On the Moral March

I didn’t plan to write about the Mass Moral March, (also known as HKonJ) which took place this last weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina. But I was chided by another minister for tweeting about the Olympics opening ceremony, when the Raleigh march was surely more weighty and deserving material. I demurred, but I thought I should look further into it.

I watched some videos, looked at a bunch of pictures taken by participants (good to see what’s valued) and read news reports, blog posts and official organizing material.

To be clear: I don’t dispute that tens of thousands of people participated and that many (perhaps most) found it personally meaningful and vitally enriching. Also, that North Carolina’s political climate has pushed far to the right. But if the Unitarian Universalist part — I’ve heard there were a thousand or so present — is any sign of what Movementarianism might be (or become), we should fold our tents up now and save our heirs the bother. Not only must we be careful to cultivate a sensitive and responsive character, but also cultivate shrewd and effective methods for what we must be. What must be, not just doing what we desire.

I’ll state up front that I’m not impressed by the politics of the mass march. For one, I live in Washington, D.C., where they used to be common, and have seen them deflate in numbers and influence for years. Today, they border on performance art. (See also, “Getting arrested to make a point.”) So the New York Times didn’t cover it? It wasn’t a national story. (It was well covered in the North Carolina press.)

And even when I took part in marches as a younger man, though the 90s, it was clear that their best days and staunchest advocates predated me. So the Raleigh march’s tag — “Most massive moral rally in the South since Selma!” — is a tell: wistful Boomers, here’s your second chance. And so while there are some people who honestly think they’re doing some good by marching, I can’t help but spy some Civil War Rights Era re-enacting going on. Fine if that’s your goal, but that’s not what’s needed.

This march had three problems, for which there’s no easy answer except substituting another action.

First, there’s a name for New Englanders who come South to score political points; two actually. Carpetbagger is one; legislator is another. (Did you notice how some of the marchers made their North Carolina-ness plain on their T-shirts or signs?) It’s no secret that some of quite conservative members of Southern legislatures are about as Southern as a Moxie or a lobster roll. This is not 1964; the politics have changed, and Bull Connor is dead. (But you still need to live in North Carolina to vote there. Solidarity without power isn’t worth return postage.)

Second, can anyone for the life of me describe the desired and actionable outcomes of the march, in 25 words or less? The agenda was a long menu. Easy to imagine a fence-sitting legislator to say no to all of it, rather than having to defend parts of it. (I’ve read about legislation being introduced by HKonJ but — guessing at a few titles — don’t see anything that made it to committee.)

Third, the march went to such effort to be moral and “non-partisan” (as described in the organizing documents) yet looked both under-powered and coded as Democratic. Were there advocacy trainings? Legislator visits (by actual North Carolinians)? If so, I’ll withdraw some of my objections.

The various goals of the march organizers are quite noble and praiseworthy, and so perhaps that’s all the reason some out-of-state Unitarian Universalists needed to show up. But I’d have sent cash to pay c4s to organize North Carolinians instead.

Calling North Carolina Unitarian Universalists…

A seminary classmate, the Rev. Martha Brown, contacted me to reach out to North Carolina Unitarian Universalists about a television project she’s working on. If you have “first-person accounts from North Carolinians who participated in the legendary March on Washington” please keep reading and contact her to participate in the video production.

I removed the contact info. Leave a comment and I’ll send it to you — to help keep the spam at bay. Perhaps.

And please pass the word.

Calling All Who Marched

(May 31, 2013) On a hot Wednesday afternoon in August 1963, thousands of Americans from all parts of the nation converged on the Washington Mall, determined in mind and spirit, demonstrating collectively for jobs, freedom, and equality. This day would go down in history as the pivotal March on Washington and culminate in the delivery of the now famous “I Have A Dream” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of that momentous event…were you there?

UNC-TV is seeking first-person accounts from North Carolinians who participated in the legendary March on Washington, which took place on Wednesday August 28, 1963. We want to know how you got there, what you experienced, was it life-changing or did it help you to make a difference in your community? From the child who was carried in her mother’s arms to the day’s young civil rights leaders and working class adults, every person present contributed to the overall spirit and energy of the movement, and it is important to acknowledge each one. Among those, however, are some very special stories.

Thanks to a PBS grant, UNC-TV has an opportunity to capture three of these special stories on video to share as local/national content online through the PBS Black Culture Connection hub and on-air.

If you participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, please sign the North Carolina March on Washington Roll Book by submitting your first, middle and last name (including maiden name), city of residence at the time of the March, current age, race or ethnic affiliation, whether you attended as a child, college student, or adult, and your current age (optional).

To be considered for the video feature, please submit all the information outlined above as well as a working telephone number and email address to contact you and, if possible two to three sentences about your journey to the March, your experience there, and any lasting impact.

Ensure that the March on Washington—the people, the purpose, the lasting impact—will be remembered into time…share your story!

Deborah Holt Noel
Producer, UNC-TV
[contact info]

Martha Brown
Production Associate
[contact info]

ObscuraCam to help build church web sites

ObscuraCam is a phone app for Android to help citizen-journalists obscure faces in crowd photographs and videos, say, in undemocratic societies.

It might be helpful in building your church’s website. You can use it to hide the faces of minors and other vulnerable persons, should your church’s policies require or recommend it.

Two examples:

image

Your blogger, anonymized.

image

Your blogger, who doesn’t want his book choices known. (It isn’t perfect.)

The bigger winners today in D.C. . . .

. . . are the same-sex couples in Maryland. I know: as a D.C. resident, I should be happiest the place I call home, but . . .

Last week, the Maryland Attorney General announced that, barring court action, the same-sex marriages contracted in other jurisdictions would be recognized in Maryland. This is good news (1) because the District of Columbia borders Maryland and (2) D.C. went the recognition route before proceeding with a marriage equality bill. (Admittedly, D.C. action was legislative, and D.C. had to test the waters because the Congress could swoop in and snap away a locally decided issue, but there are parallels worth noting.)

If you have a D.C. domestic partnership, marriage will give you no more rights or privileges within the District, apart from the dignity of marriage. (Which is no small thing, and it would be more if the the so-called Defense of Marriage Act didn’t exist.) D.C. Council has already filled in all the distinctions between domestic partnership and marriage through statute. Marriage becomes more valuable if you leave the District and enter a jurisdiction (Massachusetts, Vermont, Canada, South Africa, Nepal, presumably, as examples) where same-sex partners may marry or be recognized. (Makes for a handy vacation destination list, too.)

So enter the Marylanders, like my friend Terrance Heath and his soon-to-legally-wed-husband Rick Imirowicz, mentioned in today’s New York Times. (In my last pastorate, I dedicated their elder son. Golly, they grow.) This is their easiest shot at legal parity. Well, if you ignore DOMA. Which I don’t.

Don’t worry, Hubby and I will get our license in time. I’ll save you a cupcake.

  • Nice pictures of the day from DCist
  • “Can my boss do that?”

    Interfaith Worker Justice tomorrow launches a Web site called “Can My Boss Do That?” — a worker-oriented resource that uses a question-and-answer format to address labor rights. Some sections are state-specific. The facts can be a bit depressing, at first view. From a design point-of-view, I like how (1) it warns workers that employers might know that they if read it from work, and (2) how it formats properly for print-outs. Important for someone who prints and passes-along information.

    I had a chance to talk to IWJ executive director Kim Bobo about the project and her organization a few months ago — before the scope of the economic meltdown was well known. I’m convinced that her mission against wage theft and other outrages against working people are going to become even more important in the coming months and years. If this subject inspires you, be sure to buy or borrow a copy of her book, Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid—And What We Can Do About It. (Powell’s World of Books link)

    Unitarian Universalist interest: IWF gets or has gotten direct UUA, UUCF UUSC and Veatch funding. I consider that a serious endorsement.

    Spread the word.

    Saying no to the HRC to say yes to gay rights

    The Human Rights Campaign has been a continuing disappointment: for such a (allegedly) large organization, it seems to get so little done in the field of GLBT freedoms. Their headquarters is about half-way between my old apartment and my office, and I left scratching my head when I saw it. What did they do, apart from host dinners? Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan — who I think invests too much in convincing the people of the rightness of same-sex marriage — has been particularly savage in denouncing HRC today and in the past. My favorite line: “You will also notice that a handful of young non-professionals were able to organize in a few days what HRC has been incapable of doing in months or years. ”

    Referring to the the demonstration Saturday in opposition to Proposition 8, writer Rachel Balick oozes about how

    HRC was a ubiquitous presence at the Washington protest. Not only did I spot dozens of soaked HRC staffers and interns, I saw hundreds of HRC flags, shirts, hats, bags and pins.

    Really? I trust her when she says she saw her colleagues, but it wasn’t because the HRC organized the event. Government agents could have been present, too (and probably were, but on their own time; is is D.C.) and wouldn’t have any more conspicuous than the HRC staffers. And if merchandising is your proof of effectiveness, God help us all.

    By contrast, the NOW was — officially or not; I don’t quite care — very obviously present with large circular signs (see here for an example) and — here’s the important part — canvassers taking names. That’s taking advantage of a potent situation. Made me proud to be a lesbian. Er, no: but you know what I mean.

    So, having had enough and suspect of HRC’s big membership, I decided to quit my long-dead (to me) membership. And so I wrote:

    I am not using the Membership Center to sever any remaining relationship I may have with the HRC because it allowed no place for comment, and I want to make my reasons plain.

    I joined HRC four years ago — the day after the 2004 election — because I thought that in solidarity I could protect my freedoms as a gay man, and help defend my (but for the law) marriage. But while other, smaller group are able to mobilize our community around particular efforts, HRC seems stuck in a hapless state of branding, merchandising and publicity seeking. You failed me, so I did not give any more money. But given the HRC’s flabby way of identifying “members or supporters” I can’t be sure I’m still counted among the faithful. Since you continue to fail me, I refuse to be counted in your numbers.

    These days many individual Mormons are giving up their church memberships in protest of organized LDS action against our people. For some, to be sure, this is an act of disgust against an institution that has family ties but no real affection. I am also convinced that leaving this church is a crisis and a considerable loss. My feelings about the HRC do not rise to either of these; it is a garment that does not fit, does not wear and cannot be mended. Other groups will get my attention and money; my friends will get a copy of this letter.

    Dear friends: don’t we deserve a better GLBT advocacy movement? Yes, we do and yet we can. Go thou and do likewise.

    “No on Prop 8” site attacked

    Towleroad reports that the “No on Prop 8” Web site received a denial-of-service attack last night. Just the kind of thing you’d expect from the no-holds-barred opponents of same-sex marriage.

    Why? Surely because No on Prop 8 is raising money through that site. I donated last night before that attack, but used the Better Democrats portal, directed from the OpenLeft.com site. Try that one. But either way, be sure to donate.

    I’d hate to wake to an Obama administration knowing that the best chance so many couples have for legal marriage was extinguished.

    I do not consent to being searched in Metro

    O joy, o rapture! Metro has started random searches. Sounds like security theater to me, and I don’t intend to be a part of it. (Gladly, I walk to work and most shops.)

    If you enter a Metro station where a screening is taking place — they come before the fare gates — you have the right to leave, which I’ll likely do. And I intend to have a copy of the following with me:

    The Citizen’s Guide to Refusing DC Metro Searches

    Spread the word.