Friday, June 03, 2005

The Legacy of the Mattachine

Many of you reading this blog have never even heard of the Mattachine Society. It was one of the early gay-rights organizations in the 1950's and 1960's. On August 28, 1962, Dr. Frank E. Kameny, president of the Mattachine Society, signed a letter to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, insisting that homosexuals were entitled to equal rights of citizenship. However, my sense of affiliation with the Mattachine Society is deeper than my support of gay rights; it also stems from the origin of the name.

In medieval times, the Mattachines were court jesters. The Mattachine could speak the truth even to the king's face. I was sufficiently serious about jestering that I was a member of a clown alley (like a guild or union) in high school. At that point, I was in my church's clown ministry program; I was a clown for Christ. Last year, it was my honor and privilege to participate in a traditional Shoshone religious ritual which featured a sacred clown in the style of Apache tradition. Aho. Last month, I attended a pagan religious ceremony at which an impromptu gathering of sacred clowns formed, discussing our rĂ´le of confronting the community with sometimes uncomfortable truths about itself.

Jon Stewart is a present-day Mattachine. Not in the sense of being homosexual, which I gather he's not, but that wasn't part of the "Mattachine" before the 1950's. Jon Stewart stands before the Powers that Be and (metaphorically) moons them, also sending his share of barbs at the Loyal Opposition. That is my aspiration, to bring the sacred clown to bear on the structures of power. Let's encircle the White House with virtual cotton candy.