via chris geidner

"I wish for nothing more than to be only what I am." - Nathan Fain

33 notes

On National Coming Out Day

For me, National Coming Out Day will be forever connected with the morning I helped unfurl the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the Mall in 1996. It was the first National Coming Out Day in which I was actually out, and my boyfriend and I volunteered that morning, joined by a bunch of fellow AU students, for the unfurling. To see the endless markers of lives lost to AIDS take over the Mall, as the sun rose and my boyfriend stood at my side, you can’t forget that.

That former boyfriend remains one of my closest friends these 18 years later, and I am living a life unlike any I could have imagined. Coming out — being honest about that and more — has made all the difference.

My heart goes out to those who feel they can’t come out, whether for safety or for their own reasons, and I hope they find comfort in time. For me, while I’ve doubtless faced some difficulties because I’m out and gay, I’d not ever change a thing. I’m me. Honesty has been the greatest blessing.

Here’s to National Coming Out Day — and the life that follows.

0 notes

James Traficant Taught Me What A Politician Can Be: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

image

When I was growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, in the ’80s and early ’90s, U.S. Rep. James Traficant was a constant presence in the community. Returning to Youngstown and working in journalism at the Tribune Chronicle in Warren, Ohio during the 2002 corruption trial that ended his congressional career, his presence was even bigger — but, in a way, smaller.

Traficant died Saturday, following a farm accident earlier in the week.

He was seen in the community, as the politics reporter at the area’s other paper, The Vindicator, tweeted, as “a larger-than-life figure.” He was — as we all are — many things at many times to many people.

Traficant certainly was the things that led to his corruption conviction and, then, expulsion from Congress in 2002. But he also had been a symbol, for better and worse, of Youngstown — a place that has faced more than its share of tough times.

At his best, he saw himself as a populist standing up for that city and its people. Known as “Murdertown, U.S.A.,” the city often found itself at the center of sparring mob families from Cleveland and Pittsburgh. When the steel mills closed — Youngstown’s Black Monday on September 19, 1977, when Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company announced closings and layoffs, came nine days before I was born — it got worse.

Traficant, however, was one of the few beneficiaries of that era: He rose to local fame as the sheriff who went to jail himself rather than enforce eviction notices against people in the community — many of whom were losing their homes because of the death of the steel industry in the area.

Out of that — and fighting off his first corruption trial with an acquittal in 1983 — he built a congressional career, defeating an incumbent congressman to become the “beam me up” congressman who was mad as hell and pressed populist themes throughout his more than 15 years in Congress.

At his worst, though, Traficant believed that being that man meant he deserved power and deference and the things — from money to meals and more — that, in his mind, went with that power.

Of course, there were other areas in which he fell short, most notably his longtime defense of accused Nazi prison guard John Demjanjuk. Traficant had indeed become smaller during his time in Congress — as the colorful character became a cartoonish caricature.

But, as with so many before him and since, it was the belief that he, somehow, was above it all that ultimately led to his downfall.

In 2000 — one of many signs of the power that the “larger-than-life” congressman had over the Mahoning Valley — rumors of a federal investigation hadn’t ended his career. At his Election Night party, he told the crowd, “I want to thank people for giving me the chance to … fight the FBI as a sitting member of Congress.”

When Traficant was indicted the next year, he did face his second corruption trial — the one that would take him down and out of Congress. The Sunday after Traficant pleaded innocent to the charges, I wrote in the Tribune Chronicle about his career and the complicated path the Youngstown-Warren region had faced, noting, “There is little in the 41-page indictment by which we could claim to be surprised. And yet Traficant continually is re-elected.”

"Changing the perception of the Valley to the outside world is a monumental task requiring tough political figures willing to work," I wrote at the time. "Changing our own perception of the Valley might be even more difficult."

It was — and is — true. As I’ve learned since, though Youngstown’s problems and responses to them are exaggerated in some ways, but, broadly speaking, they are problems that play out on the political and legal stages across the country and the world.

Communities facing tough times, populism aimed at providing a salve for those wounds, the transformative nature of power, the missteps that often follow the securing of power, the story of the downfall, and learning how we move on — all of these moments are moments that have played out across the world a thousand times since Traficant first appeared on the stage.

Jim Traficant gave me my first lessons about politics — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and that education has proved invaluable to me as I cover the world around me.

Traficant was more good than his worst moments, and he was less pure than his stated motives. He is not alone in that regard. The same is true of all of us.

In that, we can all — from politicians to reporters to anyone out there, really — learn from his successes and from his failings.

10 notes

Earl Ringo was executed by the state of Missouri and pronounced dead at 12:31 a.m. CDT Wednesday. Neither the Supreme Court nor Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon stopped the scheduled execution.
The Supreme Court — in a sharply divided 5-4 vote — has denied all stay of execution requests presented to the court by Earl Ringo’s attorneys, allowing his execution to proceed. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan would have granted a stay of execution in response to one of the requests.
More at BuzzFeed.

Earl Ringo was executed by the state of Missouri and pronounced dead at 12:31 a.m. CDT Wednesday. Neither the Supreme Court nor Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon stopped the scheduled execution.

The Supreme Court — in a sharply divided 5-4 vote — has denied all stay of execution requests presented to the court by Earl Ringo’s attorneys, allowing his execution to proceed. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan would have granted a stay of execution in response to one of the requests.

More at BuzzFeed.

2 notes

Congrats, Saeed, on today’s publication of PRELUDE TO BRUISE. You are a force, and I am so privileged to know and work with you.

Congrats, Saeed, on today’s publication of PRELUDE TO BRUISE. You are a force, and I am so privileged to know and work with you.