The morning the Norwegians announced that President Obama had won the Noble Peace Prize, I thought of my niece. When she was five years old, she was having difficulties learning to read. I asked my brother what the problem was and he said, “Turns out, there are a few letters she doesn’t agree with.” He said she had issues with both consonants and vowels. She found the lower-case letter “e” most loathsome.
My niece’s stance surprised me. I had never thought opposition to the alphabet was an option. When I heard the vehement reaction to the Peace prize being awarded to President Obama, I was surprised again. Again, I didn’t know that was a public option. I had naively forgotten the uproar that greets the peace prize every year. You can’t have anything nice anymore.
One gal’s naivete is another gal’s optimism. When I watched the craven cave-ins in the healthcare debate as single payer plans became public options, became co-ops and triggers, I hoped for a last minute Spine Flu vaccination that would isolate the plague of insurance and big pharma and embolden legislators to pass a healthcare plan that would be a true monument to the lifelong work of Ted Kennedy. Silly me.
When I watched the banksters take seven hundred billion dollars and then give themselves bonuses for their strong performance while ignoring calls for regulation, I was glad that my monthly statement has that “This page left intentionally blank.” It’s like a Hazmat glove. It helps me get the dang thing out of the envelope and into a hanging file without ever having to look at the descending steps of the graph of my very individual retirement fund.
When President Obama appeared at a big-ticket cummerbundestag DC dinner, I had my usual gay schizophrenia: excited he was there, yet suspicious from old Clinton collateral damage. Obama reassured the crowd that his administration had a plan to repeal the Clinton-era Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, the Defense of Marriage Act and actually spoke clearly of men loving men and women loving women. He said he knew what it was like to be told to wait. I would have been more optimistic if he hadn’t sounded a little bit like that chain-smoky-voiced guy from the Men’s Wearhouse ads: “You’re gonna like how you look; I guarantee it.”
But the next day in the energetic sea of LGBT possibility that was the Equality March in Washington DC, I let my grumpy guard down. At least 200,000 LGBTs and allies paraded onto the Capitol lawn, to press the president to keep his promises on LGBT equality. Still quite white, the crowd was mostly in their twenties, and their imaginative protest chants and signage had little of the vitriol of earlier teabagging, tax-protesting, birther, tenther protests. The only exposed guns I saw were on a fabulous lesbian from Alexandria.
The march was like watching my retirement plan pass before my eyes. This is my niece’s generation. And twenty years later, I am happy to report that my niece loves to read. She lives in Philadelphia and works as a community organizer with the First Suburbs Project, a coalition of community organizations and institutions focused on solving common challenges facing Pennsylvania’s older, developed suburbs: economic investment, declining infrastructure, struggling school districts, and social services lagging behind the needs of residents. She keeps me up to speed on her work via e-mail. Small e.
Kate “Anglicans are better singers” Clinton