Friday, February 10, 2017

The Old Man in Action—a Vlog from an LBGT Support Rally

This past Sunday afternoon more than 100 folks gathered on just 36 hours’ notice in the cold sunshine of McCormick Park by the Chamber of Commerce Building and water tower on Rt. 14 in Crystal Lake, Illinois to rally in support of the LBGT community and others under siege by the Cheeto in Charge, his pet neo-Nazi, and half-crazed regime. 
Specifically it was an anticipatory protest to an “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom” executive order reported to be in the drafting stage and ready the signature of the Tweeter in Chief.  The order would reportedly make “sincere religious belief” a carte blanch for discrimination against members of the LBGT community and the refusal to sell to or provide service to them by both private individuals and companies, and even civil servants.  Although aimed directly at the Gay and gender non-conforming communities the same criteria could excuse discrimination against divorcees, hetero-sexual couples living together without marriage, Muslims, atheists, or even racial minorities.  If “God Hates Fags” is enough reason to target gays, than an assertion that Blacks are cursed by the Mark of Ham is enough to justify discrimination against them.  No wonder not only is the LBGT community alarmed, but so is everyone who respects civil liberties and human dignity.

Judy Stettner, Andrea Meyers, and Sue Rekenthaler of the Tree of Life UU Congregation Social Justice Team hold the Standing on the Side of Love banner at the the Crystal Lake LBGT support rally.

The Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), the historically Gay Christian denomination, first called for nation-wide snap demonstrations and rallies early last week.  Although there is no local MCC congregation in or near McHenry County, Crystal Lake resident Jill Kuhns, a teacher and member of the LBGT community heard about it and secured the support of her congregation, the First Congregational Church of Crystal Lake (UCC).  She posted a call on Friday and within hours members of the McHenry County Progressives, an active political group with roots in the Bernie Sanders campaign, the local chapter of PFLAG, the McHenry County Democratic Party and others were on board and spreading the word.  Members of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry including many of those who recently joined the Women’s March on Chicago and other joined the swelling numbers committed to attend.
When I got home from church Sunday morning, I briefly checked my e-mail before heading out to the rally.  I found a message from Toni Weaver of PFLAG one of four scheduled speakers had to cancel at the last moment and she asked if I could fill in.  Folks who know me know that I can bloviate at the drop of a hat.  Of course I agreed.
When I got to the park just at the appointed 2 pm starting time there was already a lively crowd gathered lining Rt. 14, chanting, and waving signs.  Cars zipping by on the busy road beeped their horns in support.  Members of the Tree of Life Social Justice Team were already on hand with our bright yellow Standing on the Side of Love banner and several placards.  Toni, and old friend and ally from the campaign for Marriage Equality, greeted me with a hug.  She explained they need a cisgender male to balance an otherwise all female speaking line up including two lesbians.  I was the first available warm body fitting that description.
She introduced to me to rally organizer Jill Kuhns who was busy trying to get the program under way.  She clearly had no idea who I was.  I introduced myself, “I hear you need a talking penis.  She was a bit taken aback until Toni vouched for my bona fides and we established that I was speaking on behalf of the TOL Social Justice Team.

Rally organizer Jill Kuhns, a teacher, LBGT community member and activist, and member of the First Congregational Church of Crystal Lake.
Wielding a megaphone, Jill got the rally started with a rousing greeting and impassioned outline of the purpose of the rally and how it came together almost spontaneously within hours.  More people were joining the crowd which had swelled to well over a 100.  That might not sound like much to folks from Chicago and other big cities who can routinely muster thousands these days or especially compared to the millions around the country who joined the Women’s Marches the day after the inauguration.  But I assure you it was a dramatic milestone in deep Red McHenry County, the heart of Trumpland in the suburbs. 
Many of those who came had been involved in the election campaign, both the passionate Bernie backers who formed the McHenry County Progressives and equally passionate feminist Hillary supporters, two groups often still at bitter odds but now finding common ground in opposing Trump agenda.  A very large number of those I saw also participated in the Women’s March on Chicago or went to Washington.  Hundreds of McHenry County women and some men filled four school busses, took the Metra train, or drove in for that historic event.  The crowd also included a good sprinkling of Latinos whose communities are threatened by Trumps harsh anti-immigrant measures.
Just a few of the hundred plus enthusiastic participants who turned out on 36 hours notice in McHenry County!

Almost all of the speakers noted the critical necessity intersectionality in mutual support for all oppressed and threatened communities and the militant responses the have crated—immigrants, Muslims, women, Black Lives Matter and voting rights protestors, the Water Protectors of Standing Rock, those who stand to lose health care, seniors who find their Medicare and Social Security endangered, the disable, homeless, veterans, and school children. 
The list is long and tedious because the attacks are broad and multi-pronged.  There has been such a flurry of stunning blows that the Trumpistas hope we will be overwhelmed and stunned into silence.
But the success of events like the rally on Sunday magnified a hundred times over that very same day not just by those responding to the MCC call for support of the LBGT community, but against the Muslim Ban, in support of NoDAPL, and other causes show that despite the demoralizing assaults a grassroots movement of Resistance actually grows stronger day after day.
Now it is important that each interest group stand in solidarity and mutual aid with the others.  We need to turn out on moment’s notice not just in support of the LBGT community.  And that would be the gist of my off the cuff remarks.
Long time LBGT activist Diane Scholten.

Others on the program included Rosemary Kurtz, one of a dying breed of Republican social liberals who is a former State Representative, Crystal Lake City Clerk, and a current school board member.  She was also a strong supporter of the Women’s Marches although is now too frail to have marched herself. Diane Scholten, a long-time LBGT activist now working with the Progressives and the Rev. Emily Davis, Associate Minister of First Congregational Church also bore powerful witness.  Long-time McHenry County Latino activist and a nationally important leader of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) also stepped up to give impromptu support of the rally.

Rev. Emily Davis, Associate Minister of First Congregational Church.

I spoke third, soapboxing in the old school style.  My simple message was solidarity and resistance.  Thanks to Missy Funk of the McHenry County Progressives for uploading a clip of the speech to YouTube.


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