating as their mission to "oppose the [homosexual] lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth."

I had mentioned the church in a previous piece in my dialogue with AC writer Becky Whittemore (Understanding Homosexuality: A Respectful Dialogue, John's Spiritual Journey, Part 2). In discussing the role of religion in anti-gay sentiment, I'd recounted a story of the group picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, a young man who was killed simply for being gay, in 1998. Church members picketed the procession with raucous rhetoric and hateful signage. This has not been the only such episode in the group's history.

On the Westboro Baptist Church website, "God Hates Fags", they proclaim their mission:

"Perceiving the modern militant homosexual movement to pose a clear and present danger to the survival of America, exposing our nation to the wrath of God as in 1898 B.C. at Sodom and Gomorrah, WBC has conducted 41,226such demonstrations since June, 1991, at homosexual parades and other events, including funerals of impenitent sodomites (like Matthew Shepard) and over 200 military funerals of troops whom God has killed in Iraq/Afghanistan in righteous judgment against an evil nation."

They continue:

"WBC engages in daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth. We display large, colorful signs containing Bible words and sentiments, including: GOD HATES FAGS, FAGS HATE GOD, AIDS CURES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR AIDS, FAGS BURN IN HELL, GOD IS NOT MOCKED, FAGS ARE NATURE FREAKS, GOD GAVE FAGS UP, NO SPECIAL LAWS FOR FAGS, FAGS DOOM NATIONS, THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS, FAG TROOPS, GOD BLEW UP THE TROOPS, GOD HATES AMERICA, AMERICA IS DOOMED, THE WORLD IS DOOMED, etc."

Gay people are not the only objects of their ire. Jews are high on their list of targeted rhetoric. The Great Neck demonstrations are partially aimed at Jews. What they may consider to be peaceful demonstrations, I do not. Displays of such hatred carry the potential to beget violence, and when that hatred comes from a group disguising themselves as a congregation of worshippers, they are using God as a weapon to gain support for their despicable cause.

Upon exploring the group's website further, I came upon evil rhetoric at nearly every click. Three banners greet visitors on the home page, all in the mocking rainbow colors of a gay symbol. The makeshift flags display the slogans of the group: "Fag [=] Sin", "God Hates Fag Enablers", and "God Hates You." The "picket schedule" lists no less than 35 upcoming demonstrations, each with a hateful, twisted, description, and each one quoting verse from the Bible.

I am aware now, more than ever before, that not all Christians hold such radical notions in their belief systems. In fact, I believe the majority of them do not, but there are plenty of impressionable believers out there who are susceptible to this way of thinking. The act of judgement should be reserved for God and Him alone, but I can't help but bemoan the fact that the basic beliefs of homosexuality being somehow unnatural lend credence to these extreme convictions. That's what is so frustrating to me as a gay person. I know my truth and as long as there are people out there who continue to believe that my existence is invalid, then these types of extremists will continue to exist. Frankly, they scare me, as do extremists of any other religion.

The group in Great Neck came up with a plan: to ignore the protesters. U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman of Queens said, "These are very wacky people. It's a cult...Don't be there. Don't, even out of curiosity, walk by and see what they are doing. Without public and media attention, the group will lose its ability to be heard." I think it's very sound advice, and I will speak of them no longer.


Jones, Bart. "Great Neck braces for hate group rally." LI Newsday 22 September 2009: A24. Print.