Monday, September 14, 2009

Andrew Sullivan on Raids of Gay Bars in Southern Cities: Vigilance Is Necessary

As a counterpoint to what I just posted about the historic roots of Joe Wilson’s outburst last week in the racist patriarchal system constructed by white Southern men, I want to note Andrew Sullivan’s posting today about the recent police raid on a gay bar, the Eagle, in Atlanta. Sullivan notes that the Atlanta raid occurred in the same week as a police raid on a gay bar in Memphis.

And both were preceded by a widely publicized police raid in Fort Worth on the anniversary of Stonewall in which some patrons were knocked about by the police, one having his head bashed in with a brain hemorrhage as the result. The Fort Worth police force subsequently disciplined several staff members involved in that raid.

Andrew Sullivan notes that it’s possible these three recent raids on gay bars in Southern cities are all random incidents. But, as he also suggests, it’s also possible that there’s a political context for these raids, all of them seemingly sparked by specious accounts that bar owners and patrons were breaking laws:

Or maybe, the Age of Obama is leading some to express their rage at the changing face of this country. Gays, as so often, are among the first victims. Vigilance is necessary. For the first time in 16 years, the South does not have a native president in the White House. For the first time in 45 years, we have a Democrat not from the South in the White House. In trying to understand the passion and hysteria and anger out there, this may be worth taking into account.

I’m inclined to think the “or maybe” is the correct explanation. For my reasons for thinking so, see my preceding posting about Addison Graves “Big Joe” Wilson.

As I stated on this blog from the time the new administration got underway, I did not anticipate Obama’s administration being a halcyon period for gay Americans and our rights. I have known from the time the new president invited Pastor Rick Warren to his inauguration that trouble was brewing for me and my kind under this administration.

I knew that we had been pushed to a dangerous forefront by the campaign process, with its blowsy promises of fierce advocacy on our behalf. I suspected that the moral vacuity inhabiting the center of those promises would place us defenseless on center stage in culture-war battles that ultimately have nothing to do with us at all, but are about who has power and who doesn’t—that are all about disempowering the new president.

Who has refused to stand up for our rights and to make good on his promises to us. And who has now lost the opportunity to do so—who has now lost the opportunity to do much of anything of singular importance to anyone interested in human rights, because of his fatal attraction to cool pragmatism when impassioned moral engagement was imperative, if he were to succeed.

And now the 75% of gay Americans who voted for the new president because we bought into his vision with strong hope have had our hopes dashed. And we’re left twisting in the breeze in places like Fort Worth and Memphis and Atlanta, with those who had a brief, shining opportunity to effect meaningful change standing aside and saying nothing. Doing nothing. Never intending to do anything.

This administration may well turn out to be one of the low points in the history of the gay community in the United States. And as moral vacuity continues to rule the roost, some Catholic bishops in the U.S. are seizing the moment—the moment of this long, hot summer of hate—to take up collections to inform gay Catholics that we are decidedly not welcome in Catholic churches.

Bishops may say what they want about loving the sinner while hating the sin. I know hate when I see it, and I don’t need a large sign at a church door to know I am not welcome there when that church takes up collections to remove rights from me.

And when its pastor stands in the pulpit and lies to me about how the bible is one continuous, seamless story about marriage as a one-man, one-woman arrangement for life. Can anyone truly go through a seminary and not even read the bible? Can anyone who preaches about the Word of God Sunday after Sunday not know that Abraham and the patriarchs of the Jewish scriptures had not one, but many, wives?

And this from a church whose symbol of the “holy” family involves a woman impregnated by the Holy Spirit, who never slept with any man including her husband, and whose only son chose not to marry, but to spend his life in the company of a group of men who were his disciples? Really? This church wants to preach convincingly to me about the unchangeable, divinely ordained model of marriage of the middle-class nuclear family?

There may well be a day in which the clip featured at the preceding link, showing faithful Catholics dropping money into collection plates to support the removal of a human right from a targeted minority, is shown to students at the same time that students examine pictures of church officials burning witches at the stake, or blessing troops as they head for war, or welcoming the Nazis marching into Austria, or defending slavery as scripturally sound and divinely ordained.

For many of us, when the church assaults our very humanity in the name of God, the only feasible option left is to stand outside looking in. As we shake our heads and wonder how people who proclaim a God of love dip their hands in hate, in the name of that God.