All I want for Christmas …

World peace, a new leather jacket and a healthy dose of resoluteness top this list of Christmas wishes

Hardy Haberman
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I received a most unusual early Christmas gift from a couple of dear friends. It is a Christmas ornament, and what makes it unusual is the subject matter: It features a very bearish traditional Santa bent down on one knee smiling broadly. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as ornaments go, except that he is holding a tiny baby Jesus in swaddling clothes.

Say what?

This strange, mixed-up ornament really is meant to hearken back to one Christmas Eve when we were driving around looking at lights and decorations in Highland Park. There on Beverly Drive was a full-blown nativity with shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph and — you guessed it — Santa Claus!

Theologically as well as historically, this just offended my sense of style. Talk about mixing your metaphors! But I guess I should expect it in the rich hole of the donut that is Dallas.

Santa, in the popular imagination, is that jolly fellow who brings you everything your heart desires, especially if you are well-heeled. According to a lot of folks who ascribe to the “prosperity gospel,” he’s a lot like Jesus: If you are good you succeed and if not, well you must have done something wrong to keep you off the “A” list.

It’s no wonder kids grow up confusing the two figures, and in fact, I suspect a lot of kids would much rather have a visit from the Jolly Old Elf than the Prince of Peace.

And that brings me to my point: As we bustle about helping to fuel our slow economic recovery, it’s a good time to take stock of what is really important in your lives.

I have a tradition in which I make a list of what I would ask for each Christmas if I could have anything in the world. Funny thing is, it sounds a lot like a Miss America acceptance speech.

“World peace” is always at the top of the list, followed by a lot of other altruistic wishes before I get down to me.

Now I say this not to claim any moral high ground, for I suspect my list would look a lot like most folks to a point. Oh, my list includes lots of things like a gym membership (that I will use), a new leather jacket to replace the one that has become worn and ratty. It also includes that one thing that doesn’t cost a penny: resoluteness.

I want to remain active and engaged and continue to have fixity of purpose. I want to remain somewhat altruistic when cynicism threatens to get the best of me, to be able to look at silly things and not take them too seriously.

I want to be able to listen to politicians and pundits and not lose faith that I can still make a difference, to be able to write this and not dismiss it as a load of sentimental tripe.
Seriously, what more could anyone ask than that?

It’s not a big deal, just some little purpose that keeps me going and fires my spirit. Now wouldn’t that would be a really nice gift to find under your tree?

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Enduring enigma

Alan Turing’s pioneering work made modern technology possible. But because he was gay, he remains, technically, a criminal

Last week my partner and I gave each other early Christmas gifts: We exchanged iPads. As we got home with our new gadgets, I made an assessment of the number of computers we had in our house, and I was astounded.

Between us we have no fewer than eight computers, not counting the tiny computers we carry with us that we mistakenly call our telephones.

I remarked to my partner, “We are living in the age of Star Trek, minus the replicators, transporters and warp drive.”

And that is pretty much a true statement. The things we can do now with our iPhones would have astounded the top minds at IBM just 15 short years ago.

So many amazing gadgets that make our lives easier, better and richer are to a great extent the result of the pioneering work of a gay man from the United Kingdom named Alan Turing. Turing was a brilliant mathematician whose contributions to the concepts of algorithms and computation made all those computers in our house possible.

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Furthermore, his work in cryptanalysis in the now-famous Bletchley Park Government Code and Cypher School led to the development of a machine known then as the “bombe.” It was an electromechanical code-breaking computer that broke the German Enigma code and helped stop Hitler. Because of his work, Turing was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1945, an honor roughly equivalent to a Congressional Medal of Honor.

His amazing body of work, most of which is so highly technical that it is hard to describe in such a short space, has led historians to call Alan Turing the “Father of Computer Science.” Without Alan Turing, I would most likely be typing this column on an electric typewriter. Such was his impact on our modern world.

The dark side of his story happened in 1952. That year, he met a man outside a cinema in Manchester and they struck up a relationship. Turing invited the man, Arnold Murry, to his house several times. On one of those visits, Murry opened Turing’s house up to a thief, his accomplice, and they stole several things from his home.

When Turning reported it to the police, he admitted that Murry was more than just a visitor; Murry was his lover.
And that’s where the story gets dark.

Turing and Murry were both charged with “gross indecency” because homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom at that time. Turing was convicted and given an onerous choice: He could go to prison or he could accept probation, the terms of which included chemical castration via hormone injections.

Turing’s security clearance was rescinded and he was prevented from ever working in the field of cryptanalysis again. He was even prevented from ever discussing his work during World War II.

Turing was found dead on a June morning in 1954, with a half-eaten apple beside his bed. The autopsy showed he had ingested cyanide, possibly from the apple, and his death was ruled a suicide.

What makes this tale even sadder is that to this date, Alan Turing has never received an official pardon from the British government.

Today there are statues and plaques and tributes to the “Father of Modern Computing.” He even received a posthumous apology from then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009.

But his criminal record still stands.

The inhumane treatment Turing endured has been acknowledged, but this great man deserves more.

Today there is a movement to have the government pardon Alan Turing as we enter the new year. One hundred years after his birth, the global scientific community has declared 2012 as “Alan Turing Year, a Centenary Celebration of the Life and Work of Alan Turing.” It seems fitting that during his commemorative year, the British government could offer a posthumous pardon to a man to whom we all owe so much.

So far there are only a few thousand signatures to the petition. It is my hope that every LGBT individual will sign it as an offering to one of our own who gave us so much. Why it has taken this long is truly an enigma.

The petition is online at: Submissions.Epetitions.Direct.gov.uk/petitions/23526.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas