Monday, October 30, 2006


By Robert Halfhill
This letter to Michael Bayly was written after a Green Party of Minnesota meeting at which I brought up then Green Party Minneapolis City Council Member Natalie Johnson Lee's vote against a domestic partners ordinance. Subsequently, Johnson Lee voted for a stronger domestic partners ordinance and, still later, he aide called to thank me for a strongly worded letter I had sent to the Mayor and City Council about police brutality. I explained that it was precisely because of the oppression I had experience for being Gay that I became so enraged about oppression against African Americans and other groups. Although I cannot read Johnson Lee's mind, I am now proceding on the assumption that she understands that oppression of Gays is just as important and painful as oppression of other groups and I consider my issue with her resolved. However, the majority of the members of the Green Party are white, heterosexual and middle class and are thus shielded from and lack any understanding not only of oppression against Gays but, as recent discussions in the Green Party about the appointment of a new Police Chief demonstrate, any other minority oppression as well.
Dear Michael: I decided that I would send you this additional letter about the Green Party meeting on January 4, 2003. I am mostly angry -- really LIVID! -- than hurt or embarrassed over revealing intimate and private parts of my experiences and the reaction I received in a public meeting. Cam Gordon seemed sympathetic and concerned when I had phoned him about Johnson Lee's vote. The version of my letter that I handed out is enclosed. I made 50 copies but more people showed up. I was joking earlier that God must be determined that I would not distribute my letter since the weather reports were predicting freezing rain in Minnesota. I was afraid I would have a bad fall on the streets on top of the one I had a few weeks earlier as soon as I stepped out of my building. But, as you know, the freezing rain wasn't very bad in Minneapolis although I had to be alert for the occasional slippery spot. But before the meeting, Gordon, again nicely, told me that maybe I could coattail for a few minutes on Johnson Lee's presentation. I agreed but I later decided that the Green Party could AT LEAST devote ten minutes of their meeting to Gay rights. Can you imagine any of this shit being pulled on a woman or an African American if a Green public official had voted against fair (i.e. desegregated) housing or women's reproductive freedom! There were three elected officials on the agenda with five minutes for each official's statement and five minutes for questions. Johnson Lee did not show up but Dean Zimmermann and Anne Young did. By this time, I was beginning to worry that Cam Gordon would let the agenda items run on until there wouldn't be any time be any time for my point about Johnson Lee's vote against domestic partners. So when the five minutes for questions to Dean had run out, I pointed out that the time had expired... Gordon agreed and we went on to Annie Young. When the five minute question period for Annie Young had expired, I again pointed out that the time was up. Cam Gordon said in a loud stage whisper that they had appointed a timekeeper and "Don't be trying to do the timekeeper's job." I remembered that we had selected a timekeeper but he was apparently not doing his job since I had been keeping track with my watch and at least five minutes had passed. I kept quiet and let things drag on, although I was beginning to wonder whether I was going to have to begin speaking about Johnson Lee's vote and ignore and override any attempts to override me. However, Cam did keep his promise that we would get to my point and he announced that we were ready for Johnson Lee. She had not shown up, even though she had promised several people that she would try to make it. Cam asked me if I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about my point. I had earlier agreed to use just a few minutes but I replied that I had decided that the Green Party could at least allot ten minutes to this topic and that I would take up five minutes and the remaining time could be used for discussion. He said "okay," which was just as well since I had announced in so many words that I had decided that I was going to TAKE the full ten minutes. If a Green Party elected official had voted for segregation or against reproductive freedom, can you imagine them telling an African American or a woman that they "could take a few minutes" to discuss an elected Green official voting against African American or women's rights! I went over the points in the enclosed letter to LAVENDER quickly and continued on with why I became a Gay Separatist in the early 80's, which meant spending at least 90% of my time and effort in Gay organizations, since predominantly heterosexual organizations always made Gay rights priority number 32. The attitude seemed to be: "Oh sure, we support Gay rights. But now let's talk about something REALLY IMPORTANT." I continued by explaining why I had started working in predominantly heterosexual organizations again, since the Gay organizations had become conservative and none were democratic in the sense of having a MEMBERSHIP which met AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH and determined the policies the board would implement between meetings. Since I was starved for political contact and I was concerned about the issues, I was working in predominantly heterosexual organizations again. But I was not going to remain in a party whose elected officials were free to vote against Gay rights without any repercussions. I pointed out that if a Green Party elected official had voted against fair housing or reproductive freedom, they would have been expelled from the Party faster than you could say Jack Robinson. By the time I was getting nearly through summarizing my letter, let alone before I got to Gay Separatism, Cam Gordon was trying to interrupt me in that smooth way meeting chairs often use, continually saying "thank you, Bob, thank you, Bob..." But I barrelled right on ahead, ignoring his attempts to interrupt me. Two people said things along the lines of "We all agree with you, Bob" but there were no concrete suggestions about what to do about Natalie Johnson Lee's vote. Uncle David (David Strand) said that Johnson Lee was concerned that the ordinance would hurt small minority businesses that couldn't afford to pay domestic partner benefits. You may remember the time the Lavender Greens Caucus met at the Spirit of the Lakes church when Strand interrupted me for saying something I hadn't even said and then started undercutting me. I hope you can remember what that was about; all I can remember is that I was saying something about the Pride Committee. I was able to squash him that time by pointing out that I was not even saying that. It seems to be a personality trait of his, to undercut anyone who makes a strong statement. But whatever his motivation, the OBJECTIVE EFFECT of his statement was to undercut my attempt to hold Johnson Lee accountable. Cam Gordon said, right after Strand had finished, something to the effect that he was glad one Gay and Lesbian at the convention had a different view. I have by now heard three different versions about why Johnson Lee voted the way she did. The first was that she was trying to hold out for a broader ordinance that would include family members such as uncles and grandparents who were caring for a disabled family member. Even if that were her reason, it is strategically wrong to vote against a narrower ordinance because it doesn't have everything you want. You take what you can get and come back later for the rest. And in any case, I would not want this pattern to continue with Johnson Lee voting against Gay rights ordinances everytime because she is holding out for something broader or stronger. By this kind of reasoning, half a loaf is worse than none! The second versions is that she was afraid the Legislature would retaliate against the City by cutting our state aids even more than the otherwise would. Strand agreed with my critique of this excuse; that if you never tried to get anything because you were afraid of retaliation, then you would never get anything. And now this version that she was afraid the domestic partners ordinance would hurt small minority businesses that couldn't afford to offer domestic partner benefits. Johnson Lee is clearly coming up with different explanations each time she is confronted and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. And I don't buy any of her excuses. Furthermore, why are there always these excuses that it would hurt some other group when Gay rights ordinances are introduced? And thirdly, any business that could enter into a ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLAR contract with the City should clearly be able to pay domestic partner benefits to its one or two employees. And if the business were larger with many employees and the $100,000 contract with the City were only a small part of its business, then the excuse of being too small to offer domestic partner benefits wouldn't even be relevant. Around six or seven Green Party members had a meeting with Dean Zimmermann today (Monday, January 6th) to discuss Natalie Johnson Lee's vote. Johnson Lee was supposed to be there but she didn't show up. I expected as much! But we did find out that the STAR TRIBUNE srory about the passage of the ordinance is inaccurate. The domestic partners ordinance applies to businesses that sell more than $100,000 in goods and services to the City, not to businesses that have $100,000 in contracts with the City. But my earlier arguments is still sound. Any business big enough to sell ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS in goods and services to the City can clearly provide domestic partners benefits to its one or two employees. And if the $100,000 in goods and services it sells to the City is only a small part of its business and it has many employees, the excuse of being small doesn't apply. Yet another argument is that whenever there are proposals to increase the minimum wage, or to even have a minimum wage in the first place, provide unemployment benefits, institute social security benefits, etc, etc, there is always the argument that it will hurt small, marginal businesses. If we are ever to have any social benefits at all, there has to be a time when we bite the bullet and institute the benefits. As you can see from my letter to LAVENDER, I was trying to counter the argument that"You Gays don't really have it so bad compared to other minorities who are REALLY OPPRESSED." In fact, as we were coming up on that Green Party convention, I was afraid Natalie Johnson Lee was going to pull the race card on me and accuse me of racism just because I was criticizing an African American. I was also worried about her pulling the sexism card because she is a woman, even though criticizing a particular African American or woman is not expressing racism and sexism towards all African Americans or women. I must digress here about that there is a certain vice common in left wing groups, although I presume right wing groups have their own equivalent of this vice. There is a rush that comes with experiencing the emotion of righteous indignation and in giving vent to this emotion. This emotion is needed in many situations and the world would be a worse place without it. But when people are attuned to finding pretexts to have this rush and give vent to the emotion no matter whether it is appropriate or not, then it becomes a vice. I assume you have been around left wing political groups enough to have experienced the situation where a woman or African American or an Hispanic, etc accuses someone of racism or sexism and you end up with a whole room full of a mob of people passionately denouncing the designated scapegoat for sexism and racism. Another variant is sitting around in a "conscious raising" circle where one person says something and a second person picks at it as being sexist and racist, and a third person picks at what the second person said as sexist and racist, etc, etc. So I was envisioning worst case scenarios in which a whole room full of people were denouncing me for being sexist and racists. It didn't help when I called Freeman Wicklund to try to get his support with my attempt to hold Natalie Johnson Lee to account and read him my first version of my letter to LAVENDER. He said "maybe you need to forget that she's Black and not focus or her ethnicity." Here I was trying to counter an argument which I had experience MANY times before and he reacts by telling me that I need to forget she is Black. Whatever you say in trying to deal with this issue, someone is bound to find a way to twist it. Freeman had also referred in the conversation to one time Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Ed MaGa's antisemitic statements so, the next time I called him, I reminded him of his statement about MaGa, reminded him that MaGa always accused everyone who criticized him of being anti Indian and said that if he, knowing that MaGa would resort to playing the Indian card, tried to counter such accusations of being anti Indian in advance, he would feel ill used if someone told him that he needed to forget MaGa is an Indian. (Actually, I made this point in a letter I sent to him last Thursday which, since he is now living in Lakeville, he hadn't yet received by the time I called him again.) You may have gotten the idea that I have a negative opinion of Freeman Wicklund but you hopefully see that this is not the case since I made myself vulnerable enough to tell him what I am about to tell you. You will see that I trust him quite a bit given what I told him. I have only told this to psychotherapists and in psychotherapy group therapy sessions with the exception of one friend I told this too. I had not even thought about this for years until Columbine and other school shootings hit the news and I read about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's to go out in the surrounding neighborhood and start killing people and then hijack a plane and crash it into a crowded stadium. I had wondered why anyone would want to do that and then remembered that the constant insults, abuse and assaults I was subjected to for being perceived as Gay when I was 16 and in the tenth grade in high school had driven me to the point where what I wanted to do would have made Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold look like a pair of Mother Theresa's. I had been driven to the point where I wanted to strike back by destroying the whole world and killing everybody in it. My parents and the school officials got me transferred to another school where, although I never became Mr. Popularity, the abuse was considerably abate. I never told my parents, the school officials or anyone else what was in my mind at the time. After three weeks or so at the new school where I was free of the constant abuse, I decided that I really didn't want to destroy the whole world, although I still felt that I hated everyone else. After another three weeks, I decided that I really didn't hate EVERYBODY! Of course, it was extremely unlikely that I would have been able to carry out such grandiose plans to strike back. So if someone had been able to peer into my mind in the 1950's and into Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's minds in the 1990's, they would have been reasonably able to conclude that the probability of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold implementing their plans was much greater. But I want to emphasize one thing that those hetero perverts need to realize. Both Gay kids and heterosexual kids sometimes have the misfortune of falling to the bottom of the heterosexual perverts pecking orders. For the reasons I have covered in the enclosed articles,(1) I think Gays are less likely to retaliate violently. But when the heterosexual perverts experience the consequences of putting other heterosexual perverts at the bottom of their pecking order, the Eric Harrises and Dylan Klebolds are not JUSTIFIED in striking back against their tormentors by KILLING them and the heterosexual perverts do not DESERVE the consequences of their tormenting other heterosexual perverts. BUT THEY HAVE BROUGHT THE CONSEQUENCES ON THEMSELVES!(See http://halfhillviews.great/ --webpage article entitled "We Should Be Mad As Hell And Refuse To Take It Anymore.") Since, with one exception, I had never told anyone else about this outside of a therapeutic session, it was difficult to tell Freeman about this and my first few sentences were interrupted by hemming and hawing and stuttering. After all. if you tell someone this outside of a therapeutic setting, they might think you are psychotic! The reason I wanted to tell Freeman this is that, I was thinking, since so many people were arguing that Gay oppression is not "really like the other real oppressions," I had decided that maybe if I cited my own case as an example of the pain we experience, I could break through their denial of the real pain Gay oppression causes. I could just imagine "Oh, honey, did you get hurt?" coming out of the audience in that high, nelly voice they use to mock Gays. I told Freeman that if someone did that, I could just imagine myself flattening them on the floor with my fists. Freeman said I would probably be more effective if I didn't flatten anyone! Freeman understood what I was telling him and assured me that he didn't think I was psychotic. I had asked him if he thought I was psychotic without planning previously to do so in my need for reassurance after I had revealed such intimate details to him. We discussed how to handle it if I did decide to open myself. (I should add that at this point I don't now have any pent up desires to murder anyone.) I should also point out that I am not holding myself up as the worst case of Gay oppression. I think my case is above average in the degree of oppression but there are many Gays, such as Matthew Shepherd. who have had it worse than me. I haven't been burned at the stake but there must have been hundreds of thousands and even millions of Gays who endured being burned to death at the stake during the nearly two thousand year ascendancy of the Christ Crazies. I have never even served years or decades in prison for being Gay. Talking to Freeman Wicklund enabled me to toughen up my armor enough to feel like I could talk about this in public, but I also realized that I would be setting myself up to get really hurt if I expected that revealing this would make everybody understand and be sympathetic and supportive. I would have to be ready to really not care if the reaction was negative and realize that the reaction would say nothing about me and a great deal about the heterosexual perverts who would be responding negatively. However, I arrived at the meeting thinking that I would just go over the points in my LAVENDER letter and that I really didn't need to put myself through such an intimate disclosure. Hopefully there would be some discussion and the people at the meeting would be outraged over Johnson Lee's anti Gay vote the same way they would be outraged over an anti Black or an anti women vote by a Green Council member. But after Natalie Johnson Lee's vote was briefly discussed, I had the feeling that the people at the meeting had just brushed the issue aside and hadn't really responded with the outrage the matter deserved. During the intermission, a straight guy I was talking to said that Gays were oppressed socially but not economically as other minorities were. I told him about my own case and added that my case was no where near the worst cases of Gay oppression. At the end of the second part of the meeting, there was the part where people assessed the emotional tone of the meeting. I took the time to say that I felt alienated by the response I had gotten, explained my own case, and cited one example other than Matthew Shepherd of a Gay who had experienced even worse oppression than I. The ADVOCATE had cited the case of a sixteen year old Florida boy in the 1950's who was given LIFE in prison for "being a confirmed homosexual." I don't know if he is still serving life in some Florida prison but he would be about my age by now and have been locked up for around fifty years if he hasn't been murdered by the other inmates. But, you know something, even if he got out on parole after a few years, he has still had it worse than me. Bill Kingsberry was chairing this part of the meeting and he attempted to interupt and shut me up in that same smooth way that Cam Gordon had, repeating "Thank you, Bob, Thank you, Bob." I as before barrelled right on ahead while not permitting him the interupt and shut me up. Bill Kingsberry was clearly angry with me, although he gave me a ride home as he had promised. He said I was "off topic" and misusing the evaluation part of the meeting to discuss the issue over again. I asked David Strand if I had gotten my point across and instead of replying directly, he said I was probably the best person to represent this issue. As I was trying to get feedback from a few people, this, presumably heterosexual woman was listening and began to talk when there was an opening in the conversation. Looking back, I can see that there was an undercurrent of anger in her voice as she began to tell me what's what/tell me off. She said that she knew whenever I began to speak that I was going to talk longer than anyone, that my speech would not be in the easily understandable form of points one, two, three, etc and that my presentation would be "anecdotal." And that she was not interested in my personal life; she was just interested in the issues. I replied, "But can't you see the importance of the degree of oppression of what I just told you?" I could detect the anger in her voice as she turned away and said in a hard voice, "no." She had clearly gotten if off her chest and finished "telling me off." I realized that I had clearly succeeded in my resolve to not care about and be indifferent to the reaction of these heterosexual perverts. Her reaction literally meant no more to me than it would have if I had learned that someone on the other side of the world in Nairobi or Ulan Bator or Melbourne had a negative opinion of me. If she can't see the degree of pain and hurt that would make someone want to strike back by destroying the whole world and reduce the whole thing to just "your personal life," THERE'S JUST NO WAY YOU CAN GET THROUGH TO THESE PEOPLE! I would have been hurt and embarrassed by this response to making myself so vulnerable if I had nothardened my armor after discussing it with Freeman Wicklund. If these people can't see the degree of hurt and pain and therefore oppression contained in this story, then it says more, far more, about them than me! As for being "anecdotal," I suppose all those women at the Take Back The Night marches who told stories of being abused by their male partners as he held a gun to her head while threatening to kill her and all those women who went around wearing T-shirts that said "I survived rape" and "I survived incest" were just bending our ears about their personal lives and just being "anecdotal." And as you can see from my letter to LAVENDER, I did have my points laid out in one, two, three, four order and only her anger and heterocentrism prevented her from seeing those points. Her only valid point is that, because of my obsessive compulsiveness, I can drive people up the wall with my compulsion to dot every i and cross every t. But in the context of my attempting to convey the depth of pain that can be caused by Gay oppression, using this to justify her anger is like using a molehill to justify a mountain! It is also equivalent to straining at the gnat and passing the camel. I don't know whether I want to continue to try to educate these people. There have been and are cultures where the population consists primarily of hetero, breeder perverts but that are accepting of Gays and that, I presume, don't devalue Gay concerns. But in a culture with an accumulated cultural heritage of two thousand years of homophobia and that is just coming off this two thousand year heritage, it may be impossible to get through to the present generation. There is a Green educational conference coming up on January 25th. I have been thinking maybe I would just keep my options open until then. I arrived first for the meeting that had been scheduled with Green Party City Council members Dean Zimmermann and Natalie Johnson Lee on Monday, January 6th. (AS I previously said, Natalie Johnson Lee didn't show up.) Bill Kingsberry arrived next as I was waiting in the outer office. I calmly explained to him that maybe he didn't understand the intensity that Gay oppression could reach in that he might have gone through school without it being obvious to his peer group that he was Gay and that he was therefore accepted by his peers. He said "yes" so I assumed he understood. I said I felt it was justified to push at the meeting to get extra discussion of Gay issues given the lack of understanding that was present. I had told him Saturday that I didn't see why my reaction as a Gay person to the Green convention was irrelevant while the reactions of all the people who were coming from presumably non Gay perspectives was relevant. On Saturday I had said at the convention that there should be an educational on Gay issues and that it should be part of a regular Green Party meeting so people would just not attend it. Cam Gordon agreed although I don't know if it will happen if I don't stay around to push for it. I don't know if it will happen if I do push for it; they might just keep putting me off. And even if it does happen. I doubt that it will do any good; as I said earlier, YOU JUST CAN'T REACH THESE PEOPLE! Bill Kingsberry said that he always thought that the part of the meeting where people assessed the emotional tone of the meeting was to comment on the emotional tenor of the meeting rather than ones emotional reaction to the meeting. After thinking about it, I suppose I can grasp this distinction; I suppose he means commenting on whether the meeting bogged down or proceded smoothly, whether it was disorganized or organized, whether it had accomplished all the tasks it had set itself to accomplish in the agenda, whether there was emotional rancor of friendliness between people at the meeting, etc. But if African Americans had misused an agenda point to get their issues discussed at a meeting during the heigth of segregation and Jim Crow, I don't really think it would be with the African Americans that the primary amount of blame would lie. I remember an article in the MILITANT, the newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party, from the early 1970's in which the first mention of Gay appeared. The article complained about "the Gay Women" taking up time at a meeting "to insist that their issues be discussed" when "that wasn't the purposed of the meeting." Well, you know, if this was the first time "the Gay Women" had been able to get their issues discussed at a feminist meeting, they were probably justified in kicking over the traces and DEMANDING that their issues be discussed. But another thought occurred to me as I was writing the above paragraph. Maybe I am being too modest, in a perverse sense, in thinking that the degree of pain I experienced from being oppressed as Gay is only somewhat above average; maybe it is WAY ABOVE AVERAGE, although as I have pointed out with the cases of the 16 year old Florida boy and Matthew Shepherd, there are many Gays who have had it much worse than me. Maybe that is why the other Gays around me don't understand why I have pushed so hard on this issue. But on the other hand, maybe my degree of pain is not THAT UNIQUE. There are many Gays right here on the streets of Minneapolis who are homeless and in the last stages of chemical dependency because of the oppression they have experienced. And statistics do clearly demonstrate that our rates of alcoholism, chemical dependency and suicide are significantly higher than other groups. (Living on the same planet with those heterosexual perverts would drive anybody to drink, drugs and suicide!) So there is no argument about it; regardless of the lower amounts of oppression that some Gays immediately around me have suffered, if we are drinking and drugging ourselves to death and killing ourselves in such higher numbers, then our oppression is clearly not trivial in comparison to those other groups who are "really oppressed." During the meeting at City Hall, Dean Zimmermann talked about how close an adherence to the Green Party platform we could demand. With respect to the parking lot he voted for, it was nearer to the store where people shopped and thus got them out of teir cars sooner. On the other hand, if we didn't want to do anything to promote the automobile, maybe we shouldn't build parking lots or even streets. How could we demand absolute adherence when parts of the Green Party platform contradicted each other. I pointed out that this was clearly different from voting against the human rights of a key constituent group of the party. Looking back on the meeting, this was clearly a smokescreen designed to obscure the issue. Any Green Party public official who voted against the rights of African Americans, women, etc would be expelled from the Party forthwith. And the statistics on chemical dependency and suicide conclusively that the pain we experience because of Gay oppression is NOT trivial and inconsequential compared to what other groups have to endure. And my guard goes up whenever anyone starts philosophizing about the impossibility of complete adherence to the Green Party platform when the philosophizing is in the context of a meeting called to discuss a Green Party City Council Member's voting against Gay rights by voting against a domestic partners ordinance! As we were walking out of City Hall, one of our group mentioned the "diversity committee." I made one of my sarcastic remarks about "it didn't matter if Party elected officials were going to be free to vote against the rights of different groups." Bill Kingsberry burst out with something to the effect of "there are other perspectives; I disagree with you!" If he really doesn't see the importance of requiring elected Green Party public officials to support our rights along with the rights of other groups, I am going to have to start talking about Uncle Bill along with uncle David. Many of the people in this Lavender Greens caucus are in need of massive gut transplants! As if there were no objective truth or falsity and it is only a matter of "different perspectives." Well if it is all a matter of different perspectives, the view that there are different perspectives is itself a particular perspective. And if it is only a particular perspective, there are perspectives in which sentences are objectively true or false. And if there are perspectives in which truth claims are objectively true or false, they are objectively true or false period and the other perspectives are objectively false. But of course, most liberals are too stupid to comprehend any argument involving self reference. So, after Saturday's Green Party convention, I am not sure if it is worth continuing to fool with that party or not. Maybe I could be more effective if I just acted on my own as an individual. I have often thought of distributing on the public streets leaflets on why five black robed buffoons on the Supreme Court forbidding us from counting all the ballots is no more legitimate than a coup by five military generals who forbid us from counting all the ballots or leaflets about how my insights about how situations like the HIV positive Parchman inmates, the immolation of the Branch Davidians, etc demonstrate that our society is in essence no more just than some of the third world dictatorships, regardless of comparative quibbles about the particular numbers of people subjected to these horrifying experiences. Liberty and justice for all. Sure!"


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