Get Mad–And Get Even

Remember the great line from the classic movie Network?  Where people leaned out their windows and yelled, “We’re mad as hell, and we aren’t going to take it anymore”?

I’m there. What pushed me over the edge were the grim pictures from New Orleans, showing the devastating consequences of stupidity, arrogance and continuing, monumental failures of leadership. Added to the incompetence of an unnecessary war that no one knew how to wage, economic policies that are rapidly turning the U.S. into a banana republic, it was for me—and, I hope, for many others—the last straw. 
But just being mad doesn’t get us anywhere. Being pissed off doesn’t win wars. (If it did, some of us have been so mad so long, dead bodies would be littering the battlefield.) People who care about America have to channel our anger into productive activism in our own communities. If we don’t, we are equally culpable.

The gay community needs to be politically active for lots of reasons that are only marginally connected to the disaster that is our national government, but let me just list four:
·        First, elected officials are not mind-readers. City-County Councilors don’t know that most people really do believe in civil rights for everyone. Even Jerry Falwell says he believes that! State Senators and Representatives don’t know that the local clones of the American Family Institute and Concerned Women for America don’t speak for most Americans, and they won’t know unless we tell them.
·        Second, the Right wing is not just vocal, they are shrill. It’s one thing to be quiet when most other people are being quiet. But the right wing makes up for its small numbers with VERY loud voices. If those voices aren’t countered, if they are allowed to dominate the conversation, there will BE no conversation, because they are sure not interested in dialogue. If it takes two to make a debate, we need to be one of the two.
·        Third, nothing ever changes unless ordinary, good people make it change. It’s a political truism that the “base” of each political party is dominated by the most committed—okay, the most rabid—partisans. The majority of Americans have long since “tuned out” the usual voices, and they are not invested in civil rights or any other issues—they aren’t against equal rights, they just haven’t thought about it one way or the other. (Until Hurricane Katrina intruded, they’ve mostly been following the kidnapping of the blond in Aruba, or watching Donald Trump fire someone.)
·        And fourth, we owe it to our communities, and to America. People have died to protect our right to free speech, our right to petition our government for redress of grievances, to criticize public officials when they are wrong, or corrupt, or just plain stupid–we need to use that right. Use it or lose it was never more apt.

Feel impotent? Wonder what you can do between your job and other obligations? Plenty!

You can write letters to the editor(s)–supporting the good guys, criticizing the bad guys. And don’t just send them to the local daily paper: send them to neighborhood papers, appropriate newsletters, local and national magazines—any appropriate outlet. (And do use spell-check; I get hate emails about my columns all the time, and there is nothing more annoying than being cussed out in language you can’t decipher.)

Contact your elected officials. I know you get told that all the time, but it really is important. Email is good, if time is a problem. Hand-written letters are better, and personal contacts are best of all. Does your Representative hold town meetings? Go. And speak up. Did you contribute to a campaign? Call and remind the recipient that you’ve supported him financially and you are vitally interested in his position on fairness and equality for all Americans.

Does someone who is actively working against gay rights own a business? Boycott it, and tell them why.

Be a precinct committeeperson or ward chair, for either party. Actually, the GOP would be best—today’s Republicans desperately need more rational voices within the ranks.

Monitor the media. Pat Robertson isn’t the only loony-tune out there making ludicrous statements. Rational people are offended by pronouncements that God destroyed thousands of poor people in New Orleans because He opposes gay rights. Any opportunity to highlight the essentially nutty character of the far right is an opening. My favorite headline in the wake of the most recent Robertson episode was, “Who Would Jesus Whack?” One story about James Dobson saying Sponge-Bob Squarepants is gay is worth a month of well-researched arguments.  
There is a large and receptive audience waiting for our message—but someone has to deliver it.