Yesterday in Amherst as I was about to cross the street to go shop at the Big Y, Amherst bloglord Larry Kelley pulled up.
"Hey sailor," he called out, "ya lookin' for a date?"
Just kidding! Actually Kelley was on the way to pick up his daughter, but we chatted a little about recent blogworthy events, such as how State Representative Stan Rosenberg has publicly confirmed that he is gay. He did it in an offhand, almost by the way manner, as part of a Fourth of July essay he wrote for The Hampshire Gazette.
As a foster child who grew up as a ward of the state, as a gay man, as a Jew, I understand what it's like to be cast as "the other." I rarely discuss these facets of my character because I don't practice identity politics. I practice policy politics. And I firmly believe that we will never fulfill our potential as a just society until we embrace the principle of equality for all and adhere to it as fundamental, immutable policy.
Kelley and I agreed that the statement was no surprise. Not just in the gay community, but among straights as well it was pretty obvious to anyone who cared to contemplate it that the never-married, never seen on the straight dating scene Rosenberg was probably gay. But does it matter that he came out and said so?
Sorta. It doesn't hurt to have straight people see that gays are not creepy deviants, but people they actually know and who are successful in public life. It is especially important for young gay people to see that. On the other hand I have no qualms about any gay person who doesn't care to talk it about it. Who wants to go through all the crap you have to put up with from ignorant people who have all kinds of misconceived notions and ugly labels they want to put on you once you say that you are gay?
Personally I never pretended to be straight, as I knew early on that the damage I would do to myself by faking straightness would be worse for my psyche than anything any gay basher might do. But I've seen plenty of people come out and what they have to put up with. Beforehand, everyone is always whispering behind your back, "Is he gay? Is he gay?" Then when you finally come out and say, "Yeah, I'm gay," the straights go, "Aha, I always knew it!" Well if you always knew it, why all the whispering? Then they criticze you for being dishonest for not coming out sooner. However, if you then go on to talk about your sexuality more than a couple of times after that, they tell you to "stop shoving your sex life down our throats."
Straight people - I'll never understand them.
As a politician Rosenberg is not ideologically aligned with me. For example, from what I've seen he never saw a tax increase he didn't like. But I was impressed with Rosenberg when I met him in person last year at the Amherst Survival Center. Here's a picture of him I took that day.
What impressed me was that Rosenberg was genuinely interested in learning about the Survival Center and how it operated. I could see that this was not some politician blowing through on some photo opportunity for a political campaign. He asked intelligent questions and made insightful comments. He actually sat down and ate lunch with all our regular customers, and again showed an interest in what people had to say. In other words he acted like a real person gathering information about an issue he cared about, instead of just acting like a politician.
Kelley pointed out to me other admirable aspects of Rosenberg's character. Several years ago Amherst got embroiled in one of those political correctness scandals that only Amherst seems capable of, this time regarding the play Westside Story being performed at the local high school. Most people regard that play as a beloved American classic, but a handfield of dizzy leftists were demanding the play be cancelled on the grounds that it had racist overtones that no one had ever noticed before.
In other words, it was precisely the sort of issue that politicians abhor, since politically there is no winning position on it. Whatever side you take, you're going to alienate people. Yet Kelley expressed admiration for the fact that Rosenberg came out publicly on the side of those who wanted to show the play, citing First Amendment issues. That did not please some members of Rosenberg's core constituency, but he defied them anyway. Few would have criticized Rosenberg for staying silent, but he spoke out because he felt there was a larger issue at stake.
Kelley also reminded me that Rosenberg, despite representing the district that includes UMass, recently caused the UMass hotel to lose its special tax exemption. For Rosenberg it was a simply matter of fairness, why should the region's privately owned hotels be placed at a competitive disadvantage? Such commonsense thinking is in too short supply in politics these days.
In other words, Stan Rosenberg is a person that, whatever your political persuasion, must be considered a man of courage who isn't afraid to do what is not politically popular. Sadly there are not many others of such strong principles in politics today. These are characteristics that dwarf into insignificance anything to do with Rosenberg's sexual orientation.
Yet I'm sure there are those who, having supported him in the past, will now not do so because Rosenberg has become "officially gay." But that's okay. Who wants the support of such mental midgets anyway?
Says it All
I love this graphic in today's Boston Herald:
The "GOP hopeful" referred to is Charlie Baker, a former bureaucrat under William Weld who is running for Governor. But the fact is every candidate for Massachusetts Governor this year from both parties (and third parties) is going to lambaste Deval Patrick for the recent round of tax increases by linking him to the still reviled Michael Dukakis. The tax-raising Dukakis handed control of the governorship to the Republicans for sixteen years. Will that be the Patrick legacy as well?
Captain Skypilot Ken Babbs the Intrepid Traveler (above) invited the Merry Pranksters over for a Fourth of July bash. Check out the home movie.
Bill Dusty took a series of cool photos of a massive thunderstorm descending on Springfield's Eastfield Mall. Check it out here.
The UMass campus was filled this morning with new students undergoing orientation for the start of school in September.
The UMass Alumni Association had a little display set up offering the members of the Class of 2013 free UMass flip-flops (useful when dealing with ideologically rigid professors) and Cape Cod potato chips.
The Class of 2013?
Damn that makes me feel old!
In the late 1970's UMass Collegian cartooning legend Steve Lafler was so popular you would go to parties or Martian Highway shows and see people actually dressed up like characters from his comix.