The Scientist's View

2.21.2007

I'll take the House Blend

Pam Spaulding, from Durham NC, came up to sit on the panel at the HRC event and she runs a blog called "Pam's House Blend". And the content is great. Give it a read.

Pam described the evolution of her blog from a single voice to a blend of voices which discuss matters that are important to them. One issue that she highlighted early on in the HRC event and it came up in several other ways was: "What about us in the provinces?"

This theme of non-urban vs. urban as been around for awhile - but I was talking with Pam afterwards and she put it thusly:

"What happens if we don't want to move to a big city? And people have alot of reasons not to want to move. What about us?"

Having lived in Durham, I can say that it is about as gay friendly as the South gets - and that area of inclusion is about 10 miles in diameter. Drive outside of that invisible line and you are in bubba-land.

So let's do a little thought experiment. Let's go to Pam's pad with Joe, drive 30 miles to the north and east along I-85 to Henderson, NC. Its a unremarkable town near Kerr Lake and deep in the red zone. Let's have Joe walk with us to a local event and he can start with his "You just don't get it" routine. Experiment will end with a lot of hard stares and mummering - no success there. Joe might as well be a creature from another planet. Middle America can't even wrap their heads around gay marriage -its way ahead of our (read: gay) political and legal strategies and it is light-years ahead of what "fairness" means to Middle America.

Hint: Not terribly effective. That is why the homos got their asses kicked. Hard. And several panelists talked of the past 10-15 years as wandering in the gay desert. Our dear leaders clearly thought that, in these past 10-15 years, they could get the Senate and the House to legislate fairness and tolerance. WAKE UP.

When Joe talks about gay marriage and getting bills through subcommittee and cozying up to legislators, he is doing what Sean Hannity talks about every day on his radio show with 12 million listeners, "They have an agenda". And "they" do and I saw it last night. The short cut to gay rights is using the long arm of the law in Congress - and Joe's sniffing about an expected blowback from these struggles is completely inaccurate. Its not blowback Joe, it is a rejection and repudiation because you and your organization tried to force the issue well before its time.

Newsflash: We are a minority. That is how DOMA got passed and Bill Clinton signed it. We are subject to the tyranny of the majority. If you are going to piss them off, at least get something for it. When you piss them off to generate revenue for your own coffers, you leave the rest of us exposed. And you give them ammunition - it only takes 50% to vote for the trains that will take us away to some gay gulag (I like to call it "Camp Haggard").

American sympathy to gays peaked with Philadelphia - One small piece of anecdotal evidence? About 15 of my fraternity brothers took their girlfriends (or some boyfriends as it later turned out) to go see this movie one night as a group event. I will repeat - Fraternity boys. AIDS had given a human face to the gay struggle. These guys chose to go see Philadelphia and some of them actually cried and they all thought it was a good movie. In my still-closeted days, I thought this was pretty amazing in 1992/1993. And what of this high tide of public awareness and some sympathy?

We get "Gays in the military". And the Clintons get run over. That and the health care debacle sealed the slaughter of the Dems in 1994. Its like the gay leadership picks the most antagonistic topic (gays in the military) and way (forcing it through the executive branch). And in doing so, the battle is lost before there has been a fight. I would argue that most average gay people are as lost as I am in articulating how the gay leadership has changed their life day-to-day in the recent past - say since the "Gays in the Military" non-sense.

That, children, is a very bad sign.

It was really dishearening for me to see that our leadership is not able to articulate a clear agenda. And, as was stated several times last night, we should have an agenda. When the conservatives talk about the gay agenda as some sneaky inside-the-Beltway cabal, the gay person should be able to answer with some action items from the Gay Agenda that would be obvious, incremental steps towards equality. It shouldn't be shadowy, vague, or pie-in-the-sky. It could be some of the following:

1. Defining 100 politicians in local elections that can defeat a homophobic candidate in 2008. Target funds to these friendly challengers and use the gay media machine to promote them to the broader community.
2. Making ENDA much broader in scope (great point last night regarding this, Joe got a deer-in-the-headlights look briefly, and then completely blew it off).
3. Setting state goals for gay rights that are state-specific and acheivable (and the person could say, I live in state X and we are working on these two or three things).
4. Reducing the increasing rate of HIV infection in our country (it is pretty bad when Bill Gates is spending more time talking about HIV than DC activists - don't know if I heard HIV/AIDS mentioned at all last night - that is fundamentally disturbing).
5. Developing gay scholarships for gay kids who want to get an education and cannot because they are poor, marginalized, etc. (We should not be promoting trivialities such as Lance and Reichen while there are gay kids who want to go to college and cannot afford it). Subsidizing education is an easy win and it makes for great copy.


There are many more possibilities - I just throw these choices out off the top of my head. Joe himself told us last night that Gay Marriage never polled well. Whatever marginal victories that were had required intensive work. These victories are probably tenuous at best (and probably Pyrrhic).

Just a little hint here: If you are fighting something that polls so negatively - you might need to adjust your priorities or message. Perhaps those of us in the provinces might actually like some protection - like DP or civil unions. Polling seems pretty decent on that. Hmmmm, had we fought for DP or civil unions, we could have been talking about incremental improvements in people's lives instead of talking about blowback.

But then again, Joe can't make a wedge issue out of a success.

1 Comments:

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous jimbo said...

While I feel you have testified most of your points well, I would disagree that the gay organizations have always picked the most antagonistic topics and ran with them. I think the wise conservative and Republican rhetoricians have picked these topics to antagonize the voters, and the gay organizations just go on the defensive (like the Dems in general) and find themselves having to own difficult issues on the defensive.

 

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