Why did gays win while blacks & latinos lost?

The recent Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage and voting rights is a strong reminder of the hazards of ignoring class and culture in thinking about politics.

We tend to consider these things one dimensionally as if the Supreme Court was only deciding law – and not culture, class and politics. As if the only issue was basic identity and not its complicating factors.

But when you have a legal institution that repeatedly splits on what the law means, and when the splitters are usually the same justices, you know there’s more going on than the law. Consider, for example, that there are six Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court, three Jews and no Protestants or secularists. And we hardly even mention this even if it obviously plays some role in the court’s practice.

And while black or latino is an ethnicity and homosexuality a gender, there’s much more to it than that.

For example, the voting rights decision directly affects poorer Americans. The injustices are aimed at discouraging a class of voters many of whom need to be urged to vote in the first place. Wealthier blacks and latinos tend to live in neighborhoods where voter mischief is not underway and they can manage even annoying bureaucratic hassles. Further you couldn’t have long lines in such neighborhoods – like those that killed an estimated 50,000 votes in Florida in one recently election – without forcing well-off white voters to wait as well.

As the Review noted last year:

The ACLU and others have reported that the number of registered Pennsylvania voters who are at risk of being disenfranchised because they do not have state-issued ID is more than one million. To get some idea of how bad this is, consider that in the 1960s there were only about 900,000 blacks in segregationist Mississippi including children too young to vote. Thus the impact of the GOP assault on Pennsylvania rights will affect more minorities, seniors, and poorer citizens than one of the worst attacks on civil rights in our history. Further, the cost of getting a voter ID amounts to a hidden poll tax, which the civil rights movement thought it had eliminated a long time ago.

Then there’s the question of who has what sort of clout in the culture. Obviously poor blacks and latinos don’t have much. And wealthier blacks and latinos have not had near the cultural influence of gays.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t poor gays. A report of the American Psychological Society, for example, noted that:

While LGBT persons tend to have more education on average than the general population, evidence suggests that they make less money than their heterosexual … counterparts. Studies on income differences for LGBT persons indicate that:

– Gay men earn up to 32 percent less than similarly qualified heterosexual men.

Up to 64 percent of transgender people report incomes below $25,000.

– While 5.9 percent of the general population makes less than $10,000, 14 percent of LGBT individuals are within this income bracket.

And CNN reported that “Same-sex couples spent an average $9,039 on their weddings, while 31% spent $10,000 or more — though that’s still not as high as the $27,021 that the average couple spends on a wedding.”

But there is still a substantial difference in the effect of upper class gay culture on current America compared with that of upscale blacks and latinos.

Through their role in show business, for example, LGBT leaders have had a chance to affect America’s perception of gayness. Blacks haven’t done nearly as well. Patrick Goldstein described it in the LA Times this way:

Hollywood has made a slew of films about the black experience, from “The Help,” “Ray” and “The Great Debaters” to “Amistad,” “Remember the Titans” and “Malcolm X.” But those films have one thing in common – they’re all set in the past. Even “Precious,” which earned a host of Oscar nominations in 2010, took place in 1987.

“There are too many decision makers in Hollywood today that look at the modern black experience and you can tell it’s a big mystery to them,” notes John Ridley, who co-wrote the script for “Red Tails.”

It’s easy enough to understand why – the present is less comfortable, while the past offers the opportunity to show the struggles and hurdles for people of color. But where are the movies that chronicle today’s African American experience? Or for that matter, films that offer any kind of serious look at any people of color, be they Asian, Latino or black?

Hollywood has no problem making African American comedies, often crammed with cringe-worthy racial stereotypes. We also get an occasional romantic comedy or a hip-hop biopic like “Notorious.” But a real movie with real black people?

Or consider this by Timothy P. Carney in the Washington Examiner:

While raising money for Bill Clinton (who signed the Defense of Marriage Act) in 1992, Rahm Emanuel proclaimed “Gays are the next Jews of fundraising.”, , ,

About 20 percent of Obama’s bundlers — volunteer fundraisers — are gay, according to media reports, with many of them being gay rights activists. For example, Sally Susman has raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s re-election. Millionaire banking mogul Eugene Sepulveda is another gay half-million-dollar Obama bundler. Rufus Gifford is the finance director for Obama’s re-election campaign, and Andrew Tobias is treasurer of the Democratic National Committee — and both are gay.

There is little clout like this among blacks and latinos.

Sometimes, the littlest things can be telling. After the Supreme Court decision, Goldman Sachs flew a rainbow flag over its headquarters. Would it have flown a black or latino celebratory flag if voting rights had won?

While there is absolute virtue in both causes, there is no doubt that the majority culture is far more comfortable with gay intrusions than with ethnic ones.

Besides, the voting rights issue remained unresolved while we were clearly making progress on gay marriage even before the decision.

In the end voting rights challenges culture, class and politics while gay marriage only challenges cultural norms. Gay marriage only alters what gays can do. Voting rights could change what the whole country does.

If the Supreme Court was going to ease its biases, it picked the easiest course.

What gay marriage can teach us about economic recovery

 Sam Smith
 
The excitement over Obama’s acceptance of gay marriage, albeit on a state by state basis, illustrates two often overlooked political points:
  • ·       The lesser of two evils occasionally does something right, which, in fact, is what defines his lesserdom. 
  • ·       Just because the person you voted for won the White House doesn’t mean you can’t keep pressing your causes, a point ignored by most liberals during the Obama and Clinton years, thus aiding these administrations’ drift to the right on issues such as social welfare, war and civil liberties.

Rather than being treated as a unique event, the gay marriage advance could better be used as a model for liberal and progressive behavior in the coming months. Obama has no programs of his own other than to win reelection, which is one of the reasons he is not doing better against Romney in the polls. It would be a favor to shove him towards policies which he presently rejects out of cowardice or indifference, by demonstrating their power, popularity and potential.
The possibilities are numerous. There is majority support for a large range of policies that Obama is terrified of touching, many of which he hasn’t even started “evolving” on.
But the ones that could make the biggest difference in the least amount of time would be those dealing with the economic crisis. For example, Obama could:
·       Finally come up with a meaningful program to help troubled homeowners, such as a reverse mortgage system under which the government bought back over time a portion of troubled mortgages or simply bought a share of the equity in financially endangered homes at current values. Remember: we are in a recession or depression and the values of homes dramatically reflect it. Thus chances are good that a government program of this sort could actually make money in ten or twenty years. 

·       Put a limit on credit card interest rates based on the single digit levels of the 1980s. There is no justification for the current credit card usury.
But the one that could be a real swinger in this election would be a program that blends America’s sense of patriotism with its need for public works and economic stimulation.
Right now, the employment situation of veterans is appalling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports:
“The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 — a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans — was 12.1 percent in 2011. The jobless rate for all veterans was 8.3 percent. . . Young male veterans (those ages 18 to 24) who served during Gulf War era II had an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent in 2011, higher than that of young male nonveterans (17.6 percent).”
And what are we doing for these vets? Hardly anything. Compare that with what we did for veterans after World War II, programs which also helped the whole country make the transition to a peacetime econmy – including major aid for home loans and education. The present veterans’ policy is pathetic, almost – one might say out on the stump – verging on the anti-patriotic.
What if we had, instead, a Veterans Works Project, a program in which money now being used futilely in Afghanistan is put to work on domestic public works projects staffed primarily by veterans?
 Suddenly the political game changes. Instead of Obama defending socialism, as the Republicans would have use believe, the policy becomes a patriotic cause.
And the interesting thing is that Obama could get support from, of all places, the defense industry. The end of war means less defense contracts. What if many of these contracts were shifted to domestic public works programs?
As a final touch, once the program got going, Americorps – which currently has 85,000 volunteers a year – could be expanded to include veterans on a part or full  salary basis.
Our post WWII efforts were not the only time that economics has been blended with patriotism. Eisenhower boosted the massive interstate highway program in the 1950s on the grounds that it was necessary for national defence. If America were ever invaded, we needed good roads to get the Army where it needed to be.  He had come by the idea originally as a participant in a transcontinental motor convoy staged by the Army in 1919 to point out the need for better highways.
Thus,  a  Veterans Works Project would have at least three good precedents.
And while we’re talking about precedents, let us not forget the works programs of the New Deal which make current stimulus efforts look absurdly puny.  As Wikipedia recounts
“The Works Progress Administration  employed 8.5 million people in its seven-year history, working on 1.4 million projects, including the building or repair of 103 golf courses, 1,000 airports, 2,500 hospitals, 2,500 sports stadiums, 3,900 schools, 8,192 parks, 12,800 playgrounds, 124,031 bridges, 125,110 public buildings, and 651,087 miles of highways and roads.”
And the patriotic angle was not ignored, as the Art Story notes:
“Several U.S. politicians had originally envisioned a fusing of art and patriotic American values. This inspired President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to begin the Works Progress Administration in the spring of 1935, and its subprogram, the Federal Art Project, several months later. The FAP was designed to both supplement artists’ incomes and, more importantly, fund patriotic art projects in an effort to rally dispirited American citizens.”  
 It is essential for progressives and liberals to rediscover their former role as leaders in economic decency and equity. And helping veterans would be is not only a necessity in its own right – it would be a politically smart way to start a much broader economic revkival. After all, it’s worked before and it could work again.

The little green men

Sam Smith

According to the Washington Post, “The Marine Corps’ top general suggested Tuesday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose “a distraction.”

||||| “When your life hangs on the line,” said Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, “you don’t want anything distracting. . . . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives.” In an interview with newspaper and wire service reporters at the Pentagon, Amos was vague when pressed to clarify how the presence of gays would distract Marines during a firefight. But he cited a recent Defense Department survey in which a large percentage of Marine combat veterans predicted that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would harm “unit cohesion” and their tight-knit training for war. “So the Marines came back and they said, “Look, anything that’s going to break or potentially break that focus and cause any kind of distraction may have an effect on cohesion,” he said. |||||

One of the things I have always suspected about Marines is that more than a few have substantial masculine insecurity that they hide under the cover of military bravado. Certainly the amount of time and effort they spend trying to impress other men, rather than women, seems curious.

I’m not the first to have noticed this, although it has yet made the mainstream coverage of the gays in the military issue. For example, writes the Midwest Book Review, in The Masculine Marine: Homoeroticism in the U.S. Marine Corps, “Steven Zeeland elicits astonishingly candid responses from a diverse sampling of Marines to questions about aspects of this rarely documented subculture. Their answers shed light on homoerotic bonding among Marines, hazing and institutional violence, sexual stereotypes of Marines in gay culture, how gay Marines reconcile their sexual identity with the ethos of ‘hard’ Marine supermasculinity, Marines in all-male pornography, how Marines feel about being viewed as sex objects, and male attitudes about women in the Marine Corps.”

In the book, Zeeland even quotes gays  complaining about the homosexual skill of Marines and what disappointing partners they are. Which, when you include their divorce rate, makes them sound like bi-sexual losers.

In the Coast Guard, we were also involved in activities that involved some risk, but the cultural and verbal treatment of this risk was markedly different from the Marine mythology. In fact, braggadocio made you suspect.

As I once wrote: “The sea seems determined to force men to fight it with their bare hands. It is a teacher of humility, an enforcer of respect, a revealer of fraud. It is indifferent to paper distinctions between men, without regard for fine words, and contemptuous of the niceties of society. Those who live with the sea will probably always be a bit different and those who go to sea in ships and boats as small as the Coast Guard’s especially so. As Joseph Conrad put it, ‘Of all the living creatures upon land and sea, it is ships alone that cannot be taken in by barren pretenses.'”

Which may help to explain why we used to call the Marines “the little green men.”

General Amos’ confession – which it was – more than an argument – that gays on the battlefield would be a distraction for Marines is, I suppose, something worth dealing with if true. But the best resolution would be therapy and not continued governmental denial. After all, if Marines can’t keep their eyes on the enemy shooting at them instead of the gay nearby, they really do have a problem.

THE GAY MARRIAGE DEFEAT

Sam Smith, Progressive Review – Having lived most of my life in the gay friendly city of Washington, I wasn’t prepared from some of the nastiness involved in the Maine gay marriage debate. Especially the sick video that claimed that the state’s schools would be teaching gay marriage in class.

And while I knew the Pope was the George Wallace of gender, I had never been this close to the repulsive cruelty of the Catholic church on the issue, not to mention hypocritical – given the behavior of more than a few of its priests.

Finally, I realized too late how easy it was to slip into the media’s assumption that this was just another issue – and not a major test of morality. It was only after the returns came in that it occurred to me how little the difference was between denying gays entry into marriage and denying a black kid’s entry into a school or that kid’s parent’s entry into a restaurant. It was not just gay marriage being judged, but the rest of us as well. A minority’s rights is not a gift to be bestowed but a strong reflection of our own honor and decency.And we failed.

A vote for the establishment of religion

Among other reasons, the banning of gay marriage is illegal because its purpose and origin is based almost entirely on the principles of certain religions. To ban gay marriage is to establish some religions’ beliefs as superior to those of others. Specifically, the Maine gay marriage vote makes the following lesser religions compared, say, to the Catholic Church:

The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, Ecumenical Catholic Church, Church of God Anonymous, Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Unitarian Universalist Association, which all approve of same sex marriage

The United Church of Christ, Episcopal and various Quaker groups leave the decision to clergy, congregations or local governing bodies. And, adds the Interfaith Workig Group, the Presbyterian Church (USA) allows the blessings of same-gender unions with terminology restrictions.

So the result was not just a repeal of gay marriage but a totally unconstitutional vote to restrict the rights of the aforementioned religion http://www.iwgonline.org/s


Senatorial inquiry

Sam Smith

1. The Ten Commandments outlaw killing and adultery but that doesn’t seem to bother your colleagues as much as gay marriage. Why do you think the Ten Commandments are less important to them than gay marriage?

2. Would you accept a compromise in which we outlawed not only gay marriages but support of deadly wars or cheating on your wife? If not, why not?

3. The Ten Commandants say “You can work during the six weekdays and do all your tasks. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God your Lord. Do not do anything that constitutes work. [This includes] you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maid, your animal, and the foreigner in your gates.” You have not yet formalized this into a constitutional amendment and so your maids, slaves, animals and proximate foreigners are running around hog wild on Sundays. Isn’t this more dangerous than a few gays getting married and shouldn’t you tackle it first?

4. Exodus tells us to kill those who work on Sunday. This seems to conflict with the federal code, not to mention the Ten Commandments. Shouldn’t we worry more about Seventh Day slaughter than about gay marriage?

4. Since religions differ sharply on this issue, if this amendment passes it will directly conflict with the First Amendment which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Which constitutional amendment should we then follow?

5. Since Republicans believe so firmly in the sanctity of marriage, how do you explain the following from the New York Daily News in August 2004: “With thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high-priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party. Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden.”

6. Explain the moral difference between a Republican politician opposing gay marriage and one participating in gay sex which, according to police and news reports, happens from time to time. Do we need an amendment preserving the sanctity of gay sex outside of marriage?

7. If this were 1956 instead of 2006, would you have supported a ban on inter-racial marriages, which most states had? How does the current amendment differ in spirit – rather than merely the target – from the one proposed in 1911: “Intermarriage between negroes or persons of color and Caucasians . . . within the United States . . . is forever prohibited.”

8. Have you ever had contact with a woman during her period of menstrual uncleanliness, something outlawed by the Bible? Should we have a constitutional amendment to prevent this sort of thing from happening again?

9. How would you deal with the issue raised by Professor Emeritus James Kaufman of the University of Virginia: “Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations.” Do you think this biblical right should be also codified in a constitutional amendment? How will this affect our plans for construction of a border wall?

10. Leviticus reminds us of other sins far more prevalent than gay marriage. For example, “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you. . . ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.” Do we need a constitutional amendment to ban the eating of shrimp, crab, lobster, clams and mussels?

11. Homosexuality has been found by scientists in 450 other species. Isn’t it a bit late to be trying to suppress it in ours?

12. While gay marriages produce some gay children, why do heterosexual marriages do the same?

13. Since we’re going back to first principles, would you mind adding a section that makes wives the husband’s property?

14. Which of these other steps – all Biblically endorsed – should be taken to preserve the sanctity of marriage: allowing men to take on concubines in addition to their wives, stoning to death any new wife found not to be a virgin, requiring women to marry the man who raped them, banning interfaith marriages, and banning divorce?

15. Given the foregoing, is it fair to describe those pushing the marriage amendment as heretical, hypocritical and blasphemous Christians? History shows that such people are far more dangerous, on average, than gays. Shouldn’t we do something about them before we worry about those gay weddings?

Questions for a senatorial inquiry on gay marriage

Sam Smith, 2006

1. The Ten Commandments outlaw killing and adultery but that doesn’t seem to bother your colleagues as much as gay marriage. Why do you think the Ten Commandments are less important to them than gay marriage?

2. Would you accept a compromise in which we outlawed not only gay marriages but support of deadly wars or cheating on your wife? If not, why not?

3. The Ten Commandants say “You can work during the six weekdays and do all your tasks. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God your Lord. Do not do anything that constitutes work. [This includes] you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maid, your animal, and the foreigner in your gates.” You have not yet formalized this into a constitutional amendment and so your maids, slaves, animals and proximate foreigners are running around hog wild on Sundays. Isn’t this more dangerous than a few gays getting married and shouldn’t you tackle it first?

4. Exodus tells us to kill those who work on Sunday. This seems to conflict with the federal code, not to mention the Ten Commandments. Shouldn’t we worry more about Seventh Day slaughter than about gay marriage?

4. Since religions differ sharply on this issue, if this amendment passes it will directly conflict with the First Amendment which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Which constitutional amendment should we then follow?

5. Since Republicans believe so firmly in the sanctity of marriage, how do you explain the following from the New York Daily News in August 2004: “With thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high-priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party. Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden.”

6. Explain the moral difference between a Republican politician opposing gay marriage and one participating in gay sex which, according to police and news reports, happens from time to time. Do we need an amendment preserving the sanctity of gay sex outside of marriage?

7. If this were 1956 instead of 2006, would you have supported a ban on inter-racial marriages, which most states had? How does the current amendment differ in spirit – rather than merely the target – from the one proposed in 1911: “Intermarriage between negroes or persons of color and Caucasians . . . within the United States . . . is forever prohibited.”

8. Have you ever had contact with a woman during her period of menstrual uncleanliness, something outlawed by the Bible? Should we have a constitutional amendment to prevent this sort of thing from happening again?

9. How would you deal with the issue raised by Professor Emeritus James Kaufman of the University of Virginia: “Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations.” Do you think this biblical right should be also codified in a constitutional amendment? How will this affect our plans for construction of a border wall?

10. Leviticus reminds us of other sins far more prevalent than gay marriage. For example, “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you. . . ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.” Do we need a constitutional amendment to ban the eating of shrimp, crab, lobster, clams and mussels?

11. Homosexuality has been found by scientists in 450 other species. Isn’t it a bit late to be trying to suppress it in ours?

12. While gay marriages produce some gay children, why do heterosexual marriages do the same?

13. Since we’re going back to first principles, would you mind adding a section that makes wives the husband’s property?

14. Which of these other steps – all Biblically endorsed – should be taken to preserve the sanctity of marriage: allowing men to take on concubines in addition to their wives, stoning to death any new wife found not to be a virgin, requiring women to marry the man who raped them, banning interfaith marriages, and banning divorce?

15. Given the foregoing, is it fair to describe those pushing the marriage amendment as heretical, hypocritical and blasphemous Christians? History shows that such people are far more dangerous, on average, than gays. Shouldn’t we do something about them before we worry about those gay weddings?