Friday, May 21, 2010

May 22, 2010 the first Harvey Milk Day

Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois is known as “The Magnificent Mile.” Close to the Art Institute, if memory serves me, a street connects Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive. There are two bronze sculptures of Native Americans mounted on horses. It is a beautiful scene, the two bronze sculptures framing Lake Michigan.

I stood on that spot as a boy looking up at the statues, my grandfather stood at my side. He retained his Spanish passport and citizenship. He said to me in Spanish, look at that and learn grandson. First, the Americans kill them off and then, they erect a statue in their honor

I thought about the “Trail of Tears” that President Andrew Jackson unjustly imposed on Native Americans. About our own nations’ “Death March” that claimed countless Native American’s lives. Jackson wanted all Native peoples forcibly relocated west of the Mississippi river. To this day, there are many Native Americans who refuse to use twenty dollar bills, because they bear Andrew Jackson’s portrait. We have a somewhat “secret history” in our country. In that same city of Chicago, that I loved so much as a boy, Mayor Richard Daily boarded up the blighted part of the city during the 1968 Democratic Party’s Convention out of sight, out of mind.

I thought about my boyhood memories of Chicago today on the eve of the first Harvey Milk Day. I thought about the promises made to our community by Presidents Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama. I thought about how easily those promises were violated. In the case of Clinton, because he wanted to push through a national Health Care Plan, he failed. Instead, he gave us Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In the case of Obama, he sent his Secretary of Defense to the U.S. Senate. Secretary Gates asked the Senators NOT to repeal DADT, until yet another study can be completed on December 1, 2010.

To those more literate in politics, Secretary Gates (and his boss, President Obama) gave “cover” (i.e. Permission) to Democratic Senators to not vote for the repeal of DADT. His thinking is that Mid-term elections are in November and we do not want to do something that might be unpopular with Middle American voters so close to an election. This inaction and apparent weakness was seen in the recent Health Care debates. Those saw the administration withdraw from a National Health Care Plan (Public Option) to a possible lowering of the eligibility age for Medicare to 55. That was then also abandoned and FINALLY, Obama pushed at the eleventh hour for Health Insurance Reform. Thankfully, that reform became law; however, it is a ghost of what was initially sought.

Read now this piece about the Oil Spill disaster in the Gulf and the attitude of the Administration towards that disaster:

Democratic strategist James Carville and MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, two reliable supporters of President Barack Obama, have issued withering critiques of the administration's handling of the Gulf oil spill.

Carville, the famously outspoken Louisianian who was a chief political aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday that the administration's response to the spill has been "lackadaisical" and that Obama was "naive" to trust BP to manage the massive clean-up effort.

Likewise, Chris Matthews argued during a "Tonight Show" appearance that the President was to "acting a little like a Vatican Observer."

"The President scares me," he said. "When is he actually going to do something? And I worry; I know he doesn't want to take ownership of it. I know politics. He said the minute he says, 'I'm in charge,' he takes the blame, but somebody has to. It's in our interest."

The Obama administration has thus far avoided the political backlash that President George W. Bush faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in part by comprehensively documenting its actions in the Gulf and staying on message ("Fully engaged since Day One...").

But crude oil has now been erupting into the Gulf of Mexico for over a month, and the sense that the Obama administration is treating the spill as an urgent national emergency has diminished even as the impact of the disaster has magnified. Not until yesterday, critics note, a full 30 days after the oil rig explosion, did federal officials establish a technical team to measure the full extent of the spill. (FULL STORY)

When is he actually going to do something, indeed? I wonder if Barack Obama would ever have been elected a U.S. Senator or President of the United States, if President Lyndon Johnson assumed such a pragmatic and “bi-partisan” approach towards Civil Rights legislation. Most probably not and Mrs. Parks would still be riding in the back of the bus. The most disappointing thing about Obama’s failure to support the Civil Rights of another minority group is that he himself has suffered discrimination and abuse. He knows what it means to be the victim of slurs, threats, discrimination, injustice and bigotry.

There is a ray of hope these days and of all places; it is to be found in Arkansas. In the Tuesday night Primary Elections in that state, the “blue dog Democrat”
Senator Blanche Lincoln failed to win. This silver lining is far more than a mere consolation, it is a sign of one thing LGBTQ people must now do, if they want to secure Civil Rights. DO NOT VOTE FOR ANYONE WHO FAILED TO VOTE FOR OUR RIGHTS. As in the case of Arkansas, that will mean voting for a progressive (i.e. Real Democrat) in the primary elections. Don’t stop there, write to the incumbent and tell him/her why you did not vote for them. Enclose a copy of a generous check you wrote to their opponent.

The Blue Dog Democrat will undermine us anyway and if enough LGBTQ people become a swing vote, perhaps the Democratic incumbent and Party itself will think twice in the future before selling us out. Think about it from the perspective of a Democrat up for reelection. If I do not support Equality Laws, I will not only lose LGBTQ votes, but my opponent will gain those votes and yes, all that wonderful LGBTQ money too.

Harvey Milk famously said, “You’ve got to give them hope.” President Obama promised us many things, including hope. Sadly, it now seems that his were empty promises and a false hope. We need to look elsewhere. We need to become less accommodating and more belligerent when it comes to our rights. We need to be more like Act-Up/Get Equal; and less like Log Cabin Republicans, or their Democratic “establishment” counterparts.

Progress has been made since Harvey Milk was murdered. Seven nations in Europe, Canada, South Africa are being joined by Latin American governments in recognizing same sex marriage. Israel, Great Britain, the Dutch and many other nations allow gay and lesbians to serve openly in their Armed Forces. What would Harvey Milk say to us today? I think he would ask us to be encourage by that progress, and to remember that it was achieve through great sacrifices. The baton has been handed to us.

BE STRONG, for those who are not.

BE VISIBLE, for those who cannot.

BE, for yourself and for us all.


Jackie said...

Hi Goeff, This blog and your last one are so right on. Our wimp politicians will never vote for equality as long as they fear losing a single far right "christian" vote. It's time to really bury our differences and fight for what's right. No one is going to any minority equal rights. It takes standing together and fighting the bigots for equal treatment under the law.

Joseph said...

I've just recently come across your blog, and it's been a breath of fresh air! I wish I had known of all you've been going through before now. I would have commented earlier. I look forward to reading more of your writing. I wonder what your plans are. Thank you so much for speaking the truth. I wish you strength.