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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

gay rights = civil rights

Arthur Silber said it well:

"[Frank] Rich’s points about using “gay people as cannon fodder” and the “wider war on gay people” are crucial. If readers should ever wonder why I have repeated several times what it feels like to me to be gay in the America of George Bush and the destructive religious forces he has helped to unleash [...] those dynamics are the reason. It is bad enough to be slandered, vilified, insulted and told you are basically worthless and immoral and a uniquely menacing danger to decency and civilization every single day—but when you also know that your vilification and demonization are additionally a means to what some people consider a “greater goal” and that the goal is an especially dangerous one … well. It takes a toll on you.

It seeks to diminish your humanity and your worth to the vanishing point, and it represents a profound attack on your value as a human being. Of course, I know and understand that none of it is true or valid, and I am also fully aware that all those who utilize such vicious tactics are deeply reprehensible human beings themselves. But such messages are part of the culture in which we live—and, largely because of Bush’s craven appeasement of those who hold such views (to say nothing of his endorsement of the truly unspeakable Federal Marriage Amendment), they seem to become louder and more prominent with each passing day."

It is this simple. When one party uses hatred and bigotry againt a whole class of American citizens as their unifying credo...it affects everyone, and puts the opposition party in the dilemma of either standing up for what is right, the rights of all citizens, or being bulldozed.

Insofar as one group of citizens is vilified and made to be legally second class, none of us are truly free. Not simply because we have a responsibility to stand up to that injustice or be, in effect, a party to it. But also because divisiveness and bigotry, whether against gays, or against women, or against immigrants, or in the continued violations of the civil rights of Black America...are today being used as a cynical crowbar to divide this nation and move it away from our core legal and political principles.

What does Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness mean in the context of the anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant agenda of the religious right and the GOP? If all men are created equal...

  • but not gay citizens...
  • or citizens who happen to be the children of "illegal immigrants"...
  • or Indian immigrant shopkeepers in Georgia unjustly caught up in a federal drug sting...
  • or black men selectively sentenced, prosecuted and imprisoned for decades under racist sentencing guidelines...
  • or women who want access to emergency contraception or abortion in a "pro-life" state

  • ...then what does "freedom" mean for any of us?

    What will the Declaration of Independence mean when we allow it to be interpreted by the GOP?

    That is the question of the day.

    For the party of civil rights to dance around the equal rights of any citizen in any state is not simply politically foolish, it is wrong, and a betrayal of our core values. It is clear to this urban democrat that, while we respect the unique legacy of the civil rights struggle, today, in America, gay rights = civil rights; the two struggles are profoundly linked. We can see that everyday in the life of our cities. And if some don't see that, or want to minimize that point of view, I would argue that it's time to look at how the "anti-gay" agenda is being used. If Arthur Silber's words above have echos of James Baldwin's work or Ralph Ellison's writing, that should come as no surprise. We need to understand that the same folks who brought us "Willie Horton," "Proposition 187" and "clinic protests" are now bringing us the "anti-gay marriage" movement. Again and again, they divide...it is our job to unite and overcome.

    These issues cut to the core of our Constitution and our federal system of government. Every American citizen should be able to freely move to any state, to any part of the country and enjoy the same rights and protections, the same guarantee of liberty as they did from whence they came. Every citizen should be equal before the law and at the ballot box; and that should be true whether you live in California or Mississippi, North Dakota or Massachusetts, Florida or Ohio. But that is not where the GOP is taking us.

    It is past time for us to stand up and stand together. It is past time that the leadership of our party speak in simple and straightforward terms to this. It is past time that we reaffirm our conviction that liberty and equal rights are the core values that bind us together as Americans...the values that define our American identity no matter who we are or where we live, or what our political affiliation. Equal rights means equal rights.

    I am convinced of this; we either find a way to link it....ie. literally and visibly link arms, link struggles, link interests and regions and constituencies; we either link our common cause...be it gay rights, women's rights, or civil rights...to our Constitution and to our nation's founding principles...or we lose...and lose more than any single election...we lose our moral pole star, the compass that has always led us forward, even in our darkest hour.



    • I completely agree with this post. Especially the ending. We need to clarify this link between the dangerous extremists and the overall conservative movement, and force so-called moderates to either embrace or denounce these people. The ambiguity created when we don't force this issue is what allows these hate filled movements to gain credence and grow into mainstream thought.

      We need to combat this at every turn, and we're already behind.

      By Blogger simplesinger, at 12:33 PM  

    • To quote something that Pat Schroeder said at the 1993 GLBT March on Washington, "When we say 'all men are created equal,' well, what part of 'all' don't they understand?" Either we really meant what we said in 1776, or we're just playing at being lovers of freedom and democracy. As it says on the marble above the front steps to the Supreme Court, "Equal Justice Under Law." That means nobody gets to be more equal than anybody else, and the basis for running the country is our laws, not some wingnut's religious fantasies.

      By Anonymous Michael, at 2:29 PM  

    • I love abstractions.... you know I do.

      It's a guilty pleasure sometimes... why? because of the vice of abstractionists (besides making up words as we go along)... which is to prefer the abstraction to the real case.

      there is no abstraction.

      it's just an idea.

      all there really is what we programers call "instances"... real cases.

      Human rights... civil rights, these are abstractions.

      Very important abstractions, yes.

      These are abstractions worth dying for. We want to make these abstractions real. But the only way to do that is to make the instances real. You can't solve "civil rights"... you can solve all these particular oppressions of rights, and that is how you build the abstraction. Those that say, "focus on the abstraction"... no, only in argumentation can you do that... in reality you'll have to be using the abstraction to fight for the instance... and fighting to solve that instance is really the only reality the abstraction has, and it is the only way to build the abstraction...

      Gay rights... Women's Rights... Ethnic Rights... these are instances, and the instances go down even further, of course, through the abstraction of "gay rights" which is still an abstraction collecting a lot of isntances of cultural oppression... down to real instance of violated rights... lack of marriage freedom, hate crime victimization.

      Yeah we have to link arms... there IS NO SUCH THING AS CIVIL RIGHTS except for special rights. That's all there is to it.


      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:21 PM  

    • Pyrhho, I don't get your drift.

      You want specifics?

      I wrote about the arrests in Georgia. 90% of those arrested were Indian immigrants. They are being prosecuted with a kind of "strong arming" by law enforcement that has become more and more common....asking citizens to do the job of law enforcement, and if they don't...criminalizing those citizens. (Aside from John Tierney I haven't heard anyone speaking up on this one.)

      Certainly these immigrants had nothing to do with methampetamines. But they were arrested under a sting entitled "operation meth merchant."

      That's specific. And real.

      Next up: "operation felon voter" "operation interstate gay marriage facilitator" "operation disturbing the peace conspiracist" and of course, "operation late term abortion provider".

      I'll write pieces that make my points more clearly as this process flows. But what I am trying to do here on k/o is to enunciate a stand that is distinct in both the abstract and in the practicals.

      I think folks know where I'm coming from.

      And the question I am asking: about the consequences of letting the GOP define the Declaration of Independence...is not an idle one.

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 5:27 PM  

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