By Greg Williams
I have to admit that I never thought I would find myself representing the Stonewall Democrats and/or the GLBT community in Linn County Iowa, nor had I ever imagined that I would be writing about it. All my life I have been relatively vocal in various ways and, generally speaking, I have been fond of supporting a variety of issues; whether it be immigration, labor, Native American rights, civil liberties, the GLBT community or any number of other cultures and/or organizations that I feel are lacking equality and rights. I suppose that I had never really imagined the likelihood of having the opportunity to be politically active at all, let alone representing a segment of such a movement.
In a certain sense, I had never realized how little I knew. It became commonplace to be active about a variety of issues, but to actually find myself in a position where I become the source of information; I found myself rushing to do my research, learn about the immediate community around me and understand what exactly the Stonewall Democrats do that is different from various other GLBT (and other democratic groups) that exist in the nation. Perhaps it wasn’t that I had a lot to learn overall but that I found myself immersed in a project that felt a bit overwhelming; irrelevant of the size or scope.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Stonewall Democrats, the primary focus of the group is to promote Get Out The Vote efforts around the nation; to back Democratic candidates who can best represent the values and rights of the GLBT community. It was started by Rep. Barney Frank in 1997 and utilizes a more preferable approach to politics than many other lobbyist and watch dog groups. Many of these groups see money as having a larger political value than the power of the people. Though we are a small group, we work very hard on the grass roots level, encouraging voters to hold their elected official’s feet to the fire. Locally, we hope to team up with the GLRC (gay and lesbian resource center) in Cedar Rapids Iowa as they work to promote their efforts and once again become a valuable resource to the citizens of the area. Hopefully, I should be writing small articles for them every couple of months that will help to illuminate various issues that confront both Iowans and Americans in general. Most of all, I am hoping to create an even slightly larger group in the area with which we can work to resolve various issues and ensure that the people we elect serve to truly represent the community. It will likely focus on the gay and lesbian community but will not be limited to those issues alone.
My reasons for looking into a broader perspective are not because I don’t care to represent the GLBT community, but rather because I feel that there are a certain number of issues that are important to all citizens. If a community can work to achieve a set of broader goals then I believe that when issues arise that specifically challenge the GLBT community, the rest of the citizens in the area will work with it to help and support it in challenging whatever frivolous laws or problems that may arise. I personally feel that as we look towards 2008, the majority of Americans, no matter their background or differences, will be hoping for a focused effort that spends more time looking at the issues that matter most to each and every citizen. These issues without doubt will include Iraq, the budget, social security, health care and renewable energy. I feel that the ridiculous constitutional amendment, which would bar same-sex marriages, could feasibly be forgotten in the midst of other more important issues. That sort of unanimous outcry from the citizens alone could create a small success in its own right. Likewise if we spend time focusing on the current candidates for ’08, we will already find a few who we know will be at the very least supportive of GLBT issues. Senator Joe Biden, who has said same-sex marriage is a necessary part of the evolution of America, would be one. To some extent John Edwards would be another; he has not publicly shown support towards the GLBT community, but I feel that he would not turn his back on them either. Although there are other issues that I may disagree with for each of the candidates, overall I feel that even the minor similarities and values of each of the politicians, no matter their position cannot be ignored.
There are some senators and congressmen that have been instrumental in advancing various rights for the GLBT community. Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman who founded the Stonewall Democrats, being one and the other being the new Junior Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Bernie has been a favorite politician of mine for some time now. He has managed to impress me in areas aside from just GLBT issues; whether talking about labor, NAFTA, civil liberties or otherwise. I also like his insistence on not being labeled as merely a Democrat or a moderate or some other such nonsense, but rather his desire to remain independent so as to be able to best represent the values for which he stands for. His ideas on Democratic Socialism, I think, are very important, not because it threatens any particular aspect of politics, but because it represents the basic concepts of common sense, equality and fairness for all citizens and also works to bring balance to an already corrupted political system.
Looking at it, there are certain issues, whether favorable topics or not, that make me realize the importance of being significantly more active locally. Whether it is increasing awareness of the GLBT community’s issues or making it more widely known the struggles that face us as a nation; I have always felt that the faults of people lay not in who they are but rather with those who choose to oppress the views and opinions of those individuals who decide to be or physically are different than the mold that we have created in America. The failure to look at issues that confront us today logically is the root of many of the glaring injustices we often see in society.
When we examine the Democratic Socialist tradition we find that the solution to practical problems is not through seemingly random accusation but rather through a diplomatic approach of creating a better place for all humans, not just a specific demographic of people. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin were the epitome of this logic. True MLK mostly worked for civil rights during his lifetime, but this is not particularly where he wanted the quest for equality to end. His philosophy encompassed all people of all classes and places; not just his own. He realized the power of unity. He, like Bayard Rustin saw the value of all people being part of solutions. It is unfortunate that King never lived to be able to credit Rustin publicly for his contributions and likewise that Rustin did not live to see the struggle of civil and gay rights reach their maximum potential.
Looking forward I see that there are many glaring issues which need to be addressed. Whether writing letters of opposition to proposed legislation in Virginia, which would require parent approval to join after school clubs (GLBT clubs and otherwise), or whether it is addressing all issues that we face on the local level. It is comforting to know that from now until the elections of 2008 it may not seem unusual to find an outcry over particular issues, but I can expect to see some of the most unusual people participating unanimously in the signal for change. Then perhaps in the echoes I can take the time I need to focus on the issues that matter to me most for what I have been elected to represent.