I've made my concerns about the National Equality March known and Cleve Jones responded with his reasons why it should go forward. After spending a week at Netroots Nation talking to Kip Williams, the Director of the march's organizing campaign, Equality Across America (EAA), I'm reminded of the Greek myth of Pandora's box.
For those who don't know the myth, Pandora was created at Zeus's instruction after Prometheus stole the gift of fire. She was gifted by other deities with talents like beauty, persuasion, curiosity, and music -- hence her name which means "All Gifted." Zeus gave Pandora a box full of all of mankind's evils but didn't tell her what was inside; instead he just told her not to open it. Compelled by curiosity, Pandora opened the box and all its contents flew into the world.
The last item in the box was Hope. Pandora slammed the lid shut once she realized what she'd done and trapped Hope inside. Scholars have spent centuries arguing over the basic crux this presents: Is the box a prison for Hope (trapping it away from mankind) or a pantry (saving it for use when needed)?
The National Equality March and EAA also present the same dilemma. I choose to believe Hope's retention is meant to be comforting and not a bane to our existence. In that spirit, I've decided to whole-heartedly endorse Equality Across America and the National Equality March.
The box is open and some unpleasant concerns have flown out recently -- and not just around this march.
A History of Oppression Continues
The LGBT community is used to being downtrodden and dismissed. Prejudice, animosity, and apartheid flew out of Pandora's Box long ago. Our community's dealings with these evils isn't anything new; it's also been a part of human civilization for centuries. We still fight to overcome these nightmares and legitimately prove that Americans have properly put aside our differences in favor of our common equality.
Our right to marry was stripped from us at the ballot box in California after the state supreme court had ruled in our favor. Maine is fighting to keep that same right -- even though the state's legislature and governor passed and signed this into law. The far right has long complained that we'd only won the right to marriage via the courts, but once they realized that public opinion had shifted and we can now claim our rightful place in society through the legislative process, once again they're trying to overturn those rights.
Don't be fooled, this isn't about which route we take to our natural liberties. This is about forcing their beliefs on a group of people that they despise and disdain. This has more to do with Pandora's "gifts" of intolerance, racism, sexism, antipathy and contemptuousness.
Pulling together an event of this magnitude is a logistical nightmare. With only a couple of months left to firm everything up, we're going to have to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Not only do we need to work out the ins-and-outs of what to do with youth who show up without housing plans, transportation issues, speakers who will motivate the attendees, cooperation issues with Gay, Inc., and funding, but there's all the small details and massive egos that will need to be massaged and managed.
As our community's leaders have jockeyed for position to be the top dog, we've undercut the very people we're supposed to be supporting and empowering. This isn't limited to those who work for Gay, Inc. You can see it in communities across the nation. Look to your own state's various LGBT organizations and their interactions with each other and the body politic. As an oppressed group, we take it out on each other. Infighting, hostility and distrust have become common weapons that we use on each other with deft precision. We don't need the right wing to do the damage; we often inflict it on each other.
Even in my own post, I got sidetracked by my concerns and worries instead of taking the step backwards to look at the big picture. We don't have the luxury of slapping something together half-heartedly. We need to use the same precision you use to cut a diamond. Our lives, our families and our civil rights are just as valuable and shouldn't be handled like offal.
Owning the Box
It's clear now that this is our strongest and best opportunity to make a communal statement that will resonate. Going to Washington does not take away or diminish other efforts. Consider the IMAX experience versus the Netflix version. The impact of what you see on widescreen can never be entirely duplicated at home.
The reach of the march extends far beyond the individual in-your-face. It is a show of solidarity and force, a statement that is in proportion in its volume to the need for such a statement. The communal voice has been silent since the loss in California. That voice was heard in the wake of Prop 8, but not since. It's time for that voice. While the idea may have been the province of only a few people in its inception, it is now, in its full discussion, owned by many.
The geographic distinctions of time and space, first chipped away at by smoke signals, and telegraph and telephone and radio and TV, are now entirely extinguished by the hand-held and instantaneous presence of everyone in view of everyone else. We should not underestimate the power of sentiment generated when people gather to make communal that which can be done privately. People can pray in private but benefit from spiritual assembly. People can do yoga in private but do it better as a class. People can sing in the shower or as part of a choir. There is an amplification and timbre to the communal voice that generates its own music.
Hope Is Not Imprisoned
I don't envy Kip's position. His job is monumental and he'll need every bit of support possible to pull this off. We can't do this on a wing and a prayer. We need to open the box back up and pull out Hope.
Gay, Inc. is not the enemy of the grassroots movement. The young new activists and online media gurus are not diametrically opposed to established lobbying efforts and infrastructure. We have to find a way to bring all of our best activists, strategists and lobbyists together in a way that allows them to work in conjunction while checking our egos at the door.
I'm putting my own reservations aside in favor of Pandora's last and best gift to humanity. None of us can open this box on our own. This time to pry the lid open, it's going to take all of the muscle and determination of our community. After all, we too are "All Gifted."
It's time to take Hope out of the box and use it.
(Crossposted from my home blog, Bilerico Project. Come visit me there to see why both the Washington Post and the Advocate named us one of the top 10 LGBT political blogs in the nation.)