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Racism, homophobia and the World Cup

Fan behavior changing thanks to outreach, monitoring



FIFA World Cup, gay news, Washington Blade
FIFA World Cup, gay news, Washington Blade

Time will tell if FIFA’s zero-tolerance stance on racism will also apply to homophobia. (Photo by Marcello Casal Jr.; courtesy Agência Brasil)

Before air travelers sported fashionable multi-colored, noise- cancelling headphones, flight attendants would offer passengers a tiny handful of plastic-wrapped ear-buds and coo sweetly, “You may take them with you,” as if they were your new priceless Bose-buds.

You had to face-plant yourself in your seatmate’s lap and plug them into some unreachably intimate place behind their knee. They never worked. Thus, over years of air travel I have watched many movies without sound and have had to make up my own storylines. “Snakes on a Plane” is an allegory about Adam and Eve, right?

I live with Sporty Spice, so I’m also a big fan of sports mutability. While watching Wimbledon, unless I want to share a pova, I mute the semi-porn shrieking and groaning during rallies, then un-mute for Martina Navratilova’s insightful commentary. Though I always found John Madden’s Monday Night Football commentary a helpful sleep aid, I am not allowed to touch the mute button during football games. I’ve learned to disassociate through the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle.  The NFL Red Zone, crack for football fans, is more compulsively seductive for excitement addicts, but I have learned to resist.

For a week now, World Cup Soccer coverage has been on, mostly muted, in our house. Since we seem to have work to do, we walk by, check the score, watch for a few minutes, then go back to whatever. Next Cup, I want split screens of the amazing footwork, so coverage doesn’t look like 22 tiny figures swarming back and forth on a pool table. We could get a better TV. I love the crowd reaction shots. But perhaps because we have had it on mute, or ESPN has, we had not heard the ugly racist and homophobic slurs in what they call The Beautiful Game. No doubt the omni-present buzz of vuvuzelas of South Africa’s World Cup had drowned it out four years ago.

Of course, I knew the ugliness. For years there have been drunken hooligans rioting at soccer games. I assumed they weren’t fighting over parking. In an Eastern European game, a racist tossed a banana at the feet of Barcelona’s Dani Alves. But Alves picked it up, peeled it and with cool, slow defiance, ate it. At the World Cup, Croatian and Russian fans have been reported unfurling neo-Nazi banners. Mexican fans chanted ‘puto’ during Cameroon and Brazil’s kicks on their goal.  ‘Puto’ a male variant of ‘puta,’ Spanish for prostitute, translates into ‘fag,’ ‘man-whore’ or ‘coward.’

The racism and homophobia are not new. The sexism that implies that it’s still OK to yell ‘puta’ is as old as machismo. What is new is that it is not being muted by Univision or conversation-stifling excuses of ‘you don’t understand our culture’ or ‘free expression.’ The accusation of political correctness is not working. PC always translates as ‘shut-up’. What is new is that FIFA has an anti-racism task force and FARE is an anti-discrimination group monitoring abusive fan behavior at the World Cup. Slowly, the made-up storyline that it’s all in good fan fun is changing.

Time will tell if FIFA’s zero-tolerance stance on racism will also apply to homophobia. Actually changing fan behavior would involve an examination of colonialism and nationalism, and there go the Adidas, Hundai and Coke sponsorships. It also involves pumping up the volume in a full-throated condemnation of the dislocation of poor people for stadium construction, the exploitation of workers, the suppression of protest and the graft and corruption in hosting huge sporting events. Did someone just yell “Putin”?

Kate Clinton is a humorist who has entertained LGBT audiences for 30 years.



Returning to the kibbutz: A journey of heartbreak and hope

Hamas militants attacked Kfar Aza on Oct. 7



Kfar Aza, Israel, after Oct. 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of K.T. Colin)

Editor’s note: WDG, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel, originally published this commentary.

BY K.T. COLIN | In 2019, my first encounter with Israel was through the lens of a sponsored Birthright trip. I embarked on a three-week journey, traversing the diverse landscapes from the northern regions to the eastern territories and finally to the arid southern desert. I had the opportunity to visit different communities within Israel and Palestine. Amidst this exploration, I spent an unforgettable three days and two nights in a kibbutz situated near the Gaza border. The memories etched in my heart were ones of unbridled joy, resilience and the harmonious coexistence of the desert dwellers — an emotional tapestry that forever imprinted itself on my soul. Coming from an Iraqi heritage, I viewed these expressions of coexistence through a lens shaped by my own region’s history of conflict and diversity.

As I recall the Shabbat dinner at the kibbutz, the air resonated with the sacred call to prayers (Adhan) from a nearby Bedouin Arab-Muslim town. The juxtaposition of cultures and faiths was a poignant reminder of the shared humanity that bound the Jewish and Arab Israelis in this region. It was a journey that transcended the ordinary, leaving an indelible mark on my consciousness. Filled with memories of peace and unity, I returned, only to confront a reality far removed from my cherished memories.

Fast forward to last month, when I returned to the Negev Desert, specifically to Kfar Aza — one of the 22 kibbutzim targeted by Hamas on that fateful day, Oct. 7, 2023. The once vibrant oasis, brimming with the light of life, now stood shrouded in the darkness of war-induced death and destruction. The very bench where camaraderie blossomed in 2019, while sharing a moment of connection with an Israeli companion, lay reduced to ashes. The thriving pathways, once bustling with life, had metamorphosed into haunting reminders of blood and rubble. The faces that animated Shabbat gatherings, weaving tales of peace advocacy between Palestinians and Israelis, were now conspicuously absent. In the wake of Hamas’s brutality, no entity — be it human, animal or plant — escaped unscathed. The aftermath resembled scenes from an apocalyptic movie, a tableau of sensory deprivation dominated by the stench of death and the echoes of destruction. This destruction, while uniquely harrowing, echoed the all-too-familiar scenes of conflict from my childhood in Iraq, underscoring the universal tragedy of war.

Kfar Aza, Israel (Photo courtesy of K.T. Colin)

While my roots trace back to Iraq, a land marred by wars and the brutality of conflict, the devastation witnessed in Kfar Aza struck a chord that reverberated with the echoes of my past. My personal journey, from witnessing Saddam’s reign of terror to observing the aftermath in Kfar Aza, underscores a broader narrative of resilience and the enduring hope for peace. Born during the Iraqi-Iranian war, my father’s absence for the first six months of my life spoke volumes about the toll of conflict. The invasion of Kuwait and subsequent wars entrenched the narrative of war as an unwelcome companion in our daily lives. Memories of the U.S. invasion in 2003, the ensuing civil war, and the subsequent loss of rights for women, secular individuals and LGBTQ+ members further underscored the harsh reality of conflict.

Yet, Kfar Aza was a unique chapter in my journey, revealing a form of malevolence that transcended my prior experiences. In their assault, Hamas meticulously targeted specifically peace activists who wanted nothing but peace and prosperity between Israelis and Palestinians, sparing no atrocity in their pursuit. This was not just about taking lives; it was a heinous assault on the very prospect of peace. The evil that unfolded reminded me of the forces mentioned in the Quran — Yaajooj and Maajooj — entities of pure malevolence against whom even Alexander the Great erected a wall, according to Muslim prophecy.

My upbringing in Iraq, under the shadow of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, fanned the flames of anti-Semitism. A once diverse Iraq, home to 165,000 Iraqi Jews, witnessed their forced exodus through decades of genocide. Subsequently, Christians, Yazidis and Sabbea Mandaeen fell victim to ethnic cleansing orchestrated by dictatorial regimes, Nazi pogroms, Iranian militias and ISIS. The slow erosion of tolerance and coexistence occurred methodically, propelled by hate campaigns championed by Arab nationalists and later fueled by Islamist movements, plunging Iraq into its darkest era.

My school days were marked by compulsory flag-greeting ceremonies, ostensibly patriotic but laden with hate. The chants of “Death to America; Death to the Zionists; Death to the Jews” echoed through the air, fostering a culture of animosity. Arabization and Nationalism classes further fueled this bigotry, leaving an indelible mark on impressionable minds.

The recent horrors in Kfar Aza echoed memories of a similar brand of terror perpetrated by Saddam’s regime — the Fedaeen of Saddam, a precursor to Hamas’s brutality. The parallels were chilling — beheadings, brutal punishments and a reign of terror continued even after the fall of Saddam, as they joined Al-Qaeda, leaving a trail of atrocities in cities like Fallujah and Ramadi.

As I witnessed the devastation in Kfar Aza, the echoes of war in nearby Beit Hanoun, Gaza, resonated hauntingly. The pain echoed from both sides — the Israeli people enduring Hamas rockets since 2015 and the Palestinians suffering daily under the same regime. My heart shattered for the children left orphaned, the LGBTQ+ Gazans now without shelter or life-saving medications and the vulnerable girls and boys exposed to the horrors of Human trafficking and rape. The theft of humanitarian aid by Hamas left many without food and water, and the lip services to Palestinians by Arab and Muslim majority nations, painting a grim picture of a future hanging in uncertainty for those who survived.

Despite the deep scars of conflict, both in my homeland and here, I see glimmers of hope that guide us toward a shared future. I have endured the darkest chapters of conflict in my past, and I hold onto the belief that one day this war will end. I dream of a future where Israelis and Palestinians coexist in shared spaces, attending the same schools, dining at the same restaurants and dancing in the same nightclubs. Having witnessed such unity among Jews, Druze, Muslims and Christians in Israel, I pray for a day when this reality extends to Gazans and Israelis in the Negev Desert. The journey towards peace is arduous, but the human spirit, resilient and compassionate, holds the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

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Why come to Washington Plaza Baptist Church?

It’s about the preaching, the people, and the purpose



Washington Plaza Baptist Church (Photo courtesy of Washington Plaza Baptist Church's Facebook page)

BY ZITA COLLINS | I grew up in a Lutheran church before I really knew who I was. Before my own opinions and belief system were formed. Before “welcoming and affirming” churches existed.

I did the “expected” thing: got married to a man, had children, became a wife and a mom. But I knew there was more to me than that, the part I had to keep hidden because of the society “norms” so many years ago. I attended a Mormon church because that was the type of church my husband attended. As I became more myself having my own opinions and thoughts, and my husband tried to be more controlling, the marriage, of course, failed. 

I quit church. I moved on in life and met a wonderful woman. I knew there was a God, but I figured since I was “living in sin” He didn’t like me too much. My way of looking at it was “God, you stay in your corner and I’ll stay in mine, and we’ll get along just fine.” Four years later, in September 1982, my partner was diagnosed with cancer. A couple of months later, she passed away.

During those few months my friend invited me to go to her Assembly of God church. I became a regular. One Sunday in January 1983, I gave my heart and life to Christ, becoming a full-fledged believer. And once again, I gradually put away the part of me that was “unacceptable to God.”

As time went on, I attended various churches. I attended an Anglican church for 15 years. I loved God, but I could not reconcile how I felt — my LGBTQ self — with scripture as I knew it at that time. It was at a church leadership meeting, when we were voting on a new marriage policy to exclude gay marriage, that I realized my “calling”: to tell the LGBTQ community that God really loves them and accepts them as they are.

I studied scripture, praying for clarity, and realized that those “clobber verses” have been traditionally misinterpreted, misunderstood, or taken out of context. I began looking for a church that was friendly to the gay community. I learned that the correct terminology is “welcoming and affirming.” 

And I found Washington Plaza Baptist Church!

Warm and welcoming, I felt I had found a home. They knew my identity from the start, as I had let it be known that I was looking for a “welcoming and affirming” church. And they loved and accepted me.

So Who is Washington Plaza Baptist Church?

WPBC is a progressive American Baptist church, located on Lake Anne Plaza, with a long and rich history. It was the first church in Reston, Va., a part of Robert E. Simon’s design for the new town named after him. Washington Plaza Baptist Church is an inclusive Christian Community whose worship, communion, and fellowship are open to all. We are a safe place for all people to worship regardless of race, creed, age, cultural background, gender, or sexual orientation. We affirm that all have access to the love of Christ and service to God.

WPBC is very active in Pride. We were involved with the formation of the first Reston Pride and continue to participate each year. We open our fellowship hall for the performers to change and to cool off, and we have a table on the Plaza where we give away free Pride paraphernalia as well as hugs. WPBC has held weddings for same-sex couples — including my wife’s and mine — with most of our members helping in some way to make the day special.

At Washington Plaza Baptist Church, I have been fully embraced for who I am. I have been in leadership from early on. The pastor, Rev. Michelle Nickens, delivers sermons that are powerful and relevant, with a focus on being Christ-like in all areas, including social justice. The people live out their claim of inclusivity and affirmation. The church community truly loves and cares about the people within the church as well as those outside its doors. 

Our address is 1615 Washington Plaza West, Reston, Va. Reach us at 703-471 5225, [email protected]. (We’re on Lake Anne Plaza, right next door to the Lake Anne Coffee House and Wine Bar.)

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Hur knew the political ramifications of his report

The case against Biden is over while Trump’s continues



Special Counsel Robert Hur testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on March 12, 2024. (C-SPAN YouTube screenshot)

I read the transcript of President’s Biden’s sit down with Special Counsel Robert Hur, then listened to Hur, who actually resigned before he testified before Congress, and found him totally unbelievable. 

He’s a man looking for something. That something is most likely a job in Trump’s administration should he win. He refused to answer that question when asked. When asked by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) if he realized what political games would be played with his report, he said it was it was in no way political. Hur gets credit for being smart. He went to Harvard and Stanford, and was a law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He served as Special Assistant and Counsel to Christopher Wray, then assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. There is no way a smart, accomplished man like Hur wouldn’t recognize the political implications of what he wrote.

I think once he found he couldn’t actually indict the president, because there was no indictable offense, he had to come up with a reason that would satisfy the Republicans he was trying to impress. So, what better than going along with the Republican playbook saying Biden was an old man who couldn’t remember anything and writing that is how a jury would see him? What a pile of BS. The reason they wouldn’t convict is there was no crime committed. 

Interestingly, Hur went even further down the Republican rabbit hole, and said Biden was only looking for money when he wanted to use the information from a high security paper in a book he was writing. But of course, like any former president or vice president, he was going to get a great book deal, which was in no way dependent on him having any high-level security papers in his possession to share. Again, ridiculous to pin it on that especially when you think about all the grift in the Trump family. 

Clearly, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who chairs the committee, the same Jim Jordan who I was most likely bumped out of a first-class seat on a recent American Airlines flight for, jumped on that to say Biden and his family only wanted to make money even if illegally. Again, it is beyond rational belief that Hur, a smart guy, wouldn’t understand he played right into Jordan’s hand. I think he put that in specifically for Jordan, and other Republicans, to use. Now he had to have some balance to his report, so he explained why Biden didn’t do what Trump did, Biden having cooperated with the feds, while Trump did just the opposite. But the reality is this didn’t make any difference to the Trump case, and didn’t break new ground in any way. Smart thing to do by Hur, but then I keep giving Hur credit for being smart.

The State of the Union speech put to rest Biden being an old man who couldn’t think on his feet. He clearly did, and even managed to make Marjorie Taylor Greene look like a bigger fool than she is. He had Speaker Johnson sitting behind him, actually having to clap for some things he said, even if he tried to hide those claps beneath the camera’s range. This is the same Speaker who in a press conference recently confused Israel with Iran, saying repeatedly the Congress would approve funds for Iran. President Biden delivered a strong and clear speech, which put many Democrats’, and independents’, minds at ease. 

The case investigating Biden taking documents is now over, at least with regard to any of the legal issues. That doesn’t mean Republicans will drop it, and Hur gave them the grist for their lies to continue. Hur kept saying he didn’t exonerate Biden, we can debate the meaning of the word exonerate, but again this shows how smart Hur is, and he did this for the Republicans he wants to impress. Despite this, his final report showed there was nothing to prosecute Biden on. 

The president can put this behind him, while Trump still has to deal with his case. The president is moving forward with a campaign that will show the American people why he, and Kamala Harris, should be reelected. He is out campaigning across the country making a strong case for his vision of the future, and talking about issues like abortion, and protecting democracy. If I am right, and Trump loses, Hur will realize what a big mistake he made, placing his bets on the wrong horse. 

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