Being involved in an alternative newspaper like the Alliance is a little bit like being Rodney Dangerfield. When it comes to dealing with the mainstream press, we dont get no respect. Hell, we usually cant even get any attention. When we do, it is usually of the wrong kind, labeling us as strange people living on the political fringe.
Now, Im not going to lose any sleep over David Rheinhard or Renee Mitchell calling me a Red. They happen to be right (for once). And as the old song goes, you aint done nothing if you aint been called a Red.
But there are times when it is necessary to respond to such attacks because they are directed against comrades and because doing so helps us in the struggle with bigger issues within our movement.
Such an attack took place last month against Bonnie Tinker, a long-time advocate for lesbian-gay-transgender rights, founder of Love Makes a family, and a columnist for the Alliance. The cover story of the May 6 issue of Just Out (Out of Focus; Is Love Makes a Family Still Effective? by Jaymee R. Cuti) does little to address the question contained in the headline. Most the space is spent trying to smear Tinker as dishonest, constantly stealing the limelight from others and power-hungry.
Much of what is presented as evidence is laughable: administrative disorder; failure to secure grants from the usual sources; friction with government agencies with which Tinker has contracts; and the reliance upon friends and family to fill positions within the Love Makes a Family. Most small non-profits have experienced these conditions at one time or another without any public harm occuring.
Cuti, of course, provides no concrete evidence that these conditions moved into the area of actual wrong-doing. Theres no evidence that the Oregon Department of Justices Charity Division to which every non-profit must report its financial activities is dissatisfied with Love Makes a Familys operation. Nor did Cuti present any evidence the Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Postal Service are unhappy with how Tinker is using the organizations tax-exemption status or bulk mail permit. No evidence is presented of civil litigation pending against Tinker or the group. All we get is inuendo from people who disagree with Tinker on the political issues.
It is the discussion of political issues the conduct of the Measure 36 campaing in particular where Cuti reveals the real intent of the article: to punish Tinker for being a voice dissenting from the Basic Rights Oregon party line during and following the election.
For those who read Tinkers assessment of the campaign (if you havent, visit www.theportlandalliance.org to access the full article), it is clear that the leadership of the No on 36 campaign is unhappy with Tinkers assessment. Tinkers biggest criticism is that the campaign turned its back on the grassroots that had turned back anti-gay attacks in the past. The fact that the campaign leadership cites the organizations that signed onto the campaign as evidnece of grassroots partcipation only underscores Tinker assertion that they dont understand what grassroots involvement really means: volunteers must be more deeply involved than stuffing envelopes. They must be involved in a substantive way, including decision-making.
Classism is not, of course, restricted to Basic Rights Oregon or the lesbian-gay-transgender movement. It can be found in all facets of our progressive movement, including the labor movement. What makes the questions Tinker raised about the No on 36 campaign so troublesome to its liberal leadership is that it goes beyond electoral politics, raising questions about identity politics and its ability to address the real sources of our problems.
We cannot ignore that our gender, our financial status, our color or our religious belief shapes us in specific ways. We must, in fact celebrate those elements that make us different from the blandness of the bourgeoisie. But we must also look for those underlying connections, even though they most often are of a negative nature our exploitation by capitalism.
If we fail to embrace all and share with all, we find ourselves in an intellectual cul-de-sac where we strive to be a have at the cost of our fellow have-nots. It is a precarious place to end up and one offering no security since those above us on the pole have no desire for us to be their peers and those below resent the betrayal. Just Out, which specializes in just that sort of activism is understandably perturbed by Tinker revealing how morally empty that position is.
The Portland Alliance
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Last Updated: June 29, 2005