A quiet, constructive revolution that will have profound social effects, possibly in time for November’s presidential election but most surely way beyond that, has been in the works ever since President Obama shook the foundations of the national consciousness more than most have realized when, earlier this year, he removed any limits, both in his personal convictions and political objectives, to full and equal protection under the law for all Americans.
The annual national dinner of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s leading organization fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, was once again sold out last Saturday night as over 3,000 crowded into the Washington, D.C. convention center.
But unlike past years, when headliners were entertainers like Lady Gaga or Bette Midler, this time the tone that emanated from the stage was of a more ponderous nature. Not that political leaders, including President Obama himself, have not addressed this dinner in the past, but this time no one could mistake the aim of such speakers for partisan electoral objectives.
While Academy Award-winning screenwriter Justin Lance Black was the top openly-gay speaker Saturday, of the three others, two were national African-American civil rights leaders and the third was one of the most authentic and socially-concerned of Hollywood actresses.
Two macho African-Americans, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey and Ben Jealous, the head of the nation’s largest civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), gave barn-burning, pro-equality speeches that rallied the large crowd into a veritable frenzy. They cut loose with their best preacherman-style rhetoric to both convince the audience of their own convictions for full equality, but also to pump new energy into the equal rights advocates in the room.
This should send shock waves through the bastions of the nation’s establishment. It bears resemblance to the alliances that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was beginning to forge – linking the anti-war and pro-labor movements with that for racial justice – that provoked his assassination in 1968.
Could it be that after 45 years of the dissembling divide-and-conquer domestic counter-insurgency that followed the King assassination, the natural bonds of alliances of common interests could again be forming that will overwhelm the tiny one percent that gains from the exploitation of the rest of us?
President Obama set the stage for this with his unqualified support for gay marriage earlier this year, removing the final barrier for him personally and for the political cause he leads that perpetuated division among all victims of injustice and discrimination.
With Obama setting this new tone, the stubborn opposition to LGBT causes that had held sway in the nation’s African-American churches, in particular, immediately began to evaporate. The passionate speech making by Booker and Jealous at the Human Rights Dinner last weekend showed how far this has already come.
Also, the new leadership of the HRC, while acknowledging that the organization is technically non-partisan, did not hesitate last Saturday to affirm that, in the case of the coming election, one party clearly stands for equality, and the other for denying it.
Attempts by some on the GOP side to woo LGBT support have been dashed by the angry, vituperative assaults on women and LGBT folk coming from right-wing state legislatures and national political leaders in the past year. With the “outing” of these true sentiments, as openly-gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank put it recently, any LGBT person backing the GOP can only do so by apologizing for it, and not by touting its virtues.
The other major speaker at the HRC dinner was actress Sally Field. Introduced by her gay son, Field was revolutionary in her own way by affirming that “nature made Sam (her son)” that included being “given colors and innate perceptions that his big brothers simply don’t have. He’s a gentler nature, and it is a gift.”
Being LGBT is more than just a sexual orientation, she, as a mother, attested. It is having a different nature. Contemporary culture tries to depict LGBT people as frivolous captives of a petty consumerism. But in reality, through history we’ve been at the forefront of many great and constructive, well, revolutions.