YDATL Blog NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Transgender Day of Remembrance
Today, Tuesday, November 20, is Transgender Remembrance Day. For those interested, there will be a vigil tonight at 8pm at the Georgia State Capitol. If you cannot be there, please take a moment tonight to remember those who struggle to gain acceptance.
For the LGBT community, the fight for equality has been a long, hard fought battle, and continues to be. It’s amazing to see that no matter how far we have come within the last few decades, we still have a long road ahead. And it makes my heart ache. I would like to point out a couple of recent instances with regards to our friends that are an example of the continued discrimination within our borders: ENDA and the Riverdale City Council Election.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, unfortunately, hit a wall in the House this year and will continue without the gender identity provision. Many felt that the Bill had a greater chance at success without the provision, others were against it completely. No matter the reason, we have failed as a society to live up to the ideals our Nation was built upon. I only hope that change will come soon.
The other recent tragedy of humanity came in the form of a law suit against Michelle Bruce for committing fraud during the Riverdale City Council Elections – right here in Georgia. Bruce, the Incumbent, earned enough voted to be considered for the runoff in her election bid to the Riverdale City Council, holding off two of the challengers. Those challengers, Stanley Harris and Georgia Fuller, filed the law suit claiming fraud on the part of Bruce due to the fact that she identified herself as a female prior to the election. You can read the article here.
I ask that all of us stand up and fight for everyone with in the LGBT community. We some times forget while supporting our lesbian and gay friends that there is a transgender community who needs our help as well. And this, I know, is starting to change. Thanks to the Stonewall Democrats for pointing out this event in our community today and for the continued information with regards to ENDA.
There is an oft-told story about a man sitting on the roof of his home as rising flood water laps ever closer to his feet. A man in a boat comes by and offers him a ride. The stranded man declines the ride, explaining that he is waiting for G-d to save him. Later, a helicopter whirs overhead offering a lift to safety. “No, no,” says the man, waving off the helicopter, “I am waiting for G-d to save me.” Having declined all assistance, the man eventually drowns.
Governor Sonny Perdue’s showy prayer display last Tuesday (conveniently scheduled just before a brief rain shower that had been in the forecast for days), reminded me of this story. Our state is drying out, we have not ever had a statewide water plan, and our governor’s two-pronged response is to take more water from our downstream neighbors and to call a prayer conference. To be sure, prayer is important. However, as a Christian whose Democratic values are informed by her faith, I am tired of watching Republicans co-opt my faith and use it as a cover for poor leadership. The Georgia legislature, led by Speaker Richardson and Lt. Gov. Cagle, is poised to start considering the state’s first-ever water management plan in the 2008 session. They should be ashamed. The water emergency did not sneak up on our leadership; they ignored it hoping that we would be blessed with a monsoon that would eliminate the need for planning and sacrifice.
G-d gave humans the ability to reason, to plan, to foresee threats and to mitigate them. The refusal of an individual to use those gifts and rely solely on divine intervention is lazy; the refusal of a leader to use those gifts is an abdication of the trust placed in him by the citizens of this state.
Atlanta Business Chronicle recently published an article focused on the Dallas region and its water management plan. The Dallas region has a water plan through 2060. I doubt that Dallas’ leadership is lacking in religious fervor. What they have in abundance is the foresight and courage to face the water crisis and head it off through sacrifices made upfront that will protect the region’s future.
I don’t have a problem with what Sonny did. I have a problem with what he didn’t do. I suspect that most Christian leaders pray for guidance. They don’t need to put on press conferences to prove that they’re doing so. Still, failure to plan is planning to fail. We ought not to reward failure, even when it dresses itself up as piety. A prayer conference to make up for a gross lack of leadership is a cynical and manipulative ploy. Georgians deserve better.
I call on Georgia to pray. Pray for leadership. Pray for a governor who takes the state’s problems seriously enough to create a plan to confront the challenges we face. Pray for a governor who will follow through on his word. And of course, since there's nothing like a quick fix, pray for rain too.
At a friend's suggestion, I watched Larry Lessig's speech to the March TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference yesterday (see it here). While it is about Lessig's views on copyright, toward the end he raises a point that really struck me, especially after watching Bill Clinton's speech at the same conference (see it here). Lessig discussed how digital technologies have become entirely integrated into our culture, to the extent that the types of creativity they allow have become the younger generations' core understanding and means of expression. As he points out, young people today learn and think and express largely in terms of mashups. Easy, inexpensive tools for digital duplication and manipulation have become widespread, and they have fostered a creative boom, filling YouTube to the brim with cobbled-together music videos and mashup sensations like Danger Mouse's "Gray Album." In fact, you need look no further than our own Shelby Highsmith's Canvassing with YDAtl video to see this idea at work. While much of the discussion of copyright law centers on simple 1-to-1 copies of music and movies, which Lessig acknowledges as piracy, these mashups and the culture of sampling are often given the same label, and thereby declared illegal.
That's a significant point (and the point of this post) - the way young people think and express themselves is being regularly labeled illegal. I'm not going to get into the discussion of right or wrong in this instance - right or wrong, this is the reality. It's similar to the discussion of legalization of marijuana. Whether you feel that smoking dope is good or bad, there are a great many people out there who feel that it is very much right, and they opt to smoke up, despite knowing that it's illegal. This shapes their attitudes toward the police, laws, and government in many ways, some overt and some subconscious.
One of the subjects of much YouTube creativity has been Ron Paul. I've been kind of vexed by the popularity of Dr. Paul, as he's by far the most mainstream Libertarian in recent memory. The popularity of Libertarianism has bugged me for a while. Most of the Libertarians I've met have essentially defined their political views as "stay out of my business, let me do what I want." I'm not going to win any friends by saying so, but that worldview always struck me as, well, lazy. There's something to the idea that, left to their own devices, people will be inherently decent and kind - I like the idea of trusting humanity that much. Thing is, a small group of people who fall short of such decency can easily make life difficult and unpleasant for the majority, and history has shown us that such groups are essentially inevitable. Pure Libertarianism fails in precisely the same way pure Socialism does - imperfect humans have to live up to those lofty ideals, and a few bad apples and all of that... As Lessig points out, we're defining youthful expression as illegal. As more and more people come to see the government as against the way they live their lives and see it as unable to help them in any way (thanks, Bush administration FEMA), it doesn't take much of a leap to believe that government is at best useless and at worst predatory and dangerous.
I don't mean to make this sound conspiratorial - I don't believe that there is a plot afoot to drive young people to the right by telling them they can't pirate music. I do, however, know that disillusionment is widespread, and if we as Democrats are going to succeed, we'll have to overcome a pervasive belief that the government simply cannot be a force for good. And you should really check out both TED speeches.