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Joe Biden for president

He will put the genie of hate released by Trump back in the bottle

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Joe Biden, gay news, Washington Blade
Former Vice President Joe Biden (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

After Super Tuesday, the logical and wise choice for Democrats is to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden as our nominee. In the spirit of full disclosure in November 2018 I wrote we shouldn’t have anyone over 70 on the ticket. Yet we must respect that voters have spoken and the choices they have left us at this time are two white men nearing 80.

If one looks superficially at the two men left standing after a long primary battle both are infinitely better choices than the racist, sexist, homophobic pig now in the White House. Bernie Sanders is a firebrand who has stuck to a script for his 30 years in Congress but without any record of success. He recently suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail and now refuses to release his medical records. Then there is Joe Biden, with a nearly 50-year record of service in the Congress, an apparently healthy man with an overall record of moving the nation forward. There are some glaring flaws like his handling of the Clarence Thomas hearings and his vote on the Iraq war, and during the current campaign he obviously has had some trouble remembering specific facts and figures. No one is perfect.

However, looking a little closer at both candidates and their campaigns allows one to recognize without a doubt which is the far superior candidate to run against Donald Trump. That man is Joe Biden. This is a singular election and contrary to what people have said about previous ones for many this one may actually be the most important election of our lifetimes. We have a president who is creating chaos in the nation and the world. While people are digesting some of the outrageous things he is doing, he is riding roughshod over our Constitution and in the process destroying our democracy. 

People wake up each morning to find the president has perpetrated another outrage, released another middle of the night tweet storm attacking judges, individuals, world leaders, and anyone who dares disagree with him. People are on edge and they want a president who will restore normality and calm. That will become even clearer in the near future with Covid-19 threatening to override all other issues. They want a president who is honest and calm and will from day one restore our place in the world. They want a president who will move us forward without calling for a revolution. Biden will be that president.

Sanders has been losing ground because he has hoisted himself on his own petard. Yet he tries to blame everyone else for not winning. In 2016, he blamed millionaires and billionaires, today it’s only billionaires as he himself is now a multi-millionaire. He literally shrieks at the establishment mistakenly linking African-American voters to the establishment. The same African-American voters who have been marginalized by the establishment for years. He calls women and the LGBTQ+ community the establishment simply because after long struggles they gained some measure of equality though are still not equal in many ways in the eyes of the law. In his effort to attract young voters he offers a multitude of freebies. Free healthcare, free college, forgiveness of student debt and legalized marijuana on day one of his presidency. He is lucky in their zest for these things many of those young people disregard facts. Sanders cannot deliver on those promises without Congress and an example of that is his Medicare-for-all bill that has languished for years without even Democratic support. His vision for the future is a nirvana that sounds wonderful but like Trump who promised to open factories, build a wall, and open coal mines among other things he never did, Sanders will not be able to act on his promises but will create chaos while fighting for them.

Biden on the other hand has a record of accomplishment in Congress. He passed the Violence against Women Act; fought the NRA to pass the Brady bill, which Sanders voted against five times, and managed to also fight the NRA and pass a ban on assault weapons. What Biden promises is a steady movement forward on healthcare with a public option, a fight for free community college, moving forward on climate change and a way forward on gun control with plans that could actually be passed. 

Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist. What people hear is only the word socialist and they don’t like it even though most don’t really understand it. He didn’t help himself by saying how great he thought Castro was for Cuba. The word socialist will be like a stone around the neck of every down-ballot Democratic candidate from school board to United States Senate. He calls for raising taxes on everyone including the middle class to pay for his programs and yet has no real idea what they will cost. He scares people and they have had enough of being scared by Trump. 

Biden does recognize we must ensure the economy will work for everyone which it doesn’t now. I want Biden to name a younger woman of color as his vice president and to commit to championing the next generation of diverse leaders. And I want him to say unequivocally that he understands the biggest existential threat to our world is the climate crisis.

What Biden understands that Bernie Sanders does not is that our Founding Fathers (yes there should have been founding mothers) with all their flaws set up our government in a way that calls for compromise to move forward. Biden also has the best chance of putting the genie of hate Trump released back in the bottle. He understands we must always call out white nationalists, neo-Nazis, racists, sexists and homophobes who with Trump in the White House were given permission to destabilize our country.  

For all these reasons and more I have concluded Joe Biden is the candidate who is best able to move us forward in these difficult times, and to restore some sanity in our nation and in our dealings with the rest of the world. He is best able to head a ticket giving us the chance to keep the House of Representatives and a fighting chance to take back the Senate and rid us of ‘Moscow Mitch.’

I urge my fellow Democrats, independents and rational Republicans to join me in voting for Joe Biden. 

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

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Opinions

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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Commentary

It doesn’t take a miracle

Hanukkah a time for LGBTQ Jews to celebrate full identity

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(Public domain photo)

For Jews around the world, Sunday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah. The story of Hanukkah celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, a small and poorly armed group of Jews who took on, and defeated, one of the world’s most powerful armies. 

Upon entering Jerusalem, the Maccabees saw that there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s eternal flame for one night. But the oil lasted eight nights — enough time for new oil to be prepared. The eternal flame remained lit, and light triumphed over darkness.

The story of Hanukkah was a miracle. While we celebrate and commemorate that miracle, we should also remember that it doesn’t take a miracle for one person to make a difference. 

The entire world is shaking beneath our feet. The climate is in crisis and our planet is in danger. A viral contagion has claimed the lives of millions, and there’s no clear end in sight. Creeping authoritarianism threatens the entire world, including here at home.

Sometimes it seems like it will take a miracle to solve even one of these problems. The reason these problems seem so overwhelming is because they are — no one person can fix it themselves.

Here in the LGBTQ community, we have made enormous strides, and we ought to be proud of them. But there is so much more work to be done.

Not everyone in our community is treated equally, and not everyone has the same access to opportunity. Black, brown and trans LGBTQ people face systemic and structural disadvantages and discrimination and are at increased risk of violence and suicide. It must stop.

These are big problems too, and the LGBTQ people as a collective can help make the changes we need so that light triumphs over darkness. But it doesn’t take a miracle for individuals to light the spark.

Our movement is being held back by the creeping and dangerous narrative that insists that we choose between our identities instead of embracing all of them. 

The presentation of this false choice has fallen especially hard on LGBTQ Jews, many of whom feel a genuine connection to and support for Israel. They feel marginalized when asked to sideline their identity by being told that the world’s only Jewish state shouldn’t even have a place on the map. And they feel attacked when asked about the Israeli government’s policies during a conflict, as if they have some obligation to condemn them and take a stand simply because of their faith.

One of the ways we can shine our light is to fight for an LGBTQ community that is truly inclusive.

This holiday season, pledge to celebrate all aspects of your identity and the rights of LGBTQ people to define their own identities and choose their own paths. If you feel the pressure to keep any part of your identity in the closet, stand up to it and refuse to choose. 

In the face of enormous challenges that require collective action, we must not give up on our power as individuals to do what’s right. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

The tradition of lighting the menorah each night represents ensuring the continuity of that eternal flame. One of the reasons the Hanukkah menorah is displayed prominently in the windows of homes and in public squares is because the light isn’t meant to be confined to the Jewish home. The light is for everyone — and a reminder that we can share it with the world every day to try to make it better.

As long as we keep fighting for justice, we don’t need to perform miracles. But we do need to do our part so that light triumphs over darkness.

It is up to each of us to map out what we can contribute to create a truly inclusive LGBTQ community. This holiday season, be the light. If you can, donate to a group that helps lift LGBTQ youth in crisis. Volunteer your time to fight for the rights and the lives of trans people. And be kind to one another.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or of no faith at all, take this opportunity to share your light with the world. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

Ethan Felson is the executive director of A Wider Bridge.

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Opinions

Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’

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National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

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

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