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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Honey and Vinegar

It's a new day and a new decade, even here in Texas, yessir it is.  Your Head Trucker can hardly take it all in, but it sure feels good.  Annise Parker was sworn in Monday as the first lesbian mayor of Houston, with her longtime partner by her side - right in front of God and everybody at a packed convention center:



Parker said, "I spoke on election night of this being an historic election, and my election made news around the world.  Now, Houstonians weren’t very surprised that a gay woman was elected. We have a tradition of electing mayors not for who they are but for what they believe we can do as a city."

And speaking to the LGBT community, "I understand how much this day means to you," she said. "I can feel your excitement and your joy, but I can also feel your apprehension and longing for acceptance. I will gladly carry you forward, but today is simply one step toward a tomorrow of greater justice. . . .  Your bravery in the face of threat, your grace in the face of insult, sustains me.  We will support each other.  Do not fear to dream big dreams.  Bring your whole self to everything you do.  Face the world with dignity and integrity. I promise you, the pain is worth the reward."

View the entire speech here.

Joel Osteen, megachurch pastor who recently told Joy Behar on The View that gays are "not God's best," gave the invocation at the ceremony, thanking God for "raising up" Annise Parker to be Houston's new mayor.

Which raises the question of who really are our friends? 

Timothy Kincaid in Box Turtle Bulletin wrote a very good piece on this point, that you should go read.  Excerpt:
Most of us are capable of seeing our coworkers, family, and neighbors as possessing varying degrees of rejection or support. . . .  Somehow we are able to accept Uncle Fred and Cousin Susan and their limitations without denouncing them as vile people. But too often our community views religious leaders through a dichotomous lens; either the minister is a fully supportive political ally, or a hate-filled anti-gay bigot.  But truthfully, most are neither.

I think it would be useful for our community to adopt a more nuanced view of religious leaders. By doing so, we might find ourselves with unexpected allies.  Joel Osteen does not agree with my understanding of Scripture; but his disagreement does not make him a hater or a bigot. And I recognize the value in having a lesbian politician – elected despite her opponent’s religion-based homophobic campaign – being given blessing by the pastor of the largest congregation in the nation.
And Sullivan responds:
I agree. We gays should be seeking friends and alliances, not only searching for haters. That doesn't mean we should ignore complicity in anti-gay violence, as the Ugandan example shows. But when evangelicals or Mormons or Catholics or Muslims show respect, we should always reciprocate.
What I Say:  Now fellas, there's a lot of wisdom in those remarks, and your Head Trucker wishes you would think it over some.  I myself feel the strong temptation, too - to brand everybody not 100 percent on our side as bigots and haters.

Which reminds me of Bush's infamous dumbshit statement, going into the Iraq War:  "If you're not for us, you're against us."  But guys, you know from your own experience and your own families that's not the case.  Uncle Fred is just naturally more concerned about the cows in the south pasture than he will ever be about anybody's civil rights, which is something too abstract for him to get his mind around completely. 

And Cousin Susan, bless her heart, is a flibbertygibbet who wouldn't hurt a fly and always remembers your birthday, but is much too busy planning the next gossip session with the ladies at the lunch counter to stop and think seriously for five minutes about either politics or religion.

A great many people just naturally resist being forced to take a stand; and the more you push them and revile them, the more they will dig in their heels - and they may jump off the fence onto the other side, just to show you that you're not the boss of them.

But like my mama always said, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.  Those who are not for us are not necessarily against us, either.  Let's be clear in our thinking, and not divide the whole world into black and white, Us versus Them - as the fundamentalists and the teabaggers do.

It's that's Us versus Them thing that is the cause of all the wars and all the conflicts in the world, down through the ages.  Hard as it may be to keep a balanced view when we are feeling the sting of attacks and defeats from the true haters, it's much better, as Sullivan says, to be open to potential friends and allies.

In other words, stand up for your gay self and stick to your guns - but don't be a jackass about it.  There's a very fine line between proper pride and overweening pride, which we all would do well to pay attention to.

5 comments:

Doorman-Priest said...

It'll all end in tears! It's bound to compromise someone's constitutional right to be a bigot.

TomS said...

Interesting take on this Russ,

In my head, agree. But in my heart....

If Osteen went on The View before the last Presidential election, and said he felt people of color were not "God's best", would we embrace him for thanking God for raising Mr. Obama up as the new President?

Would Kinkaid still feel Osteen's stand "does not make him a hater or a bigot?"

It makes me weary...we seem to be the only group expected to keep turning the other cheek.

In my humble opinion...

Russ Manley said...

The question is, seems to me, if Aunt Sally says "Well I think you and your partner are fine fellows, but don't call it marriage" - do we respond "You hateful old cow, go to hell!"

Or by persistence and kindliness do we eventually turn Aunt Sally's attitude around? What did Jesus do? And Gandhi. And Martin Luther King. And Harvey Milk.

I don't have all the answers here, I'm just asking.

FDeF said...

On the political front the line is (rightfully, I think), somewhat firmer: public discourse can have far reaching and widespread impact, so it is important to call the spades (or bigots) what they are and point out when they appear to be self-serving. (when the emperor has no clothes).

On a more personal level, it's more fine a line. Some years ago my cousin gave a anniversary party for her parents. When I RSVPed for myself and partner I was told "invitations were limited to family and spouses". I gracefully declined the invitation and sent a card. A few years later Leon and I gave a party celebrating our 14 years and a belated housewarming. The same cousin, who was divorced, asked if it was ok to bring her live-in boyfriend. We said "certainly, no problem". We don't know if she ever made the connection, but everyone had a great time.

Russ Manley said...

Ouch! You're a good man, Frank. But I think I would have found a polite, graceful, but straight-to-the-heart way to make sure Cousin got the connection.

But yes, public and private discourse are different. Still, I think we could recognize there are degrees of acceptance, shades of gray in the world.

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