So there are random tidbits of news that have been popping through my head all morning – news that keeps invading my thoughts while I try to figure it all out. Some site, Princeton Review or someone, just ranked BYU as the #1 Stone Cold Sober school in the nation. Newsworthy? Why not. But surprising? Not really. In other news, an elephant is about to give birth at Utah’s zoo – after being pregnant for almost 2 years. Again, probably not worth the time I keep thinking about the event, but I have so much empathy for this poor mamma elephant pregnant in the heat of Utah’s summer. Can’t they ship her off to Alaska for the last few months or so? Seems so much more humane. But really, having to be pregnant for 21 months + doesn’t seem too humane either.
Okay, so here goes. I feel like anger like battery acid corroding my stomach and seeping out. I’m angry because the state of Utah spends less money per pupil on education than any other state. The state spends less than $6000 per pupil – more than $4000 less than the national average and about $9000 less per pupil than states like New York and New Jersey (who lead the pack on money spent.) There should be widespread outrage. Top education officials in Utah are saying things like – this means larger class sizes for Utah students. Fewer course offerings. Less professional development dollars for teachers – fewer counselors. Continued low teacher pay. But the mass outrage doesn’t arrive. Instead, I’m hearing nothing but praise for the state. The nutjobs, and I am not just talking about the crazies who call into KSL, but actual people, the nutjobs we call the citizenry of Utah – people in the office, people in the neighborhood, people in the news, people on the bus are RAVING about Utah. Can you believe it? The state spends the least amount of money per pupil to educate and we aren’t dead last in achievement. Isn’t that great? WE AREN’T DEAD LAST IN ACHIEVEMENT. I’m surrounded by people who think that Utah spends our money more efficiently than other states and that we should just jump up and down to celebrate the fiscal responsibility. Some are even saying that we should be a model to other states. We educate cheaply, efficiently, and our children don’t suffer THAT MUCH. Can you see the slippery slope here? It isn’t too much of a logical fallacy leap – and not much of a leap at all for people who think that Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus hopped on over to North America to spend some time with indigenous folks, wrote another book and then was resurrected. Or whatever Jesus timeline we’re dealing with here. Point is, we aren’t exactly following logic now are we? What I was saying is that there isn’t too much of a leap to,
education is such a bargain
I think I’ll have another kid
maybe I can get eight or nine and really cash in on the deal before it’s too late
The second bit of news that keeps flying around my head is the kissing on Main Street Plaza event. This thing just won’t die down. Since July 9th when a gay couple was detained and ticketed for trespassing on Main Street Plaza, this thing has been in the news. And before I launch into any more rant, I want to take a teeny weeny break to post a couple of pictures of us – the H-Ps kissing in front of god and everyone.
As much action as we ever get while holding one kid, trying not to lose the other.
Sharing filthy kisses.
Riley was just glad we didn’t get arrested, Riley’s “nightmare” the night before we went.
Kim, giving one helluva explanation as to why those people are chaining themselves to the gate, and those other people are in their face yelling about how god hates us and we’re all going to hell.
Yes we went. And I am glad we did. But I keep thinking about the event – all the events. The two men walking home after a concert and sharing a moment in the serenity and beauty of downtown Salt Lake. And then the “kiss-in” in response to the harassment. And there we were protesters on private property. And there they were. The protesters who were protesting the protesters who were shouting the land is sacred religious space and that we’ve violated it with our filthy kisses. And a protester emerging as a leader, his voice calm and inviting against the backdrop of the shouting telling us that all are welcome here and to please gather closer and respectfully be seen and known and kissed. And the reason I keep thinking of this is that this thing illustrates the gray. The hues of black and white mixed together in such a complicated concoction of private property and human rights, and issues of access to the downtown of a city and hurt and harassment and Proposition 8 which I really cannot just write like that, I actually am now compelled to write Proposition h8 because really we have to address the hate “the everyone is a sinner, but YOU PEOPLE take the cake” attitude that prevails here. But private property. I value that. It is so gray.
There are some people who want to know if the kiss was “inappropriate.” They want to know whether the incident was a peck on the cheek. Or a bigger kiss. Or a grope. And I guess I want to know too. But truth is, no matter what the kiss was like, it was deemed “inappropriate” long before those two young men engaged in it. And lets be real here. I’ve seen some heavy action on the Plaza. Typically hetero-action where the gal is in a long white dress and the guy in some fancy tux and there’s also usually a photographer catching the lip-lock for time and all eternity. What about those filthy kisses?
The language around this subject is also fascinating. Whether you call the space the kiss occurred the Main Street Plaza or the Church Temple Grounds depends completely on where you align on the issue. And NOBODY wants to talk about the time that the city owned Main Street Plaza and in fact, it was called the Free Speech Zone, and people actually had a fundamental right to gather and protest. But here, when the church wants something it gets it, and a controversial land swap happened shortly after and Main Street Plaza is now part of World Domination Headquarters, I mean Mormon Church Owned Property. Supposedly this is still public access private property. But there’s obvious caveats to the “public.” No gays. No smokers. And if you happen to be the foul-mouthed profanity-spitting type, you might want to walk the extra block to State Street with the gays.
Its not possible that the Founding Fathers could even conceive of churches owning empires when they granted tax exempt status. Farms. Businesses. Tithing. Now that’s a greater plan even than a ponzi scheme. In a ponzi scheme, there are investors expecting to be paid. But with religion, you pay the 10% hoping that god will grant you blessings and if he doesn’t then you must have had it coming. Maybe you should try harder. Maybe your reward will come in the afterlife. Maybe, just maybe, you should have given 15%. We’re talking a business with billions in assets – who really knows – because these churches don’t have to file taxes.
Then I feel the shame. The shame that I am spouting bitterness through clenched teeth just like the rest. And a shame that’s even more raw than the clenched teeth shame, the shame that writing my truth, my bitter truth, actually makes me feel better. Even if just for now, just for the moment, I’ve let the steam off.
The real problem is that the hurt hasn’t healed. The scars of childhood get opened again and again as I watch my children endure what I endured. What I continue to endure. I know that I simply cannot internalize it. I know that I simply cannot let my children internalize it. And the truth is, a church shouldn’t own Main Street Plaza. Or a city. Or a state. But it does. And that plaza. That city. Indeed that state. Must make room for me. Because. At least for now. I live here too.