Letters to the Editor

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High Church or Low?

To the Editor:

I have been a subscriber for less than a year, but have come to look eagerly forward to the arrival of each issue.

I found the letter entitled “Revisiting an Era in English History” by Ben Lowe of Florida Atlantic University quite revealing about some of the claims made by Patricia Nell Warren’s article “Of Freemasons, Kings & Constitutions” in the Nov.-Dec. 2006 issue. However, I must take issue with his definition of Arminianism as “a more high-church style that smacked of Catholic ceremony with it’s preference for liturgy over preaching.”

In England the proscription of Calvinism in the 1620’s was a major cause of the civil war that broke out in 1642. As Arminianism triumphed under Charles I, it rekindled Puritan opposition to the established church. The theological dispute between Arminianism and Calvinism—Arminianism promoting the role of the sacraments and the grace they conferred, and Calvinism focusing on the grace of predestination—assumed greater significance as a struggle for control of the English church itself.

This may appear to the casual reader as a disagreement over worship style but, in reality, it went to the heart of the difference between Calvinism and theologies of mainstream Protestantism. Due to the influence of John Wesley, Arminianism is perhaps most prominent in the Methodist movement.

Thank you for thought-provoking articles with a lesbian and gay context.

Jim McCrea, Piedmont, CA

 

Marriage Equality Not a Reality in Mass.

To the Editor:

Thanks for the focus your last issue gave to the long-overlooked topic of LGBT aging. As Sean Cahill’s essay pointed out, a host of issues are raised by the coming gay “age wave.” However, his assertion that Massachusetts, the only state where gay marriage is legal, has circumvented the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) for the benefit of the state’s same-sex married couples is unfortunately untrue.

Today, three years after the Goodridge decision, Mass. still stubbornly treats us as if we were legal strangers. While advocates are hopeful that Governor Deval Patrick will remove this vestige of his famously homophobic predecessor, we are leaving nothing to chance. On behalf of the LGBT Aging Project, Representative Liz Malia and over forty of her colleagues have filed a bill in the state legislature to mandate that Mass. treat its same-sex married couples as equally as Vermont has done through civil unions.

As Cahill’s essay noted, this is a matter of great importance for elderly LGBT couples who, unlike their married straight peers, are currently denied any protection against the catastrophic impact of long-term care costs. This is an injustice that must be corrected.

Dale Mitchell,
Cofounder, LGBT Aging Project, Boston

 

More Clues to the Mystery of Jack’s Death

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to the letter (Nov.-Dec. 2006) from Mashey Bernstein which addresses the “What Killed Jack Twist?” question. I had read Annie Proulx’s story a few times before viewing the film. in December 2005. In the lobby afterwards the circumstances of Jack’s death were being fervently debated by nearly every audience member. Most had assuredly not read the book and, at this early preview showing, had not been prejudiced by any critics’ or commentators’ opinions.

This debate about Jack’s death reached a crescendo as millions saw the film in the first few months of 2006.Viewers were deeply invested in their opinions. Was Jack’s death a simple accident resulting from an exploding tire which Ennis in his paranoia re-imagined as a murder, the consequence of living an out life? Or was it a hate-crime which had been disguised by his wife and others in a cover-up? Ms. Proulx’s story is ambiguous on this point. The screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana and director Ang Lee were deluged with requests to clarify what had actually happened to Jack. They wisely refused to provide any further clues to their intent, allowing the dramatic power of the incident to be derived from the tension created within viewers’ minds as they grappled with their personal guilts and fears.

Supporters of the murder theory have strong evidence on their side. An early script features several scenes which were filmed but not included in the final product. In one scene Jack, who is having an affair with the married Randall, parks his truck near an auto repair garage as they meet for a tryst. They are watched with suspicion by two garage mechanics in a scene heavy with foreshadowing. These mechanics are shown briefly in the trailer (viewable on youtube). A freeze-frame comparison between the trailer and DVD confirms these same men are later shown killing Jack. The trailer was not included on the DVD, possibly in an effort to retroactively remove this clue from the debate.

When Ennis seemingly imagines the death he visualizes three men killing Jack with a tire iron, an item which was visually referenced by Ang Lee throughout the film as further foreshadowing. Why would Ennis imagine that Jack was killed with an auto repair tool, seemingly by mechanics (he does not imagine them as cowboys —- they are greasy and do not wear cowboys hats)? Two of the killers he “imagines” are the mechanics shown glaring at Jack in the film’s trailer. This extra information strongly implies this scene is a flashback and not Ennis’ imagination. Readers of the early script have speculated that the screenwriters and director originally intended to include the foreshadowing scene at the garage but later edited it out, brilliantly creating a pivotal Mystery.

The death scene is shown without sound to make it appear unreal. The three men shown killing Jack are listed in the credits as “Killer Mechanic”, “Grease Monkey”, and “Assailant”. The “Assailant’ actor, Cam Sutherland, was also a behind-the-scenes sheep wrangler on the film crew and Christian Fraser, the “Grease Monkey” was also one of Heath Ledger’s stunt doubles. The scene shows three men, including an “Ennis double” killing Jack, and knowing this creates another layer of possible implication. Does Ennis feel guilty because he hadn’t done enough to protect Jack from danger? His impassive face during the phone call with Lureen reveals nothing, but the early script seems to confirm Jack was murdered.

If the film. had unambiguously depicted the murder it would have been a classic tragedy but the artfully constructed mystery surrounding it helps make Brokeback Mountain a masterpiece. The discussion of this fictional film. incident created more dialogue about gay-bashing and hate crimes than any real-life incident ever had. The film makers’ genius in instigating this cannot be underestimated and as a result all gay people owe them a debt of gratitude.

Mike Mattingly, Bardstown, KY
Santorum Lampoon Deemed Uncivil

 

To the Editor:

I’m bothered by a “World Wresting Experience” belligerence that has been infecting The Gay & Lesbian Review lately, possibly in desperation or reaction to perceived increased homophobia as reported by increased propagandistic media stirring Americans up for the next elections. For example, Dan Savage’s namesake blog against ex-U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (headlined in your “Guest Opinion,” March-April 2007 issue) is crass, vulgar, ugly, vengeful, bigoted, and uncivilized. It does great disservice to the great majority of LGBT people who do not share its vindictive spirit.

The world may be a miserable place, we all know it. But our hearts are bigger than political isms.

John L. Watkins, Susquehanna, PA

 

The Well-Interviewed Vidal

To the Editor:

Gore Vidal is among those very few Americans who really deserve to be called a national treasure. It was a pleasure to see him gracing the cover of your issue of March-April, 2007. His magnificent novels alone guarantee that he will be read appreciatively long after all of us are gone. And not only has Vidal written a long shelf of great fiction, some of his other works unmask the fiction in what has passes for fact in American public life, especially in the nation’s disastrous foreign policy, today and in the past. And the nation’s past has, of course, been one of Vidal’s great subjects; he has perceived the meaning and burden of that past better than many who have been trained, sometimes at the expense of both insight and graceful writing, in the historical profession. For readers of this magazine, Gore Vidal has particular significance, as someone who has made us examine the very foundation of contemporary notions about sexual identity.

John Esther is a good interviewer, up to the daunting task of engaging someone of Vidal’s imposing stature. (So good is the interview that one can forgive Esther’s confusing parts of speech in asking Vidal about his iconoclastic approach to sexual activity. Esther’s right that Vidal has provocatively denied that “homosexual” should be a noun, but to Vidal the word has been sensibly seen as an adjective—not, as Esther had it, a verb.) With remarkable economy, Esther managed to pose smart and candid questions about the death of Vidal’s companion Howard Auster, the possible reason that someone of Vidal’s privileged background nonetheless became such a fierce dissenter, the horrible state of contemporary politics, the audience for whom Vidal writes, even Vidal’s opinion of Robert Altman. Esther knew his subject, and thereby gave G&LR readers a solid sense of Vidal’s impressive range and tremendous insight—no small accomplishment.

John lbson, Professor of American Studies, CSU-Fullerton, CA

 

Correction

Due to an editing error in the March-April 2005 issue, it was stated in the introduction to the interview with Gore Vidal (“Kinsey and I Thought Very Much Alike”) that the title of his book, Point to Point Navigation, refers to a method of finding your destination when flying a plane during World War II. In fact, it was a method of navigation at sea that Vidal learned as first mate on a freight supply ship in the Aleutians.

 

Update

Sean Cahill, author of “The Coming GLBT Senior Boom” in the Jan.-Feb. 2007 issue, offered the following clarification:

“My article noted the unfair treatment of same-sex partners under 401(k) policy. While married spouses could roll over a deceased spouse’s 401(k) tax-free into an IRA, same-sex partners could not. This changed in August 2006 with the Pension Protection Act, which allows same-sex partners and other non-spousal beneficiaries the same rights as married widows and widowers. This will benefit the one third of American 401(k) holders who are unmarried. Many of these fifteen million people are in same-sex relationships.”

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