November 05, 2008
We interrupt this fairy tale for a dose of reality
Posted by: Kevin
I want to congratulate Barack Obama and add that he will indeed be my President, too. It's not just a slogan, but it's real and from the heart. I hope God will bless and protect him, and help guide him in facing the many challenges awaiting him in the coming years. I share Chris' pride in the historic aspect of Obama's decisive election as the first African American U.S. President - something that I always wondered whether I'd see in my lifetime. That it has happened, and that American women also advanced so decisively in this political season, are truly wonderful symbols of where America stands in the long march of political and cultural evolution.
But why gay Americans should be shitting themselves with glee right now is, frankly, something I can't comprehend. The 2008 election was, in fact, a disaster for gays. And as the reality of our situation in America sets in over the coming days, as well as the next two years, it seems that nothing but a crashing disillusionment set against the backdrop of such wild celebrations last night is the only thing that could smack the gay community awake once and for all.
Our defeat on Proposition 8 in California is the biggest, most glaring wound on the landscape, and will be infamous for decades to come. This is the greatest loss of gay civil rights since the Bowers v. Hardwick decision of 1986. Latino voters came out in huge numbers for Obama, and also voted for Proposition 8. Worse yet, African Americans clogged California's polling places to vote for Obama with a fervent zeal, and with equal fervency voted overwhelmingly against us (currently as much as 70% voting yes on 8). Obama won the state by about 2.5 million votes, and Yes appears to be winning by about a half-million votes. A similarly glaring defeat came in Florida, another state that Obama carried, where a gay marriage ban passed by about 2 million votes. Nationally, the anti-gay wave just about ran the table in all the states where gay issues were on the ballot. Only in tiny Connecticut did voters reject the opening of a constitutional convention to throw out that state's court decision legalizing gay marriage earlier this year.
I understand the emotion around Obama's message of "hope." Who wouldn't want to be hopeful with all their heart and soul at these moments of great fear and uncertainty about the global economy, two wars overseas and the ever-present threats to us at home? But exactly why should gays be so bathed in political hope at this moment? I'd like to see a convincing case made by the Democratic leadership coming into nearly unchecked power in Washington in January. But I'm afraid the reality will be something else entirely.
The experience we are very likely to share as a community over the next two years might be exactly what we need in order to shake this moribund, brain dead movement of ours back to life and make it relevant, saavy and effective once and for all. That's about all I can be hopeful about now.
I've said it endlessly before, and I'll say it again: the national Democratic Party doesn't care one bit about gay rights, beyond pleasant words and reaping big, pliant cash donations. The cold reality of that is evident in their total lack of deeds on the national level. That we hang breathlessly waiting to merely be mentioned in a presidential candidate's speech is a pathetic but true reflection of our situation, and sadly it has been all we've gotten in return for our slavish loyalty to one party. Now that this party will have unprecedented power for the next two years, all we have is hope that they will live up to their flowery words.
But here is the cold reality: despite the likelihood that the next two years will be a peak in Democratic political power in Washington, the Defense of Marriage Act will not be repealed (in full or in part) by 2010, or even during the Obama presidency, no matter how long it lasts. It won't even come to a vote in the next Congress, and President Obama will not make any effort to promote such a vote in the next Congress. The current ban on gays in the military will not be overturned by 2010, nor probably by 2012. Federal recognition of gay marriages and civil unions by Congress, either for immigration purposes or tax benefits, will not happen in the next four years. And while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act might -- might -- see the light of day before 2010 and will have the votes it needs to become law, it will undoubtedly draw an even more fervent, punishing, self-defeating challenge on the issue of transgender rights from the left.
When I learned on Facebook this morning that dear gay friends of mine in New York were dancing in Times Square, and other friends in Washington were celebrating in front of the White House and actually comparing the experience to the fall of the Berlin Wall -- while gay marriage was going down the toilet in California -- it was astounding to me. And deeply saddening and alienating. The level of unreality that seems to be intensifying in the gay urban ghettos back home is just amazing to me; I probably was just as guilty of it before I was able to move away and get some more perspective. Who knows.
I will probably get nothing but angry comments for this post, but frankly, I don't care. To be honest, I don't really know what good it is for anyone who dissents on the prevailing gay political dogma to blog much anymore. Despite the fact that 27% of gay Americans dissented yesterday in the voting booth, they are demonized by their fellow gays with a vehemence that borders on fanaticism. When you dissent on a gay blog and take a more conservative or opposing view, the folks who agree with you send private emails but don't participate, and there is an army of conformist, venomous partisans ready to use every kind of personal attack to try to silence you. It becomes an exercise in punishment rather than participation. Dale Carpenter said it best, and the kind of personal destruction practiced by gays on other gays in the political sphere today is only matched by the anti-gay movement itself in victory after victory at the polls against us. I see no bright, shining lights of hope in any of this. I am, in fact, ashamed.
The last thing I ever wanted was to write something like this post - and as it comes true over the next two years, the idea of gloating over it is beyond unseemly. I hate the way things are. I don't want them to get worse. I would much prefer to be happy about yesterday's results and the trajectory of gay rights in America. But the reality that I see that is informed by history, by experience, and by the cold, hard numbers of this election, and it couldn't be shaken off no matter how much I might want to delude myself, and that's why I'm writing this. And it's also why I am saying goodbye to Citizen Crain.
Movement politics used to be about strategic thinking, and about making a clear, undaunted moral case for your cause. It used to be about raising the level of intelligence, grace and tenacity of an aggrieved community and really struggling every day to unite them, body and soul, behind an effort whose might would be its righteousness. The gay movement used to be about thinking outside the box, including the one we ourselves might be in, and taking nothing for granted. But something happened over the last several years that changed all that. Now it's just a huge pathetic joke, a gigantic string of twitters, "status" one-liners, bitchy snits, gossip, celebrity worship and empty groupthink. A gigantic co-opting of our energies by a political party that does nothing in return. Besides a whole lot of fundraising. Where some of its veterans, like Kate Kendall in California, have managed to not just "know hope" but actually make real strides, the wide swath of gay leaders in power right now have done nothing but fail miserably time and time and time and time again in recent years despite having political winds at their backs, and if they don't make a gigantic strategic shift immediately, the next two years will be their Waterloo.
I'm so dispirited and, frankly, fed up, that I doubt I'll be blogging on this site after today. I know I won't be missed, and I certainly won't miss the drudgery of the personal attacks. I've just grown tired of fighting, and I'm far too involved in my new life in Brazil to be of any use to this site anymore. As much as I love and support my friend Chris in his endeavors, including this site, I find the idea of going my own way, and going back to just my own little blog and my own personal contributions to changing my little corner of the world, very liberating. I'll be far more useful.
But if this is where I part company with you, I'll do it with this last thought: I beg all of you with any energy left in you to wake up. I beg you to stop deluding yourselves about what it's going to take to really change our situation in the United States. Stop believing promises and start demanding action. Stop scapegoating, and blaming 'enemies' and shifting responsibility for all our failures onto others, and take responsibility for everything we face. Stop living the reality show and start living in reality. And if you were active in this election cycle, don't delude yourself into thinking that the fight is "won." It is, in fact, almost completely lost as of this moment if you stand down now. Do more than just "know hope" -- think different. Wake the fuck up and see reality, and demand results -- from our gay leaders, from our Congress, and from our new President.
That's all I've ever tried to encourage here, and it's about all I have left to say here.
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