The logic of endless concessions

September 29, 2010

The idea that LGBT people should support the Democrats' attempt to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" even if it's attached to a war funding bill will only damage our fight.

I'M NOT a legislative guru, but I did go to high school. When snide bullies shove you around and demand your lunch money day after day, only the most self-effacing loser responds by not only forking over the contents of their wallet, but tossing in their physics homework to boot.

The Democrats' attempt to pass repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), along with the DREAM Act, an immigrant rights reform, via a war funding bill went down to defeat last week. To be honest, I thought it was predictable. As I recently wrote, it was also a totally unnecessary and unprincipled concession for LGBT activists to throw their support behind $700 billion for wars and occupations in order to end a policy that even the overwhelming majority of Republicans now oppose.

Perhaps we can use this as a teaching moment. Endless concessions to the wingnuts are not producing gains for working people and oppressed minorities, but fueling the right wingers to demand--and win--even more.

Most Americans wanted genuine, single-payer universal health care--instead we got a plan that more deeply entrenches private insurance in the long-term and led to 40 percent increases on health care premiums today.

Millions of Americans celebrated in the streets when Obama won, not only expecting an end to wars, but an end to an era of racial division and repugnant cultural values. Yet in the face of Republican Islamophobia around the "Ground Zero mosque," we have Democrats like Obama--who one moment give a nod to religious freedom and the next cave in to the crux of the issue by suggesting that building a mosque near Ground Zero may not be wise--as if all Muslims are stealth terrorists. Most Dems have just remained silent on the issue, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed the more tempered bigots.

MILLIONS OF LGBT activists have mobilized over the last 18 months to demand repeal of DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act, and even marched by the hundreds of thousands for full federal equality. Yet now we have activist leaders and bloggers conceding that we must accept Harry Reid's cynical congressional maneuvers to insert repeal of DADT through reactionary bills like war funding. Why?

Today's New York Times quotes Northwestern law professor Andrew Koppelman making the salient point: "The gay rights movement has been a spectacularly successful movement for cultural change." Exactly. Why should we pretend as though LGBT folks remain the pariahs of yore and grovel at the feet of any legislator to allow our rights be slipped in through the basement door?

What's more, how can we expect solidarity from our Muslim and Arab brothers and sisters--who are the victims of this war funding--if LGBT progressives are willing to throw them under the bus when the Dems offer divide-and-conquer shenanigans? Well-meaning people and sincere LGBT activists are being swindled into thinking that we must opportunistically place our own demands for equality against our desires--and others' urgent needs--for an end to these wars.

What's so tragic in this case is that popular consciousness is moving in our direction as a result of our activism. We not only shouldn't do this, we don't need to!

We are equal and must start being treated that way legally. While politicians of both parties treat our rights as if they are playthings, we don't need to act as if theirs is a sane strategy.

Gang, we're not in high school anymore, and we don't need to let ourselves get picked on by bullies--whether they're on the Republican football team or the mathlete Dems. Let's have the self-respect to brush ourselves off and reiterate our demands on our own terms.

If we're going to suffer some setbacks, can we at least hold onto our dignity and humanity, and act in the spirit of solidarity that got us this far in the first place?

First published at sherrytalksback.

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