FMA Again - It's time for a different song

Every era has a song that symbolizes the hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations of the country at that time. As people started to come together forming unions to protect their rights and for safer working conditions, workers marched against the establishment singing "Solidarity Forever."
Later, civil rights, peace and labor activists linked arms against segregation, racism and discrimination, marching not just in the South but also in cities across the country, including the nation's capitol, to the refrains of "We Shall Overcome."
As the 1990s brought to a close another century we were feeling hopeful under a Clinton-Gore administration ushered in by Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." Despite "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the travel office controversy and a litany of missteps, scandals and innuendos ultimately leading to impeachment, the economy was strong, unemployment was low, and median household income was up. But more important than the economic gains were the social gains for Americans with disabilities, senior citizens, women, Native Americans, Hispanics, African-Americans and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. It was not perfection, but it was a promise of a tomorrow "better than before."
Those of us not planning for an apocalyptic end when the clock struck midnight Dec. 31, 1999, were planning for a Gore presidency. We didn't want to stop thinking about that tomorrow that would soon be here "better than before" because yesterday was gone, or so we thought.
The 2000 election rocked our optimism when, despite Al Gore winning the electoral vote, the presidency went to George W. Bush with a far right constituency that believed more in the status quo of the past than the promise of a diverse, inclusive future.
While we had been shaken by the senseless acts of hate and violence against LGBT Americans in the past – including the rape and murder of Brandon Teena, the murders of Matthew Shepard, Rodney Velazquez, and the 15-year-old Sakia Gunn – we found hope in the legalization of civil unions in Vermont, the striking down of state sodomy laws with the Lawrence vs. Texas ruling and then the legalization of marriage in Massachusetts.
The promise of an awakening from the strangle hold of the far right's doctrine of hate and discrimination seemed possible with the 2004 elections. But instead of equality, we woke up with no change in the White House, a deeper shift to the right in both the House and Senate and 11 states, including Michigan, denying recognition of LGBT households by banning gay marriage.
Instead of awakening into a brave new world, we sunk into a long dark slumber with many people committed to social justice, not just in the LGBT community but in the straight community as well, singing a new song: "Shake me, Wake me When It's Over."
With the 2006 midterm elections looming in the not too distant future, I continue to wonder just what it will take to shake us hard enough to awaken us from this nightmare.
Doesn't the 25th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS pandemic which continues to claim millions victims in the United States and across the world – over 25 million dead and 40 million infected – shake you to your core?
Aren't you still shaking from the images following Hurricane Katrina of thousands of poor and elderly residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast stranded on rooftops and warehoused in arenas pleading for help?
Aren't you shaken every day by the reports of deaths of soldiers and civilians from the war in Iraq? Don't you start to shake even more when you realize we were lied to about the reasons for war, there is no clear exit plan and now the global community is charging us with the very atrocities – torture, illegal detention and possibly murder – we are fighting against?
Corruption of elected officials on both sides of the aisle; leaks from within the administration exposing CIA operatives; lack of affordable healthcare; a failing education system; a widening gap between the rich and the poor; rising gas prices; a divisive immigration policy and the threat of another global conflict with a nuclear armed Iran – are you shaking yet? Then join the crowd. It's time to wake up.
But apparently many of our elected officials in Washington D.C. don't quite see it that way. On June 5, after return from their Memorial Day recess, instead of attacking the real problems facing the nation senators will spend their time on a divisive and unnecessary debate over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. An amendment even supporters readily concede has virtually no chance of passing and that is not a priority for any group of voters anywhere in the country. President Bush even plans to once again give this discriminatory amendment the prestige of a statement from the Rose Garden. A House vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment is expected before the elections in November.
So why bring it up again? Why now? Is it just a transparent effort to energize the same electoral base that delivered the White House in 2004 in time for the 2006 elections and ultimately for another victory in 2008? Somebody tell me that they are dreaming to believe that this blatant pandering to the far right will ring true to the majority of Americans.
It's time for an end to legislation based on fear, hatred and discrimination and a restoration of a government of, for and by the people. So as you listen to what promises to be a bitter and divisive debate in the coming weeks and watch campaigns tearing down communities instead of building a stronger, inclusive America, give yourself a good shake and wake yourself up because it's a new day. Tell your senator and representative to vote no on the FMA. Tell your elected officials, not just at the federal level but the state as well, that you will only vote for fair-minded politicians who support equality and fight discrimination of any type. Start singing a new song today and all the way through the 2006 and 2008 elections because "We Won't Be Fooled Again."

Topics: Opinions