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Derek Beres

Derek Beres

Posted: September 27, 2010 02:05 PM

Hey Christine,

In June 2008 I spent nine days at the Sacred World Music Festival in Fes, Morocco, which is a country in North Africa, in case you haven't heard of it. (Full disclosure: it's a Muslim country. Miraculously, Christine, I was not kidnapped, tortured, terrorized, or converted.) On the plane I befriended a fellow journalist covering the event for Bloomberg named Robert Hilferty. Having a guide to lead you around a country you've never visited is a huge bonus, and Robert and I became fast friends.

For nine days I experienced some of the most amazing devotional music on the planet, featuring spectacularly adorned Tuareg women praising a god they call Allah, as well as one famous qawwali singer, Faiz Ali Faiz, performing alongside an American gospel singer named Craig Adams. There was one ecstatic moment where all the instruments converged--the harmonium into the piano, the drums into the handclaps, the tablas into the female backing vocalists--and Ali Faiz and Adams went back and forth, chanting Ali, the great friend of Muhammad, and Jesus. A few thousand people were standing and praising along. Can you imagine that, Christine? Muslims and Christians singing together? I'd a never thunk it if I didn't see it.

Robert and I saw a lot of performances like that. The premise of the festival was bringing together the world's different spiritual traditions and uniting them in song. During our down time, in the mornings by the hotel's pool, and late at night in a hallway outside the media room to get Internet access, we talked about our careers and how we came to cover such a spectacular festival. More often than not, Robert talked about his partner, Fabio.

Oh yeah, I forget to tell you that, Christine. Robert was gay. Not just any gay man, either. He was one of those uppity ones that fought for things, like civil rights. He made documentaries about the movement, most famously Stop the Church, which PBS refused to air because it denounced the Roman Catholic Church. (Did you help with that?) While Robert did not have AIDS, he was an activist, given that one of his partners died of the disease. Weirdly enough, he didn't buy into the idea that AIDS was a punishment to gays by god, the one you've been spreading around.

What I respected most about Robert was how passionately he loved Fabio, much in the same way that I love my fiancé, whom I met shortly after this trip. The gender of the person never seemed to matter as much as the intensity of the love behind it, at least not to people like Robert, or to myself. That he devoted himself to a man and I to a woman was secondary. What mattered, Christine, was the love.

Robert took his own life last July after experiencing a severe concussion a few months prior. This deeply saddened me. We had just emailed. Robert was asking me for help in building his own website--he had a bit of that curmudgeonly writer attitude, though he realized how important keeping up in the digital age had become. I was waiting to hear back about a cup of coffee when I got an email of an entirely different sort from another journalist.

I know you wouldn't have agreed with Robert's relationship, Christine. Hell, you wouldn't agree with mine either: my fiancé is Jewish and I don't believe in anything you'd call a god at all. Even worse, we both are devoted to protecting the rights of people of any sexual orientation, as well as the rights of a woman to choose to do what she wants with her body. I'm sure this is all blasphemy to you, a woman who refuses to even touch herself without thinking it an abomination of the god you make up as you go along. But the question remains: How do you expect to touch other people if you are afraid of your own skin?

Living in a time where celebrity trumps integrity, I'm pretty certain that you're not even sure what goes into that budget you claim to want balancing, or what tax codes even are and how they work. Somehow the reality television era has offered the clueless an opportunity to have a voice in public policy, and this is a dangerous thing. You've kept pace with your peers in confusing your voters into thinking that religious ideals are more important than things like tax breaks for the wealthy and unemployment rates. It's a dirty trick, but given how you've lived the past few decades of your life, I wouldn't put you above any of them.

But do me one favor, Christine. Keep your god and all its weird restrictions and judgments away from "the people." You know, like the one about forcing a woman who was raped into having the baby, or the daughter whose father forced sex on her to bear that child. And keep that notion that evolution is "just a myth" to yourself as well. Believe it or not, there are people actually educated in science that will speak on the subject with some credibility.

I'm guessing you won't ever even read this, being it's not on a Fox blog. This might be tough for you to remember, but once not so long ago politicians craved the exposure of national media, of debating other politicians and being asked challenging questions by journalists, before your Alaskan buddy made those methods obsolete. This was before hucksters like yourself ran to the shelter of your home state, claiming the issues of your tribe more important than the state of the nation. That's because you've never had a tribe, Christine, and you have no clue what it means to be part of a nation. You'd rather make up stories about your bushes rustling and boogie men crawling around your yard, which begs another question: Why is it that those with faith always seem to display so little of it?

Fundamentalism isn't faith, Christine. Spending all of your time criticizing other people's lives instead of going out into the world to do good is not actively engaging in politics. Just don't be surprised when your Army of One doesn't feel victorious in six weeks. There's simply no victory in being so divisive, hate-filled and morally bankrupt, a lesson that no god will spare you the fate of understanding.

 
 
 

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