Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Divide and Conquer

This morning I came across some more debate about Michelle Obama's recent encounter with a gay-rights protester at a Democratic Party fundraiser.  (Significantly, this apparently lone protester was turned into "gay rights protesters," plural, in this report.  We dissidents are scary!  One of us looks like a crowd!  Poor Michelle, shouted down by an angry mob of radicals waving pitchforks and torches!)  Obama faced the protestor down, threatening to walk; the protestor was shouted down and removed by the others present.  Ian Welsh commented:
To step back to Michele Obama, and her being heckled by an activist.  Mrs. Obama was raising money for the Democratic party.  She has her profile because of her husband, whose adjunct she was acting as.  The idea that you shouldn’t be rude to her because she’s the “first lady” is ludicrous: she’s not some nice, uninvolved lady, she is a participant in the political process, and one who will be very rich for the rest of her life because she married Barack Obama.
In another, shorter post, Welsh linked to a post by gay Democratic blogger (and sometime Democratic Party fundraiser and campaign worker) John Aravosis, who after initial uncertainty became less critical of the protester.
Now that I know that this fundraiser was at the home of a lesbian couple, the protest – a gay protest – becomes a lot more relevant ...

The only reason to do a protest is to move the ball forward on issues you care about.  I was initially worried that this protest didn’t do that.
Despite this, Aravosis is still only "in the undecided column."  He does, however, link to and quote an opinion piece on CNN.com by ESPN writer LZ Granderson, a gay African-American man defending protester Ellen Sturtz.
Heckling the first lady wasn't fair because she isn't responsible for policy. But the incident sent a message to those who are responsible: We are people, not pawns.
The discussion in comments under Aravosis's post is worth reading; much of it is intelligent and informed.  Several commenters, however, complained that Ellen Sturtz's protest was "ill-timed." This is funny to anyone who remembers the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s (or any other protest movement, I suspect), which was often accused of the same offense.  African-Americans were told to wait patiently for white racists and their enablers to change their minds by themselves; Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from jail in Birmingham, Alabama, is among other things a reply to such well-meaning white moderates.  No protest, or debate, or disagreement is timely in the minds of the powerful and their hangers-on. 

Aravosis admitted that Sturtz's protest was justified by the outcome: it got a lot of media attention and sparked some discussion of her issue, about which most Americans probably knew little.  Including gay Americans, it seems.  I don't understand why he's still "undecided."  The cycle of abuse rolls on.