Open Thread – Foley

I spent much of Tuesday writing, re-writing, posting, taking down…all about Mark Foley. Nothing seems adequate. I have felt like I was lashing out at him properly, then questioned my compassion for a guy who’s obviously pretty twisted.

That still doesn’t take away from the grave breach of trust, let alone crime, he seems to have committed as an elected representative. But I’ve done the keyboard equivalent of crumpling up my words and tossing them in the garbage, and more than once. I’ll leave his Wikipedia photo up as an emotional dart board.

The latest revelations, or – in the case of the first – confirmation of an open secret, are that he is gay and that he claims to have been sexually molested by a “clergyman” during his adolescence. The news was delivered by David Roth, an attorney Foley hired immediately after resigning his House seat last Friday.

From The New York Times:

“He said Mr. Foley, who was raised a Roman Catholic and attended Catholic schools in Lake Worth, had wanted to identify the person he said had molested him from ages 13 to 15. But his civil lawyers had advised him not to do so until he had completed treatment, Mr. Roth said. He even refused to identify the man’s religious affiliation.

“I cannot comment on whether the clergyman was a priest, a minister, an imam or a rabbi,” he said.

Well if I was a betting man…

So here I sit, feet on the floor, trolling the web for any Foley “hits”; it’s a hyper-awareness feeling that I recognize – most recently from after I was knocked down by a cab in 2003 – knowing that I am simply feeling nothing unusual (anger, sadness, compassion, pity, disbelief, skepticism) and so many other things that I’d just like to be in front of a page of emoticons and point to the appropriate faces like some guy, as I have been, in occupational therapy.

Jon Stewart, please lighten things up a little…

I’m going to leave this post open, adding links here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, (just a sampling of inoffensive posts or articles from the first 20 pages of Google listings), as well as thoughts* and updates to it all rather than starting a new topic each time…dear diary.

*A common thread among very partisan Republicans, not linked here, is that they would be damned if they did and damned if they didn’t with Foley. To go after him too aggressively, goes their logic, would have led to cries of homophobia – a complete misunderstanding of the difference (it’s too nuanced, perhaps, for with-us-or-against-us types) between appropriate conduct as a Congressman, gay or otherwise, and sexual exploitation of minors.


Smirking Chimp on quiet crickets

Bob Geiger, writing at The Smirking Chimp, hears nothing but “crickets chirping” from the religious right four days after the sordid story broke of Congressman Mark Foley’s IM come-ons with teenaged Congressional pages.

Geiger documents what a handful of the ‘family’ lobby groups have been up to since Friday. His report, and there are bound to be others, shines the light into the darkest corners of conservative hypocrisy.

One of those “Dear Diary” – style blog posts (which may bite me later)

Regarding U.S. Congressman Mark Foley’s disgraceful exit from politics I know a thing or two about, to quote The Wizard of Oz, “pay(ing) no attention to that man behind the curtain”.

Here’s the précis: Not only do I have a history of excessive alcohol use I accept more responsibility, certainly more than most AIDS activists might appreciate, for my infection with HIV in the late 1980s.

Throughout my early to mid-twenties, and the corresponding years of the 1980s, I defiantly came out of the closet of my sexuality but remained, without being aware of it, behind the curtain of excessive drug, most particularly alcohol, use. For a long time, rather than doing something about this presenting problem, I rationalized the behaviour by blaming everything from the pressure of growing up gay in an overwhelmingly heterosexist society, not helped by living – as I did at the time – somewhat of a double life in a small, conservative Ontario city, to the gay community’s over-abundance of bars as social meeting places.

“You’d drink, too, if you lived in St. Catharines!” is something I can accurately quote myself exclaiming more than once.

So it was, then, that in 1988 my radio job there was “downsized” and – thanks to the good work of my colleagues at NABET – I came to Toronto with a generous severance package. Still alternately crying or raging in my beer I led a pitiful existence for about six months, drinking in some of the city’s seedier gay bars and then crashing for the night in various draft-ventilated bath-houses.

Another memorable self-quote, in this context, was “If anyone deserves AIDS I do!” The absurd premise of this view, that AIDS is deserved, coupled with the self-loathing connection that my behaviour was all the more deserving of it, I have long since dismissed as self-absorbed one-downmanship.

After I reined in the drinking I got tested for HIV in 1989 and, as my sick death-wish (which I would outwardly deny harbouring) would have it, I was positive. However by this time I had already begun to pull my head out of my ass, in terms of my sexuality and the self-destructive behaviour, and was involved with various threads of AIDS activism. I hung around protests staged by “AIDS Action Now!”, wrote advocacy letters to governments, and quite simply just continued to agitate in any number of ways. With my prognosis soon quite poor – this was well before current treatments – I left my newfound work in the hospitality industry and, while preparing to die myself, helped out on home care teams of a few friends who were considerably sicker. I have some profoundly gratifying memories of these experiences. Anyone who has been privileged to accompany the dying will know what I mean.

As I have posted elsewhere, I have a longstanding relationship with the United Church of Canada briefly interrupted, relatively speaking, with links to a fundamentalist church (my self-loathing was well-fed there!), then Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCCT), followed by a small faith community which split from it. In short, I have always found some measure of community among “seekers”, even when I was not being honest or affirming with myself.

My politics and spirituality have merged, especially since joining the congregation of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in 1999. Even among friends there who have different capital-P politics, although I’m sure they would stray no farther right than the Liberals, I feel an integration of my activism, my sexual orientation and my wide open, always questioning spirituality.

It’s been a journey through valleys and over hills, since I thought I had come out to myself twenty-five years ago in 1981, but it is a journey I seek to honour by being as honest as I can.

No longer feeling “deserving” of AIDS I take a more libertarian view of past (and present) behaviour, both sexual and drinking, and that – however misguided and however influenced – I accept my role in my circumstances, as much as possible sans self-judgment, and seek to live out my remaining years with as much honesty and integrity as I can.

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Clearly, Mark Foley didst protest too much – updated from (replacing) yesterday’s post

Update: Foley has now entered an alcohol treatment program – surely a Mel Gibsonesque diversion from the underlying problem of denying his homosexuality! This chemical closet is something I, too, experienced firsthand – even for quite awhile after “coming out” to myself – and I thank Eugene at Le Revue Gauche for this post.

Former U.S. Congressman Mark Foley, who resigned in disgrace last week, could only wish that he may escape with just a library fine.

“We track library books better than we do sexual predators,” Foley now famously said in 2005 when the House passed his legislation that would subject child sex offenders to severe monitoring and penalties for failing to comply with registration requirements.

If the current allegations are true, it’s a pity Rep. Foley could not have explored his sexuality with adults.

Foley has ABC News reporter Brian Ross to thank for uncovering explicit internet chat between “Maf54” (1954 being the year of Foley’s birth), and congressional page boys, all of them under the age of 18. Equally damaging to the Republicans is the revelation that party operatives have been aware of this for months. (Did they take lessons from any number of Roman Catholic dioceses?)

The FBI has begun to examine the texts of some of the messages, some of which appear on Ross’ blog at ABC, who adds, “It’s possible Foley could be prosecuted under laws he helped to enact, as the co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.”

In 2003 Foley called a news conference to denounce an “outing” report in a South Florida newspaper. He refused to answer questions about the subject (there was a clue!), saying his sexual orientation had nothing to do with his duties as a lawmaker. Fair enough, if that’s what will get you a few more votes.

So while a liberal on abortion and gay rights, clearly different than his Republican Party’s positions (to say nothing of his professed Roman Catholicism), Foley’s work will have been for naught as he now faces the consequences of being both closeted and an alleged pedophile. Of course this is not the kind of gay role model uptight America needs and he disgraces an entire segment of the population, in addition to himself.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” be it in the U.S. military or in politics, leads to this sort of unfortunate situation. So long as careers are put ahead of openness and honesty homosexuality will continue to be denied, demonized and, in cases such as this, linked with crimes against children.

As for the Democrats, whose last President was impeached for lying about adultery, their impotence in Congress has allowed George Bush to remain in office through Teflon-coated lie after lie after lie affecting the very lives and deaths of thousands.