When We Rise… and Rise and Rise

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There was a moment in this past week’s When We Rise – ABC’s 8-hour miniseries retelling the gay liberation movement through the personal and professional travails of four real life activists – where one realizes that it is only when the political becomes personal that a true activist is born. Or perhaps it’s the other way around – meaning it takes something awfully personal to happen to us before we muster up the energy to try and save the world.

8 hours well spent #chairreview

8 hours well spent #chairreview

Of course, no one can truly save a world, despite what politicians, billionaires or real estate moguls will tell you, and sometimes in the body of the same person. And moreover, that moment when it all clicks in and causes action is different for all of us.

A noteworthy screenwriter friend of mine named Anna Hamilton-Phelan once wrote a script on the women’s movement called The Big Click and it is only now – 25 plus years later – that I truly get what she was talking about. Oh sure, I’ve been politically active over the decades and understood the basic meaning of what she was saying. Who could argue with the idea that there are episodes in all of our lives when something goes from simply bothering us to pissing us off so royally that we are moved into action. Or from understanding in hindsight that unknowingly there were reasons ingrained in us from childhood that causes us to be passionate about an issue rather than merely just sympathetic towards it.

There are some parents in need of a medal for this gem #girlpower

There are some parents in need of a medal for this gem #girlpower

The gay heroes in When We Rise had many motivating factors but the commonality that clicked in for me was that at least one parent rejected them from an early age because of their sexual orientation and that these brave men and women had the strength to know that the problem was not with themselves and the temerity to devote their lives to enabling the world to see the truth. What this translates into was being a part of a movement to change the world even though, at its basic core, all they were really doing was standing up for freedom, equality and honesty.

This seems easy but it is anything but when the world at large, not to mention your close circle of friends and relatives, informs you in every way through words, deeds and general point of views, that you are wrong. As a gay person it is always chilling for me to revisit the outward hostility and rejection of gay people as any sort of normal through my lifetime by mainstream society.

When I was a boy in the sixties and a young teenager in the first part of the seventies, the notion of showing a same sex couple making love on a major network was as likely as, well….NOTHING. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone at the time who would have considered it a viable notion.

Well.. at least we had Charles

About as gay as it got on TV #thankyoucharles

Certainly no one in the early eighties could have imagined the full pandemic of AIDS or the experience of literally watching your friends and lovers drop dead all around you as the mainstream forces of government and religious institutions turned its back on you or leaned in with hateful condemnation and we told you so indifference.

Yet, like the leaders of civil rights and women’s liberation and so many other movements for social change these people remained undeterred, motivated in some part by the very injustices that they were consistently met with, and often from a very early age.

Horrific as the AIDS era was for our community (and others), I have always believed that without it the country never would realize so quickly that almost everyone in America knew and loved (or very much liked) a gay person. Compared to DEATH, or at least WATCHING DEATH, the onus of coming out began to feel almost laughable at some point.

Amen to that

#Reality

But then quite strangely and surreally this begat the slow opening of the door to what the majority of mainstream society now accepts as normal – gay marriage. How odd that our forbearers had to die in order to achieve it. And yet, when you look at the history of our progress towards racial equality – how obvious that this would be what it would take to achieve.

Of course, none of us should be fooled into thinking that as we progress we have achieved anything near equality in either of these areas – or many others. In the case of the LGBT community, there is currently an international brouhaha that the upcoming Disney release of the new Beauty and the Beast even features a gay character.

THE HORROR!

THE HORROR!

A movie theatre owner in Alabama pulled it from its schedule, publicly noting in a statement that: if I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it.

This is followed by threats to Disney that Beauty might entirely be banned from Russia for essentially the same reason. A prominent lawmaker there has publicly called for its culture minister to screen it in advance and then bar it if he finds elements of propaganda of homosexuality. 

Never mind that the gay character in question is (and has always been) named LeFou, is merely a sidekick that has a crush on the male lead, Gaston, and that the gayest thing he reportedly does is dance a little too enthusiastically with a friend. When it comes to Disney the gay thing is still sacrosanct, in several if not many more corners.

I mean.... do we not remember Scar? #letsbereal

I mean…. do we not remember Scar? #letsbereal

Certainly a gay Disney character is not the most burning issue in LGBT freedoms but with our new administration rescinding an executive order to disallow transgender students from using the bathroom of their choice, and new religious freedom laws brewing nationally and in many statewide government offices to override other existing gay civil rights rulings in other related areas, any blanket normalcy of the community seems as far as it’s ever been.

Aside from being gay I’m also Jewish and the rise of anti-Semitic crimes of defacement and violence in the US is still in line with the ongoing history of persecution we Jews have endured through the centuries. Sure, it’s been a long time since 6 million or more of us died in Nazi concentration camps (or has it?) but as everyone in any minority group knows just when you think you and yours might be primarily safe is the very moment when you need to pay attention. And this does not necessarily mean solely watching out for members of one’s immediate minority group but to those in others, be they Black, Muslim, female (even though they, like those who voted for the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, ARE in the majority), Mexican and…(fill in accordingly).

Pretty much sums it up right now

Pretty much sums it up right now

I’d like to say members of my particular minority groups are already doing this (and perhaps they are) but the most recent evidence I can provide is this news story about two Muslim-American activists who raised more than $20,000 in over two hours in order to repair the massive damage done last month to more than 100 headstones in an historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.

“…Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” read the crowd-funding webpage started by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi

The recognition that hateful actions towards ONE of us are hateful crimes towards ALL of us feels like 21st century activism. Ever personal, ever angry but rooted in problem-solving, progress and the united hope for a better future, along with the knowledge that, like it or not, it’s both an individual AND a group journey.

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Notes from the Revolution

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750,000 strong in L.A.

500,000 in Washington, DC

250,000 in Chicago

150,000 in Boston

120,000 in Seattle (!)

100,000 in Saint Paul (!)

100,000 in Denver (!)

And 400,000 plus in Manhattan

Not to mention 10,000 strong in my beloved Ithaca, NY #ithacaisgorges

Not to mention 10,000 strong in my beloved Ithaca, NY #ithacaisgorges

Welcome to a street protest sampling on Day 2 in Trump America. To say nothing of the demonstrations in 37 cities worldwide, including London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Tokyo and many others (including ANTARTICA… yes, really).

Welcome to the Women’s March all over the world.

Welcome to the PEOPLE’S ANTIDOTE to the much touted right wing nativist – or shall we just say it – white nationalist – movement.

Welcome to the ANTI – REVOLUTION. The REAL REVOLUTION

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The real story was in the crowd. Aged from two to early 80s in Los Angeles, my home turf. Well, at least I thought it was the oldest were in their early 80s. Given L.A. standards of “beauty,” that man could have been in his 180’s and those two gray haired older ladies, who had clearly marched in the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s might have been even older. At least chronologically. We preserve ourselves well out here. Or, well, at least we can make it look that way. Welcome to the deepest blue state in America.   But don’t be jealous. Instead, come join us.

Greetings from LA LA LAND

Greetings from LA LA LAND

The ingenuity of the signs and the phrases they came up with other than “Dump Trump’ really got me. Very clever.

People of Quality, Don’t Fear Equality.

Love Women, Don’t Grab Them.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-Damental Rights

A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance.

If You Thought SHE was Nasty, Get a Load of Us.

And my ABSOLUTE favorite:

THE. BEST.

THE. BEST.

People were EVERYWHERE.

You couldn’t march much of anywhere but that wasn’t the point. The point was to show Congress and perhaps the world what we believed. That THIS is the movement. That we won’t take it lying down. Who knew that so many in the world were already with us?

That poor Telemundo reporter and her camera person. It was gridlock. She was in full hair and makeup. But not sweating. No one was sweating. It was a beautiful L.A. day – in the high fifties, brisk, sun shining. People’s faces were not gleeful so much as they were welcoming.

The Metro stations were jammed. Luckily I parked at a friend’s house about a half hour walk away. I met friends who drove in from several hours away. And then friends of their friends from various spots all over southern California. As their friends to the north were demonstrating in San Francisco, while mine were doing the same in Oakland.

The Chair (2nd from right) and his crew #strongertogether

The Chair (2nd from right) and his crew #strongertogether

It wasn’t just women. At least a third to a half were men. The march was about women’s rights – reproductive and otherwise. But it was also about immigration. And health care. About LGBTQ rights. About racism and the rights of black and brown and yellow people. Mostly, it was about equality. Women brought their 8 year old daughters. Men clasped their 6 year old boys by the hand, pointing and leading them through a sea of humanity and teaching them, or perhaps the better word is instructing them, on how to behave as kids, and, in turn, as adults.

Sing it, sister

Sing it, sister

There will be NO TOLERANCE for a curtailment of hard fought freedom.

There will be NO PEACE if the person who is now occupying the White House who lost the popular vote by almost THREE MILLION – begins to roll back women’s reproductive rights, or begins mass deportation of immigrants, or tries to normalize discrimination against the LGBT community through exercise or non-exercise of a white nationalist agenda.

What we were demonstrating is that ALL of these rights are essentially the same. If you scapegoat ONE of us, you scapegoat ALL of us. We Americans will not put up with a strategy of turning us all against each other. Even if a plurality of the White House’s current occupant’s voters are fine with allowing it.

WE, THE MAJORITY, will continue to speak out. To Resist. To Demonstrate. Every day for the next four years, if necessary.

The new occupant will not bring America to its knees.

We, the people, will monitor the new occupant and, if necessary, cut his agenda off at its symbolic knees. And then, if still necessary, EVICT him.

This will happen if he refuses to listen to the majority because THE NEW REALITY is that HE WORKS FOR US.

And he knows better than anyone does that when employees do not listen to reason from their boss – the boss, at the end of the day, can only answer them with two words:

YOU’RE FIRED.

#Demonstrate. #Resist. #Act. #Donate.