12/18/2008

2000 Miles and Light Years Away

City of TucsonImage via WikipediaOh what a difference 2000 miles can make. As I was reading various articles and posts on Obama's choice of Rick Warren I ran across an old familiar name from South Carolina - Candace Chellew-Hodge.

I don't know her personally, but recall her name from the latter years of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement (SCGLPM). In her article, Ms. Chellew-Hodge who runs a "Gay Christian Magazine" in the state takes issue at all the rabble rousers in the community who are outraged over Obama's choice of Rick Warren to deliver the Invocation on January 20, 2009.

All the screaming from liberals and progressives about Warren’s pending prayer on January 20 only serves to make our community look petty and intractable. It’s been said that if you fight something long enough, there is a danger of becoming what you hate. I think we’re getting dangerously close to that with this controversy. What we hate about the religious right is their inability to put their dogma aside and come together on important issues. Pitching a fit over Obama’s invitation to Warren makes our community look just as mean and graceless as Warren’s community looks to us. In fact, our hysterical objections give the religious right a chance to play concern troll and tsk, tsk, at all those liberals who talk about inclusiveness, but get upset when they actually have to practice it.

I find it interesting that people of Ms. Chellew-Hodge's ilk see nothing wrong with us having to swallow the hatred of "Christians" in the name of "unity" but seem to have no problem with them excluding us on the basis of "faith." This is self-hating behavior at its best. After all, as has been pointed out by much more astute writers than me: If this is a "big tent" issue where are the avowed racists and anti-semites? Why aren't they being given prime time as well? Is it because the constiuencies they hate are too important to Obama personally while we are simply expendable?

In reading other of Ms. Chellew-Hodges' postings I found her crowing over 200 people who gathered at the State House to protest the Prop 8 ruling and call for equal right.

200... here in Tucson we managed to get over 2000 with less than 4 days' notice.

That's what strikes me as a major difference between here and there. Even when I worked with SCGLPM in its infancy there was a portion of the group who did not seem overly interested in political advancement of the causes. They were more into throwing parties and parades and being "visable." Meanwhile, some of us wanted to call for changes and equality by working with politicians, organizing demonstrations and speaking out about injustice and religious groups' discrimination and access to the political process.

Early on, I was able to arrange a meeting with our Republican Governor's staff to discuss discrimination in medical care, housing, and employment. I called other people within SCGLPM and received nothing but criticism for even trying to open a diaglogue on the subject. They felt I was just "making waves" and I ended up with the Chief of Staff and 4 other staffers by myself.

That episode taught me that most of the folks in South Carolina who were in charge of various groups were not interested in agitating for change. I think in many cases it was fear. They feared drawing too much attention to themselves politically. As long as the "march" was a "parade" and the news could make light of it, no one got too out of joint.

This is what I read in Ms. Chellew-Hodges' postings. It is that undercurrent of fear that being labelled an "agitator" or "loud mouth" will be "counterproductive" that calling a spade a spade and a bigot a bigot is being "intolerant."

That is the very argument the ultra right has fed for years and people like Candace Chellew-Hodges have fallen for hook, line, and sinker. It's a great argument and if you can get your opponent to buy into it you negate their ability to call for change. All you need to is label any protest or opposition as "intolerance" and they will drop their argument for fear of "becoming what we hate." It's magical.

That's the nice thing about Arizona rights advocates. They don't fall for that argument. They don't shut up when knocked down, they yell louder. When Prop 102 passed, by the end of the week thousands were in the streets here. There are ad campaigns in the works to show the faces of gay families in the state. There are radio shows on the issues. There are letter writing campaigns about various issues including Obama's choice of Warren as National Pastor.

And what does it get us? Well, maybe not marriage but yesterday Phoenix approved a Domestic Partnership ordinance that allows for hospital visitation for registered couples among other things. Tucson has had such an ordinance for several years and I'm pleased to have my "official" paperwork with Michael. But more to the point, those are both things that people in South Carolina, no matter how small, have because of the fear of being "petty and intractable."


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1 comment:

MHC said...

The Columbia Prop. 8 protest was planned in about 24 hours or so. For such little time, 200 sounded good to me. Tucson's 2000 was probably helped by the fact the state had just passed a few days prior its own anti-gay marriage amendment. Apples to oranges, maybe?

But, I will grant you one thing: South Carolina has a long way to go in making real and lasting political alliances at the state level. They've been successful at making those alliances at the city level -- the mayor and city council are extremely helpful and friendly -- but I'm afraid it'll be years before something of the sort happens in the Governor's Office.

Nice write up, thanks.

Matt Comer
Editor, Q-Notes
Charlotte, NC
www.q-notes.com

P.S. -- The group is just "SC Pride" now. They've dropped "Gay and Lesbian" from their name to be more inclusive of the entire LGBT community, without having to have an acronym five miles long.

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