Burch: A young man's protest

Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 10:05pm
By Michael R. Burch

Brandon Holt is a young man on a mission. Whether that mission is impossible or not remains to be seen. After all, he’s trying to bring Tennessee government to its senses — a truly Herculean task. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he and his fellow student-activists eventually manage to muck out our state legislature’s smelly chambers, just as Hercules once cleansed the stinky stalls of King Augeas. According to legend, the Olympic games were founded to celebrate the victory of Hercules over the rotten-egg rulers of his day.

Holt recently graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School and is now bound for Princeton University. During his senior year, he helped organize seven protests against the now-infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which along with other bizarre bits of bigoted buffoonery (euphemistically called “legislation”) have made Tennessee the butt of many a late-night comedian’s ridicule.

Holt recently helped organize an eighth protest — this one against HB600, which Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law on May 23. It overruled a Metro ordinance that would have required vendors doing business with the city to have nondiscrimination employment policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity.

As reported by WSMV Channel 4 News, Holt and other students recently delivered a petition to Haslam asking him to “repeal the repeal” of Nashville’s nondiscrimination ordinance. According to Holt, he thought Haslam “was even more supportive because we are youth that are taking a stand for what we believe in.”

Holt has also been quoted nationwide by news organizations such as NBC News and msnbc.com, which reported him saying: “This is the civil rights movement of our time, and if we don't take advantage of our opportunity to stand up for what we believe in, then we have lost that opportunity. And this is something that we all feel so strongly about.”

Holt hit the ground running: “My first protest was something that I organized. I found that it wasn’t as daunting or as hard as I thought it would be.”

And he remains undaunted — despite his protests having failed to move Tennessee’s stone-age legislature: “Even though I guess we lost the fight, we kind of won because we set the stage for other young people to take part in government.”

Holt served as a congressional page and that service led him to become politically active: “At page school, I learned that the most important thing a citizen can do is participate actively in government.”

He later worked as an intern for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who said of Holt and his gay rights movement: “It reminds me of the Freedom Riders in the ’60s. We haven’t had that kind of spunk and gumption displayed by a young person in Nashville in a long time, maybe half a century.”

On a more humorous note, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has sparked a “light bulb idea” by former Star Trek actor George Takei, who proposes the following: “Any time you need to say the word ‘gay,’ you can simply say ‘Takei.’” He offered examples in a YouTube video: “You could safely proclaim you support Takei marriage. If you’re in a more festive mood, you can march in a Takei Pride Parade. Even homophobic slurs don't seem as hurtful if you say, ‘That’s sooo Takei.’”

Here’s a proposal of my own: “Discrimination is tacky, so buy a Bob Mackie, wear threads bright and fey, then pretend to be gay, till all bigots admit: “We were full of bull*&%?!”

Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.

140 Comments on this post:

By: bnakat on 6/10/11 at 12:16

It is indeed remarkable that a man with supposedly stellar literary credentials could write as a one-trick pony. Promoting sexual perversion as an acceptable “lifestyle” is Mr. Burch’s weekly agenda. Castigating true Christianity, and Biblical principles flows freely from his secular mindset. To be charitable, we should state that he sometimes departs from his core mission for excursions into anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian rants.

This week, his tactic is to laud the efforts of a misguided young zealot who considers himself a part of “the civil rights movement of our time.” This persistent ploy to equate the demands of sexual perverts to the deplorable treatment and arduous journey of blacks is ludicrous. Decent people should find such an effort reprehensible.

By: Mike Burch on 6/10/11 at 1:52


It's ironic that conservative Christians have turned Jesus into a racist, intolerant bigot with their absurd dogma ... most atheists, agnostics and people of other religions have much higher opinions of Jesus.

Not long ago, southern Christians were using the Bible to justify slavery. Today they use the Bible to justify homophobia. The next generation will no doubt look back at homophobic Christians the way this generation looks back at racist Christians.

Not long ago, according to southern Christians, slavery was a Biblical principle, and people like Abraham Lincoln who opposed slavery were "infidels." Were slaveholders "decent" people? Are homophobes?

Is God a racist, intolerant bigot who prefers heterosexual Christians to billions of other people? Did Jesus preach a sermon on the importance of religious tolerance (the parable of the Good Samaritan) and continually condemn hypocrisy, only to decline to be a Good Samaritan himself? Is Jesus a hypocrite, or did southern Christians misunderstand him the same way his disciples constantly misunderstood him?

Mike Burch

By: dargent7 on 6/10/11 at 4:44

Attempting to take on the mind set of "bnakat" is an exercise in futility.
These people will never change their minds and accept the fact homosexuality is a genetic, pre-determined sexual orientation.
Let 'em stew in it.

By: govskeptic on 6/10/11 at 5:29

The efforts of this young man (and his merry band of followers)
are truly mild compared to the efforts of today's LTE author.!
These constant totally falsely slanted descriptions of Christians and
especially so-called southern Christians are too numerous to even count.

I suspect the agenda to be much greater than just the attempted
bashing on this subject, rather a disgusted rejection of the entire
Holy Bible and all who would believe any word therein!

By: house_of_pain on 6/10/11 at 5:37

bnakat= bigot with a thesaurus.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/10/11 at 5:39

oh here comes the christian paranoia/persecution mindset. if asked to be tolerant of other beliefs and mindsets, it's suddenly viewed as an attempt by the "non-believers" to eradicate christianity.

By: house_of_pain on 6/10/11 at 5:39

TGIPF, Blanket.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/10/11 at 5:41

gov, do you realize that with your post you pretty much became the "slated description" of Christianity for which you criticize? do you not see the irony of your post?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/10/11 at 5:42

TGIPF too, house!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/10/11 at 5:44

where's Nemo's duct tape when you need it? huh?

By: house_of_pain on 6/10/11 at 5:47

Duct tape is silver. Silence is golden.

Diseased is the mind of one who hates another over something that can't be controlled by either.

By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 6:03

I see the Bible as I see the Pirates Code...not to be taken literally but used as a guideline.

By: dargent7 on 6/10/11 at 6:51

In the New Testament, I believe everything Jesus Christ said, did, spoke and acted was beautiful.
Across the board.
Whereas, this Muhammad fellow, seemed hell bent on divide and conquer and violence.
I know some Christians are crazy and resort to violence, but Muslims seem to have a higher propensity toward it.
Look to the leadership.

By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 7:00

Carlin was right...religion is really "My god's **** is bigger than yours".

By: dargent7 on 6/10/11 at 7:58

gD: When you make a post like that, you should do what Larry the Cable Guy does: "Oh Lord, forgive me for sayin' that".

By: jvh2b on 6/10/11 at 8:04

As usual -- bravo Mike -- bravo

By: jvh2b on 6/10/11 at 8:06

"By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 7:03

I see the Bible as I see the Pirates Code...not to be taken literally but used as a guideline."

Thats because that was what it was intended for...to learn the lessons of the parables and collection of stories...unfortunately all to many miss the forest for the tree's on that one.

By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 8:07

I didn't realize truth needs forgiveness...

By: Captain Nemo on 6/10/11 at 8:08

Good morning people. I worked for 20hrs yesterday and just got up a short time ago.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/10/11 at 8:08

I find it humorous that bnakat calls Mike Burch a one-trick pony, when our talented bnakat only trick is post in the wee hours and then slither off with out debating his opinion.

By: dargent7 on 6/10/11 at 8:09

In the old days, you knew you we're going to have a bad day when "60 Minutes" knocked on your office door. It was never good.
Now, when you come back from a 2 week cruise of the islands of Greece, your entire staff of 19, working on your presidential campaign, QUIT.
Yet Newt, promises to forge ahead.
I think it's a horse race among idiots: Gingrich, Palin, Bachmann, Santorum.

By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 8:13

Newt got slammed for stating the truth: the GOP is attempting social engineering with the proposed Medicare "reform". That's a big no-no...you can think it, acknowledge it privately, but don't state it publicly.

Someone had to fall on the sword...you didn't really think Newt would, did you?

The larger problem is that politicians can't give honest answers regarding complex issues because the media and the people only want PC answers. Anything else is an offense.

By: Kosh III on 6/10/11 at 8:16

Funny how those like bnakat, Haslam Ramsey, Land etc etc are eager to bash gays based on a dubious and outdated text but they cheerfully ignore the clear and uncompromising parts of the Bible which apply to them.
"I hate divorce, says the Lord" Mal 2:16
"thou shalt not commit adultery"

When Ketron, Maury Davis, Gingrich et al start pushing for the death penalty for adultery and a constitutional amendment to outlaw divorce, I'll listen to their lies, but not before.

A man wiser than all of us said: "love one another."

By: dargent7 on 6/10/11 at 8:18

"Love one another"?
There's no money in it.

By: revo-lou on 6/10/11 at 8:27

bnakat is not going to engage in banter, which is fine. His/hers (sorry, I can’t remember your gender) stance is duly noted. I think though, that stating being gay as a perversion, based on a religious stance, is inappropriate and cowardly. Tweeting a picture of your “junk” is a lot more perverted than being gay. To not understand why shows a lack of awareness and study of the world.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/10/11 at 8:41

The Christianity that is practiced today is not what was experienced 2,000 years ago. Todays Christianity is a mixture of social and political snobbery and very little of what Christ taught.

I have been surprised over the years as to just how little the so call Christians really know of the Bible. Some even think that it was first written in English and has been distorted in translation over the years.

A pastor told me that there was nothing beyond the Moon and Stars. It only showed to me just how diminutive he thought in a God he so sanctimoniously talked for.

By: BenDover on 6/10/11 at 8:42

I just wonder how the people of the civil rights movement of the 60's feel about having homosexuality elevated to the level of a civil right.

By: jvh2b on 6/10/11 at 8:46

Ben - Depends on the person - I know many that agree 100%...others that don't like it one bit...it usually revolves around their own religious beliefs and opinions on homosexuality...

Kind of a loaded question...it's like everything else...the opinion depends on the person....

By: revo-lou on 6/10/11 at 8:46

Ben, do you think it does not have the same underlying principle of not judging people by what they are and instead by WHO they are?

By: Captain Nemo on 6/10/11 at 8:50

I did not get a chance to commit bud’s post from Wednesday, until now.

By: budlight on 6/8/11 at 4:11

Captain Nemo on 6/8/11 at 6:31
He will just deny it and bud will call me a menace to the universe.
Wow! Yogi, I've been in Chattanooga since last Friday morning. Didn't think about or even open e-mail with City Paper. AND YET these yahoo's still manage to conjure me up. Sad! I'm so sad that Nemo has no one better to talk about than you and me.

When talking about idiots, buffoons and loons, budlight your name always comes up. You are just a masochist/narcissistic old troll that love the pain and an unsavory reputation.

Now we all know you just love the attention.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/10/11 at 8:54

Ben it makes me think that the people that can not see this as a Civil Rights, either did not understand it in the 60’s or now have their rights and don’t care about letting anyone else have theirs.

By: Funditto on 6/10/11 at 8:56

House - if you saw a group of middle aged women peeking in the window at Neighbors last night, that we me and my bunch. We didn't go in as we left our Cougar costumes in the closet.

By: BenDover on 6/10/11 at 8:59

It depends on whether you agree that their homosexuality is nature or nurture, revo. Then further do you believe as a society we should encourage or discourage the act.

I personally have no problem with gay marriage. I don't think a judge should be deciding it though; and if this kid wants to be an activist trying to change popular opinion on the issue then fine. I get the impression that Burch would like it decided like a civil rights issue by a judge and imposing this on society like that is wrong.

I'm inclined not to be quick to throw out the social and cultural heritage of Judeo/Christian western society just because the latest generation is quick to accept what has long been considered a destructive perversion.

By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 9:02

"I'm inclined not to be quick to throw out the social and cultural heritage of Judeo/Christian western society just because the latest generation is quick to accept what has long been considered a destructive perversion."

It's called progress.

By: revo-lou on 6/10/11 at 9:04

{...western society just because the latest generation is quick to accept what has long been considered a destructive perversion.}

Oh PLEASE! They only reason it would be considered destructive is because WE SAY IT IS. Hell, it would be just as easy to make the case that Judeo/Christian values are equally destructive and as easily perverted.

By: BenDover on 6/10/11 at 9:05

Well maybe... or maybe our culture has survived because the long forgotten reason for that lesson against homosexuality, sewn into our mores and social culture, is of great value to our ongoing survival.

By: Kosh III on 6/10/11 at 9:05

" just wonder how the people of the civil rights movement of the 60's feel about having homosexuality elevated to the level of a civil right."

Equality is equality and gays don't have it---yet.

Coretta Scott King was very strong in support of equality for gays as was her husband.
Desmond Tutu is also a supporter.
Sonnye Dixon, former NAACP local president and current PASTOR of a Methodist church.

I can keep naming some more.

By: revo-lou on 6/10/11 at 9:11

{Well maybe... or maybe our culture has survived because the long forgotten reason for that lesson against homosexuality, sewn into our mores and social culture, is of great value to our ongoing survival.}

Right, cause there have never been any gays until last year.

By: Kosh III on 6/10/11 at 9:12

That long history you refer to Ben includes CENTURIES in which gay unions were sanctioned and blessed by the Christian church, esp. the Eastern (Orthodox) version. But also in the west.
During the High Middle Ages, the Archbishop of Nantes had a gay partner: the Bishop of Orleans, who had once been the lover of the French King.
Ditto Richard the Lion-Hearted. His widow had to appeal to the Pope for her
inheritance from Richard because no one believed that he could have been with a woman.

During the Greco-Roman period, gay couples would go to make their vows at the Tomb of Hercules, who was famously married to his male companion Iolus.

Curio the Elder tried to get the Senate to censure C. Julius Caesar because he had been the passive-role partner with the King of Bithynia(I think) the problem being that a Roman was superior to a client and could not take the "bottom" role since it would mar the image of Romans as the superior race.

Read all history, just not the parts that you like.

By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 9:12

Yeah, as a culture we've survived because we keep thinking of homosexuality as a perversion...lol

By: BenDover on 6/10/11 at 9:13

Our Judeo / Christian values have the advantage of a proven record of survival. What is happening to our culture now is not a slow evolution including a feedback cycle. Instead the mutation is happening very fast and the framework against which we measure our moral and social standards has been thrown away in favor of moral relativism where the definition of even the words 'right' and 'wrong' has been changed.

I'm not a prude... I grew up in the same culture that's influencing us all now. My studies and heartfelt contemplation, however, lead me to believe that flushing 4000 years of cultural evolution down the toilet in favor of a 'find yourself... do what feels good' world of moral relativism is probably not the best idea for society.

By: gdiafante on 6/10/11 at 9:19

Do you really think it's a "feel good" issue? Or it's an enlightented society rejecting an archaic idiology that is thousands of years old and becoming irrelevant?

By: BenDover on 6/10/11 at 9:32

I don't know GD. I told you above I'm fine with gay marriage. I don't think the thresholds of a society sanctioned marriage should be decided by a judge though.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/10/11 at 9:36

I find it hard not to think you are a prude, Ben when you brush it off as a “feel good” theme.

What make you think 4,000 years ago that it was not part of the culture? Why would you defend a society that tells any adults who they can fall in love with and who not too?

By: Captain Nemo on 6/10/11 at 9:41

Ben. it sure want be in a society that thinks love should be found in between the line of column A and column B. Love should never be defined by a majority or a minority.

By: BenDover on 6/10/11 at 9:41

Lots of societies have done that for centuries, Nemo... very common in India now. Who am I to judge?

By: slacker on 6/10/11 at 9:47

Love means you never have to say you're sorry
- Mrs Weiner

By: house_of_pain on 6/10/11 at 9:53

Fun, I'm on Daddy Duty, Thurs. & Fri. every week. No bar for me. :(

By: BenDover on 6/10/11 at 10:05

I'm really shocked that the City Paper keeps giving Burch this megaphone without any substantial balance to his positions. Does the CityPaper see Burch as a middle-of-the-Road commentator that needs no balance? Or is the City Paper in a race to the bottom with the Tennessean to see who can be the most liberal middle Tennessee fish-wrapper?

By: revo-lou on 6/10/11 at 10:08

Are you offering up your services Ben? I think bnakat would better serve in that position than you though.