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A tsunami alters the political landscape

The Resistance surges as Republicans dig new ditches

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Democratic victories, gay news, Washington Blade

Judge Roy Moore speaks at the Values Voter Summit on Oct. 13. (Image courtesy YouTube)

Rarely are America’s best and worst juxtaposed as vividly as they were last week. On one hand, progressive spirits were revived by Democratic victories that brought to power a fresh influx of women, LGBT folk, and people of color in state and local elections. On the other, our president sided overseas with despots, and some on the far right rallied around an extreme senate candidate even after he was credibly accused of molesting a 14-year-old.

The election highlights were enough to warm this old activist’s soul. Transgender journalist Danica Roem unseated Virginia Del. Bob Marshall, the sponsor of a failed “bathroom bill” who proudly dubbed himself the state’s “chief homophobe.” At least fourteen more of his Republican colleagues were defeated by Democrats, most of them women. Jenny Durkan was elected the first lesbian mayor of Seattle. Liberian refugee Wilmot Collins was elected mayor of Helena, Montana. Black trans candidates Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham were elected to the Minneapolis City Council. Six women of color were elected to the Boston City Council. Ravi Bhalla, a Sikh, was elected mayor of Hoboken in a race that included gay candidate Michael DeFusco and anonymous racist dirty tricks. Ralph Northam was elected Virginia governor by nine points over Ed Gillespie, who wooed Trump’s base with a viciously xenophobic campaign.

Trump’s growing toxicity was further highlighted when his ploy of labeling any unwelcome news as fake was challenged by a well-corroborated, extensively sourced Washington Post story exposing Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore’s pedophilia. Some Republicans in the deep-red state declared they would stand by him even if it were true. The result of this hypocrisy and moral incoherence is that a remorseless predator, at this writing, is a Republican nominee for the United States Senate.

Horrified by this prospect, many Republican senators hid behind an “if true” caveat in distancing themselves from Moore. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, said straight out, “I believe Leigh Corfman.” Now Steve Bannon has launched a Breitbart smear campaign against Corfman and the other Moore accusers.

Moore insists his angry tribal god trumps the Constitution he swore to uphold. He was twice removed from the bench for flouting the rule of law, specifically defying federal courts. Democratic nominee Doug Jones, by contrast, is the former U.S. Attorney who prosecuted two of the Klansmen who took part in the notorious 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four little girls.

Christopher Hitchens in 2010 stated why there could be no peace in the Middle East: “Because the parties of God have a veto on it.” Those parties worship tribal deities and serve their own tribes or factions, not the common good.

America’s only party of God is the GOP. It serves plutocrats and white Christian men, and will stop at nothing to preserve their privilege to the exclusion of others. Denying the reality of our societal diversity leaves us weak, stupid, and less safe. Fortunately, reality is dawning on millions whose healthcare is threatened.

One wonders whether there are any values Republicans are not ready to betray for power. Even allegiance to his country eludes Trump. He tweeted on trade disputes, “I don’t blame China, I blame the incompetence of past Admins.” The genius added, “How can you blame China for taking advantage of people that had no clue?” On Russian election meddling, he believes Putin. Sen. John McCain sternly replied, “There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community.”

18 USC 2381 states, “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States… adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason.”

Meanwhile, Republican senators confirm unqualified people to federal judgeships, and prepare to give billionaires a tax windfall while our infrastructure crumbles.

If you are fed up with con artists defiling the banners of faith, flag, and family, and with those who reward them, then do what so many did so powerfully on November 7 and vote. With added resolve, you can do as one grassroots organization urges: Run for Something. That is how we will help our country live out the meaning of its creed.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at [email protected].

Copyright © 2017 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. lnm3921

    November 13, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Moore’s denials are as credible as Bill Clinton’s over Monika Lewisky! The difference is Moore is a dirty old man hypocrite condemning others over sodomy and being immoral when he should be a registered offender! If he gets elected it goes to show the lack of integrity the state of Alabama has. If it was the Democrat or a liberal running, they would all be condemning him and demanding he step down immediately even before proving anything!

    • Rick Rosendall

      November 13, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      Yes. That’s the tribalism. Add postbellum bitterness, and you start to see why Alabama ranks near the bottom of states by many measures. But thanks to Trump it has metastasized, with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III attacking the Yankee Justice Department from within.

    • Dominic Pasquarosa

      November 17, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      funny,,this is what the right says too…..mmmmmm who’s mocking who?

  2. Rick Rosendall

    November 13, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    Postscript: Beverly Young Nelson’s account of being assaulted by a District Attorney when she was a teenage waitress is riveting, devastating, and painful to watch. But please do. At its base it is about abuse of power. Ms. Nelson found the courage to come forward because of the four women who came forward before her. If Roy Moore does not end his senate candidacy, Alabama voters will face a test of their soul. Democratic candidate Doug Jones prosecuted two Klansmen who took part in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair. The choice could not be more stark. Do the right thing, Alabama. Or you could cling to your bitterness that has kept you at the bottom of state rankings in multiple measures for so long.
    https://youtu.be/tHPOm6yIy6k

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Commentary

Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages

Iconic work explored sadness, rage, irony, and love of humanity

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Stephen Sondheim (Screen capture via CBS)

“The only regret I have in life is giving you birth,” his mother wrote in a letter to Stephen Sondheim.

The only regret so many of us feel now is that Sondheim, the iconic composer and lyricist, died on Nov. 26 at his Roxbury, Conn. home at age 91.

He is survived by Jeffrey Romley, whom he married in 2017, and Walter Sondheim, a half-brother.

F. Richard Pappas, his lawyer and friend, told the New York Times that the cause of death was unknown, and that Sondheim had died suddenly. The day before he passed away, Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, Pappas told the Times.

“Every day a little death,” Sondheim wrote in “A Little Night Music.”

This isn’t the case with the passing of Sondheim. Whether you’re a Broadway star or a tone-deaf aficionado like me, you’ll sorely miss Sondheim, who the Times aptly called “one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans.”

Like multitudes of his fans, I don’t remember a time in my life when a song from a Sondheim musical hasn’t been in my head.

When I was a child, my parents repeatedly played the cast album of “Gypsy,” the 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. My folks loved the story of the show, which was loosely based on the life of the burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Ethel Merman belt out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses!” When I need to jumpstart my creative juices, I remember that “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

In college, I felt that “Company,” the 1970 musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth, spoke to my generation. 

As was the case with Sondheim’s musicals, “Company” didn’t have a conventional plot, happy ending, or tidy resolution. It takes place during Bobby’s 35th birthday party. Bobby, who is single, is celebrating with his friends (straight, married couples). Bobby likes having friends but doesn’t want to get married.

Sondheim didn’t come out as gay until he was 40. Yet, even in the 1970s, it was hard not to think that Bobby in “Company” wasn’t gay.

Once you’ve heard Elaine Stritch sing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company,” it becomes indelibly etched in your brain.

Who else but Sondheim could have written, “And here’s to the girls who play/smart-/Aren’t they a gas/Rushing to their classes in optical art,/Wishing it would pass/Another long exhausting day/Another thousand dollars/A matinee, a Pinter play/Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s/I’ll drink to that/And one for Mahler!”

In September, I, along with legions of other theater lovers, were thrilled when Sondheim told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” that he was working with David Ives on a new musical called “Square One.”

In his musicals from “Follies” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Sunday in the Park with George,” Sondheim, through his lyrics and music, revealed the internal depths of his characters and the sadness, tenderness, bitterness, rage, irony, wit, and love of humanity. Sondheim’s wordplay was so brilliant that he did crossword puzzles for New York magazine.

Over his decades-long career, Sondheim won every award imaginable from the Pulitzer Prize for “Sunday in the Park with George” to the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to him by President Barack Obama in 2015). He received more than a dozen Tony Awards for his Broadway musicals and revivals as well as a Tony Award for lifetime achievement in 2008.

Thankfully, Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages.

A remake of “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, premieres this month.

Sondheim is a character in the Netflix film “tick, tick BOOM!,” directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The movie is based on an autobiographical posthumous Jonathan Larson (the composer of “Rent”) musical. Sondheim is supportive of Larson’s work.

Thank you Stephen, for your art! R.I.P.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Publish trans employment stats

Not enough corporations that march in Pride are hiring non-binary staff

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On Nov. 10, the top-tier consulting firm McKinsey published a report on discrimination toward trans people in the workplace. The report came out with numbers that we have all known true for a long time and lead to one conclusion: Trans people have a harder time finding jobs, holding them down, and advancing in their careers. 

Specifically, McKinsey cited the fact that cisgender people are twice as likely to be employed as trans people, and that more than half of trans employees are uncomfortable being out at work. Meanwhile, cisgender employees make 32% more than trans employees in the workplace, even if those trans employees hold the same positions or higher positions. 

On top of this, trans people are 2.4 times more likely to be working in the food and retail industries, which pay entry level wages that are much less than decent pay. 

These statistics are true based on a number of factors. For one, many trans people have a harder time passing at work, and people who don’t pass well face worse job prospects. (As a side note, on top of that, the study pointed to the fact that many trans people exert undue emotional and psychological energy into trying to pass really well and not be discriminated against, which takes a toll on their mental health.) 

So what is a concrete step that corporations can take to make the trans experience in the workplace better? It’s time that corporations step up their game by publishing and making transparent the number of trans employees that they actually hire. Such numbers can be published in any kind of company document: a pamphlet, online report, or even annual shareholder’s report. As it is, most corporations do not publish numbers on LGBT employees. 

“Rainbow capitalism” is a term we know all too well: major corporations and multinationals flaunting a rainbow and trans pride flag during the month of June, but seemingly doing little to hire more trans people or give back to the community during other months. 

Every corporation surely has the time and company-wide infrastructure to get statistics on their trans employees. All they need to do is implement a company-wide survey to new hires. This takes extremely little effort and time in the grand scheme of company workings. 

If major corporations like McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, defense contractors, and hundreds of other huge companies published statistics on trans employees, they would be held accountable for their actions and words.

If these statistics were to be published today, we would probably find out that not enough corporations that march in Pride parades are hiring trans and gender nonconforming employees. 

Turning the numbers against corporations will ensure that these same corporations finally live up to their words about workplace inclusion and diversity. It won’t cure everything about the issue of being trans in the workplace, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation

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It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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