Say, whose side am I on, anyway?

I suppose it is a good question to wonder “What side of a political divide am I on?” Well, it’s not easy to say, for I don’t see politics as this binary – for or against – Democrat or Republican – and that’s your choice, too bad and take it attitude. I think it’s more a mush pit where one might be a bit more discerning than simply “one or the other.” Supposedly, because I’m a gay man I should be a Democrat, and only vote for Democrats – blindly so, even – though I don’t know why. In my years on earth I never found the Democrats to be particularly gay friendly. Oh, sure, plenty of lip service, for the votes of course, of blind people certainly.

Yet, when fully 1/3 of the Democratic party membership is vociferously anti-gay I really can’t bring myself to vote for a Democrat because they’re “Automatically” pro-gay – for they are not. I have found nothing in the Democratic party platform that is particularly pro-gay. Yet, I’m just told this: Gay = Democrat – even by many Republicans, which I find odd too. For they don’t seem to think that Straight = Republican, and there seem to be quite a few heteros among the Democrats too. And truth be told, gay Republicans! Wow! How could that be? Maybe they’re thinkers rather than followers, go ask them.

And then, if I say, “Well, I didn’t like the Obama bailouts of big banks” I get told “You’re a Republican who love the rich and hate the poor.” I don’t know. Why? How could that be so? For if George Bush was an evil rich man who gave $500 billion to banks to bail them out – and he did, sort of – and I was opposed to that – how does that make me a Republican? I was against the bailouts – I didn’t like Bush or his Patriot Act – I opposed much else he did – I despised his deficits – for deficits are the worst, regardless of what it is spent on.

But surely as I was against the bailouts by Bush – I was equally opposed to the bailouts by Obama – I can’t see the difference between them. In fact, when Obama ran against Cain – they both blithely said they would bailout the banks – they both loved this TARP – and I begged everyone to vote for the Libertarian. But I was told no, I had to vote for either one or the other because that was my “choice” – dictated to me – and that because I’m a gay man – well, it simply had to be Obama. Why? Beats me. No one can explain it to me. At least not beyond a platitude or a personal attack.

Back to the gay thing – Obama, Biden and Clinton, and Pelosi too, and Al Gore and John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean – all of the hierarchy of the Democratic Party repeatedly said “No gay marriage.” Over and over again – in candidate forums, in debates, in interviews, on TV, in public forums, on the radio – I heard it so many times I was quite convinced that they were indeed – not For gay marriage whatsoever. I can’t help it if some silly gay folks didn’t believe them. But when a bevy of politicians all of a single stripe keep repeating the same thing over and over again, well, then, I believe them. One should believe one’s politicians, no?

Or should I have been cynical and thought, “Oh, they’re just lying to get some votes of the No Gay Marriage part of the Democratic Party and they’ll repeal DOMA once they got into office? Beats me, no one can explain this to me – other than “Democrats are pro-gay.” Yes, well, they do a great job of hiding it, you think?

And lo, they got into such positions of power as to outright control both Houses of Congress and the Presidency – and they, quite amazingly, kept their campaign pledge: they did not repeal DOMA – Well, because they are For me, any day, now, I’m told, because well, Democrats who ran for office on the Not Going to Repeal DOMA and “I’m against gay marriage” pledge were just funnin’ me. Aw, sweet folks. Beats me why anyone would not have believed them when they told you, repeatedly, that’s what they wanted to do – Not repeal DOMA – and yet, still, gays cling to this starry eyed “Democrats are for gays.” Yes, well, I’m sure, any day now. Does that mean Republicans are for us? Absolutely not? Who told you to go vote for those folks? Not me. I argued against McCain as much as against Obama.

And then, well, because I said “Don’t vote Democratic Party, they are for bank bails and against gay marriage” it was said I was automatically a Republican. Why? Are there no other parties in the land? Is not one other political party on the ballot? Indeed there are, dozens of ’em. Conservative, Green, Red, Socialist, Communist, Nazi, People’s, Workers, People’s Workers, Socialist Workers, Christian Socialists, (it’s gets crazy on the left, as they try to sort out their differences between international and national and regional socialism and who has the best Trotsky, Marx, Lenin or Mao credentials – I leave that all to them. Depends on the locale.

And exactly one, as near as I can tell, is for gay marriage and against bank bailouts – the Libertarians. So I urge people to vote Libertarian like, since, oh forever. But then I’m told I’m wasting my vote. How so? How is a vote wasted at all if you are voting for the man or woman you want to win? I would think voting for a person who publicly declares to be against what I am for is a far great waste than voting for someone I agree with, who, might, with Providence shining down, might get in. Hell, maybe the Democrat or Republican candidates would both die before the swearing in – ergo, the Libertarian as the third biggest vote taker might get in.

Even in the calculus that Libertarians will “never” win – then what difference does it make? I make a point of principle and I am thus the happier than if I pulled the lever for either Obama or McCain – for they would make me unhappy. I value happiness more than unhappiness, I assure you. And by voting for the man of my choice, I got happy – and by not voting for someone who I disagreed with I actually cut their mandate by at least 1 vote. Why give people seeking power a mandate of more votes, to pad their tally, when they will do then more of what I don’t want? That makes no sense.

But I go further – back when I was in New York University in ’80-’85 – oh yea, a BA in Politics I do possess, along with a BA in Business, with minors in History, Philosophy and, yes, Mathematical Applications in Politics, Business, History and Philosophy – I am no slouch in the educated department – I was even made fun of for actually reading the entirety of every professor’s “suggested reading” on their syllabus, even by some of the professors!

I recall a Professor Greenburg, he wanted us to write about the Welfare system – oh, the good classmates did – straight from the heart, without a fact or clue or figure or idea other than “Oh, we got to help the poor.” Emotional liberal pablum of the finest sort. Well, I went down to the welfare office, and stood in line, and applied, filled in the paperwork, brought in my documentation – and had the interview, for I wanted to see what on earth the thing was – and when I handed in my paper the professor looked at me and said “You did what?” “I applied …” “Why?” “I want to help the poor, but now I know that the system is screwy, so here’s my policy recommendations.” “Well, I never …” he said – and replied, “Yes, well, that’s the problem now isn’t it – why don’t you assign the students to apply for welfare to see what it’s like, rather than give us mush from the soft part of heart and brain?”

Still, I found this same conundrum: it was declared, simply declared, by this or that professor, that I was clearly a Democrat – or, a Republican. And sometimes, I was called a Socialist, even once or twice a Communist! And other time a raving anarchist come to burn down Congress. Well, at least in the beginning of the classes. And then, well, then as things got going through the semesters the professors realized something else entirely – I seemed to be some rational Liberty based, Constitutionalist with a strong reliance on the Declaration of Independence who was willing to look at every single angle to a thing, pull it apart and put it back together and help the poor get rich while I was at it, in a practical way.

Indeed, oh, so many stories I recall from my college days – of simply torturing professors who were of the binary mode who kept trying to squash me into one side or the other. Ah, but things are more complex, no? For instance, with a Professor Pecorella in a political history of America class – he asked me once, thinking to trap me into something, maybe, with a sarcastic tone of voice – “And I suppose you think the railways did this free market thing when building the transcontinental lines?” And I answered, with nary a moment’s hesitation “Oh, absolutely not – the government handed vast swaths of land in mile wide bands across the nation, far wider than the tracks need be, so that the railroads could sell the extra land to raise the funds on Wall Street and in London, where the most was raised in the post Civil War years, so that they could build the tracks – it was quite a bit of crony capitalism too.” And he looked at me and said, “OK, then, this is different.” For those were the facts – I could give a damn about some theory.

I had a History of Law professor once, who was droning on about the wonders of the Eastern Block, once. He kept blathering about how the newspapers were so free in Prague and Warsaw, and happy people with wondrous and modern free health care wrote in to the editors with their suggestions for a better progressive live for all in communal harmony, blah blah blah. And the class, alas, sat there and gobbled it in like turkeys fattened for a feast – and finally, after a good 20 minutes of this mush, I simply politely blurted out: “That’s not what my Uncle John says.” And the professor, quite taken aback, looked at me with some nasty “I’m in charge here,” look, and said “And who the hell is your Uncle John?” And the class sneered at me, as a “Republican” or a “Conservative” no doubt, for they were good Liberals, of course, and for the people.

“Oh, he’s Dr Jan Klima, and he’s the head of all the pediatrics at the hospitals in Prague, and he’s a card carrying communist party member in good standing, or else, and he’s panicked to say a word to anyone. In fact, he’s coming to America next month, should I bring him to class for show and tell? In fact, I have many cousins, dozens of ’em, that would be more than glad to tell you the horrors there. I can translate for those whose English is rough.” And I smiled at him, and he glowered, and presto, we moved onto some more interesting things. Of course this was the same professor who never heard of the word “Potable” or how it might be pronounced – and well, I told him and the class – it meas “Pot-Able” PO/ta/ble, as in water being useful for a pot to cook with. Egad, what else did the man not know?

I had other such fun times, a book could be written. But the highlight was, when in my fourth year of my five year double degree program, Professor Pecorella, who came to quite enjoy me, told me this story: “You were the topic of a Politics department faculty meeting.”

“Oh, really? Why was that?”

“Well, I brought you up, but not by name, but just as ‘a student I had’ and was trying to explain you – and then several other professors, Brams, Ollman, Nalbanthian, etc, said they too had a student who was impossible to pigeonhole and just fascinating to listen to.”

“And yes?”

“And well, as we sat around, and others said they had one, just one student, like that, several years ago, or last semester, it became increasingly clear that as we all tried to pinpoint down exactly where you stood on anything, that you were the only one we were all talking about – and your name came up and everyone agreed – you are simply the strangest student any of us have ever had.”

“Oh really? Yes, well, that’s what happens when you have family in the Czech Republic in a Communist state, you work full time for a living in a Minority Owned Business, and hang out in a gay bar in the Village, while living off campus and fighting your landlord in housing court acting as your own attorney. One gets a different perspective, eh?”

“I guess one does,” was all he could say. He was not the only professor who thought I should run for political office. Alas, that was back in the 1980s, and openly gay men with a Libertarian help the poor get rich and cut the taxes, too, and don’t tell me about Republicans or Democrats, attitude just weren’t going to get elected in New York City, or anywhere else, for that matter. Probably still couldn’t.

Except, well, then there’s Bruce Harris, the new gay African-American Republican mayor in Chatham Borough, New Jersey – so maybe there is hope for me, and I should try again to enter the fray. Hmm. I don’t have much else to do.

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3 Comments

  1. While I’m loathe to admit this, I believe the calculus isn’t “vote democrat because they’re pro-gay.” It’s something more akin to “vote against republicans because they’re rabidly anti-gay and their rhetoric pushes the public consciousness further in that direction than does the carefully scripted quasi support of some democrats.” I don’t love that at all. I’d prefer to be able to get excited about my vote. But it’s not the world I live in. I’m angry that democrats haven’t repealed DOMA and passed ENDA, but I’m certain that DADT wouldn’t have been repealed under a republican administration and I’m equally certain that DOMA would continue to be enforced rather than ignored at a federal level.

    You’re right to say that we don’t live in binary world: our only choice isn’t R or D. But when we have to cast a vote, we can’t let our disgust with what’s on the menu blind us to what it’s going to taste like. For now anyway, democrats do a little better for gay rights than republicans. It’s not enough and it’s disgustingly little, actually. But I’ll take it!

  2. True, Joel — being whipped or beaten is not much of a choice — and thus — how shall we flagellate ourselves — It’s not easy — but as I have contended — argue within both parties — and thus for us gays who lean left — argue to them, and for those who lean right — argue to them — for we don’t need this or that side “for” us — we need all 320,000,000 Americans for us. 🙂

    Though, only one party is “pro-gay” as we see it – the Libertarians — which is just another flavor. — but one so much sweeter.

  3. “The rights that we have under the Constitution covers anything we want to do, as long as its not harmful. I can’t see any way in the world that being a gay can cause damage to somebody else,”

    Barry Goldwater (American Politician and Senator, 1909-1998)

    There was a time in America, when gayness was a Conservative issue; not “gay rights” per se – but rather, equal rights for everyone. Sadly, there were few Conservatives in those days – so Conservatives began to court the religious right. The religious right got to call themselves “Conservatives” instead of “Right Wing Religious Fanatics”, and Conservatives got to swell their ranks. Eventually, this gave us George W. Bush, who not only opposed the concept of equal rights for everyone, he spent money like a super liberal (Barry Goldwater would have been appalled.) So, you don’t always get what you want, especially in political leaders.

    The thing I’ve found about Libertarians is they sound good at first – “We should reduce the size of the Federal government, and cut taxes!” – but, they’re never far away from, “…and legalize heroin and prostitution, and cut Social Security!”

    Enjoyed your reminiscences of college days, too!

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