On Not Saying Please or Thank you to Republicans
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jason Guard. Guard works in adult literacy and GED services. He serves on the board of the Virginia Organizing Project, although his views are completely his own. He goes by @RVAfoodie on Twitter and writes a blog at http://www.RVAfoodie.com.
Virginia has taken another two steps backward under the leadership of Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli. But we shouldn’t act surprised. We knew their anti-gay executive orders and letters to the universities were coming. For many Republicans, bigotry is the bread and butter of electoral politics. Fanning the flames of homophobia is how they turn out their core voters and make a name for themselves as bold figureheads. Unfortunately, after baby-steps forward under Kaine and Warner before him, we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security that our state was making progress on social issues. Our brief affair with blue-statehood as we went big for Obama seems to have faded like it was all just a dream now that Republicans have reasserted their power over Virginia’s people and further stalled our state’s efforts at long term progressive change.
What are gays and straight allies to do? I’m not gay, but I am a lifelong friend and ally to LGBTs, and I won’t stand by and watch people take further abuse at the hands of opportunistic social conservatives. I can’t tell gay people how to respond to Republicans’ constant encroachment on their rights. I’ve got my own emotional response to deal with as a witness to our state’s mistreatment of its people. But, whatever the course of action, gays should not be alone in fighting oppression. Straight allies need to stand up and speak up. And if that’s too much to ask, then we need to examine our allegiance to a system that continues to discriminate against and marginalize LGBTs into second class citizenship.
The system I’m talking about isn’t “the man” or “the government” or some abstraction you can rebuke with a bumper sticker. I’m talking about our social circles, our Twitter networks, and Facebook friends. If you think challenging the “family values” of social conservatives is risky or uncouth, than not only are you part of the problem, but you need to imagine you were the target of Republican politicians’ discrimination. If we are silent on gay rights, we send a message through our civic relationships and personal connections that we will tolerate routine discrimination. Perhaps the polite civility that Richmonders enjoy is part of the reason we’ve arrived at this point to begin with. But we can’t continue to be all smiles pretending the cheerleaders for conservative rule mean no harm to any of us personally. Friend or foe? They can’t have it both ways.
It does no good to pretend to reserve judgment while our friends, tweeps, or acquaintances seek to climb the social conservative ladder. Unless they’re trying to take down homophobia from within the belly of the beast (an unlikely fantasy), the apologists for oppression that we call friends are more than likely complicit and quiet while riding McDonnell/Cuccinelli bandwagons. I don’t care how nice someone is if they’re working to roll back the rights of my friends, family, or neighbors in the gayborhood. Anyone who supported those politicians’ campaigns owes every LGBT person an apology as well as community service work to undo their mess and derail the homophobia legislated by Republicans. Call those people out NOW. Apologists for Republican bigotry should not be trusted to represent community interests if they cannot act out of conscience in the face of discrimination.
Harvey Milk rallied his fellow gay activists in California to come out of the closet saying, “If they know one of us, they vote two to one with us.” It’s time to expand that campaign tactic for the new millennium. If they know we will stay quiet and we won’t hold them accountable, they will keep promoting discrimination against LGBTs (and women, the uninsured, people of color, the list goes on). Some Republicans activists in Richmond claim to oppose Virginia’s latest anti-gay policies. But they do nothing to fight intolerance within their party, and in their next breath, they criticize gay rights supporters for protesting at universities instead of lobbying in the accepted channels of the General Assembly. Who do these people think they are to dictate the terms of your response to THEIR right wing agenda? For too long, we’ve been abdicating our authority as citizens and letting religious zealots and their Republican entourages walk all over us. No more political games of “Simon Says” with conservatives calling the shots. It’s time to stand up and say ENOUGH.
For many of us, these may feel like political dark times. But, if we show that we have some fight back, there may be reason to celebrate political and personal accountability in Virginia and put the dark ages behind us once and for all.
While Mcdonnell might not get the chance to teach this session, he will get the chance to spend some time behind barsSeptember 16, 2014
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