Saturday, January 31, 2009

Letting Go

I have been giving some thought to PurpleScarf in recent months, deciding whether or not to continue the blog, and if I continue, what form the blog should take following the election of Barack Obama.

I've decided to let PurpleScarf go. I enjoyed writing PurpleScarf during the last four years and I was pleased to see that a number of the posts on PurpleScarf were picked up by the New York Times and other national media. But all things come to an end, and I think that it is time to bring PurpleScarf to a close.

I began PurpleScarf on New Year's Day, 2005, in the aftermath of the November 2004 elections.

In the November 2004 election cycle, gays and lesbians became political fodder for power-hungry preachers of the Religious Right and cynical Republican politicians, who joined forces nationwide to "protect marriage" by denying marriage to same-sex couples.

At that point, the darkness in our society took dead aim at the "quiet ones", gays and lesbians like me, living at peace with our neighbors, raising our children, contributing to our communities. The attack focused on our families, and went to the heart of our community. I felt, as so many did during that period, the I could stay quiet no longer.

In early 2005, I began thinking and writing, commenting on the constitutional,
legal and cultural issues involving gay and lesbian equality, honing my thought and finding my voice, a voice somewhat idiosyncratic, through Purple Scarf.

When the "protect marriage" battle came to Wisconsin in 2006, I shifted gears. I was asked to help lead the fight against Wisconsin's anti-marriage amendment in Sauk County. During the course of the year, I spoke at community forums, wrote letters to local newspapers, and visited with about a thousand voters in the county's outlying villages and towns, hamlets like Rock Springs, North Freedom, Plain, Loganville and LaValle. As the amendment battle developed, I used PurpleScarf to track the fight in Wisconsin.

We lost the amendment battle in Wisconsin, but my work on the amendment battle led, in turn, to involvement in the Democratic Party at both the county and state levels.

In 2007, I joined the Democratic Party of Sauk County, and later in the year became a member of the executive committee of the state party LGBT Caucus. As a member of the LGBT Caucus, I shepherded amendment-repeal resolutions through the local, congressional district and state conventions, and worked alongside Fair Wisconsin and other gay and lesbian advocacy groups to keep the feet of Democratic politicians to the fire. The work, I felt, was important, because it would have been all too easy for state and local Democrats to shuffle gays and lesbians onto the back burner in the wake of the amendment, now that "Guns, God and Gays" no longer dominated Wisconsin politics.

During 2007 and 2008, I turned, increasingly, to the election cycle, working to elect Democrats to the Wisconsin legislature and working to elect Barack Obama.

Turning from writing to political action, I became less interested in PurpleScarf, and posted less often. My edge and urgency were gone.

The 2008 election cycle brought the circle round, in my view. The Religious Right and the Republican Party no longer control our national or state political agenda. Gays and lesbians live in a new environment, and will for several years, I believe.

I think that Democrat-controlled legislatures will break the stranglehold that the Religious Right held over LBGT-supportive legislation. Instead of fighting to beat back the Religious Right, we can move on.

Looking back, I'm glad that I took the time to write PurpleScarf.

The 2004 amendments were a wake up call, shaking gay and lesbian confidence, leading many gays and lesbians to reassess the thirty-year road toward assimilation and acceptance. The result was an ongoing, largely online, discussion among the gay and lesbian community, struggling to find a common voice.

Purple Scarf, in the period between the 2004 and 2008 elections, served two purposes, in my view.

The first purpose was personal. PurpleScarf helped me find my own voice and role in the struggle, giving me an opportunity to think through the issues, hone my arguments and find a path into political action.

The second purpose was public. PurpleScarf added to the ongoing national discussion among gays and lesbians. A number of posts were picked up by national media and distributed beyond the confines of PurpleScarf's regular readership, and, in that way, contributed to the national discussion.

As time went on, though, I found writing less interesting, and wrote less.

Writing PurpleScarf became less interesting to me in recent years, in part, because I found acting within the political arena more satisfying than writing about it, and, in part, because the Religious Right and its Republican allies have become both tired and tiresome.

I've come to realize, writing over the last several years, that the arguments advanced by the Religious Right and their Republican lapdogs are hidebound, never changing, and in fact hadn't changed since the 1970's. It is as if the Religious Right and the Republican Party are locked into a time warp, an endless replay of Anita Bryant's stage lines, relying on discredited "research" and ideas without foundation in reality, to hold back the tide toward justice.

The lack of content, of reality, had an effect. Over time, the Religious Right and the Republican Party, when it came to "faggot, faggot", started to become an echo chamber, listening only to their own voices, talking only to one another.

It has gotten to the point where the Religious Right, confronted with conclusive evidence contrary to their positions, has begun to argue that "experience" cannot be trusted, that the only thing that counts is their interpretation of scripture. At that point, the tenuous connection between their arguments and reality, already weak, was entirely severed.

I think most Americans have come to see how tired and tiresome it has all become. Americans, for the most part, have moved on.

I intend to move on, too. I know that we have a lot to do in our struggle, and that the struggle will be long and hard. But for me, it is time to focus on political action rather than writing.

The bottom line is this: In my view, the personal and public purposes giving rise to PurpleScarf have come to an end, and so I am ending it.

In a larger context, too, I think that it is time to move on.

Gays and lesbians entered a new phase of the struggle for equality in January 2009, with allies in the White House and both houses of Congress, men and women elected, in large part, because we fought so hard during the period 2004-2008.

Doing so, we built on a foundation laid down before Stonewall, in the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's. In turn, a younger generation of gay and lesbian advocates will build on the foundation we constructed in the years since Stonewall, a foundation we pass on to them.

My generation -- the generation that came of age before Stonewall, is at retirement age, and emerged from the dark, lonely confines of a closet imposed on us by our society to take up the fight for basic protection for gays and lesbians in public and private life during the last forty years -- is less well equipped than the generation following us to take the next steps toward gay and lesbian equality, just as the generation before us had to step aside in the 1970's and 1980's and let us take up the fight.

My generation is, given our history, so enmeshed in the mindset of political and social struggle that we have difficulty speaking to a generation of straights who accept gay and lesbian inclusion in our society, inclusion as equals, inclusion without fuss or fight.

My generation -- weaned on combat with the social conservatives in the years between Stonewall and the AIDS crisis, tempered by the AIDS crisis within the gay and lesbian community, and called again to combat in the last decade -- does not communicate well with younger generations, gay/lesbian and straight alike, who don't have our history.

For that reason, my generation, I think, has accomplished what we can, and and it is now time for us to step aside and turn the next phase of the struggle over to a younger generation of gays and lesbians. Younger gays and lesbians speak with a different voice, and it is a powerful voice.

In a sense, we not only turn the future of gay and lesbian equality over to them, but also the foundation upon which they must now build, the foundation which has been the work of our lifetime.

I believe that we can look forward with confidence, although I am well aware that victory will be neither quick nor easy.

I do not expect to live to see the day when gays and lesbians achieve legal and cultural equality -– certainly not in Wisconsin, which was set at least a decade behind by the 2006 Amendment, a decade I no longer have to spare -– but I am certain that the day will come.

I believe that by the time Michael, a high school student I know who founded a local high school's GSA, is my age forty years from now, gay high school students will simply be high school students, on a level playing field with students who happen to be straight.

I believe that is what the future holds, and I believe that high-school Michael's generation will bring it to fruition.

And with that, I am content.