Saturday, January 31, 2009

Faith-Based Initiatives

Word has it that President Obama will name Pentecostal minister Josh DuBois head of the new and improved White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, recently born again as the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The 26 year old DuBois handled religious outreach for the Obama campaign. Since the President has pretty much decided that he is keeping the office, arguments for or against funding of faith-based organizations is moot. Those of us who believe in Separation of Church and State are supposed to rest assured since Mr. Obama has proclaimed that "If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion."

However, I wonder about Mr. DuBois. Aside from his thin managerial resume, his choice of religious allies is a cause for concern for lesbians and gays, their allies, and people who are against bigotry in general. He was responsible for including ex-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who has vowed to battle "the curse of homosexuality," in the Obama campaign's "Embrace the Change" gospel tour in South Carolina. DuBois countered outrage with spin:
This is another example of how Barack Obama is defying conventional wisdom about how politics is done and giving new meaning to meeting people at the grassroots level ... This concert tour is going to bring new people into the political process and engage people of faith in an unprecedented way.
Then he got Rick Warren to lead the invocation at the Presidential Inauguration. Should we see a pattern here?

Jennifer Vanasco, Editor in Chief of writes:
What it seems like to me is this: Obama’s religious outreach is not witchhunting or targeting gays in any way. But it also is not looking at us as important religious partners. Newsweek columnist Sally Quinn says that [Josh] DuBois was the person who first floated Rick Warren’s name as a possible inaugural speaker; DuBois, who was in charge of faith-based outreach for the Obama campaign, also put together the program that featured Donnie McClurkin, an “ex-gay” gospel singer who has said that “homosexuality is a curse.”

DuBois is young. I don’t think he did these things to send a message to gays and lesbians - I think he did those things because he doesn’t figure us in at all…

My hope is that gay religious organizations will approach DuBois’s office about funding their valuable social service programs that assist homeless queer youth, people with AIDS, and other disenfranchised LGBT communities. Any President’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships should not only be reaching out to Evangelicals - it should also be reaching out to us.
Perhaps it is DuBois' youth and inexperience - but he did go to Boston University, Princeton and Georgetown. Pretty diverse places with visible lesbians and gays. Or is he like many African American pastors who think that there is no place in God's table for homosexuals and transgendered individuals? Will his council be made up of people like McClurkin and Warren?

Perhaps we should talk about Separation of Church and State after all.

Related Post: Dispensable Constituency.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fair Act

Today, President Obama signed his first bill into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a much needed move towards ensuring equal pay for all. And in his own words, "upholding one of this nation's first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness."

He explains that it is not only about Ms. Ledbetter.
It's the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn - women of color even less - which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.

But equal pay is by no means just a women's issue - it's a family issue. It's about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition or child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where, when one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves, that's the difference between affording the mortgage - or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor's bills - or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple discrimination.

The president may as well have been talking about an all inclusive Employment Non-Discriminatory Act and telling the story of lesbians, gay, bisexuals and transgendered individuals who make less than straight coworkers, live in fear of losing their livelihoods because of who they are, and whose spouses and children suffer because of deep seated ignorance and bigotry.

True to his community organizing roots, Mr. Obama stresses the importance of civic and political participation.
Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. She could have decided that it wasn't worth the hassle and harassment that would inevitably come with speaking up for what she deserved. But instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than ten years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court, and lead to this bill which will help others get the justice she was denied.
Indeed we should follow Lilly Ledbetter's example and continue to fight for our civil rights. We should echo the president's words back again and again and again until he, our elected officials, and America as a nation live up to the history and ideals to which he eloquently rallies all. Until all Americans, people of color, women and LGBT are assured their rightful place in society.
... there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal - but bad for business - to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability. And that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook - it's about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

Ultimately, though, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are - and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals. Whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put to paper more than 200 years ago really mean something - to breathe new life into them with the more enlightened understandings of our time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fly on the Wall

Eight days into his presidency and Mr. Obama has already vigorously checked off items from his list of campaign promises plus some. He has ordered the closing of Guantanamo, banned the use of torture, mandated transparency, set lobbying boundaries, reversed abortion funding policy, allowed states to set their carbon emission rules, and assured Muslims worldwide that they are not the enemy. A dizzying array that would leave any Bushie and conservative nauseous. But what is going on with his promise to rectify this damning recession, starting with an economic stimulus bill?

Talking heads are scratching theirs and getting impatient. The President has a solid mandate partly won by the voters' assessment that Republicans are not the best when it comes to the economy, holding them responsible for this horrendous mess. The Democrats control both Houses of Congress and do not need the votes of the few surviving Republicans. So why is President Obama working so hard at placating pouty legislators who will oppose anything from Democrats because they can and they will?

Is it all strategy? Do the president and his Democratic host, knowing that Republicans will not play along, have no intention in the first place to accommodate Republican ideas and suggestions, and simply want to highlight Republican obstinacy and adherence to failed economic theories? Or do Obama, Pelosi and Reid want Republicans to sign off on a bill so should it fail, everyone is held accountable? Or is President Obama really serious about changing the culture and fostering bipartisanship?

Observing all this from an ant's perspective rather than a fly on the walls of power vantage point, I think that the new president is determined to shake things up, engender civility and come up with pragmatic policies. He has said as much and his early actions are consistent. And there is no doubt in my mind that there is some scheming, after all, this is politics and I do wish I had a fly's perch.

Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP file.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Promises Recalled

Since November, I had been overwhelmed many times by the idea that America's 44th president would be Barack Hussein Obama. However as idea became embodied yesterday, I let the tears stream down. I was shaking not much because of the cold but because a profound and fundamental change has come to pass and I was in the midst of it. Enlarged on the jumbotron was a face whose shade of skin and features are close to mine. The face of a man who has lived in and knows Southeast Asia. A man who has an Asian sister. A man with whom I share some core beliefs about community, justice and responsibility.

And as he was being sworn in, I recalled why I immigrated to the United States 18 years ago - the promise of America's freedoms and ideals. A promise that has, for the most part, been kept.

Nonetheless, though a Black man is now president, the fact remains that a significant number of African Americans, Asians, Latinos and people of color do not enjoy the prosperity, privileges and power White Americans enjoy. Gay and transgendered women and men are second class citizens denied the stability and security most straight Americans take for granted. Although I am fortunate in some ways, I, as a gay man of color, still dream of the day when I will truly be a full citizen.

Walking towards the Mall at the wee hours of January 20, 2009, alongside thousands of others determined to be part of this long-awaited and fought for change, I remembered the EDSA Revolution of 1986, when Filipinos collectively chanted "Tama Na!" - Enough! We peacefully protested against a brutal and corrupt dictatorship, and against all odds, prevailed. Then too were there tears and dancing. Disbelief. Relief. Euphoria.

But then the promise of a new order was never met and change was small. Inequity, poverty and corruption persist over two decades later.

Reality will also settle in for us sooner than we'd like to, but I do hope that President Obama keeps his promises and helps us "recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; Latino, Asian, and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled." And I hope that we heed his challenge "to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

Related posts: More Equal Than Others, People Power

Monday, January 19, 2009

Let the Light Shine Through

At a gathering last night celebrating Obama's inauguration, I was delighted to meet Judith Light partly because of the character she plays in Ugly Betty, and largely because of her tireless and passionate support of the LGBT community. She has worked hard for many LGBT charities, including the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the Point Foundation, on whose boards she sits. An outspoken AIDS activist, she played Ryan White's mother in a TV movie on his life. She is quoted as saying, "Bigotry or prejudice in any form is more than a problem; it is a deep-seated evil within our society. "

When I asked Ms. Light what she thought about Obama's choice of Rick Warren, she responded, "that was a bad decision." Although she tries to see the good in it. "This could be a learning moment for him (Barack)," to be more sensitive to a community that has fought hard for him and will continue to do so. But not blindly, especially after this.

I pointed out that our new leader has consistently intoned his "belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together -- Democrats, Republicans, independents; Latino, Asian and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not -- then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process." And his mere inclusion of gays in the tally can perhaps erode walls - fear, ignorance, prejudice - that keep us out.

But Ms. Light could only concede a weak maybe. "We need to be vigilant." She added that "we have to remind him of his own civil rights," that it was once denied to African Americans, Asians and other people of color. We agreed that we all need to make sure that the next president keeps his word and does bring in lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals into the fold with full and equal rights. Just as he has led by hand, conservatives and fundamentalists into his magical big tent, people who not only have rights but power and clearly, influence.

Another person I met, an ardent supporter of Obama, expressed her concerns about his reaching out to everyone. "I hope that he isn't too naive ... I hope the presidency doesn't ruin him." A few of us chimed in, "Oh, he isn't naive." On the contrary, he is a savvy politician from Chicago who climbed to the highest seat in the land in such as a short time.

Nonetheless, I do share Bishop Robinson's prayer at the celebration at Lincoln Memorial.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Related Posts: The Other Cheek; Fool Me Twice; It's Politics Stupid; Dispensable Constituency.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Time for Civility

Like other lucky Washingtonians, I got invited to an event this weekend. Well, actually an eight year old activist in training handed me a flyer on my way down the Dupont Circle Metro. It looks like this:

The website of the rally cum shoe throwing organized by the Kennebunks Peace Department, the Washington Peace Center, Code Pink, After Downing Street, Arrest Bush 2009, the Backbone Campaign, the DC Statehood Green Party, Our Spring Break, Progressive Democrats of America and others, explains:
We will be acting in the spirit of Mutadhar Al-Zaidi, the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush during a press conference “on behalf of the widows, orphans and all those killed in Iraq,” and in solidarity with the Iraqi people as well as all of those who gave their lives for a war based on a lie.

To watch Bush leave office and not be held accountable for war crimes and impeachable offenses is like rubbing salt into the wound. Congress wouldn’t hold Bush accountable but The People may get the last word. Let’s help ensure that Bush’s legacy is not being spun in the history books as something different than reality.

This action may not take away all of the pain suffered during the Bush regime but we will get satisfaction from the statement the act makes. The shoe hurling will be a historic marker. The visual of thousands of people hurling shoes at the White House as Bush leaves office will go around the globe and the people all over the world will let out a collective cheer. Please join us in being part of history!

The protesters also throw the sabaton at Obama:

We have a president-elect who can save himself from engaging in criminal wars and occupations, in torture and other war crimes, in warrantless spying and other violations of our Constitution, only by prosecuting the actions of his predecessor. Not to prosecute is itself a crime. If we are going to persuade the president elect, we must first persuade the U.S. media, and the U.S. media is not attracted by facts and information. The U.S. media is attracted by throwing shoes.

Now I won't miss Bush one bit, but is this necessary? He will be gone as of 12:01 p.m. the day after this spectacle. Other than fundamentalists and conservatives in denial, there is consensus that he was a bad president who caused a lot of pain, squandered trillions of dollars, and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands. He incited strife among us and inspired many to kill Americans and their allies. No matter how many times he and his minions declare that history will judge him kindly, it won't.

Why not harness this anger and frustration towards celebrating and supporting Obama and his administration? While a mob throwing shoes at the White House might be amusing and will get the attention these folks are banking on, it will not take away the pain. It will not accomplish anything. No minds will be changed, no policies enacted. Rather than waste time and stoke anger, why not apply pressure on Congress and the next President to help widows and orphans rebuild their lives? Why not advocate for measures that will avoid another over reaching presidency and omnipotent vice presidency?

I am all for dissent and action, but towards some tangible goal. And after eight years of incivility, isn't it time we try to be civil to one another? Yes, even to W.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Speaking Truth to Power

I am not a big fan of Al Sharpton. However, when I came across an article written by Matt Schafer of Southern Voice, I was blown away by the power of Sharpton's words. The firebrand pastor was preaching at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta.

“It amazes me when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when the they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being delegated into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners,” Sharpton told a packed audience on Jan. 11.

“There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people’s bedrooms and claim that God sent you,” Sharpton added.

“I am tired of seeing ministers who will preach homophobia by day, and then after they’re preaching, when the lights are off they go cruising for trade,” Sharpton said, his words generating a roar of response from the crowd.

“We know you’re not preaching the Bible, because if you were preaching the Bible we would have heard from you,” Sharpton said. “We would have heard from you when people were starving in California, when they deregulated the economy and crashed Wall Street you had nothing to say. When [alleged Ponzi schemer Bernie] Madoff made off with the money, you had nothing to say. When Bush took us to war chasing weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there you had nothing to say. … But all of a sudden when Proposition 8 came out you had so much to say, but since you stepped in the rain, we gonna step in the rain with you.”
Amen brother.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The World According to Burris

At a party last night, Roland Burris came up. Not to the dining table itself, but in conversation. The soon to be seated junior senator from Illinois must be getting his jollies knowing that he is the roast of the town.

Everyone agreed that legally, there was no reason to deny him Obama's seat. It was pointed out that Reid and the democrats made a bigger deal than warranted and ended up with a big mess. Yes, Blagojevich outsmarted them all, but they could have hashed it out without promoting the Blago & Burris Circus. And it does seem like Burris is clean.

However, what does it say about a man who accepts an appointment from a corrupt official? Who denies that race has nothing to do with it? Who is happy to go through a tainted process in order to acquire power? Who claims that he's not going to make a scene. "I don't want to give you all a circus." he promised. Yet here he is, the ringmaster, playing the democrats, media and all of us. And loving every minute of it.

But why shouldn't he? Clearly he is great. His memorial already awaits his passage to the next life (where surely his rewards will even be greater). Emblazoned on the monument are the Illinois seal, the very large inscription "Trail Blazer," followed by "First African-American in Illinois to Become:" and in bullets, all his illustrious posts such as "Exchange Student to the University of Hamburg." A veritable marble CV. I wonder though where he will squeeze in "Appointed Senator by Corrupt and Egomaniacal Governor."

More importantly, he has been anointed by God Himself. Now how can we argue with that? As the Chicago Sun Times reports:
"I am now the junior senator from the state of Illinois," he said from the pulpit of a South Side church on what he said was the eve of his trip to Washington.

Burris and his backers described his future in religious terms, saying his move to the U.S. Senate is preordained.

"Friends, we're going to have to have some powerful prayer. . . . They can't deny what the Lord has ordained,'' said Burris at New Covenant Baptist Church, 740 E. 77th, surrounded by ministers, politicians and activists.

He said he was humbled by the support but said Illinois couldn't send a better person to D.C., citing his history as a four-time-elected statewide officeholder.

What does this all say? Sad.

Image from M. Spencer Green/AP Photo.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas

Author, radio talk show host, and progressive thinker Matt Miller has been particularly busy this week, hawking his latest book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go Of The Old Ways Of Thinking To Unleash A New Prosperity. I saw him being interviewed by Stephen Colbert and discussing his ideas with David Brooks at the Center for American Progress. While Colbert was lap-slapping-tumble-out-of-a-treadmill hilarious, Brooks was effectively tongue in cheek and far more informative. Under Colbert's onslaught, Miller barely got half of the dead ideas out.

The overview of the book reads:
America is at a crossroads. In the face of global competition and rapid technological change, our economy is about to face its most severe test in nearly a century—one that will make the recent turmoil in the financial system look like a modest setback by comparison. Yet our leaders have failed to prepare us for what lies ahead because they are in the grip of a set of "dead ideas" about how a modern economy should work. They wrongly believe that
  • Our kids will earn more than we do
  • Free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt
  • Employers should be responsible for health coverage
  • Taxes hurt the economy
  • Schools are a local matter
  • Money follows merit
These ways of thinking—dubious at best and often dead wrong—are on a collision course with economic developments that are irreversible.
Miller invariably offers his own set of new and improved ideas that "can
reinvigorate our economy, our politics, and our day-to-day lives." By embracing what he calls "Tomorrow's Destined Ideas," we can secure a better fate.
  • Only Government Can Save Business
  • Only Business Can Save Liberalism
  • Only Higher Taxes Can Save the Economy (and the Planet)
  • Only the (Lower) Upper Class Can Save Us from Inequality
  • Only Better Living Can Save Sagging Paychecks
  • Only a Dose of "Nationalization" Can Save Local Schools
  • Only Lessons from Abroad Can Save American Ideals
  • From Dead to Destined Ideas
Miller wants to update capitalism since it no longer works. As he points out, it no longer leads to success. As individuals, we can no longer determine our economic destiny and count on hard work being repaid with comfort and stability. The current global economic crisis confirms that we are neck deep in quick sand. While the next president - his "holiness" as Brooks referred to him tongue firmly in cheek - might stave imminent catastrophe, real long term systemic change can only be accomplished through a paradigm shift as Miller suggests.

Although Brooks started by asking whether Miller is moving left from his centrist perch, Miller is quick to protest that his ideas are not based on ideology. At both the Colbert Report and Center for American Progress, Miller declared himself an "economically rational liberal" or "radical centrist." Whatever he is, he is a pragmatist, an appellation shared by Barack Obama. That seems to be the thing nowadays. Whatever it takes to make things work.

Perhaps that is what we need right now. Policies based on pragmatism not raw ideology. Ideas that come out of sound reasoning, not out of prescription and proscription. However, we should keep the baby while throwing out the water. Ideologies and ideals still have merit. They provide signposts and benchmarks toward an ideal state, a utopia (or dystopia). Liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Conservatism believes in god and country, small government and laissez faire capitalism.

The pragmatism of Obama is already costing. Tax cuts amounting to $300 billion or about 40% of his proposed stimulation package to appease and entice Republicans even though the amount is guaranteed not to trickle down. Elevation of a religious bigot as the most honored clergyman in America to coax fundamentalists into the big warm fuzzy tent. With nothing in writing that they will pay up when Obama cashes in his chips.

Miller's ideas appear sound and pragmatism may very well be our only way out of this really deep hole we're in. But as we claw our way out may we at least hold on to some ideals. And when we do get out, survive with a mindset that puts people first.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New Reality for Older Workers

The current recession has already cost hundreds of thousands their jobs - over half a million in November, 320,000 in October and 403,000 in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics - and more will likely join the unemployed and underemployed in 2009. At least 10.3 million Americans are currently unemployed. Some analysts predict the unemployment rate, which has reached a 15-year high at 6.7 percent, to top 9 percent by the end of the year.

At an Urban Institute panel discussion entitled Help Wanted: Mitigating the Recession's Toll on the Workers Most at Risk, experts discussed the added challenges and stark realities faced by vulnerable groups such as disadvantaged youth, African American men, single mothers, formerly incarcerated men and older Americans.

Richard Johnson, an economist specializing in health and income insecurity at older ages, pointed out that although earlier economic downturns affected older workers least in terms of getting laid off and making good wages, this time around women and men over 55 are in a more precarious situation. Last month 298,000 adults 65 and older were unemployed, about 50 percent more than in December 2007.

While their overall unemployment rate might still be lower than other groups, when they do lose their jobs they will less likely find work than younger people and those that do get employed will make far less money. Compound this with the fact that more small businesses and retail shops, which tend to be owned by or to hire older workers, are closing their doors every day. In short, the current recession is hitting older folks much harder.

Fewer older Americans can now afford to retire, faced with sagging home prices, slumping stock values, thinning employer-sponsored pension and retiree health plans, and rising health care costs.

The picture is bleak. But it gets uglier if one is an older gay individual, as is an estimated 3.5 million Americans. As AARP points out, "many older gays and lesbians face a wide range of problems concerning inheritance, retirement benefits, social services, health care, and more." Even if a couple has been together for decades, they are denied economic benefits heterosexual married people take for granted. Taxes are filed separately and at a higher combined amount. Shared health coverage and costs are not guaranteed. Pension and social security can not be inherited by a surviving partner. Hard earned wealth and property built together by a homosexual couple is heavily taxed upon the death of a partner.

It is going to be rough for some time. It continues to be rough for certain Americans.

Image from

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Although January 1 is a day like any other, we do make a lot of noise about it. It has become a convenient marker at which we get to proclaim that all begins anew, that we can be rid of all that is old, bad and sad, and welcome what we hope will be new, good and happy. We hope. And to help us out, some people take the time to come up with lists. Lists of what should be thrown out and what should be brought in. Even the venerable Washington Post has its own.

While I know that no one really takes these lists seriously and actually fashions his or her life after pronouncements of self-proclaimed stylistas - who would possibly abandon twittering for slow blogging? - I am a wee bit concerned that among the Post's top ten is gay rights. Apparently, gay rights out, vampire rights in. Surely, this is an attempt of some writer to be hip, phat, hot, or whatever the adjective du jour is, but.

Gay rights is not a trend. It is not a "phase" like the one most of us were supposed to have been going through. Like other human rights, it should not be a matter of fashion, of what is in and what is out. However, during the past few years, being gay or supportive of the "lifestyle" has become hot. Remember Will & Grace, Queer Eyes for the Straight Guy, designer homes and haute cusine? See Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi, or Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson everywhere? Heck, even Dougie Howser is out. I Kissed a Girl is topping the air waves. Now don't get me wrong, this has been a good thing. All this has made the LGBT community more visible and mainstream. But what happens when people move on to the the next "thing," the next cause, the next disaster?

Already, people have moved on from Proposition 8, the choice of Rick Warren and Barack the Magic Negro. Remember the South Asian Tsunami, Katrina, the anti-war protests, the anti-immigrant crackdowns and pro-immigrant rallies? While most of us have been diverted to the next great cause, those for whom we once raised our voices and fists, continue to struggle through dire need or injustice. Entire communities in South Asia and Louisiana have still to be rebuilt. War rages on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hard-working immigrants find it harder than ever to achieve the American Dream. Millions are still dying from AIDS. Billions are still hungry and poor.

So I do hope that we don't take these things too seriously and that we do not old causes be forgot and never brought to mind.

Image from Times Square Alliance.