Saturday, December 20, 2008

We'll never change hearts and minds this way

Image via Towleroad

Tonight was designated an evening to LIGHT UP THE NIGHT FOR EQUALITY. I was quite unaware of this until I stopped by Towleroad and learned about it.

Here's the idea:
On December 20th, we ask that you join us again for a nation-wide demonstration that will make an impact on the private sector. Candlelight vigils will be held at commercial centers in cities across the country in remembrance of the rights that once were for 18,000 marriages, and in honor of the rights that one day will be again - for EVERYONE.

I saw this mentioned at 4:30. There was to be a local gathering here in Albuquerque at 5:00. I hustled, tossing all the necessities in my gym bag for the next stop, donning warm clothing, locating a candle and a lighter, and dashing out the door. I was a few minutes late but folks were gathered at 4th and Central. I lit my candle and joined the crowd.

The advertised concept:
We will start at the courtyard between Maloney's/Raw/4th St. Pub (4th & Central) then a silent walk to Civic Plaza.
The setting:
People were driving by on Central, stopping at the light, noticing us, turning heads, wondering what was up.

The reality.
Everyone stood around in little circles talking to each other and ignoring all the people driving and walking by us. Ignoring. Totally.

I managed to persuade one really nice young woman to stand with me, facing traffic. We were the only ones.

Twice I suggested to the crowd at large that we had an audience going by us. No one seemed to care.

By 5:35 nothing had changed. Someone may have been in charge in theory but clearly no one was in charge practically. A bunch of aimless folks just kept chatting amongst themselves, waiting, near as I could tell, for Godot.

After half an hour of nothing happening, I blew out my candle, said, "Fuck it. This isn't accomplishing anything. I'm outta here." I walked back to my car and went to the gym where I pushed my body then sweated and soaked. A little shopping and home again.

I don't know if they ever marched to the Civic Center or if anyone saw them do it. I do know that half an hour was wasted when, if nothing else, we could have formed a line of thirty or more people along Central standing silently and with dignity, holding candles. It was supposed to be a sign-free statement but some had "just married" stickers on their jackets and others had small posters reading "2nd class citizen." It would have been enough to get some people thinking. As it is, I think we only had folks figuratively scratching their heads wondering who the hell was standing around.

It this lame, disorganized, feckless gathering is the best we can do, it's no wonder organized righties can run circles around us.

I have not been active in my community in this way since moving to NM. With a sudden eagerness to do something for us all, I dropped everything to join in. For this?

Standing around and talking amongst ourselves (rather like an Episcopalian coffee hour) IS NOT BEARING WITNESS. It is not education. It is not consciousness raising. Its a fracking circle jerk.

Here endeth the rant.
--the BB


David said...

Sounds like they really need you Paul.
Sounds like they're going to be really lucky to have you too- only hey don't know it yet!
can't you just see the healines ? local priest caught in pulic circle jerk!
i said, they NEED you


Paul said...

The young woman I was talking with was going to sign up to be an organizer and saw someone else had already done so. She didn't want to step on anyone's toes but was rather wishing she were running it.

I was gauging responsiveness to reasonable suggestion and it wasn't there.

Organizing people has never been my favorite thing - theatre, on the other hand, I understand. That and cheerleading.

Ah, but patience, as you can see, is not my strong suit either. I can wait in hope but I can't wait in despair. (Did I just get a sub-theme for my sermon?)

Eh bien, that is one headline we don't need in Albuquerque, or the Diocese of the Rio Grande.

Michael said...

i'm a member of the 'silence = death' generation and avoided the SF action at union square because the organizers said no anger, no chants, no signs - just silence. the last thing we need to gain equal rights for gays is not silence, but lots of talking. your post gives me hope that not everyone is buying the 'mr/ms nice gay' attitude to join the (diminishing) impact.

Paul said...

Michael, I am a strong believer in standing up, speaking out, and bearing witness. But for me there is also a place for the power of silence in the right place and time. A group of people moving with dignity in silence can also speak - quite loudly, in fact. (I love theatre, including sacred drama and political theatre.)

Thanks for commenting and welcome.

The Cunning Runt said...

Paul, I'm with you on this one (and many others!) Too often we convene, chat amongst ourselves and go away thinking that we've accomplished something.

An example is the local "Peace Vigil" on the nearest sizable town common, which has been demanding, EVERY SATURDAY FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS, that we get out of Iraq. They all feel great and supported, but they've accomplished ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Sadly, I haven't got the answer; I can't afford legal fees, and can't afford time away from work, even a small amount of which would get me fired (and thus unable to collect unemployment benefits.)

Perhaps more active Nation-wide protests, with a few flexible people getting arrested and the rest of us pitching in for their (OUR) expenses?

I don't know, but I need to know.

Just thoughts.

Oh, and hey, Merry Christmas in case we don't connect tomorrow. You're a really good man, and I'm awfully glad to know you. ;)

Paul said...

CR, I wish I knew the answer. I think it can all work together and many kinds of action and witness are called for. Some of us have the gift of political organizing (not me), some of street theatre, some of civil disobedience, some of eloquent rabble rousing, some passion to charge the barricades, some to write, some to bear placards, some to harangue, some to encourage, some to build bridges, some to soothe wounds, some to rip off masks and pull away veils, some to reach out, some to slap upside the head. To every thing, perhaps, there is a season. I just wish we could be more effective.

A blessed season to you and to all you love. I have been so enriched by your blog, your photos, and your spirit.