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29 July 2010, 4:44 pm 13 Comments

Zack's Ramblings: NetRoots Gaytion: Is It Wicked Not To Care?

This post was submitted by Zack Rosen

Nothing looks more democratic than Las Vegas from the 36th floor of the Rio Grande Hotel. A whole city of lights, bustling, in perfect little squares of houses and commerce, all given an equal plot of land in the city where anyone, as the legend goes, can win a million bucks from a quarter or get a blowjob from someone they might or might not be paying. It was a great fantasy from the window of my hotel room in the midst of last weeks NetRoots Nation conference. We are all equal, and we all count. Unfortunatey, the view of the city looks way different from the street. It’s dominated, depending on where you look, by a smattering of buildings so tall that you can barely see the sky.

Yesterday, in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building, I was arrested for something I believed in. I complain a lot, and criticize, but rarely have I felt so close to creating the actual change that I think is needed in our queer universe. It’s hard to put yourself on the line like that. I was only assured that it was worth it, worth the temporary loss of freedom, the spectacle of being shackled in front of the whole word, because I approached the issue (with the help of fearless activist group Get Equal)  on my own terms. I was tired of waiting, tired of being polite, and tired of being stymied by an overly organized system every time I tried to make a difference.

The greatest resource we have in the queer community is queer people. Not organizations, not kabals or clatches or back rooms filled with cigar smoke and a fine mist of Skyy Vodka. People. Us. When I went to NetRoots Nation last week, a high profile convergence of bloggers, organizations and activists, I came out feeling like I was nothing. Not affiliated with an orgs, not in the accepted camp of approved activists, and certainly not one of the 6 or 7 bloggers elected to decide what the rest of us should care about. The LGBT meetings I went to confirmed something I had long suspected: Gay Inc has galvanized not just our culture, but our movement. Instead of empowering individuals to attack the things that matter most to us, and make a difference one small act at a time, a consensus had developed that there is a RIGHT way to go about things, a RIGHT hierarchy of what issues matter, and when.

We are headed to a paradoxical truth, one that flies in the face of the most basic lessons learned since kindergarten. I fear that very soon, the individuals that comprise the queer community are going to be stronger on their own than they are together.

I say this because the system I saw set up at NetRoots seemed designed to punish those that act on their own without approval from the Homos-that-be. Instead of debating the best ways to address our own causes, beat our own daily injustices, so much of the debate came down to why a given issue matters more than another. Everyone put your dicks and clits on the table and measure. Biggest one gets to change the world. ENDA. DADT. Marriage Equality. Immigration. each one of these is equally important, because each one is a patchwork in the great straight quilt that keeps us from getting out of bed. There is room for all of them. If you tackle religion, or domestic violence, or culture, or anything, it should be just as important because A) You care about it and B) your resources will be better served toward something you care about, and know about, then they are towards someone else’s cause.

It made me sad to see even our best and brightest so attacked for how they chose to alter the world about them. Mike Rogers rallying ability, Pam Spaulding’s inimitable voice, Michael Crawfords tireless quest toward marriage equality. Nothing else should matter when a person has dedicated themselves to what they believe in. Instead, I saw all these people spend as much time defending themselves as they did empowering the people around them.

And when that happens, you miss the bottom half. If Bloggers are intermediaries between the people and the power, you can either influence up, at the power, or influence down and get more regular folks to believe that what they do, no matter how small, can make a difference. And if you were like me, unfamiliar with the menagerie of acronyms and political names peppered into regular speech, you would feel that the train has already passed you by. The system is just that, a system. Working tirelessly within it makes as much sense as standing in a rain storm to stay dry.

Everyone has their place. That’s what makes us people. The insider insight of HRC would be of no value without the balls-out civil disobedience of Get Equal, and vice versa. I have never seen a group of likeminded people so split on between two equally valuable poles. We are lucky enough, in a way, to live in a time when our political workings have some structure. But when your erector set becomes handcuffs its time to rethink. Queer people, queer activists: Do you want to change your own little corner of the sky, or ensure that everyone with you on the ground has a chance to flex their muscles?

Think about it. In the meantime, I’m done letting others tell me what’ right for me.


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13 Comments »

  • Andrew said:

    Nice work Zach. And that is a badass arrest photo I must say. They even sent out emails to all the Hill staff about a ‘disturbance’ in the Rotunda – I made sure to let our queer hill group that it was our people.

  • Charles Butler said:

    “I complain a lot, and criticize, but rarely have I felt so close to creating the actual change that I think is needed in our queer universe.”

    This brought me to tears. With these words, you could have been writing my feelings about yesterday’s action. I’m proud to have been with you, and I hope to be sitting next to you for the next cause.

  • scantron said:

    great photo!

  • Scott said:

    Inspiring! And very astute. If everyone would choose just ONE thing that they are mercilessly passionate about and just commit balls-to-the-wall to CHANGE, things would shift and progress would be made.

  • Julia said:

    I’m proud of you, Zack!

  • Hans said:

    Excellent!

  • Nathan said:

    Way to go. I am amazed, given hoe fucked our nation is that more people are not fed up. I stood watching a fat banker get into his new Ferrari last night and pondered how many pissed off homeless people it would take to flip it over.

    We need more civil disturbance, and this is why I refuse to be polite when I encounter people who are promoting anti-equality and financial servitude.

    Fuck this, “I respect the hard choice” bullshit we hear between our representatives, you are either for equality or you are fucked in the head bigot. NOTHING IN BETWEEN.

  • Jeremy Gloff said:

    A very scary truth.

  • audiored said:

    “I stood watching a fat banker get into his new Ferrari last night and pondered how many pissed off homeless people it would take to flip it over.”

    I love this.

  • Between Floating and Leeching: The Financial Struggle of the LGBT Activist | ZackFord Blogs said:

    [...] suits and host his posh cocktail parties while others are doing their best with grassroots activism and direct action that is essentially unfunded. Joe can afford to take time from his work duties to travel while [...]

  • Pam's House Blend:: Between Floating and Leeching: The Financial Struggle of the LGBT Activist said:

    [...] and host his posh cocktail parties while others are doing their best with grassroots activism and direct action that is essentially unfunded. Joe can afford to take time from his work duties to travel while [...]

  • alex said:

    I appreciate this since I wasn’t there.
    I want to ask about this though…..I don’t think you contradict yourself, but I want you to clarify:

    Your point about people who organize up (towards the powers) and ppl who organize down (towards the ppl), how its complimentary… GetEqual and HRC etc. Marriage, trans rights, disability awareness, etc.

    It seems like these different sectors of the “movement” or “community” were there…clashing, it sounds like, but present. Is the tension that everyone was fighting and criticizing the others?

    Bc I guess when I hear powers that be I think of the HRC and other wealthy, predom white groups pressed on marriage. But in accordance w/ your point that these groups are also part of the balance….. I guess that your (angerand) civil disobedience is the other part of that balance. Never mind I think I just answered my own question.

  • Zack Rosen’s Tips for Winning a NetRoots Scholarship: Don’t Get Naked Like I Did | Gay News from Gay Agenda - GayAgenda.com said:

    [...] but you will come out with some new perspectives and over time they can grow into something great. I had many complaints after last year’s conference, but after a year of reflection I can’t wait to go [...]

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