How To Make Good Use Of A Bad Year And A Bad Decade
It seems appropriate that 2009 would be a terrible year, to top off a terrible decade. Eight years of George W. Bush & Co. ensured much of the first decade of the twenty-first century would be terrible, but I don’t think many foresaw just how bad it was going to get – and that’s lesson number one.
We pay our leaders in large part, not to “predict” the future, but to see the potential pitfalls and to steer us clear from them. And yet, time and again our leaders croaked, “No one could have predicted…”
At the start of this year, commenting on an interview former Vice President Cheney gave, Jon Perr in “Cheney Defends the “Nobody Could’ve Predicted” President,” summed Bush & Co. up nicely:
“Cheney deflected blame for the calamity on Wall Street and the deepening recession by declaring, “nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure that out” and “I don’t know that anybody did.” Then, Cheney magically converted failure into a virtue and ignorance into a shield in explaining away the Bush presidency:
“No, obviously, I wouldn’t have predicted that. On the other hand I wouldn’t have predicted 9/11, the global war on terror, the need to simultaneous run military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq or the near collapse of the financial system on a global basis, not just the U.S.”
At every turn, of course, voices both inside and outside the government warned a Bush administration asleep at the switch.”
Yes, many had warned Bush all along the way of what could happen. But he ignored them all, and the world in which we live today is the result of his ignorance and denial.
As I said, we pay our leaders to see the potential pitfalls and to steer us clear from them. The trick is in finding the right leaders, leaders who have enough wisdom and insight to look into the future and steer the ship of state through the right waters – not necessarily the calmest – but the right waters.
As a community, we haven’t done a very good job of this. The LGBTQ community is about as diverse and fractured as any group out there today. As a result, we suffer infighting, lack of an agreed common purpose – heck, we can’t even agree on what to call ourselves, much less what our priorities are. Leadership? That’s a far-off dream. What we need right now, more than anything, is a uniter – someone who can harness the best of who we are and enable us to meet to achieve some shared goals.
We don’t have that in HRC, the Task Force, the ACLU, or even our grassroots organizations. As much as the National Equality March in D.C. literally brought together thousands of people from our community, it was equally in effective in pushing members of our community apart.
And so 2009, despite our wins, was also a year of great loss. We won marriage in Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and just recently, Washington, D.C. And we lost marriage in California (Prop 8 supreme court decision,) Maine (repeal of marriage law,) New York (38-24 Senate vote,) New Jersey (decision to not vote.) By my count, that’s five wins and four losses. As much as it feels like at least we had a stellar year in marriage, we really didn’t.
Did we at least win hearts and minds? Well, it feels like we did, a little, but the numbers say, not really. And, certainly, not enough.
- 47% of Americans still think being gay is a choice.
- More than half of all LGBTQ workers aren’t comfortable enough to be out at work.
- A May 2009 Gallup poll found support for same-sex marriage at only 40%, while an April 2009 CBS poll found 42% support. The best came in an April 30, 2009 ABC News poll, which found 49% support legal same-sex marriage, while 46% oppose it.
- Anti-LGBTQ hate crime incidents rose 11%.
However you slice it, we still have a lot of work to do to win hearts and minds – and that’s lesson number three.
Elsewhere, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act finally was signed into law. Sadly, just two weeks later, the murder and decapitation of a Puerto Rican teenager, whose Governor refused to label a hate crime demonstrated clearly the need for the law.
Passage of ENDA, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, along with repeal of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” appear stalled. Nancy Pelosi has declared there will be no “controversial” legislation taken up by the Houise in 2010, so seeing these pillars of modern gay rights goals stalled is at best, disheartening.
The Democratic Party is not our friend. Not by my definition of what a friend is. At best, we can call the Democratic Party a “fair-weather friend” – there when they need us, not there when we need them. And right now, we need them and they’re not answering the phone.
This is lesson number three – know who our friends are, and reward them appropriately.
Obviously, lesson number four is the opposite: know who our enemies are. Let’s just call them Maggie & Co. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM,) along with those hate icons (that blogger Joe.My.God lets you vote for the worst!) like Matt Barber and Peter LaBarbera, along with Tony Perkins. And so many more. Like the C Street crowd. And Rick Warren.
The point here is we need to stand vigilant and ready to counter all their lies, hate, and misinformation. This is critical, and I have dedicated myself to this task. I hope you’ll join me this coming year in confronting their attacks.
So, what did 2009 teach us for 2010?
- Look to the past while protecting the future. There will be many more attacks against us and the narrow victories we have achieved. We need to never say, “No one could have predicted.” Someone always predicts. We need to listen and be ready to take action.
- Choose the right leaders and work toward uniting along common goals and issues.
- Keep fighting to win hearts and minds – regardless of how hard it gets.
- Identify and support our true friends.
- Identify, stay vigilant, and battle our enemies to protect our rights, our reputation, and our future.
Stay safe, have a Happy New Year, prepare, prepare, prepare.
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