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Open Letter to Angry and Frustrated LGBT Activists

October 11, 2010 Update: The truth is, this wasn’t originally, a well written post. I was asked if it could be posted as an editorial elsewhere on the web, and so I cleaned it up for that purpose. I’m posting the updated text here too, since it is better written. I’m leaving the original below  however.
Preface: The following was written in response to a post on Facebook, where an activist was expressing frustration and suggested that voting in this election wouldn’t make any difference. I thoroughly disagree with that idea. I’m posting it here, with the thought that maybe it will springboard a dialogue about how activists who feel frustrated by slow progress can minimize burnout, and keep fighting the good fight. How can activists keep focus on the issues and use their energy wisely to produce results.
Many LGBT activists are feeling frustrated and angry at the lack of progress on any LGBT issue since Obama was elected, and that frustration is prompting them to stay away from the polls this November. I guess they think it will send a message to the Democratic Party or something. But keeping a Democrat majority is a top priority, because there is a massive culture war going on and this election is just one battle within all of that.
Will all due respect, I get so tired of new activists who think that if they shout loud enough, it will make things different.  Some of us have been doing that for a long time. Shouting, rallies, protests, are all needed activities, but only part of battle. Some blast Blue Dog Democrats, and even the President’s administration for not standing with us 100 percent, and those frustrations are warranted. Yet abandoning all Democrats and the democratic process of elections, isn’t the answer. IF- we are going to see full equality, we must must work on many fronts and many battles and not leave any alone. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as other items of legislation are all important.

Some are suggesting that because Congress won’t pass ENDA or DADT, and because the Justice Department continues to defend DADT, that the best thing we can do is let those Democrats lose in November as payback for abandoning our issues. But if we lose either the Senate or the House (or goddess forbid, both) we are totally screwed and there won’t be ANY progress on any LGBT issue at all. I believe the President fully gets why these issues are important to us. He either doesn’t have the political balls to do it, has advisors who don’t have the political balls, or sees doing things for the LGBT community will only be like pouring fuel on the already out of control culture war. I don’t know. But I do know that he hasn’t been “with us” for a while now, and that isn’t going to change any time soon.
Too many LGBT activists wear blinders to any other progressive e cause, and are failing to consider the gravity of the current Tea Party climate. There are all out attacks on women’s rights, for example, as no fewer than five candidates for Congress are running on a platform that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape or incest. Do these activists recognize just how close the far right is to gaining power where no progressive cause has a chance? Also concerning are the attacks on Health Care Reform and Social Security. If the conservatives are successful in privatizing Social ?Security, we may as well kiss any chance for LGBT equality good-bye, as no progressive policy will have any chance at all, if the major progressive policy of the last century is struck down.

We have however been making progress on ENDA and other things in both the House and the Senate, as well as making progress in the Courts. If we want to see progress continue, we MUST MUST keep Democrat control in both of these legislative bodies.  If anything, we needed to be out there finding Democrat opponents  (or supporting them where they exist) who are up against the Blue Dog Democrats who keep acting like Right Wing conservatives.

Do you know who Jesse Helms was? Do you realize there are five Tea Party candidates that could make their way into the Senate in November who would make him look like a liberal? Do you have any idea how much that will deter full equality? Activists: be passionate and angry about being treated as a second class citizen! I’m simply suggesting that the first place to turn all of that emotion is on making sure we lose as few seats as possible in November, and then use it full force on all the many fronts where we are fighting. Stop thinking that if one person (like the President) did one thing or another, then everything would be better. If you don’t feel the current Democrats are acting in our best interest, then the on November 4th, get busy working to elect more progressive Democrats in 2012 and 2014. It takes some time to get progressives elected, so get working on it soon rather than simply lament the lack of such folks directly before an election.
The sad news is that we are still a long way from Equality, but the good news is that if we can stop a rise in conservative control of our government, we can keep making progress. We should never settle for minuscule gains, but allowing the Far Right to win isn’t the answer.

Original Post:
Preface: The follocwing is something I wrote in response to a post to Facebook, where an activist was expressing frustration and suggesting that voting in this election wouldn’t make any difference. I thoroughly disagree with that idea. I’m posting it here, with the thought that maybe it will springboard a dialogue about how activists who feel frustrated by slow progress can minimize burnout, and keep fighting the good fight. How can activists keep focus on the issues and use their energy wisely to produce results. Leave a comment with your thoughts below.

Who told you to “just vote and call it a year”?  I most certainly didn’t! I only said that keeping a Dem majority was the top priority. And I said that there is a massive culture war going on and this is one battle within all of that. That’s all I said.

Will all due respect, I get so tired of new activists who think that if they shout loud enough, that that is what is going to make things different.  Some of us have been doing that for a long time. Shouting, rallies, protests, are all needed activities, but only part of battle.

IF, we are going to see full equality, we must must work on many fronts and many battles and not leave any alone. DADT, DOMA, all of that is important. YOU can say that the administration doesn’t have to defend these policies, but are you a lawyer? Do you understand why the Justice Dept is taking that approach?  I don’t, and I’m not in any way defending them for it. I do however recognize that the issue is more complex than a simple, decision to defend it or not defend it. The President accepted a compromise to allow the Military to do its survey. As wrong as that may have been, that was the direction he took. The Justice Dept may feel that they had to file the brief or be seen as not supporting the plan to let the Military complete its report.

But if we lose either the Senate or the House (or goddess forbid, both) we are totally screwed and there won’t be ANY progress on any LGBT issue at all.

The President fully gets why these issues are important to us. He either doesn’t have the political balls to do it, has advisors who don’t have the political balls, or sees doing things for the LGBT community will only be like pouring fuel on the already out of control culture war. I don’t know. But I do know that he hasn’t been “with us” for a while now, and that isn’t going to change any time soon.

We have however been making progress on ENDA and other things in both the House and the Senate, as well as making progress in the Courts. If we want to see progress continue, we MUST MUST keep Dem control in both of these legislative bodies.  If anything we needed to be out there finding Dem opponents  (or supporting them where they exist) who are up against the Blue Dog Dems who keep acting like Right Wing conservatives.

Do you know who Jesse Helms was? Do you realize there are 5 Tea Party candidates that could make their way into the Senate in November who would make him look like a liberal? Do you have any idea how much that will deter full equality?

And do you realize the current state of culture war? A woman’s right to choose was supposedly decided how many years ago, and yet it is still a major battle being fought (and one where progressives are losing ground).

Be passionate and angry about being treated as a second class citizen! I’m simply suggesting that the first place to turn all of that is on making sure we lose as few seats as possible in November, and then use it full force on all the many fronts where we are fighting. Stop thinking that if one person (like the President) did 1 thing or another, then everything would be better.

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