"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Food for Thought

Surfing around this morning and ran across this excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Digby quoted it in a post mainly about the continued assault on reproductive freedom, but if has, of course, much larger resonance.

My own pet cause, of course, is gay civil rights, but that's part of basic human rights as well -- in spite of what you hear from the likes of Peter LaBarbera and Mat Staver, we're human too.

And we've seen all to plainly that our biggest problem right now is not the anti-gay right -- people are justifiably disgusted at their rhetoric and tactics, and it's beginning to show. Our biggest problem is the "sympathizers" on the left -- the Obama administration, the Democrats in Congress, even those among us who counsel us to "wait until public opinion catches up with us." Got news: it won't unless we push.

Chalk it up in part to the fact (if you're willing to trust the polls, which in this case I think are pretty accurate) that so-called "hot button" issues like same-sex marriage just are not on most people's radar. They don't really care one way or the other, and while in theory at least most people support equal civil rights for gays, they don't care enough to get off their butts and go out and vote on it. In the case of our sogenannte political leaders (that's German for "so-called" -- somehow the English doesn't carry the sense of disdain that the German does), I suspect that, like the "liberal" press, they are simply afraid of the vilification from the right if they take a stand -- I mean a real stand, beyond mouthing platitudes. The assaults from the right are so vicious and so hateful and so extreme that they worry about their continued comfortable residence in the corridors of power, and they're probably right: James Dobson and his ilk have armies of voters who get themselves worked up over the lies they're being fed and head for the polls on command.

So we keep pushing, because there's a lot of inertia to overcome, and the Christianists are not going to stop.

Here's a piece by Michelangelo Signorile, writing in The Advocate, that underlines some of the points I've broached above, this time about DADT repeal.

Despite the seismic shift in public polls, with most showing more than 75% of Americans in favor of repeal, Democratic consultant Douglas Schoen wrote in The Washington Post that Obama’s promise to end DADT “may well be the right decision morally, ethically, and militarily. But it could have a dramatic and deleterious impact on Democratic fortunes in November.”

It’s a ludicrous statement, divorced from reality, and an example of what AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay called “political homophobia,” where politicians and analysts who claim to support gay rights nonetheless believe that fighting for gay rights will always damage political capital. It ignores the dramatic changes that in fact have occurred: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most senior military man in the nation, testified that repealing the law was “the right thing to do,” while a Republican senator long touted as a military authority was finally reduced to the status of an out-of-touch troglodyte.

We see it play out again and again -- it took the state of Illinois, which was the first state in the union to repeal its sodomy law, in 1961, thirty years to pass a gay-inclusive civil rights bill. And I mean thirty years after the first bill was introduced. Chicago and Cook County only beat the state by a couple of years, and when it comes right down to it, Chicago's a pretty accepting city. But no one wanted to do anything until the Mayor finally figured out that we vote.

Maybe we need to remind Congress of the same small fact -- and then put our votes where they count.

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