Some Thoughts On Pride

The subject-matter of yesterday’s post was yet another reminder that bigotry against our LGBTQ+ neighbors still exists, and is used–together with racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry–to motivate the MAGA base. When stripped to its essentials, the reality is that our current political divide is almost completely based on the division between “live and let live” Americans and the Christian Nationalists who largely comprise the MAGA movement.

That said, it is also a reality that those harboring these racial and religious grievances are in the minority. The culture has moved on, and they know it. In fact, it is that recognition that has them so furious.

I was forcefully reminded of that cultural shift when I attended this year’s Pride parade.

I have gone to every Pride parade held in Indianapolis since my years as the Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU, so I’ve had a front-row seat to the event’s explosive growth. Although a variety of Pride events were held in the 1980s, it was in 1992 (I think–I may be a year or so off), that the very first “Cadillac Barbie Pride Parade” was held. I was there with a couple hundred other onlookers to see the floats–all eight of them, as I recall–most sponsored by the city’s gay bars.

Over the years, the number of floats and the crowds of cheering onlookers have grown–exponentially. The parade’s path has been expanded by several blocks to accomodate the crowds. And this year, a parade that was supposed to take two hours took almost three. There were at least a couple hundred entries, and they represented a breathtakingly broad part of our community. It seemed as if every company doing business in Indianapolis took part. At least five banks, multiple law firms, hospitals and schools had large contingents. The Indianapolis police and fire departments participated, as did the Mayor, the prosecutor, several Democratic political candidates, and multiple nonprofits. The local gay bars were back, along with a variety of gay organizations (including–I think for the first time– an African-American gay organization) and a large number of churches and religious communities.

The huge crowds–including lots of families with children– cheered and clapped. Many waved rainbow flags or wore  supportive clothing items. Where my husband and I were watching, near the end of the parade route, everyone was festive and polite.

I wonder what the two people holding large signs calling “homo sex” a sin thought about that massive show of support, and about the religious congregations marching with signs having some version of “Love all thy neighbors.” The “Christian” protestors who turned up regularly in the early days of the parade have dwindled over the years; I hadn’t seen any for the last few years, although given the enormous crowds of late, I may have missed them.

I didn’t go to the Pride festival that followed the Parade; I used to attend, but these days, I limit myself to the expanded parade. From what I hear, the festival–with its multiple booths and musical presentations–was equally well-attended.

I think we can take a lesson from events like this, and that lesson is comforting.

American culture has shifted. The majority is comfortable with inclusion–with the increased visibility and civic participation of Blacks and women and gay people. According to contemporary polls, over seventy percent of Americans approve of same-sex marriage, and majorities strongly disapprove of laws like Florida’s ‘don’t say gay” and efforts to keep books referencing LGBTQ+ folks out of public libraries.

It’s that level of acceptance that infuriates and frightens the MAGA throwbacks who currently control the GOP, and has pushed that party farther and farther to the Right. Just take a look at this year’s Texas GOP platform, which would infuse fundamentalist Christianity into the agencies of state government.

From his booth in the exhibit hall of the Texas GOP’s 2024 convention, Steve Hotze saw an army of God assembled before him.

For four decades, Hotze, an indicted election fraud conspiracy theorist, has helmed hardline anti-abortion movements and virulently homophobic campaigns against LGBTQ+ rights, comparing gay people to Nazis and helping popularize the “groomer” slur that paints them as pedophiles. Once on the fringes, Hotze said Saturday that he was pleased by the party’s growing embrace of his calls for spiritual warfare with “demonic, Satanic forces” on the left.

In Indiana, if everyone who marched in or cheered that Pride parade and the others around the state were to cast a ballot, we could easily hold off the people who see inclusion and acceptance as an attack on their right to dominate American life.

We need to get them to the polls.

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Stop The World, I Want Off Doesn’t Work

Posted this by mistake, but just consider it an extra…Sorry to clutter your inboxes.

I’ve often thought that if ultra-wealthy people like Bloomberg and Gates really want to help the country reject White Nationalism and misogyny, they would use their dollars to buy Fox News and its clones. (But no one ever listens to me…)

Evidently, however, some rich people on the Right have come to the same conclusion: propaganda can be effective if you dominate the information landscape. As Vox (among others) has reported, CNN-one of the world’s most powerful news outlets– is in the process of change, and that change happens to be in sync with the views of one of the world’s richest men.

OK–so CNN has a new owner, and a new boss. Changes are coming. There is nothing inherently suspicious about change–but in this case, the question is: will change come “because the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, its new owner, wants an overhaul? Or is it at the behest of a conservative billionaire investor in the company who sits on its board?

Malone has repeatedly wished, in public, for CNN to remake itself. And his prescription happens to sync with the new CNN agenda: a plan to steer the channel away from what Malone and others call a liberal bias they say muddles opinion and news. And to shift it toward a supposedly centrist, just-the-facts bent.

Just “fair and balanced,” right? (Malone has opined that Fox News is “real journalism.”..)

Those who now control CNN have hotly denied any meddling by Malone, and insist that their goal is a non-ideological middle ground between Fox and MSNBC. Time will tell, but suspicions of a political agenda raise a more basic question: can the various plutocrats who are  “flooding the zone” with conservative propaganda, the Neanderthals in Red state legislatures, and the ideologues who’ve been appointed to the courts win the fight they are waging against modernity?

Can they take the country back to a time when rich White Christian men were in charge? A time when they didn’t have to share dominance with uppity women, people of color and immigrants from “shithole” countries?

I very much doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong–the forces of reaction can bring progress to a temporary standstill–and “temporary” can be a long time.  As we’ve seen, GOP efforts to pack the courts can end up eviscerating constitutional guarantees and eliminating longstanding rights. The Tucker Carlsons of the world can give aid and comfort to the incels, militias and other assorted hate groups that litter the American landscape.

But ultimately, they can’t erase a century of cultural change. The America we currently live in is a dramatically different country than the one these people want so desperately to re-install.

Let me offer some homegrown examples.

Before I sat down to write this blog, my husband and I shopped at the Costco on the south side of Indianapolis. That location serves the suburban south side of town and the adjoining exurban and rural–very Republican– areas. The store carries a variety of foods catering to its wide variety of shoppers–as I browsed, I saw Sikh turbans, Muslim hijabs and a variety of “ethnic” folks.

I’ve previously noted that I read my husband’s Engineering World Record. (Yes, I’m a nerd.) A story in the current issue highlighted pilot projects testing out “smart roads.” Engineers in Kansas and Denver are working with technologies developed Germany’s Siemens A.G., by  Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and by France’s Renault. Companies from Israel, Italy and India are all in the mix.

Another article reported on several cross-country joint ventures focused on “green hydrogen.” 

When I was a girl–back in the Ice Age–a trip to another continent seemed impossibly exotic. I would have been astonished to learn that I’d have a granddaughter living in England and a son living in Amsterdam–and that I would keep in touch with them between visits via that science-fiction-promised “picture phone”–i.e., FaceTime.

The frightened reactionaries trying to “stop the world” may well create an extended period of chaos, but there is simply no way they can “reverse engineer” the cultural changes that have brought us to today’s normal. Women aren’t going back to the kitchen and nursery; LGBTQ folks aren’t climbing back into the closet, interracial couples aren’t divorcing and Black Americans aren’t going back to the plantation.

The vastly increased diversity of America’s cities has spread to the suburbs. Outside of the most isolated rural precincts, most Americans have friends and relatives who don’t look or pray like they do. 

The Rightwing can make acceptance difficult, or a Blue wave in November can accelerate it.  Either way,  the Right will ultimately lose. 

America isn’t going back to the 1950s.

 

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I Haven’t a Clue

During a discussion with a friend the other day, he asked me a question I couldn’t answer.  Why, he wondered, did so many other Western democratic countries accept same-sex marriage before the United States? We still have states fighting tooth and nail against the tide of recognition, while in other parts of the modern world, the fight has been over for more than a decade.

I actually asked myself the same question back in 2005, when Spain recognized same-sex marriages. How did it happen that the country best known for the  Inquisition recognized same-sex marriage before we did?

The Netherlands was first, recognizing same-sex unions in 2001. In addition to Spain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal and Sweden have all followed suit. Last year, Britain joined the growing list.

It isn’t just Europe, either–last year, New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize gay marriage.  South Africa did so back in 2006.

We Americans pride ourselves on our devotion to individual liberty and human rights, but we haven’t exactly been pioneers on this issue. (Or, come to think of it, on other issues involving acceptance–let alone celebration–of diversity.) Of course, there’s that durable Puritan heritage that continues to fight–often successfully– with the Enlightenment roots of our governing philosophy.

The U.S. is an outlier among western democratic societies when it comes to religion. (Ironically, given Puritans’ constant efforts to pass laws privileging religion, sociologists tell us it is our lack of a state-endorsed religion–our Enlightenment freedom to choose–that is largely responsible for Americans’ persistent religiosity). Since most opposition to same-sex marriage is based on religious doctrine, that’s my best guess at an answer.

Any other theories about why we lag the rest of the west?

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