“To me, if a heterosexual has the right to do it, then I have the right to do it.” — Harvey Fierstein
Personal to Barack Obama: Well done sir!
It’s about time a president came out in support of gay rights.
The President Comes Out
Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage was a watershed event in LGBTQIA history. It’s like Hubert Humphrey simultaneously electrifying and appalling the 1948 Democratic National Convention with his “bright sunshine” civil rights speech.
Oh hell, here’s the meaty paragraph of Humphrey’s thunderous call for equality for the nation’s blacks:
“To those who say, my friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late! To those who say this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!”
Humphrey Comes Out
Humphrey’s passionate speech is credited with pushing enough fence sitters over to the civil rights side of the argument that had been raging within the party. After black soldiers fought and died for the US in World War II, the call began to go up for equality on the homefront. Black activists, northern urban bosses, and liberals beat the drum for civil rights. Most southern Dems at the time were racist white men to whom the ideas of integration and voting rights for blacks were as horrifying as, well, the idea of two men or two women marrying are today to most Republicans.
Political insiders thought the Dems would never accept a civil rights platform in ’48 but after Humphrey’s heartfelt, courageous plea, the party did.
Humphrey took a huge chance, going up to the dais and arguing the case for dark skinned Americans. He gambled with his political career. He gambled as well with the future of the Democratic Party. The southerners soon thereafter began to drift away from the Dems. Strom Thurmond got so huffy that he cranked up his own party, the short lived Dixiecrats, dedicated to segregation, Jim Crow laws, and those euphemistic “states’ rights.” The “Solid South” eventually took up permanent residence within the GOP.
Obama’s statement the other day isn’t as dramatic as Humphrey’s was. Still, it’s in the ballpark. A politician — a being traditionally loath to alienating even a sliver of the electorate — steps up and says To hell with it all: I have to say what needs to be said.
Of course, the argument can be made that Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage will alienate no one — those who are sickened by the idea of gay marriage likely wouldn’t have voted for him anyway. And the endorsement now probably will energize his base.
My take is Obama always was in favor of gay marriage all along but was hesitant to say so for fear of teeing off the black Christian community. His advisers probably told him those folks weren’t going to vote for the GOP ticket no matter what he said.
A STAND AGAINST MURDEROUS HATE
So it’s a fortuitous coincidence that I’m in the middle of re-reading Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods.” In it, he describes his attempt to hike the 2000-mile-plus Appalachian Trail.
When he hits the Pennsylvania leg of his journey he mentions a terribly tragic tale of murder on that part of the trail.
I did a little research and now will flesh out the story of Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight. In 1988, the two young women were hiking the AT. They happened to be a couple. A 29-year-old man who essentially lived on the trail encountered them and, apparently suspicious, tailed them. It seems he saw the two exchanging words and gestures that proved they were lesbians. He didn’t care much for the notion; he also carried a .22-caliber rifle.
He Carried A Rifle
Claudia and Rebecca were spooked by the guy but eventually lost sight of him as they hiked. By late afternoon, they’d found a nice clearing in which to set up their camp for the night. They looked around and determined that they were alone. With nightfall approaching, they also figured any other hikers would be setting up camp as well so they believed they had enough privacy to engage in a bit of au naturel lovemaking.
Now, this was a scene that might inspire poets and painters. Certainly Sappho made a name for herself describing such encounters. Who among us, after all, hasn’t fantasized partaking of a “refreshment” (h/t to Mark Twain) in such an edenic setting?
What with the gentle breeze, the setting sun, the chirp of birds, the buzz of bees (hopefully far off), and the soft blanket of clover underneath them, Claudia and Rebecca were surely in a state of near-ecstasy when eight shots rang out.
One shot hit Claudia in the arm, another in the face. Three more shots peppered her head and neck. A shot also hit Rebecca in the head; a second entered her back and exploded her liver. One of the shots missed. The two tried to flee but Rebecca’s injuries were far too severe for her to get far. She directed Claudia to go for the police while she lay in the forest. Claudia did everything she could to stanch her partner’s bleeding before she left.
Claudia stumbled through the woods for four miles and finally reached a road. She tried to flag down a ride but, partially dressed and covered in blood, she apparently freaked out the occupants of the first car that came along and it sped past her. A second car stopped and raced her to the nearest town. The cops dashed off to where Claudia said her mate was waiting. Claudia was taken to the hospital.
While in the hospital, Claudia learned Rebecca had been found dead. The cops also found a knit cap, 25 bullets, and the rifle in a spot 82 feet from where the two women had been making love. The items belonged to a man named Stephen Carr.
Carr was found a week and a half later hiding out in a Mennonite community. He told police he’d come north from Florida, which he left because he was sickened by the sight of men kissing in public there. At his trial, Carr claimed the sight of the two women making love turned him mad with rage. He also claimed to have been raped as a child as well as in prison before the shooting. Carr’s attorney eventually agreed to enter a guilty plea on his behalf in exchange for life without parole.
Brenner wrote a book, “Eight Bullets: One Woman’s Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence.” She went on to become an activist against gay-bashing.
One more thing: Claudia and Rebecca had driven to Pennsylvania for their leisurely hike. They’d parked their car in a lot at Dead Woman Hollow.
The growing acceptance of LGBTQIA people, punctuated by Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, certainly won’t stop lunatics like Stephen Carr from hating queers. But at least they know now that the person in the White House isn’t on their side.
Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Exhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st
◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery — Exhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th
◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center — Exhibits at various galleries: Angela Hendrix-Petry, Benjamin Pines, Nate Johnson, and Yang Chen; all through May 29th
◗ Trinity Episcopal Church — Art exhibit, “Creation,” collaborative mosaic tile project; through May 31st
◗ Monroe County Public Library — Art exhibit, “Muse Whisperings,” water color paintings by residents of Sterling House; through May 31st
◗ Monroe County History Center — Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th
◗ Buskirk-Chumley Theater — Cardinal Stage Company presents “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”; 2 & 7pm
◗ IU Cinema — Film, “The Kid with a Bike”; 6:30pm
◗ Bear’s Place — Ryder Film Series, “Keyhole”; 7pm — “444 The Last Day on Earth”; 7:45pm