Arts & Entertainment
Viewpoint: Oh Lord, Right Now
By Michelle E. Brown
Originally printed 8/6/2009 (Issue 1732 - Between The Lines News)
During my weekly spin around my virtually expanded LGBT community, I came across the blog post "Where is our war room?" and slowed down to see just what "Tif," the writer, was talking about. I knew the 2008 elections, the release of the film "Milk", marriage equality victories across the country and the stunning defeat in California had folks up in arms but a War Room? Really?
While the posting was not a call to arms, civic disobedience, or advertising for a Web site for rainbow-colored fatigues, it did beg the more important question:
"Where is our campaign?" for equality and "Why are we having to go around our movement to build a movement?"
I empathized with the writer's frustrations. I have listened to the talk, written the letters to state and federal legislatures, spoken out, marched and sent money locally and nationally to our LGBT leaders and still, despite some gains, find myself vulnerable to firing just because I am gay (an especially scary place to be in these shaky economic times), unable to marry the person I love, with minimal recourse if I am a victim of a bias based or hate crime and am still a second class citizen in a country promising life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
Like Tif, I am looking for that groundswell, grassroots movement - an energized base that will leave the capitol steps not just pumped up with adrenaline from another passionate speech only to find it's business as usual the next day, but a base strongly behind a strategy to gain full equality - not someday, but now. Unfortunately, the message is more often "wait" than "let's do this thing."
Wait! How much longer must we wait? When many LGBT and straight allies, researchers and organizations called for an enumerated bullying bill, the message was wait. When Rep. Pam Byrnes called for a repeal of Michigan's discriminatory marriage amendment and others called for a 2012 initiative, the message was wait. Who doesn't remember HRC's ENDA fiasco when our transgender sisters and brothers were asked to wait. Wait! Wait until the time is right! Wait until we have more votes! Wait until we educate more people! Wait! Wait! Wait!
In his letter from the Birmingham jail Martin Luther King Jr. said, "For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!' It rings in the ears of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.' We must come to see ... that justice too long delayed is justice denied."
It has been 40 years since Stonewall and still we wait for justice too long delayed, still denied.
In a posting on "Observations from Turkey Hollow," David Mixner commented that, "There is a new chapter within LGBT civil rights movement that can only be described as the 'Oh Lord, Not Now!' movement." Is that where we are, on hold waiting for a very neat time-lined, totally safe, predictable movement where we do not publicly move until we are assured of victory?
Or is it time for our Rosa Parks moment, our Montgomery bus boycott? History tells us this was not a totally spontaneous event. It was a political and social protest campaign. The outcome was not. Organizers did not know if Montgomery's African-American community would or for how long support the boycott of the bus system many relied upon to get to and from work - but they did. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give her seat to a white man, the community rose up and joined the boycott which lasted more than a year.
This fall, there is a march planned on Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with National Coming Out Day. Logical, more conservative LGBT leadership fear the march is a terrible idea with more to lose than to gain. They have said that polls just don't care about marches, paraphrasing Barney Frank's statement: "I'd rather have 100 activists lobby their legislature than 100,000 people on the Washington Mall."
We all know that hearts and minds are changed the more the community at large knows our LGBT community. Perhaps instead of looking at the march with fear and trepidation, we should embrace the possibilities. We use the months before Oct. 11 to tell our stories. The AFSC has done a wonderful job putting a face on our community with its "Lift Every Voice" recordings, but there's more we can do.
Have you come out? Have your family and friends come out in support of the LGBT community? What about your workplace or place of worship?
Do you use social networking? Have you posted your photos of your family and your community - not just partying, but living every day lives of love, hope and joy?
Do something more than be here and queer - talk about it, tell someone about, live it. There is no time for an "Oh Lord, Not Now" movement. If that is where our leadership is headed, then let's man our war room, let's stand up - all of us - and tell not just our LGBT leadership but also our state and the country that this is an "Oh Lord, Right Now!" movement and we are seizing the time.