Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Carrying The Torch for Ted Kennedy and more Importantly for Ordinary Folks like Us

The best course we can take to continue the mission that Edward Kennedy championed is to make certain that Congress and the President pass a fair universal health care package that lowers costs by inclduing a public option, provides quality health care for all, and takes into account the needs of people of all ages. I just heard Adrianna Huffington say she was tired of hearing media buttonhole Ted Kennedy as only a liberal or progressive. His ideas were the ideas of Americans, she went on to say. It is true what Adrianna says. Ted Kennedy represented the voices of hard working class Americans who wanted a fair shake in life. He wanted justice for those who were disadvantaged and for those who couldn't always speak up for themselves.

I heard a blurb from TV of Ted speaking before the Senate about the need to raise the minimum wages which he fought for over his whole career. He said and I paraphrase when he was disgusted with the conservative Senators and others who did not want to support a raise of 2.15 cents over a 2 year period. He spoke with disgust saying What more do you want from these good working men and women of America, how greedy can you get? How much more do you need referring to the wealthy power brokers in power. He was something else. You never hear that kind of speak anymore. The greedy Capitalists are winning all the time now and now Ted's voice will be silent. Others will speak up from time to time but we need to get the Ted Kennedy injected back into the political scene again. It seems in order to win a seat in Congress or to even think of running for President, one has to be right smack in the middle or to the right. There is no being progressive or even a liberal Democrat in current political time.

I wonder about the evolution of Arianna Huffington from Republican to progressive opinion news and blog writer and speaker. I know she wrote a book back in the seventies which was anti Feminist. I find this astounding given who she seems to be. Never hear her talk about Feminism to this day yet she seems like a strong progressive voice who must have renounced those antiquated ideas she had years ago. Hearing her speak up to talk about the legacy of Ted Kennedy is strange and a bit bittersweet. It is not that I don't like her as I think her ideas are refreshing and usually right on target or should I say left on target or is it as she says, her ideas are American common sense ideas or do we have to just say that because the country is now so far to the right. It sure can get confusing.

Who else may carry the torch and tradition of Ted Kennedy. No one has mentioned "Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (born July 4, 1951) was lieutenant governor of the U.S. state of Maryland from 1995 to 2003. She ran for the governorship in 2002. The oldest of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel's 11 children, she is part of the Kennedy political family." ( She has always impressed me. Perhaps, the younger generation need not carry a torch as what is expected today is that they be themselves rather than enlarge power for the Kennedy family which always seemed a given.

No one knows what the future will hold. Obama's image seems to be diminished and diminishing as a result of shrewd political maneuvering of the large corporations and business that run our country. They have brought out the cave men, the gun toting
and the lunatic and know nothing fringe shouting stupid and carrying sign with slogans i.e. give me back my country and Obama is Hitler. Is this America, Arianna, Teddy? Is this country for those who shout the loudest and have the most hysteria. The mainstream Republicans will not put this group of marginal nutcases in their place because they seem afraid to lose their votes and perhaps, deep down, agree with some of the anti intellectual message many of them share including the carrying of lethal weapons in public settings. And people just look on including most of the media without condemnation and without simple human reactions of horror at the sheer thought of these images surrounding the highest elective offices in the land including our President who happens to be a Black man.

Ted Kennedy who supported Obama and saw him as a new generational face of his older brother Jack would want to see
President Barack Obama take the heavy mantel he accepted, get some real back bone and pick up the will of the majority of people in this country who want fairness for all regardless of race or class or sexual orientation or gender , equality, environmental justice, and health care for all. As Ted Kennedy said, how greedy can you get. Give the people what they need and I would add even if they don't know they need it and are too ignorant and brainwashed by big business to know what they need. It is our job to continue Ted's tradition of educating the public at large and to keep pushing for the rights of people, the average common people in this land who need a break and sho don't need to have their anger channeled against their own self interests.

As Ted said "The Dream will never Die". Obama must carry this dream on or get out of the way for the next politiican determined to do the right thing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Testimony From a Gay Survivor of the Nazi Regime

The following was translated by a friend from LAIN and Facebook. See below.

Gerard Koskovich: Testimony From a Gay Survivor of the Nazi Regime

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Following is my translation from the French of a first-person testimony published by a gay survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. The French version first appeared as "Les homophiles dans les camps de concentration de Hitler" by B.M., "Die Runde," in Arcadie, no. 82 (October 1960), pages 616-618.

Homophiles in Hitler's Concentration Camps

by Bert Micha

When the German concentration camps were thrown open in 1945, a wave of terror swept over Germany and the entire world. But the indignation, pity and horror soon were wiped out by the general misery that followed the war, by daily worries about finding food and a place to live. The Dachau trials remained unknown to large parts of the public, and it didn't take long before some individuals started to show signs of doubt about the genuine gravity of the horrors that took place in the camps. Too many people had a powerful interest in minimizing the atrocities that had been committed and in letting them fall into obscurity as quickly as possible. A few books did appear, but they were not always objective, and often they were aimed at sensationalism. As for the survivors of the horrors of the camps, they were busy trying to find their place in the new society then being formed -- a society that they hoped would be in keeping with fundamental humanitarian principles. From time to time, organizations representing the interests of the victims -- particularly Jews, who were the most severely affected, as well as communists, socialists and displaced foreigners -- tried to claim indemnification, most often without much success.

The common law prisoners -- pimps, killers and professional thieves who had been so numerous in the camps and who had at first greatly damaged the reputations of the liberated internees -- quickly rediscovered their old lives and disappeared from view. Bonds of friendship already had been less than firm in the camps, where shared misery too often brought out the basest instincts; such bonds rapidly came undone. The recent trials of former concentration camp doctors have created barely even a weak renewal of curiosity and interest regarding these past events.

Yet there is one group among all the victims that has never received the light of publicity, hasn't complained about the damage it sustained, and hasn't encountered any understanding from the newspapers, from government agencies or from organizations that defend the interests of former internees: That group is the homophiles. Because Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code -- the very Paragraph 175 that has been a subject of debate for decades -- makes homophiles into criminals, they encounter no pity from the public, and of course can make no claim for damages. To this day, no one has sought to learn how many homophiles were hunted down by the Nazis, nor to learn what the survivors retrieved of their lives and their belongings.

Memorial to the gay victims of the Nazi regime (Nollendorfplatz, Berlin). The inscription on the granite triangle reads: "Beaten to Death. Silenced to Death. The Homosexual Victims of National Socialism." (Photo: G. Koskovich)

The trials of former camp doctors have recently called to mind the fact that thousands of homophiles were forcibly castrated, often under beastly conditions. In the camps, homophiles often were singled out for special mistreatment. The author of these lines himself once witnessed how an effeminate young man had to dance repeatedly in front of the SS, only to be subsequently strung up on a beam in the guardroom with his hands and feet tied, then beaten horribly. The author also recalls the "latrine parades" in one of the first camps (Sonnenburg), for which the commandant always chose homophiles.

We must not forget that the homophiles in question often were honorable and cultured citizens who held important positions in society and in the government. During the seven years that he passed in various camps, the author of this article got to know a Prussian prince, major athletes, professors, schoolteachers, engineers, artisans, workers of every type -- and naturally, prostitutes, as well. Certainly, not all of them were worthwhile people, but the majority were completely lost and alone in the world of the concentration camps. During their rare hours of leisure, they lived largely in isolation. It was thus that I came to know the tragedy of a very civilized foreign embassy attaché who remained absolutely walled-up and unapproachable in a boundless and inescapable despair. He couldn't manage to make sense of the atrocious cruelty that he saw around him, and one day, for no apparent reason, he slumped over dead.

To this day, I find it impossible to recall all those comrades, those outrages, those deaths without sinking into profound despair.

None of this would have been possible without the legal opportunities that Paragraph 175 offered to the sadistic butchers of the Third Reich. I am now an old man. In my youth, I knew the activities and the struggles of the homophile circles that were then united under Magnus Hirschfeld, Adolf Brand, Fritz Radszuweit and others -- men who gave their honorable names to the fight for rights. I worked with them and I joined them in hoping for understanding and justice. Whether Paragraph 175 is maintained or repealed is no longer of much concern to me personally. But I hope for all those human beings known or unknown who still live under the weight of its constant threat that -- despite everything -- reason, progress, science and the courage of the medical profession will finally win the day. If that happens, the victims of all the concentration camps will not have died in vain.

NOTE: Arcadie was the main French homophile periodical of the 1950s. It gives little indication of the source of the text translated here: merely the German words "Die Runde" ("the round," "the circle" or "the party") that follow the author's initials. Although not so stated, the article was translated into French from a German text that appeared under the pseudonym "Bert Micha" in the autumn 1958 issue of the mimeographed private newsletter of Die Runde, an informal social group of gay men in the town of Reutlingen, near Stuttgart.

Details about Die Runde and the Micha article can be found in Karl-Heinz Steinle, Die Geschichte der Kameradschaft die Runde 1950 bis 1969, Hefte des Schwulen Museums, no. 1 (Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1998), pages 12-13, and Andreas Sternweiler et al. (eds.), Goodbye to Berlin? 100 Jahre Schwulenbewegung (Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1997), page 199. Thanks to Prof. James Steakley of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, for providing this information. --GK

Translation copyright © 2009 by Ray Gerard Koskovich; may be reprinted with credit for noncommercial purposes provided a copy of the print publication or a link to the online publication is sent to the translator at

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Books That Influenced Me: Shows My Age

A friend asked me to list at least 15 book that influenced me or made their mark so here they are. Shows my age.

Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn by Mark Twain
Short Stories by Jack London
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Helen Keller by Annie Sullivan
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Diary of Anne Frank
Life of Maxim Gorky Autobiography
My Life by Eleanor Roosevelt , any book about Eleanor Roosevelt by Eleanor Roosevelt
Short Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer
KeepYour Gunpowder Dry, Margaret Mead
Well of Loneliness, Radcliffe Hall
The Story of Christine Jorgenson, by Christine Jorgenson
Capital, by Karl Marx sometimes written Das Kapital
The Second Sex, Simone De Beauvoir
The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
Moses and Monotheism by Sigmund Freud
Woman on the Edge of Time , Marge Piercy
The Cancer Journals, Audre Lorde
Aging in Three Industrial Societies, Ethel Shanas et. al.
Journals and Novels by May Sarton

One Book I am promoting is Lambda Gray: A Practical Emotional and Spiritual Guide For Gay and Lesbians Who are Growing Older, ed. Karen Reyes (Mina and I have a chapter in it). Marcy Adelman's book on Midlife Lesbians where we also have a chapter.