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Why We Won’t Wait
Posted on Apr 19, 2010
By Scott Tucker
As often as Democrats try to bury such evidence, we must force these facts back into daylight. If they are ashamed, then they should stop their shameless appeals to religious bigotry. Agreeing to hold a major political forum at Saddleback Church was already a huge concession to the religious right, and Obama went right on to invite that church’s pastor, the Rev. Rick Warren, to deliver the invocation at his inaugural. After much protest, Obama also invited a gay priest to deliver a prayer at the Lincoln Memorial, but with much less limelight. Warren is a close colleague of right-wing evangelical politicians in Congress, some of whom have given aid and support to right-wing evangelical politicians in Uganda. Those political and religious colleagues sponsored a bill in the Ugandan Parliament proposing the death penalty for homosexuals. Only an international storm of protest stalled that bill—permanently, we may hope.
Winning secular space for legal rights takes a direct and open plan of battle. In every case, in every state. If that sounds like never-ending “culture wars,” so be it. We cannot give theocrats and fundamentalists the power to decide which citizens are allowed to choose a marriage partner under the law and which citizens are forbidden to choose. Consider the era of Jim Crow, when segregationists called upon Scripture and even “Natural Law” to outlaw intermarriage between blacks and whites. Consider the Aryan delusional system of the Nazis, which included special provisions under the Nuremberg Laws forbidding marriage between Jews and non-Jewish Germans. Indeed, the point of regulating kinship was precisely to define Jews as being outside the ranks of the German race and nation. We should not place a stupid equal sign between distinct periods and forms of reaction. But we do need historical analogies to shed light on present dangers. The right to home and to kinship—including the right to marry any person we choose—is not some trivial footnote in the catalog of human rights. This right is foundational for human rights and freedom. We must also make it foundational in a secular democracy.
We won’t wait for the charity of corporate donors, or for the timelines of politicians. If such people care to donate funds or even to take the risk of civil disobedience, they are welcome to join us. On our own terms. But the time when gay people were grateful for small favors is over. Whatever happens at the level of legislation and electoral politics, communities of resistance already exist all across this country. We will fight in earnest, and the lesson we must learn from the right-wing tea party protests is that class resentment without class consciousness is the wrong way to fight. Class resentment without class consciousness is the classic matrix of fascism. Some of the tea party protesters are angry white men from the middle class, but some are working people looking for answers. Why not surprise ourselves and others by having serious conversations with some of the very people who are now railing against big government? If we are clear about class politics, we have an open field for new alliances and for new coalitions against corporate power. Resistance must proceed by paying attention to reality, not by falling back on slogans that were progressive ten years ago but may be dead weight today.
Politicians in the big corporate parties have been insulated from the real anger and grievances of common citizens. Gay movements are plural, not singular, so many of us did not bother paying attention to Democratic Party politicians such as Barney Frank when we decided to march on Washington in November of 2009. He might have shown more grace learning some lessons from gay constituents. Instead, Frank invited us to stay home and let the timeline of Congress rule our lives. He earned the contingent of young gay and lesbian people who marched in Washington shouting, “Barney Frank, fuck you!” The same weekend, my husband and I joined a group of activists gathered from round the country to protest at an expensive dinner event held by the Human Rights Campaign. Obama was the guest speaker and spoke nothing but high-minded promises of hope and change, all duly reported on HRC’s website but hardly mentioned anywhere else in public news. When police arrived on motorcycles to move us off the pavement outside the dinner, we sat down in unison and chanted: “We’re here, we’re queer, we won’t be quiet! Remember Stonewall was a riot!”
No, I’m not going to play elder statesman and urge the youngsters to lower their voices or sing hymns. Every generation learns from the past but also creates new forms of resistance. Whatever happens in legislative chambers or in voting booths, we will fight day by day as we choose. In my study there are framed photographs of Rosa Luxemburg and Frederick Douglass. If I have any lessons to pass on to younger activists and community organizers, these might be summed up briefly. In the words of Luxemburg: “Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently.” And in the words of Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Scott Tucker is a Los Angeles writer and a democratic socialist. His book of essays, “The Queer Question: Essays on Desire and Democracy,” was published by South End Press in 1997.
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