Tuesday, August 10, 2010

McCollum Ratchets Up the Rhetoric of Hate

Florida AG and Gubernatorial candidate, Bill McCollum, reached a new low on Monday. In a blatant attempt to "out-conservative" his opponent, Rick Scott (another detestable excuse for humanity), McCollum went on record as wanting to ban Florida LGBTs from the Foster Parent program.

After initially hedging on questions about the inconsistencies between Florida' gay adoption ban (which he is vigorously defending in court) and Florida's Foster Care laws, which allow LGBT adults to serve as Foster Parents, when pressed, he stated "I really do not think that we should have homosexuals guiding our children."

In reality, McCollum probably doesn't give two rips about whether LGBTs can Foster or adopt. It's pure political posturing, at the expense of thousands of Floridian children who have no home or parental figures at all. Despicable, Mr. McCollum. You're a political worm.

So, where does that leave Floridians in the voting booth?

Rick Scott, Republican, currently leading the polls. He's running on a platform of being a "political outsider" (never mind his political activism throughout his career, bending laws and buying politicians to suit his corporatist agenda). He's the epitome of the dishonest politician, yet he plays such a "nice, sensible guy" in his ads that he's won-over the right wing, and really captured the hearts of TeaBaggers.

Bill McCollum, Republican, Jeb Bush's errand boy and general political hack. Like Charlie Crist before him, he'll say and do anything, to anyone (as proven in his treatment of Florida's children) in order to further his political goals.

Alex Sink, Democrat, leading the Democratic polls, leading McCollum, but trailing Scott in the general election polls. She talks pretty much like a Democrat, but when pressed on issues like marriage equality, she clams-up and falls-back on previous statements to the effect that she's "pro-equality", "pro-civil unions" and "ANTI-gay marriage". Like President Obama, she's trying to bait the LGBT community into supporting her half-hearted endorsement of LGBT equality.

Brian P. Moore, Democrat, former Socialist party Presidential candidate, 2008. Pffft. No chance of winning against ANY of the top three. Not even worth talking about.

John Wayne Smith, Libertarian. No chance.

Michael E. Arth, Farid Khavari, Lawton "Bud" Chiles, Daniel Imperato and Calvin Clarence "CC" Reed, NPA. The only one from this group with a semi-realistic chance of attracting votes is Chiles, mainly due to name recognition. His late father was the much beloved Democratic former Governor, Lawton Mainor Chiles, Jr. However, like Alex Sink, he talks about LGBT equality, but is pro-civil union, anti-gay marriage.

There are two other "write in" candidates who don't show up on any political radar, so I won't even bother to name them here.

Some choices, huh? Two, typically hateful Republicans, running predictable campaigns of fear Only one realistic Democrat/other, whose support of a major constituency is half hearted at best. I'll stay home this year. I refuse to be hostage to the Democrats based on their half-hearted support of me. Should Ms. Sink change her tune and come-out in support of full marriage equality, I'll support her. If not, I'll take my chances with the hateful Republicans.

It's up to you, Alex Sink. If you want to win, you'll go pro-Equality. The state's LGBTQ constituency can do it for you. All you have to do is be fully supportive of us.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

As the 9th anniversary of 9/11 approaches. . .

There's a huge controversy right now over the construction of an Islamic Prayer Center over two blocks from the site of the Twin Towers. Let's open our hearts, please?

Here's a song by my friend Karen Benedetto that expresses my feelings, perfectly. Click the title to view the video I created a year ago using her music.

"The Call" (Click title to view video)
Words & Music �Karen Benedetto (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved. Not for Duplication Without Permission.

The eleventh of September, the year two-thousand-one,
We were wakened from our warm and peaceful sleep.
The world as we had known it would never be the same
For the pain that we had suffered was so deep.

We held each other tightly and did not stop to judge
The color of the hand that we were holding.
We cried in every language, and prayed in every faith
And some could see a new world was unfolding.

From a farm in Indiana to a village in Nepal
In each synagogue and mosque and church
God listens to us all.
There’s a light that’s ever shining
That nothing can forestall…
God bless us all.

In one defining moment we were shaken to the core
By a hatred that we just did not foresee.
Now we have the opportunity to rise above it all.
And become a world where all are truly free.

Free from hate, ignorance, intolerance, and fear
We can build a world that shines so bright.
Let’s open up our hearts to the possibilities,
And walk in faith out of our darkest night.

From the smallest towns and villages
To the cities standing tall.
From the mightiest of mighty to the smallest of the small,
We will walk away much stronger, if we listen to THE CALL
God bless us all.

Instrumental Break…

From a farm in Indiana to a village in Nepal,
In each synagogue and mosque and church
God listens to us all.
There’s a light that’s ever shining
That nothing can forestall…
God bless us all.

God bless us all.
God bless us all.
We will walk away much stronger, if we listen to THE CALL.
Stand tall, stand tall. We shall not fall.
Love leads us all.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two Items on my Homosocialist Agenda Today.

First of all "Congratulations California!" I'm THRILLED for your victory in Judge Walker's Federal courtroom yesterday! It's a big step toward the full Equality that is coming. I'd have loved to have been at any of your celebrations yesterday, but this one brought tears to my eyes: Prop 8 Flash Mob

Next, last year I created a video tribute to 9/11, focusing on a positive message of healing. I think it's more pertinent today than ever, with all the discussion surrounding the Islamic community/prayer center that is going to be built 2 1/2 blocks away from Ground Zero. See it here: "The Call"

That's it for now. . . maybe more later.

Hogs & Quiches!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beware of Tempting Bait

This weekend the National Organization for (?) Marriage is bringing its freak show of hatred to Florida with their "Summer Bus Tour." Much of LGBTQ Florida is set to respond to their hatred with counter-protests. I'm hoping to be able to be there when it happens. We cannot let their hatred go unanswered.

I'd like to remind all our leaders and participants, though, NOT to take the bait being offered by NOM. It has become abundantly clear from their tour events, so far, that they are looking for one thing: an opportunity to paint themselves as the victims in this culture war. They are trying their damnedest to bait us into hateful response.

Please remember, my friends, that the most successful counter protests in recent memory have been peaceful. A response that resonates with peace and love is far more powerful and effective than screamed vitriol. I know, I know, it's human nature to respond to hate with hate. I know that it's counter to our strongest instincts to use peace, love, humor or even song, in response to the blatant discriminatory posturing from groups like NOM.

Reflect for a moment, though, on recent counter protests that have deflated the cause of hate and attracted national attention due to their positive message. One instance that comes to mind was a spontaneous response by school children to the message of anti-immigrant hatred being extolled from across the street from their own school. See the video here. Then there were counter protests of the 'tongue-in-cheek' variety such as the University of Chicago and ComicCon responses to Westboro Baptist Church. Even on the current tour of hate by NOM, I've heard of peaceful responses that were far more eloquent than confrontational screaming matches. For example, I heard of one counter protest where participants simply chanted "You need a hug! A big, gay hug!"

In short, I'm urging ALL participants at this weekend's counter protest in Tampa Orlando not to take the bait by responding in the natural, hateful manner. One idea that springs instantly to my mind is to have NOM protesters vastly outnumbered by a gigantic yet TOTALLY SILENT crowd, standing with their backs to NOM. Another might be more of the "flash mob" variety, wherein a large mob sings or dances to something like the Beatles' "All You Need is Love."

A direct action like this will get us far more media attention and much more positive exposure than if we let the mob scream its contempt at the hate bus crowd. You will be approached by people whose sole intent is to get you to react on camera. PLEASE don't take the bait!

Really, "all you need is love!"

Can We, Please, Work Together? (Redux)

NOTE: To any members or officers of Equality Florida or Stand Up Florida who may read this piece, please accept it in the spirit that it's intended. . . to offer helpful advice and hopefully help mend rifts that threaten to weaken our community.

I attended St. Pete Pride this past June for the first time in a few years. I went to help staff the booth for Equality Florida and collect signatures to fight the Florida ban on gay adoption. Before my shift was to start, I stopped by Stand Up Florida's booth to meet some of its staff with whom I'd become friends online, and to offer support. Only one of the guys I knew was there at the time, we had a pleasant conversation. He also introduced me to a couple of other members/officers. Nicey-nicey, happy-happy. . . and I was on my way.

Half an hour later, while I was busy collecting siggies at Equality Florida, I heard a loud commotion inside the booth. When I turned, I saw one of the people to whom I'd just been introduced at Stand Up Florida along with a few other people, loudly and nastily complaining about Equality Florida and the way they operate. It was very confrontational and totally out of line. It was divisive, and certainly not an appropriate way for representatives of our organizations to behave in public.

1940s Europe. Nazi Germany had invaded and occupied Poland to their East, and invaded France to their West. In France they were fighting a valiant but weakening resistance and were on the path to fully conquering and occupying France. Then nothing would stand in their way as they advanced on the balance of Europe. Enter the USA and USSR. Yes, there were other allies. . . but let's focus on the USA and USSR for now. The differences in these two countries are apparent to us all, and I won't go into them here. This is not, after all, a history lecture. Suffice to say that these two nations, separated by vast gulfs of culture and political ideology, had one common goal: the defeat of Nazi Germany. For the course of the war, they set aside their political differences in order to cooperate and work toward their common goal.

A little background:
Equality Florida is an old, monolithic advocacy group that operates within the time honored model of Human Rights Campaign. While they say that they are not affiliated, the similarities are unmistakable. They take a conservative approach to progressive activism. They pay pretty good salaries to hired talent who work full time in the cause as their chosen profession. They have a mammoth annual budget, out of which come the necessary operational expenses. EQFL has political connections in the state to match HRC's political connections on the national level. They are, in effect, Florida's own baby HRC.

Stand Up Florida is a true "grass roots" activist organization that just started up within the past few years. I'm proud to say that when I first encountered its founder online, I gladly shared connections with him to many other groups within Florida, along with activists and bloggers who shared his passion for equality. Since then, he has built SUF into a strong, vibrant organization, and joined forces with other groups, some of whom I had helped him with connections. SUF is staffed and operated entirely by volunteers and has done a phenomenal job of growing into a bold, brash, "in-your-face" (not to mention, well-known) activist organization, doing great work. I see very strong similarities between SUF and the growing national group GetEQUAL.

Two different groups. . . two vastly different ideologies. . . one common goal: Equality.

My advice to Equality Florida:
Don't ignore Stand Up Florida, they are not going away. Embrace them as equals. . . allies in a common goal. Reach out to them and work toward the establishment of a dialog and cooperation. Politically, you'll probably never agree. But together we can fight our common battles on all fronts, eventually overwhelming our oppressors. Continue to work your frontal assault in Tallahassee, and encourage Stand Up Florida to cover the flanks with bold brash activism where it's called for (response to the NOM Summer Bus Tour, for instance).

My advice to Stand Up Florida:
Stop the petty bickering with groups that should be your allies. Of course you take exception with their conservative, "corporate" approach to social activism. But there are things they can do. . . places they can reach. . . politicians and allies with whom they hold political sway, that you cannot hope to achieve. They're a different organization and their methods and ideologies are repugnant to you. But your goal is the same: Equality. One other thing: don't openly ridicule people who try to diplomatically discuss concerns with you in private. It's sophomoric, at best.

There is nothing, I repeat, N.O.T.H.I.N.G to be gained by petty quarrels between your groups. You should be allies in spite of your philosophical differences. Let's all work together toward Equality. And be prepared to equally share in the accolades when we win. And, trust me, together we will win.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Can We, Please, Work Together?

One thing that the LGBTQ community has struggled with for generations is the establishment and promotion of a cohesive message and unified front. Various organizations (whose ultimate goal is universal, Equality) insist upon following their own strategies and employing their own tactics, regardless of what other organizations are doing. And then they whine and carp about each other.

For a moment, let’s take just one issue which affects us all (if not directly, indirectly . . . no matter how some may deny that it has any importance in their lives) repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). Three main organizations count this among their key issues, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and GetEQUAL (GE).  HRC and GE are more “blanket” advocacies, involved in a number of the social issues that confront us. SLDN, on the other hand, is a highly targeted group, focusing solely on LGBTQ military members and the legal issues that impact them. All, though, have repeal of DADT as one of their major goals.

HRC is “the old guard.” They’ve been around for years and have political connections like no other. They’re conservative in approach if not in politics. They take a very cautious approach to activism/advocacy in order not to offend political allies. They’ve grown to require an immense operating budget, hiring expensive full-time paid “talent” to manage the organization in a very vertical, top-down manner.

SLDN was founded in 1993 in direct response to the enactment of the controversial DADT legislation. While politicians of the day insisted that DADT would make it easier for gay and lesbian Americans to participate in the country’s military, SLDN recognized, as many of us did, that DADT only paved the way for more insidious oppression. They are bipartisan and take a very “legalistic” approach to the issue.

GE, on the other hand, is the grass roots upstart.  They’re passionate and they’re brash . . . the epitome of “in your face” without getting too revolutionary like ACT-UP of old. They rely on direct action and “civil disobedience” to get their point across.

Each of these organizations has its place in our struggle to get DADT repealed. HRC will tell you that the civil disobedience tactics of GE are risky, to the point of being counterproductive. GE will tell you that the HRC approach only appeases politicians and makes “lapdogs” of the LGBTQ community. While I have a personal bias on my preference of approaches, I recognize the value of each in the overall goal of getting DADT repealed.

Recent events have brought about the apparent confluence of the three groups’ efforts. Repeal of DADT  (along with the Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, I-ENDA)had, apparently, been tabled by Congress for the remainder of this year, putting the entire legislative effort at risk of being sacrificed to mid-term elections. In July, the efforts of GE, and specifically (former Lt.) Dan Choi, evoked a promise of action from Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. He did this through actions of civil disobedience, coupled with a calculated (perhaps manipulative?) encounter when Reid gave the Keynote Address at NetRoots Nation, an annual convention of progressive bloggers and activists. Within days, HRC and SLDN announced their intentions to jointly renew lobby efforts in Congress to push-through the repeal and promote passage of I-ENDA.

A cynic might say that HRC and SLDN are attempting to upstage GE and claim progress for their own. I, however, choose to believe that HRC and SLDN recognize the fact that, without the efforts of Dan Choi and GE, there would be nothing for them to lobby Congress about today.

In short, individual efforts, while using different strategies and tactics, are all necessary and contribute to the overall success of the whole. HRC, SLDN and GE are demonstrating a new cooperation that here-to-fore has been lacking in our community. HRC’s political connections, SLDN’s legal and legislative expertise, and GE’s civil disobedience are three efforts which individually cannot achieve the goal, but together are gaining momentum toward victory.

I hope each organization will publicly acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of the others. I pray that they will set egos aside and embrace rather than criticize one another’s’ work.

I further hope that they, especially HRC and GE, will take a serious look at the mechanisms in place to communicate (that means “listening” too!) with members of our community. Listen to and engage your constituency. Provide email addresses and phone numbers for staff members. Respond to every contact, no matter how insignificant it seems to you (it was significant enough for a constituent to contact you in the first place). And always respond with understanding and empathy, never arrogance.

Recognize and thank volunteers and donors, profusely.

To contact HRC:
Human Rights Campaign
1640 Rhode Island Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-3278
HRC Front Desk: (202) 628-4160
TTY: (202) 216-1572
Toll-Free: (800) 777-4723
(On the surface, HRC seems easy to contact. They’ve greatly expanded the information on how to reach them on their web site. I suspect, however, that getting ahold of anyone there, much less getting a reply to email or voicemail messages is still problematic)

To contact SLDN:
PO Box 65301
Washington, DC 20035-5301
(202) 328-3244 or (202) 328-FAIR
(I’ve never had any dealings with SLDN, so I don’t know just how responsive they are to external contacts.)

To contact GetEQUAL
(I would suggest that GetEQUAL obtain a physical address and presence ASAP to build credibility and offer access to the community at large. Make it easy to find and responsive.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Making another run at this. . .

I've dusted off and renamed the blog that I started, and then let fall by the wayside just over a year ago. I'm hoping to begin regularly posting things here that I find interesting. I hope that some of you may, too, find some little degree of enjoyment in it. Look for my first new post tomorrow, Monday, August 2, 2010.

Peace and Abundance!