I haven't thought of Kate Smith in years. That is, until a recent Sunday while I was reading The New York Times.
As a child growing up in a hockey-mad family along Philadelphia's Main Line, I had occasion to hear this rather Rubenesque chanteuse sing before many a Flyers' game. She was our "secret weapon" but more than that, she's also cited, at least in some etymologies, of an oft-used quote: "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."
It was this phrase that brought Kate to mind while I was reading a Frank Rich column (which also was published here on The Huffington Post). The topic was the continued conservative attack on the civil liberties of the LGBTQ community. More to the point, the column points to the maelstrom of mockery that ensued after an anti-gay marriage video "The Gathering Storm" hit the Internet and became fodder for a flurry of spoofs, including one from Steven Colbert. Rich's column heralds the lampooning as the bookmark to an "historic point in the demise of America's anti-gay movement." Pointing to an array of well-known conservatives ranging from Dr. Laura Schlesinger to The Rev. Rick Warren, who appear to have either completely changed their minds (Schlesinger) or just deny ever having been against gay marriage in the first place (Warren) Rich proposes that we're on an inexorable path.
Of course he's right, one day true equal rights for all people will be a reality in this nation. But he steps down a dangerous path when he says that it's as good as done. This is far from resolved. It's also only part of the story.
This isn't about gay marriage.
This is about civil rights.
When Rosa Parks took her brave stand in 1955, setting in motion a chain of events towards desegregation, everyone didn't toss their hands up in a big hurrah and go home. Quite the contrary -- it was only the beginning. And truth be told that "beginning" was a major milestone in a decades long endeavor already underway. The struggle of African Americans for equality is a sad stain on this nation's history -- one on which we have thankfully made considerable progress (though certainly far from done) in washing clean. So too will the LGBTQ community make progress. We already have.
As the waves of anger and frustration about the passage of Prop 8 began to recede, a powerful tide began to rise. This "gathering storm" is bringing together the traditionally fragmented LGBTQ community and, more importantly, goes well beyond the fringes of the somewhat tattered rainbow flag.
It's taking place through organizations like Join the Impact and Marriage EqualityUSA, and Meet in the Middle 4 Equality. It's happening through sites like the Courage Campaign's Equality Hub and a complementary open source site project called Equality Central.
But above all that, it's beginning to be nurtured and propagated the best way of all -- with direct conversations and engagement. Another offering from the Courage Campaign goes a long way towards helping on this front. It's called Camp Courage.
I participated in the first Camp, which was produced in LA at the end of January. That was a one-day program. Since that time, there have been several other camps -- one in Fresno and one in San Diego. Both were expanded to a two-day format. This past weekend I participated in the fourth Camp Courage, this one held in Oakland, CA.
As the proceedings drew to a close, one of the Camp Courage creators and lead organizers, Torie Osborn, took to the microphone. The full text of her speech can be found here, but there was one passage that rang in my ears:
"Today, we face a very simple, very profound choice: between inequality and equality. Between separateness and connectedness. On the one side are the forces of fear and separation, violence, and inequality. On the other side, the forces of responsibility and respect for each other, love for the children, for the earth.
We're on the threshold of a true revolution of values that would make unacceptable the kind of economic inequality that has deepened and widened over the last two generations for the majority of Americans. And that revolution of values will make injustice against LGBTQ people also unacceptable.
Marriage equality no longer belongs just to the LGBTQ community. It's an all-American justice issue. It belongs to the new America."
I sat in that room listening to Torie's words and for a moment, there may have been the distant strains of Kate Smith's voice. I wonder, perhaps that fat lady may be warming up after all.
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