Fighting to Lose

In anticipation of a gay march on Washington this year, and a challenge in the Supreme Court of the United States, many gay leaders are telling our people to calm down, wait, change will come.

The words of Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind, “…This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism…”

I’ve listened to commentary and read opinions all against a march on Washington and a fight in the courts.  It is interesting how we forget the history of this nation.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled against woman’s suffrage in 1875.  Two figures emerged from this struggle, Carrie Chapman Catt, who used peaceful rallies, meetings and orderly demonstrations, and Alice Paul, who launched furious attacks on Woodrow Wilson, compared him to Kaiser Wilhelm, set fire to his speeches, chained herself to the White House fence, and was eventually imprisoned and tortured.

Who had more of an impact on public opinion?

In the spring of 1961, two hundred young black leaders meet in Raleigh, NC to talk about strategy for civil rights.  Much like HRC professes to speak for they gay community today, these black men were discouraged by the lack of progress of the NAACP.

What was formed was SNCC, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.  Two leaders from SNCC, Stokely Carmichael and John Lewis eventual parted ways in much the same way the Alice Paul and Carrie Catt did.

Lewis’s vision was integration, reform within the system, and voter education.  He became a national leader for integration and civil rights.  Carmichael eventually joined the Black Panthers and popularized the term “Black Power!”

Said Carmichael, “Yeah, I’m violent.  Somebody touch me, I’ll break their arm!” and “The honkies don’t have love, can’t spell nonviolence, don’t know what religion is all about, and you know they ain’t got rhythm.  But they have power, that’s what they have.  Power over our lives!   So we got to get it clear; the thing we need is power.”

Who had more of an impact on public opinion?

Even in our corner of the world, on August 25, 1921, in Logan CountyWest Virginia, between 10,000 and 15,000 coal miners confronted company-paid private detectives in an effort to unionize the southwestern West Virginia mine counties.

The miners lost the battle which was eventually halted by the national guard.  This event and others galvanized the union movement and favorably swayed public opinion in favor of unionization of coal mines.

So I cannot help but think of these underdogs when the popular sentiment is to discourage marches and protests and instead rely on lobbying and education efforts.

“…when everyone agrees on something, it usually turns out to be wrong…”

So whether we’re talking about a march on Washington or a fight at the Supreme Court, it is not possible for us to loose this war.

There is no such thing as a step backward when it comes to progressing equality.  Every failure is a success.  Failure unites people; failure teaches us valuable lessons.  The longer we delay our failures, the longer we delay our success.

1 Comment


  1. While I agree in principle with the “squeaky wheel” aspect of these people’s decisions, I disagree that violence is the answer. Marches, yes. Rallies, yes. Voices RAISED in protest, yes. But violence begets violence, and these days sparks an even deeper and more pervasive hatred than already exists. Calm and reason *are* effective tools; complacency is absolutely not.

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