PENCIVE TIMES: “MAKING AMERICA STRAIGHT (OR AT LEAST CLOSETED) AGAIN”
The three paintings posted today are from the 1990s. They could not be more relevant today.
Christ Ministering to the Homosexuals in Salt Lake City, Watercolor, 51" x 43", 1996, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust.**
Under a United States Supreme Court decision, Senator Orrin Hatch’s Equal Access Act to protect the religious liberties of public school children had the unintended consequence of protecting gay school children. One high ranking Utah State Senator saw this for what it really was: moral decay sweeping across the country, “orchestrated by adult homosexual organizations. . . . Since they can’t reproduce, they have basically said, `We will seduce and sodomize your children.’” Eagle Forum enthusiasts had little difficulty persuading Utah’s 1996 legislature to exercise its priesthood authority by passing legislation banning gay clubs in public schools. The secretive process by which that bill became law was the subject of Christ Ministering to the Homosexuals in Salt Lake City. Please take a moment to study the painting. For a brief history of the related issues, see the link below. As a cooperating attorney with the ACLU, I had the good fortune to work with my friend Stephen C. Clark on the second “East High Gay Club" case in persuading a federal judge who had considerable constitutional insight to, shall we say, convince the Salt Lake City School Board it must do the right thing, even if for the wrong reasons:
High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Trump’s warp-speed self-destruction requires us to brace for Pence. Section 4 of Article Two of the United States Constitution: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." If the Russians materially affected the results of the 2016 US election OR evidence confirms a Trump-Putin conspiracy to influence its outcome, even the party-first leadership might have some difficulty ignoring the groundswell and their oath—although Pence should, under those conditions, suffer the same ignominy--and illegitimacy--as Trump. A do-over-election? Don’t count on it. Brace yourselves for Pence. We’ll get to Ryan in a later post.
Some could reasonably conclude that Trump is less dangerous than Pence. His "brilliant," "beautiful," "amazing" brain isn’t all that complicated. As malignant narcissist-in-chief, Trump is steeped in no ideology, he has none, except the deluded perception of his own greatness. That helps explain his ongoing campaign-style rallies as substitutes for governance, and his obsession with margin-of-victory, millions of "illegals" making up for his resounding popular-vote defeat, inauguration crowd-size, hand-size . . . . Unless he fills that massive void with the praise and reinforcement of others, it remains empty. He is entirely extrinsic. “The Whitehouse child-psychologist confirmed earlier today that POTUS himself, alone, is his only ‘ideology.’ ‘We believe that when he moves from pre-teen to adolescent into young-adulthood, and if his juvenile brain fully develops, we could begin to see . . . .’” Again, don’t count on it. Brace yourselves for Pence.
Reparative Therapy from the Chaos Regime
Before becoming Trump’s lap-dog, Pence distinguished himself in public life by marginalizing those whose lives and decisions were anathema to his conservative Christian ideology. That ideological framework became his public agenda to make American straight, or closeted, again.
On October 6, 1998, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson beat, tortured and left for dead Matthew Shepard. That hate crime was only slightly more primitive than the religiously inspired program advocated by Pence to solve the serious social and moral scourge of homosexuality. The next year—and six years after my folks came out as the parents of a gay child to said gay son on his 22nd birthday—my father joined that cacophony with Sheparding, a haunting piece which I choose to believe comments on the horrific ignorance and over-againstness that define most hate groups, particularly the religiously inspired, some of which take the form of government bodies gerrymandered into power by a similarly inspired electorate. Should it surprise anyone that official marginalization does little to discourage and much to encourage unofficial physical, emotional and social violence against the marginalized?
Sheparding, 46.5" x 36", Oil on Canvas, 1999, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust.
Two years after Matthew Shepard’s murder Pence’s platform, under the heading "Strengthening the American Family," sought to defund AIDS/HIV research in favor of conversion (reparative) therapy, a practice already discredited worldwide by every legitimate psychological organization. Exposed as an utterly unethical, barbaric and dangerous pseudoscience, conversion therapy destroyed many individual lives. But it also inflicted considerable social harm by disseminating and advocating unscientific views about sexual orientation.
Pence’s 2000 website said:
"Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior."
A Refreshing Change
My brother’s private barter with god didn’t work—he returned from his mission just as gay as he’d left. Recognizing the truth in this truth, my parents engaged in an advanced form of self-directed conversion therapy, not calculated to change their son but to exorcise from themselves the received homophobia fueled by procreation theocracy and sectarian over-againstness. They, not their son, would become the converted. Richard and Renee renounced ex-gay Mormon ministries. They vowed their son mustn't be encouraged to identify as or be converted to un-gay. As mentioned in a prior post, Renee compartmentalized sexual orientation from the other Mormon abominations. Indeed, she and my father provided a well-intended but imperfect sanctuary through Family Fellowship for Mormon members of the LGBT community. Renee passed away last year having ‘endured to the end’ convinced the Mormon Church got everything right except one. In contrast, Richard was more broadly destabilized by the religious and social hostilities surrounding his son’s gayness. He entered a period defined largely by that disorientation. Don’t misunderstand: when he passed on Christmas 2013, he remained in the faith, albeit somewhat wiser. Richard's first of many pieces from that period:
In Search of the H Gene, Watercolor, 48" X 36", 1994, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust
In Search of the H Gene was included in “Watercolor Now,” the 1993 Fourth Biennial Exhibit of the Watercolor USA Honor Society in Salt Lake City, an exhibition at the Salt Lake Art Center. Given some of Richard’s writings on the subject, I believe the painting is a visual expression of the beginning of his mourning process, his deconstruction and efforts to rebuild those portions of his belief system he came to understand were deeply flawed. I plan to post additional of his work that reveals his progress along that trek.
As a Congressman arguing against marriage equality, Pence claimed being gay was a choice. "[S]ocietal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family." Allowing marriage equality to members of the LGBT community would, in his view, lead to disastrous societal outcomes. That is his deeply held religious belief.
I leave for future posts additional indicia from Pence’s history that portend disastrously for America with his upcoming regime. They will include his:
• Opposition to reproductive rights, including federal funding for abortions only when the pregnancies resulted from the “forcible” kind of rape
• Opposition to transgender rights
• Opposition to repealing don’t ask don’t tell
• Opposition to legislation prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace
• Signing legislation allowing Indiana businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community veiled by their personal religious beliefs
THE CE CONTINUED
As for the Chaffetz Embarrassment, the slogans for CE’s ambitious efforts to become “The Most Embarrassing Congressperson 435” write themselves. Endorsements are pouring in. His lead in the polls is impressive. He is running away with it. Doubtful anyone will catch hm. Five-Thirty-Eight has him above 90%.
**Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally.