Father Tony

Spoken Like a True Bureaucrat

Filed By Father Tony | June 18, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay rights, revolution


In the general I supported Obama, and maxxed out my contribution. I did it because I felt I had no choice, anyone was better then Bush. I still think anyone was better then Bush.

Politically I register DEM. though I am closer to a libertarian republican, before the republican party abbonded its principles and sold its self to the religious right.

Obama is a great speaker, and it is a major difference having a president who can put a sentence together,

but would he say anything to get elected, and then throw gay people under the bus when he tacked right to win reelection? Obama doesn't need the gays at this point. I think his calculation is where else do they have to go?

Obama is Chance the Gardener, from the Movie Being There. Everyone has put what they want to see on Obama. I think he is not qualified to be President, but like an American Idol contestant, he learned how to win. He looked at Bill Clinton, studied Rove, Atwater, and Bush, and he got elected. The thing is, that people who win Idol, are nothing like the voters think. They just played the game, and won the contest. But make no mistake: gays are one of the last groups it is acceptable to throw under the bus.

Tony, you were in two large governments, The Church and The State. I am very interested in your thoughts maybe in a Column for the Blade, or Bilerico.


Stephen D

Dear Stephen,

I hope you will not mind my editing your letter down to one point. I am answering it this week because it is timely and dovetails nicely with what I'll be saying in the South Florida Blade this week under (hopefully) the headline Court and Thwart - The New Politics of Gay.

As a "mercenary" state employee who wrote speeches and press releases for Democratic, Republican and independent administrations (including a governor and some commissioners who ended up in jail), and as someone who worked in the Vatican Ceremonies Office, I've learned that the increase of the time a large bureaucracy spends selling itself equals the decrease in the amount of truth that bureaucracy is selling.

If by now you cannot see that President Obama is not really an advocate for the gay community, I think you are naïve.

It is becoming obvious to me that if the gay community really wants change, it will have to become spectacularly inconvenient.

Staying home and grousing about broken promises made by the supposed "candidate of change" won't help. Going to Washington and marching politely behind police barricades won't help. Giving our money to political parties or advocacy groups won't help.

The time has come for some howling and some flexing of revolutionary muscle. It is time to become terrifically disruptive.

I am convinced that until we discontinue our docile subscription to services and agencies that deliberately treat us as second-class, we will continue to be abused.

We need to get back to clogging up the machinery of government through offensive and intrusive demonstrating. We need to start sabotaging the ordinary traffic and congress of the marketplace. We need to become as irritating as a blister on a toe whose owner will say "This is ruining my vacation". We need to infiltrate the ordinary schedule of church and municipal events, and cause some mayhem therein. We need to become an intolerable nuisance. We need to make clear the fact that our mistreatment is immediately unacceptable, and that a promised remedy somewhere on a back burner will not placate us.

Working for bureaucracies taught me that limited resources mean you choose which clients to satisfy based on net effect rather than personal convictions. At this point, I don't believe President Obama will protect my rights because he respects me or thinks I am his equal. I am convinced otherwise. I want him to protect my rights because if he doesn't, everyone else's daily life will become seriously upset by an LGBT uprising carried out locally, but on a grand scale. A pox on all until the just ones tell the haters to shut up.

I'm sorry to have to feel this way, Stephen, but I'd still be living in a British colony if somewhere along the line the fathers of our country had not gotten to the point I am describing. What I am advocating is really a venerable, American and time-honored patriotic reaction to oppressive and non-representative government.

We have sent the timid and the polite ahead of us carrying our diplomatic message of dismay. Those couriers have been patronized and essentially beheaded. While I am not endorsing personal violence, I am heartily advocating the turning off of the faucets that dispense the two sine qua nons of any successful bureaucracy: cooperation and money. While I do not think we are at the point of beating our ploughshares into swords, I do think we ought to use their metal to make tacks for the sidewalks and nails for the roads.

Fasten your seatbelt, Stephen. The time of words is over. Like Hobbits leaving the Shire, we are in for some alarming adventures.

I am an older man. I did my protesting (mostly anti-war) in the 1960s and 70s. I chained myself to some government doors and I recall using spray paint for something other than furniture refinishing. Now I relax on the beach, but for this cause, I'll find my shoes, get dressed and act up. Besides, I've always wanted to spend some time in jail to find out if all those hot stories are true. Prison: my final bureaucracy.

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Lovely reply!

I have my doubts, though. It seems to me that the level of discomfort caused by oppression varies too wildly for most gays to ever amass and carry out what you suggest. You'd even be surprised by how many gays simply don't give a damn about politics, and how many are clueless about the legal disadvantages they're in.

Not to mention this plan would require loyalty to the cause and community, qualities which I see completely absent in our contemporaries.

Dear Lucrece,
I am one of the guys you reference who really doesn't much care for filling his head with politics. I will, however, get involved enough to satisfy my internal sense of duty. I think the merit of the approach I outline lies in the fact that it can be replicated everywhere and on the cheap. Every town has a few activists who can, under cover of night, like surly raccoons, spray paint something or break into something. Every town has a few gay activists who can band together and stage something disruptive. I want to have my rights secured while I am still upright on this earth and I think this is the route to go. Gay patriotism laced with mischief.

Ahhh, Fr Tony--we agree on the tactics...a "Reign of Annoyance" that takes the Administration off message by having a protest presence at every Presidential appearance and DNC fundraiser...

and we turn off the gAyTM

I really agree with this, and I've been thinking the same thing for a long time. If we want serious change, we're going to have to fight for it. I've long become sick of the docility of our organizations and the petty inability to recognize that different segments of our community can have different interests while still looking out for each other's or to have a serious discussion about race relations without it devolving into a fight.

But the docility is what bothers me the most. We don't have the luxury of throwing softballs because we don't yet have full legal equality in this country. At the same time, a large segment of the population hates us with a passion, doesn't care about us and sees prejudice against us as perfectly reasonable. Did anyone read Ken Hutcherson's piece in the Washington Post yesterday? Think about it: What does it say about this country that such blatant homophobia as his is still far enough within the realm of reasonable opinion that it can make the Washington Post's prestigious pages?

The religious right doesn't deserve an ounce of respect or kindness from us because they have not shown and will never show us any. That doesn't mean we should alienate people who might be swayed in our favor by being shrill, but we should have no qualms about calling the Maggie Gallaghers and Tony Perkinses of the world bigots and liars and constantly reminding people of their histories of dishonest (Gallagher getting paid by the Bush administration to shill for it in her columns) and bigoted (the FRC calling for sodomy laws to be upheld) behavior. (Dan Savage's pwning of Tony Perkins on Anderson Cooper 360 is a good example of what I'm advocating.)

I think one goal we should work toward is ensuring that anti-gay bigotry -- whether in the form of "Ah hate dem faggits" to "I think homosexuality is immoral, but that doesn't mean I'm homophobic" to "love the sinner, hate the sin" -- is not considered acceptable in mainstream discourse.

Right so, Alaric, the churches will never love us because we are free in ways that irk them. We need to fight them aggressively, as would a doctor finally fight a tumor that will not shrink with coaxing.

"[T]he churches will never love us because we are free in ways that irk them."

I was happy to read that. There are churches that support and include us, and that's a good thing, but by and large, they oppose us and can't overcome their hatred because they see it as divine mandate.

I've always thought that trying to argue with conservative Christians about what the Bible "really" says about homosexuality is a waste of time. If it's all open to interpretation, then they don't need to change their minds. And regardless of what it "really" says, in practice, it has been used as an instrument of oppression against us from the start, and erasing nearly 2,000 years of traditional interpretation is not something we'll achieve in our lifetime.

We'd be much better off arguing for total separation of church and state and keeping religious beliefs out of politics and promoting a policy regarding social issues of MYOFB (Mind Your Own Fucking Business).

I also liked the idea expressed earlier in the week by another projector that we should all withdraw from our political parties and join more LGBT friendly parties. Here in mass our Green party merged with our Rainbow party to become the Green-Rainbow party... which sounds like a place to party.
I understand the frustration with our overall community. One of my children is gay and has seen me being an activist and my involvement for years and yet he along with most of his friends are not active.

Dear Rob, they say it always skips a generation.

Probably true. My grandmother was arrested in the Easter Rising....my mother was no radical, but then there is me...

In the 60s, my mother, an admirer of Vivian Kellems, sat down in a Connecticut voting booth to protest the party lever (which has since become illegal). The police carted her away. The neighbor ladies laughed but I remember feeling a bit of pride. Other than that, she was not at all liberal or revolutionary. I think what the gay community needs to understand is that we don't each need to make a career of activism but we each need to do something.

I agree with this, but I just don't see it happening. Not as long as gay people think they have too much to lose with risky protest. Not as long as we're unclear about what we want and our politics.

And it would have to be actually effective, because to go from online comments to Code Pink-esque actions wouldn't be much of an improvement.

Going from online comments to act-up wouldn't be much of an improvement? It would be like day over night. The precedent for disruptive activism has been well established over the past forty years that we now celebrate. Like disco, it fell out of fashion. I think it is about to return. We tried respectability and assimilation and finally realized that our hosts were laughing at us all the while. At the mainstream table, we were never more than party crashers. It's time to become party trashers. Let's fling some cake.

I agree.

Look at how much attention Join the Impact-style protests garnered us, and that was pretty tame compared to what was going on in the 70s and with groups like ACT-UP and Queer Nation.

The debate over the merits of being feared versus being loved is one that never seems to die, but I think we'll really have momentum when we're loved by the people we want to love us and feared by those who would dare mess with us.

I also think rhetoric is as important as activism. The kind of wimpy, abstract talk we've been employing all these years (e.g. "Discrimination is wrong!") doesn't resonate with our enemies. I've compared the religious right to a toddler tormenting a cat, pulling at its tail, slapping it and giggling when it meows in protest; it's only when the kid gets scratched and bitten that he learns his lesson.

I'm not advocating that we grow our nails long and scratch and bite conservative Christians, of course, but bluntly calling these people out on their bullshit will show them we're not afraid to talk back and show the public that the harm these people cause us is real. We need to be clear about what we're for, but we should be clear about what we're against, also.

And it can't hurt to use facts, either. Remember that we have mountains of scientific evidence and just about every social science, medical and mental health professional organization in this country on our side, while they have nada.

Don't get me wrong: The "softball" tactics like lobbying politicians have their place also, but we need to make it known that we're real people who are being hurt in real ways by anti-gay legislation and rhetoric.

I didn't say ACT-UP, I said Code Pink. I wouldn't dream of insulting ACT-UP by equating the two.

I just don't think it fell out of fashion. People stopped dying so quickly, AIDS got consigned to lower income folks, and people like Andrew Sullivan called the epidemic over.

If the tactics are going to be like ACT-UP's (strategic and risky, disruptive and creative), then it'll do some good. If it'll be like Code Pink's (predictable and ignorable, in a cause where most people want change but to also protect privilege), it won't do anything.

I don't know if marriage has the same sense of urgency for queers as the AIDS crisis created. Maybe it does. And I'll be the first to post about it if I'm wrong.

I am trying to think of some privileges enjoyed by gay people and I'm not coming up with any.

Also, I don't think we should make marriage the focus of the need for gay activism. It is just one of many sweets inside the piñata that needs swatting.

What you said about marriage is true -- it's one of many issues, and we shouldn't focus on it to the exclusion of other issues -- but it's kind of a special issue because it has so much attention nationally, and because constitutional amendments don't just fade away and become unenforced anachronisms like weird "silly laws" that are still on the books in some places. As I mentioned under Yasmin's post, constitutional amendments and recall efforts in places like Washington and Maine are just incremental steps toward the religious right's ultimate goal, which is a broad-based rollback of gay rights.

I think that gay people enjoy lots of privileges. White gay people enjoy white privilege. American gay people enjoy privilege from that. Rich and middle class gays enjoy class privilege. Etc. The antiwar movement hasn't been in a position of privilege for the past few years because they were so easily dismissed, but let's face it, many of its members are and many of ours are too. And it infected Code Pink's activism just as it affects ours.

Marriage doesn't have to be the center, but do we have a united front other than that? I think you pinata comment is how I understand most of these folks see it too - do people know or care about what's inside of pinata enough to put their safety and jobs on the line for it, or is this more about being personally insulted or wanting a victory we can use to say we're equal? I think it's both, but that a stunning lack of leadership in our community over the last 12 years has made us incoherent.

That's the difference, that I'm seeing, between now and the AIDS crisis is that people were dying back then and they wanted someone to care and to find a solution. It was a pretty clear directive. The most clarity I've seen right now is "full equality now," which no one seems to even be able to explain to me in concrete terms what it means. Is it a list of legislation? Fine, so let's decide our priorities in that list and work with that.

If we're really concerned with workplace discrimination instead of seeing ENDA as something in a pinata, then work with unions. If we really see partner sponsorship as an immigration/expansion of the definition of American issue, then work with comprehensive immigration reform folks instead of seeing UAFA as another piece of candy in a pinata. Etc.

But that's the thing, and I hope, hope, hope this is changing. I hope that people aren't just mad because of the insult, the delay, the fact that we all thought this would be easier than it is. I hope the reason people are mad is the substance of these issues and are mad enough to start working creatively on them.

That's all to say, I hope people take the message of your post to heart, but I think it's a little harder than just marching in the street. And I think we're on the same page here except for the fact that I'm just far less hopeful that we're near the point where people are actually going to start doing something effective instead of just repeating Code Pink tactics.

And I don't mean to make a demon out of them, but, well, when's the last time they did something effective other than support Cindy Sheehan?

Dear Alex,

All the privileges into which I was born and all those I acquired through hard work are mine not because I am gay but in spite of the fact that I am gay. There is simply no such thing as gay privilege.

I endorse an uprising that will protect those same privileges because many people want to deprive me of them because I am gay. In your mind, have you somehow fused being gay with being privileged? If it's guilt you've got, step into the confessional, son, and let me help you shed it.

Rick Sours | June 18, 2009 5:57 PM

Members of the LGBT community are still second
class citizens. For starters, we are still being
kicked out of the military. Hate crimes have
increased since the last election. I voted for
Barack Obama because I felt he could do the best
to help the economy. Based on things I read in his
book, he did not feel he was truly a friend of the
LGBT community. Atleast John McCain has a history
of helping someone who is Gay and under attack:
former Arizona Rep. Steve May.

The movement is 40 years old if you date it from Stonewall. We went from the radicalism than ended official police harrassment in NYC to professional lobbyists.

We have little to show for it.

Time to act-up again, Alex. Whatever you think of John A, a grass roots sort of populist tinged with anarchy as sweetener radicalised movement is springing up again, partly due to him but most certainly not in his or any one else's control.

It is the outcry and the outpouring of an oppressed people yearning to demand, nt to beg.

And yearning to inconvenience our oppressors.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 18, 2009 9:10 PM

Well done Fr. Tony, except the prison part. I doubt that being someone's "bitch" is really all you have ramped it up to be.:)

The only concern I would have would be the collateral damage in a "Pink Gorilla War." But, that being said, assault by cream pie with pink frosting and glitter may well be overdue. This could be the time for something really stupid :) The hour has come!

We do have an important "Gay Privilege" though. Because of what we have been through, who we collectively are, and because so many of us cannot even turn to family or "faith" for support (as any other oppressed group can) we are unique.

We are more in touch with, and think about, our core feelings and needs. As a group we are more mindful about our lives. With some that simply devolves into self absorption, but with most I believe it means a life more fully lived.

There aren't enough of us. We are a minority destined to always be a minority. You might even say it's genetic. More productive, in my opinion, would be a continued incremental march towards broader tolerance and even cosmopolitanism, making allies with all who will stand with us.

Maybe, I'm a coward, but I'm not ready to be a martyr as long as I can still love who I want to love and walk freely in this world. That's not to say I don't want to be "in the face" of the haters and bigots. I just don't want to end up locked up for being one of those "surly raccoons, [to] spray paint something or break into something" for a cause whose ultimate victory is coming.

Should anyone disagree in the San Francisco Bay Area, please get in contact with the Law Office of David Wilton, http://www.davidwilton.com/ . :-p

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 20, 2009 11:05 PM

David, I understand your fear but it comes off something like this:

The world is so great and we are so insignificant we should stay in the shadows...

What happens when they come and take your freaking tree?