The “Billy Graham Rule” Is Offensive


I was going to title this post “…Is a Joke,” only I’m not laughing and I’ll bet you aren’t, either.

Another week, another Republican politician, this time Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Robert Foster, invoking the odious “Billy Graham rule,” wherein evangelical men refuse to be alone, ever, for any duration of time, and under any circumstances, with any woman other than their wives (and, one might presume, other female relatives, although one never knows).

I had myself worked up into a righteous rage, refining a veritable jeremiad…and then Monica Hesse said just about everything I planned to, better, in today’s Washington Post.

Because I know not everyone has a subscription, and you may have hit your complimentary article limit for the month, a few select quotes:

there’s not a single inch of moral high ground achieved via the Billy Graham rule, which purports to honor marriage vows….rules like these don’t honor your wife. They just presume that your marriage vows are so flimsy that you can’t be trusted to uphold them unless a babysitter monitors you.

Or, as WGR550 reporter Jeremy White tweeted:

It presumes either :

A) you can’t be trusted Or

B) women can’t be trusted

Everyone invoking that rule should be prepared to answer which is true

As Hesse puts it later in her article:

The most harmful aspect of the Graham/Pence rule is this: It keeps women out of the room. It says that men can forward their careers via mentoring sessions, golf games and brainstorming lunches, but women cannot….The Graham/Pence rule prevents women from climbing to the top of their careers because the men who have the power to help them get there won’t even let them in the room.

A few additional points:

As I have written many times, evangelicals’ sharia panic doesn’t derive from any sort of noble or principled place. They aren’t defending the first amendment. They aren’t passionate about the fact that the United States was founded on the concepts of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Nope, their objection is, at root, “Hey! No fair! We were in line first to try to force everyone to obey OUR interpretation of OUR imaginary friend’s draconian and arbitrary rules! No cutsies!”

Second, men should be as offended as women by this rule, if not more so. It’s based on the idea that all men have no more self-control or moral agency than animals and will immediately rape any and all women that come in their orbits unless physically restrained by other people.

Finally, men, examine yourselves. If you, in fact, feel yourself incapable of not raping any and all women that come into your orbit unless you are physically restrained by other people, that seems like YOUR problem. You should definitely get professional help with that immediately, you might want to sequester yourself away from all women until you do, and, at the very least, might I suggest not running for governor? The responsibility seems like it’s going to be too much for your delicate, unstable, nay, even hysterical, constitution?

Image of Rembrandt’s The Woman Taken In Adultery from London’s The National Gallery

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Words for Wednesday


We Lived Happily During the War

~Ilya Kaminsky
And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.
Picture found here.

A Witch Without a Place – Chapter Two


“Just five minutes,” Gemmy told herself.  It was an oft-repeated promise; it really meant ten or fifteen minutes.  Just a few minutes to close her eyes and lose herself — this time in the bath of birdsong.  Just a few minutes and then she’d swallow the last of the coffee, pull back onto the interstate, head to her office and dig into the waiting slew of unanswered emails.

“Ma’am!  Ma’am!  Are you OK?”

The highway patrolwoman standing next to her car and shaking her shoulder woke Gemmy up from the beginnings of a dream of talking bees in a field of singing thistles and grumbling chickory.  She jerked herself the rest of the way awake — sleep was a delicious drug, Morpheus was a jealous God, and surfacing again into wakefulness actually hurt — and said, “Sorry, Officer.  Fine, I’m fine.  Just shut my eyes for a moment.”

“You shouldn’t drive if you’re about to fall asleep.  And this is not a very safe spot for you to sleep with your windows opens,” the young woman chided.

“Thank you.  I’m sorry.  I’m OK now.  Really.  Just heading into work early.  I’m OK.”

Gemmy felt oddly chagrined as she pulled into her parking spot at the lab, although she couldn’t think what, exactly, caused the feeling.  She’d been OK.  The patrolwoman was just doing her job.  Everything was fine.  What was this odd unease she’d felt the last few miles to her job?

The lab’s coffee pot was empty, as usual at this time of morning.  Gemmy, often the first one into the office, didn’t mind making the first pot.  The simple ritual of cleaning the pieces, pouring in the heaven-scented grounds, and adding cold water had an almost calming effect and the cheerful sound of the pot as it began to brew settled her as she stood in front of her monitor.

First screen was always a satellite map of bee populations all over the globe — waking as the sun rose over the horizon, heading out to Chinese poppy fields, Swiss meadows, English hedgerows, American corn, Australian orchards, odd suburban patches of daisies and begonias.  On the other side of the map, swarms returned home, settled down for the night, deposited their day’s work in commercial hives and small forest nests.  Gemmy’s practiced eyes scanned the data, approved of all they saw, and noticed how this late American summer was keeping some populations active past their normal date.

Second screen was weather patterns — screwy as usual these days.  “There is no such thing as ‘normal’ weather,” Gemmy always told her undergrad classes.  “Not when the Global Climate Crisis has commenced.  We don’t know what to expect and we likely won’t in your lifetimes.  Get used to not being used to it.”  But Gemmy’s eyes narrowed on a storm forming in the Indian Ocean and headed for landfall near a particularly vulnerable new set of bee populations.  All of a sudden, that odd feeling of dread coalesced in the pit of her stomach and Gemmy understood why she’d needed to get in so early this morning.

“Seth,” she yelled into her cell phone.  “Seth, get up and get into the field now!  Get your workers!  A storm is coming to wipe out the hives.  Save as many as you can!  Seth!  Wake up!”

Picture found here.

Monday at the Movies

Like a lot of lonely little girls from dysfunctional families, I longed for a Mary Poppins to show up and fix things.  I read all of the books.  But somehow, I never knew this backstory of her author.  This movie starts slowly, but is entirely worth the effort.  Tom Hanks even makes me like the idea of Walt Disney, whom I generally consider an evil villain.

Good to Remember

Magic Everywhere

I’m feeling a little burned out today, so I thought I’d share one of my very favorite jazz recordings.

(And the story behind it is fascinating.)

Pour yourself your favorite beverage, take 15 minutes, and listen to the whole thing. Pay particular attention starting at minute four, when Paul Gonsalves launches into a TWENTY-SEVEN CHORUS masterpiece that may be the greatest tenor sax solo ever recorded.

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Words for Wednesday


Especially in the face of fascism and daily horrors.

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Friends, will you bear with me today,
for I have awakened
from a dream in which a robin
made with its shabby wings a kind of veil
behind which it shimmied and stomped something from the south
of Spain, its breast aflare,
looking me dead in the eye
from the branch that grew into my window,
coochie-cooing my chin,
the bird shuffling its little talons left, then right,
while the leaves bristled
against the plaster wall, two of them drifting
onto my blanket while the bird
opened and closed its wings like a matador
giving up on murder,
jutting its beak, turning a circle,
and flashing, again,
the ruddy bombast of its breast
by which I knew upon waking
it was telling me
in no uncertain terms
to bellow forth the tubas and sousaphones,
the whole rusty brass band of gratitude
not quite dormant in my belly—
it said so in a human voice,
“Bellow forth”—
and who among us could ignore such odd
and precise counsel?
Hear ye! hear ye! I am here
to holler that I have hauled tons—by which I don’t mean lots,
I mean tons — of cowshit
and stood ankle deep in swales of maggots
swirling the spent beer grains
the brewery man was good enough to dump off
holding his nose, for they smell very bad,
but make the compost writhe giddy and lick its lips,
twirling dung with my pitchfork
again and again
with hundreds and hundreds of other people,
we dreamt an orchard this way,
furrowing our brows,
and hauling our wheelbarrows,
and sweating through our shirts,
and two years later there was a party
at which trees were sunk into the well-fed earth,
one of which, a liberty apple, after being watered in
was tamped by a baby barefoot
with a bow hanging in her hair
biting her lip in her joyous work
and friends this is the realest place I know,
it makes me squirm like a worm I am so grateful,
you could ride your bike there
or roller skate or catch the bus
there is a fence and a gate twisted by hand,
there is a fig tree taller than you in Indiana,
it will make you gasp.
It might make you want to stay alive even, thank you;
and thank you
for not taking my pal when the engine
of his mind dragged him
to swig fistfuls of Xanax and a bottle or two of booze,
and thank you for taking my father
a few years after his own father went down thank you
mercy, mercy, thank you
for not smoking meth with your mother
oh thank you thank you
for leaving and for coming back,
and thank you for what inside my friends’
love bursts like a throng of roadside goldenrod
gleaming into the world,
likely hauling a shovel with her
like one named Aralee ought,
with hands big as a horse’s,
and who, like one named Aralee ought,
will laugh time to time til the juice
runs from her nose; oh
thank you
for the way a small thing’s wail makes
the milk or what once was milk
in us gather into horses
huckle-buckling across a field;
and thank you, friends, when last spring
the hyacinth bells rang
and the crocuses flaunted
their upturned skirts, and a quiet roved
the beehive which when I entered
were snugged two or three dead
fist-sized clutches of bees between the frames,
almost clinging to one another,
this one’s tiny head pushed
into another’s tiny wing,
one’s forelegs resting on another’s face,
the translucent paper of their wings fluttering
beneath my breath and when
a few dropped to the frames beneath:
honey; and after falling down to cry,
everything’s glacial shine.
And thank you, too. And thanks
for the corduroy couch I have put you on.
Put your feet up. Here’s a light blanket,
a pillow, dear one,
for I can feel this is going to be long.
I can’t stop
my gratitude, which includes, dear reader,
you, for staying here with me,
for moving your lips just so as I speak.
Here is a cup of tea. I have spooned honey into it.
And thank you the tiny bee’s shadow
perusing these words as I write them.
And the way my love talks quietly
when in the hive,
so quietly, in fact, you cannot hear her
but only notice barely her lips moving
in conversation. Thank you what does not scare her
in me, but makes her reach my way. Thank you the love
she is which hurts sometimes. And the time
she misremembered elephants
in one of my poems which, oh, here
they come, garlanded with morning glory and wisteria
blooms, trombones all the way down to the river.
Thank you the quiet
in which the river bends around the elephant’s
solemn trunk, polishing stones, floating
on its gentle back
the flock of geese flying overhead.
And to the quick and gentle flocking
of men to the old lady falling down
on the corner of Fairmount and 18th, holding patiently
with the softest parts of their hands
her cane and purple hat,
gathering for her the contents of her purse
and touching her shoulder and elbow;
thank you the cockeyed court
on which in a half-court 3 vs. 3 we oldheads
made of some runny-nosed kids
a shambles, and the 61-year-old
after flipping a reverse lay-up off a back door cut
from my no-look pass to seal the game
ripped off his shirt and threw punches at the gods
and hollered at the kids to admire the pacemaker’s scar
grinning across his chest; thank you
the glad accordion’s wheeze
in the chest; thank you the bagpipes.
Thank you to the woman barefoot in a gaudy dress
for stopping her car in the middle of the road
and the tractor trailer behind her, and the van behind it,
whisking a turtle off the road.
Thank you god of gaudy.
Thank you paisley panties.
Thank you the organ up my dress.
Thank you the sheer dress you wore kneeling in my dream
at the creek’s edge and the light
swimming through it. The koi kissing
halos into the glassy air.
The room in my mind with the blinds drawn
where we nearly injure each other
crawling into the shawl of the other’s body.
Thank you for saying it plain:
fuck each other dumb.
And you, again, you, for the true kindness
it has been for you to remain awake
with me like this, nodding time to time
and making that noise which I take to mean
yes, or, I understand, or, please go on
but not too long, or, why are you spitting
so much, or, easy Tiger
hands to yourself. I am excitable.
I am sorry. I am grateful.
I just want us to be friends now, forever.
Take this bowl of blackberries from the garden.
The sun has made them warm.
I picked them just for you. I promise
I will try to stay on my side of the couch.
And thank you the baggie of dreadlocks I found in a drawer
while washing and folding the clothes of our murdered friend;
the photo in which his arm slung
around the sign to “the trail of silences”; thank you
the way before he died he held
his hands open to us; for coming back
in a waft of incense or in the shape of a boy
in another city looking
from between his mother’s legs,
or disappearing into the stacks after brushing by;
for moseying back in dreams where,
seeing us lost and scared
he put his hand on our shoulders
and pointed us to the temple across town;
and thank you to the man all night long
hosing a mist on his early-bloomed
peach tree so that the hard frost
not waste the crop, the ice
in his beard and the ghosts
lifting from him when the warming sun
told him sleep now; thank you
the ancestor who loved you
before she knew you
by smuggling seeds into her braid for the long
journey, who loved you
before he knew you by putting
a walnut tree in the ground, who loved you
before she knew you by not slaughtering
the land; thank you
who did not bulldoze the ancient grove
of dates and olives,
who sailed his keys into the ocean
and walked softly home; who did not fire, who did not
plunge the head into the toilet, who said stop,
don’t do that; who lifted some broken
someone up; who volunteered
the way a plant birthed of the reseeding plant
is called a volunteer, like the plum tree
that marched beside the raised bed
in my garden, like the arugula that marched
itself between the blueberries,
nary a bayonet, nary an army, nary a nation,
which usage of the word volunteer
familiar to gardeners the wide world
made my pal shout “Oh!” and dance
and plunge his knuckles
into the lush soil before gobbling two strawberries
and digging a song from his guitar
made of wood from a tree someone planted, thank you;
thank you zinnia, and gooseberry, rudbeckia
and pawpaw, Ashmead’s kernel, cockscomb
and scarlet runner, feverfew and lemonbalm;
thank you knitbone and sweetgrass and sunchoke
and false indigo whose petals stammered apart
by bumblebees good lord please give me a minute…
and moonglow and catkin and crookneck
and painted tongue and seedpod and johnny jump-up;
thank you what in us rackets glad
what gladrackets us;
and thank you, too, this knuckleheaded heart, this pelican heart,
this gap-toothed heart flinging open its gaudy maw
to the sky, oh clumsy, oh bumblefucked,
oh giddy, oh dumbstruck,
oh rickshaw, oh goat twisting
its head at me from my peach tree’s highest branch,
balanced impossibly gobbling the last fruit,
its tongue working like an engine,
a lone sweet drop tumbling by some miracle
into my mouth like the smell of someone I’ve loved;
heart like an elephant screaming
at the bones of its dead;
heart like the lady on the bus
dressed head to toe in gold, the sun
shivering her shiny boots, singing
Erykah Badu to herself
leaning her head against the window;
and thank you the way my father one time came back in a dream
by plucking the two cables beneath my chin
like a bass fiddle’s strings
and played me until I woke singing,
no kidding, singing, smiling,
thank youthank you,
stumbling into the garden where
the Juneberry’s flowers had burst open
like the bells of French horns, the lily
my mother and I planted oozed into the air,
the bazillion ants labored in their earthen workshops
below, the collard greens waved in the wind
like the sails of ships, and the wasps
swam in the mint bloom’s viscous swill;
and you, again you, for hanging tight, dear friend.
I know I can be long-winded sometimes.
I want so badly to rub the sponge of gratitude
over every last thing, including you, which, yes, awkward,
the suds in your ear and armpit, the little sparkling gems
slipping into your eye. Soon it will be over,
which is precisely what the child in my dream said,
holding my hand, pointing at the roiling sea and the sky
hurtling our way like so many buffalo,
who said it’s much worse than we think,
and sooner; to whom I said
no duh child in my dreams, what do you think
this singing and shuddering is,
what this screaming and reaching and dancing
and crying is, other than loving
what every second goes away?
Goodbye, I mean to say.
And thank you. Every day.
Picture found here.