Dear Counter-Protesters at White Supremacist Rallies:
I get it. I do. White Supremacist groups are horrible. They are bigots and all they seem to want to do is spread violence and hatred. But they are people. And they do have rights, including the First Amendment right to free speech and to peaceably assemble. When I heard about what happened today in Sacramento, my heart sank. Those people (racists and bigots, but I feel the need to stress again that they are people) had a valid permit to hold their rally or protest or whatever they were calling their gathering. There were only about thirty of them, so you know just how unpopular these kinds of things really are. They had the right to be out in public at the state capitol spewing whatever nasty opinions they have. Several hundred counter-protesters showed up. While this is not necessarily bad, the counter protesters arrived only with the goal of preventing the original groups from using their rights. A brawl broke out and seven people were stabbed, many others hurt less seriously. This is wrong. I don’t like bigots, either, but they have the same Constitutional rights as you do. They have the right to express their opinions. You do NOT get the right to infringe on their rights because you don’t like what they have to say. Yes, bigots of all stripes are coming out of the woodwork more publicly these days, emboldened by eight years of racist hatred toward our black President and certain spray-tanned presumptive Republican nominees. But if they follow the rules and laws, then you need to as well. It’s that simple. Shouting them down, preventing them from using a valid permit to assemble, deliberately infringing on their rights does not send the message that racism is bad. It makes you look like racists and bigots. Speak out. Get your own permits and hold counter-rallies. Acting illegally this way makes you look like the people trying to keep little black children out of schools in the South. It makes you seem as irrational as judges and county clerks who refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. You are sinking to their level by acting this way, and I am ashamed.
So quit it. You may not like what they have to say, but you need to remember that they have the right to say it, period.
Another music legend is gone. This song Ralph Stanley performed on the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? pretty much sums up this year.
Just listening to Willie, thinking about my daddy and my grammy.
If you know me, you know I am not a fan of musicals, outside of a select few. But maybe the genre is catching up with me a bit, because I plan on seeing Hamilton when it hits LA. It might not have this cast, but I’m sure they’ll cast good people for the touring company. It’s scheduled to hit here in August 2017.
I’ve used this piece of music from Milk as part of a 9/11 post a couple of times now. It is, sadly, more appropriate today than after just about any mass shooting. Than any shooting at all since Harvey Milk’s assassination. Because there are a lot of conservatives out there refusing to acknowledge that this particular act of terror was aimed squarely at the LGBT community. Because this act was aimed squarely at the LGBT community. Because thugs and gangsters like ISIS teach people that homosexuality is worse than a sin. But it’s time for a little more than just the music.
Now I could’ve hunted down some footage of Harvey speaking these words himself; maybe that would’ve been better. But I’ve always found this ending scene from the movie so powerful. The thousands of candles, the river of candles, moving down the street in honor and memory of that man remind me that we are more than our labels, although in this case the label is a little important. I refuse to erase the gay people from this crime. And I refuse to give in to thugs and gangsters. I refuse to give in to hate. The only way to stop hate is with love. The only way to stop fear is to refuse to be afraid. The only way to end all this endless violence is to give people, all people, hope.
You gotta give ’em hope.
I’ve been thinking about Muhammad Ali all weekend. His death, while not entirely surprising, was still pretty stunning. The man was a cultural icon, and for people who were kids in the 70s, he was something of a superhero. He was quite literally everywhere. He was more animated than most of the cartoons we watched. He was charming and charismatic and he never, ever talked down to children. Of course we loved him.
But we didn’t know that much about him. Unless we had older relatives who liked boxing, we didn’t know much about the Rumble in the Jungle or the Thrilla in Manilla beyond the catchy names. We didn’t fully understand that he beat other men up for a living (more on my feelings about boxing in a moment). We didn’t know about his name change or conversion to Islam, and we certainly didn’t know about his association with the Nation of Islam or his defiance against the draft (unless we had older relatives who were passionately on one side or the other of that debate). We just knew he was cool and funny.
Ali was cool, but he was also revolutionary. He dared to fight being drafted into Vietnam by declaring himself a conscientious objector; his Islam was a religion of peace, and as a Muslim he would not kill people who had done nothing to him. (I’ve got to note here that my admiration of Ali’s resistance has no bearing on my respect for the young men and women who did go to Vietnam. They did what they believed was the right thing to do, just as Ali did, and they sacrificed so much in their battles over there. The blame for Vietnam will always belong to the politicians and military brass that dragged us into an unwinnable mire.) Ali’s beliefs and actions were unheard of at the time. He didn’t lie or run away. He stood up and said “No.” For a black man in the 1960s, that took undeniable strength and courage.
Muhammad Ali mattered less for what he did for a living than for what he did as a man. His resistance of the draft caused him to be stripped of his title and more than three years in the prime of his athletic life. He made that sacrifice willingly, knowing he might never go back to the ring, because he believed he was right. Some might call that egotistical, even hubris. I call it being a righteous human being.
I think boxing is barbaric. Not the part about two guys beating the hell out of each other; I can almost understand that. The barbarism comes in with the crowd cheering it on. (There is a lot to be said about the racial and class aspects of boxing, of how most fighters are lower class and people of color and how most of the promoters and audiences are higher class whites, but that would take a whole book to unravel adequately.) But Muhammad Ali brought an artistry to fighting that no one else has been able to replicate. He brought a showmanship and personality to a sport that was frankly pretty bereft of both. He won Olympic gold and the championship title three times. It wasn’t always pretty, and the beatings Ali took in the ring led to the Parkinson’s that ultimately took his life. No, I don’t like boxing at all. But I think Ali was a pretty damn good fighter. In all ways.
You know, I just didn’t want this one to be an overdose. I knew it was; I knew it as soon as the autopsy was over and no one came out and said words like “heart attack” or “brain aneurysm.” I knew it as soon as the rumor mill started generating stories about save shots and long-term hip problems and addiction specialists. I knew it and I hated it.
I still do.
And I still hoped against all hope that it wasn’t an overdose.
With the toxicology reports in, we now know without a doubt that an accidental overdose killed Prince. It just seems so. . . ordinary. Musicians die of overdoses all the time. Maybe I didn’t want it to be true because of the kind of artist Prince was. He was so intensely creative, so exuberant, so different. Prince was bigger than life, and this news of his death is so damn small. So yeah, even though I knew this was coming, it hurts just a little more than it should. We should be comforted knowing the cause of his death. Instead, I feel like the Universe has done Prince an injustice, making this supernova shooting star all too human with all the accompanying frailties.