Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Snickers & "The Bus"

The other evening my Angela commented that she was worried about our cat Snickers. Several times she had caught him just suddenly falling over. We started watching him closer and, sure enough, there's something wrong with the little guy. After we both saw him suddenly flop on his side I looked into Angela's face and saw the same anguish I was feeling. We started talking about him. The funny and crazy experiences we'd had with him...walking him to the groomer strapped into a baby walker...Angela sleeping all night at the bottom of a tree that he was stuck in. In all of that there was strong, painful emotion. We didn't want to lose him, we castigated ourselves for not enjoying him more, and in the days that followed I found both of us deliberately spending more time with Snickers. The typical cuddling and petting that he loves took on a greater urgency as I was determined to appreciate him while we still had the time.

A few weeks ago I met James Lantz. He is a professor, a playwright, a father and a husband. He wrote a play called 'The Bus". It was received so well that he was invited to take it to an off Broadway theater in New York for a few months. "The Bus" is about two young men, their relationship, and the tragedy of social pressure on gay relationships. James decided that he wanted to also try to take the play to Topeka and perform it in close proximity to my family so he asked me to read the play and perhaps support his efforts. I read it and I wept.

Not long ago I came across an interesting article that explained the latest scientific discoveries about how the brain responds to ideas that are contrary to our existing beliefs. It seems that the emotion part of our brain responds more than a half second before the logic part kicks in. It seemed to support the idea that we are prone to find justification for a belief, and defend it for emotional reasons, before we will look unflinchingly at any evidence that challenges it.

What do these three different topics have in common? Well, I'm still trying to work that out. I know that all my life I have led with my emotions. I know that it is the things that I feel that cause me to make changes in my life. And it seems to me that it's something worth considering and pointing out on this topic of gay rights.

When James flew to Calgary to meet with me we spent several hours just talking, getting to know each other. He told me some of the things that motivated him to write "The Bus" and one of the issues he raised was this spate of suicides by gay people last year. I had the thought then that we spend so much time making cerebral arguments about the pros and cons of bringing ourselves out of the dark ages and finally treating another group of people in our society equally. But do we ever talk openly and publicly about the struggle to live life as a gay person? Do we consider the incredible effort and energy that the best of them must expend just to feel okay about themselves?

It's easy to get people's attention when five or six young people take their lives because they can't imagine continuing that battle. But what about the thousands and thousands who continue the fight, ever hopeful that one day, the world will get it: This is not an issue to vilify people over! There is zero evidence to suggest that we are threatened or harmed by this lifestyle, Yet we persist in scapegoating them and pointing to their differences as the cause of all our woes.

Something has to touch our hearts. Something has to stir our emotions and cause real, lasting change in the ideals that we embrace. Perhaps experiencing "The Bus" is one of those things. I spend my days asking this question over and over: What can I do to impact people and cause them to reconsider their prejudice toward the LGBT community?

I think it would be a positive response for James to bring this drama to Topeka and help that community combat the heart of hatred that beats there at my father's home and church. Think for a moment about a young child sitting alone, in the dark, in their room. They have encountered my family's message of divine hatred for who they are and they are afraid and hopeless. There are enough messages, both overt and subtle, in their lives to help reinforce the unthinkable, that they don't have a right to be who they are. Whatever it takes, pause for a moment and imagine that suffering. Now imagine what you can do to improve the heart and mind of that child. Imagine supporting James Lantz and "The Bus". Do something good while you still can.

Snickers just came over and rubbed himself against my black pants. Now I gotta get all the damn hair off...what a pain in the @#$! On the other hand, I think I'll stop here and spend a few minutes with him while I still can.


Blogger Heather said...

Have you taken Snickers to the vet? It's possible he has something curable or non life threatening. (i know that's the kind of side part of the post, but the rest was just awesome and I had no real comment)

July 19, 2011 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Nate Phelps said...

We're keeping a close eye on him Heather. He seems to be improving, no new flops in the last few days. But he's getting old...something like 14 now. In that context, it's realistic to start preparing for the little guys exit. Maybe this event was good since it refocused me on what Snickers means to me.

July 19, 2011 at 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nate: I know someone who had a dachshund that lived to 20 (amazing age for a dog) and some cats have been known to live to 21 or 22...hope he gets better.

July 20, 2011 at 12:08 AM  
Blogger Don said...

I have a gay son who came out to us 11 years ago. He's almost 30 now. I have him to thank for the new direction my life has taken. My family was fully, 100% Southern Baptist. His revelation turned my world upside down and made me question everything I've ever been taught (indoctrinated I). Now more than 11 years later, I've left the church and am on a journey of discovery in which I find joy, happiness, and fulfillment as never before. I love my son more than ever ands precise his outing that forced me to reevaluate my beliefs and my life

July 20, 2011 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger ND said...

I had a similar issue with my cat (she'll be 14 this month), and she ended up with a diagnosis of Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome. It took a few weeks of tinkering with feline prednisone to get her dosage correct, but she's a much happier and stable cat now (with just the occasional shudder)

July 20, 2011 at 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Hevnsent said...

Let me know anything I can do to help bring this to Topeka. I am not gay, have no gay families members, and just a handful of friends. I am just a human wanting to see all humans treated equally. It is not humans place to judge our sins or the extent of them, in christian beliefs it is only God's

July 20, 2011 at 7:36 PM  
Blogger Prosey said...

Thank you, as always, Nate, for sharing your thoughts. Best wishes to Snickers...and I'm linking "The Bus" to my sister who lives in and is very active in the theater community in Topeka... I'll do what I can to help build support. I'll actually be in Topeka tomorrow, but only for a couple of hours en route home. Still.


July 22, 2011 at 11:53 PM  
Blogger MisterOhSo said...

A friend of mine I met on FB directed me to your page...most interesting...you'll probably see me commenting here and there, like your take on things, good luck with Snickers....I really love cats...peace be with

September 17, 2011 at 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nathan. I'm reposting the info on The Bus. I agree Snickers should see the vet. Older kitties sometimes become diabetic and it takes a change in diet. I just took my cat, Soufy, in for a urinary tract infection. She's 16. My other cat, Maggie, was 21 when she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. They have nine lives for a reason! Hugs to you and Angela and ear scratches for Snickers! (I love that name!)

September 19, 2011 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Frimmy said...

You are an excellent writer and this was an awesome post. I think it is courageous for James Lantz to take his story to Topeka and give children and adults the support to accept an alternative point of view with less fear. Any chipping away of the WBC hate mongering is a good thing.

I hope Snickers has rounded the bend and is feeling better.

September 25, 2011 at 8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You never mentioned GOING TO A VET and seeing what was wrong with Snickers. Your reaction: "Oh the cat dropped and looks awful. It's time to think about ME and the times I've had." Lesson 101, Animal Care: when your cat flops over, go to the nearest ER, don't take time to look at your wife and philosophize about your lives.

December 30, 2011 at 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a member of the LGBT community and I appreciate the support, but at the same time I'm struggling with you're handling of Snickers well being. Many house cats live to be roughly 20 yoa. Would you look at your partner if they were having similar health problems and treat them the same?

February 3, 2012 at 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nate: please take Sinckers to a vet. I have a dog that is over 14 years old, and which is not in the best of health. If I take good care of him, then the vet says that he may live 1-2 more years, but not to expect more than that. Like you, I have resolved to appreciate him while I have the time..thanks so much.

February 4, 2012 at 7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a while ago, but I'm very interested in which scientific article you read. Could you link it by any chance? Thanks!

March 19, 2012 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger Matt Mania said...

Some of you guys are idiots, he didn't take Snickers to the vets because when cats get that old and they start to fall over or breath heavily or slow down it means that sadly they are dying. They've come to the last mile and all a vet will do now is put Snickers to sleep, if that. Let the man enjoy the time he has left with his friend.

April 30, 2012 at 4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The brain does play tricks on us. The research that you read about is discussing something called "dissonance." It's a psychological term that before we make a choice, we go through dissonance. We make the choice for whatever reason and our brain comes up with reasons that that choice is correct. I wish you, your family and your cat well....Peace, love and blessings to you always! :)

May 17, 2012 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger The Tim Channel said...

Hello all. I just found Nate through a youtube video. Wow. Thanks for speaking out.

True story: As a kid, my dad acted as a distributor for fund raising products, and candy was a huge part of the mix, so there was always plenty around I could sell to make extra money.

With the blessing and assistance of my mom, we would load the Impala trunk with as many cases of candy as it would hold (16 cases), and head out to see my Grandma in Omaha, 160 miles away. I was around 13 at the time, and my little sister was 10.

Mom intentionally drove the backroads, hitting every podunk bar in every podunk town along the 160 mile journey. We figured out really quick that the best sales pitch was "selling candy to make money for summer bible camp" and there was, in the back of our minds, at least the theoretical possibility we might actually go (we never did).

Because my parents were primarily interested in raising capitalists and not fundamentalists, my sister and I got to keep the money (I got the impression listening to your story that you were forced to give your money to dad). We made about five dollars per case profit on sixteen cases just going to see Grandma in the big city! Eighty bucks total. That was a pretty good chunk of change back in the early 1970's. Life was good.

We ultimately branched out to doing the Omaha bar circuit, since my mom had local knowledge of the area and there are only so many times you can work your way through summer bible camp at the same bar! We always started with the owner-bartender when we entered. You?

Just had to point out the serendipity of the similarity in both of us selling candy for Christ in bars when we were kids. For the record, we did it during the daytime. Maybe that accounts for the fact that my memory is missing the stripper flashbacks, because I can assure you I would remember.

I do a little anti-religious blogging (as well as the odd pet blog). Here's today's religious offering:


and the story of my dogs (the ones they allowed me to bring) moving to Europe:



June 14, 2012 at 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Matt Mania - it doesn't have to mean that the cat is dying, it could be a treatable disorder. My cat is almost 17 and has epilepsy. This is controlled by medicine and her quality of life is great. If I thought like you, she would've been put to sleep 4 years ago.
Also, if this does mean the cat is dying, why not take it to the vet's to see if anything can be done to make Snickers more comfortable?

June 25, 2012 at 6:26 AM  
Anonymous A Little Pissed Off Right Now said...

OK, this is old and it's been said before but seriously, what the f*ck? Take your cat to a vet. Don't just stand there reminiscing watching him die. And no, 14 is not old for a cat. It is, however, old enough to need a vet. Jesus H. Christ.

July 16, 2012 at 1:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate your ideals, your writing and your openness. Also your support for LBGT folks. One issue I have, and I am a lesbian, is that people all over, including in my community, use the term "lifestyle." My sexual orientation is not a lifestyle. My lifestyle is lower middle class. My orientation and choice of life-partner is just that, my orientation. I would ask your support in helping us change the use of that term. Because the term "lifestyle," insinuates a choice of how I live- which is fairly accurate in that I choose to drive a newer car, have a nice apartment, and wear decent clothes. Hence, middle-class. I know it is an uphill battle, but every little change in speech can make a difference.

Again, thank you for speaking out.

D.L. Curry

August 1, 2012 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger Alia said...

Great post. Lately I've been thinking that perhaps my relationship with the world is too emotional, and that I should try to balance my emotional responses with more calculated, rational ones. While I will continue trying to find that balance, it is nice to read this and think about how many times, emotions lead us to a place or moral right. It feels wrong that gay folk live their lives in the shadow of so much prejudice, and in fact it IS wrong. Humans are emotional creatures. I hope you're right, and that others will be stirred by their feelings, by their consciences, to change this hurtful and senseless treatment of gay people.

February 20, 2013 at 7:13 AM  
Anonymous taruhan bola online said...

I think snicker bus is a classical bus

April 16, 2013 at 3:34 AM  
Blogger Laura Murdock said...

A friend of mine postes about wbc and they are picketing a military funeral in TN soon. I had heard about them and didn't really understand what they did. I was shocked at what I saw. And really left not understanding anything, least of all how the pastor is a democrat. But that aside, you are listed as one of the top three people associated with the church by wicikapedia, in that you speak out against them. I can not imagine what you went threw. For what its worth, Im sorry you had to deal with the things you had to deal with and I am glad you are away from the hate. I hope you are happy now.

August 7, 2013 at 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Tricia said...

Nate, I'm a 5th generation Kansan and lived in Topeka off and on until my late 20s. Love Topeka. Your father confused me. Somehow I knew he was abusive. I am truly sorry for your loss of a father-who-never-was. I too had a similar experience. So very pleased to have stumbled upon your blog. My best to you ;)

March 22, 2014 at 11:05 AM  

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