Boy, Barney Frank is getting hammered. Barney was interviewed by Michelangelo Signorile about a number of things, including the National March in Washington. Frank, a Congressman from Massachusetts, called the March "useless" and said "I literally don’t understand how this will do anything. People are kidding themselves. I don’t want people patting themselves on the back for doing something that is useless." He added that people would be better served by staying home and lobbying their members of Congress.
Well, thanks to Twitter, activists immediately went into hyper drive, condemning Frank for his words, in a flurry of hate from all corners of the internet, people one by one labeled him with profane names and demanded he step down from his position in Congress. Visit sites like Signorile.com or Towleroad or JoeMyGod and sample the comments posted. If you’re on Facebook check for postings there, which have been some of the most vitriolic. There are comments, on all those sites, which are rational and thoughtful, and remind others who Barney Frank is. Those, however, are far overshadowed by the childish rants of angry and petulant activists.
Put this into perspective for a moment…Barney Frank is not some right wing, republican windbag, he’s on our side. Not only is he on our side, but he’s an openly gay Congressman who’s currently instrumental in the Hate Crimes Bill, which just passed the House and now moves to the Senate, and if it makes it all the way to the President’s desk and is signed, will be the first federal protection for LGBT Americans. Frank is also the key figure in the Employment Non Discrimination Act, which is currently in process, and if it succeeds will be the first federal protection for LGBT employees in the workplace in America.
Frank has been in office since 1981 and was only the second openly gay person in Congress. He founded the National Stonewall Democrats and was instrumental in removing restrictions on "sexual preference" in the 1990 Immigration Act. He’s made it known that he supports the outing of any LGBT politician who uses their power to restrict the rights of the community. In general, Frank has been our strongest ally for equal civil rights in Congress for many, many years.
If you LISTEN (click on the play button at the bottom of the article) to the ENTIRE interview you’ll hear much more than what you’ve heard in the tiny sound bites and read in the few quotes out on the internet. Frank explains there’s no harm in coming to the march, but that if there’s to be any real congressional response, then a march is not the way to go. He explains how little impact marches have had in the past. Given Frank’s well established, direct and often gruff way of responding to questions, it’s understandable that the initial reaction to his statement might anger those organizing and attending the march. But if they’ve truly thought things through and honestly believe in what they’re doing, then it would be only that, an annoyance, but something to be immediately shaken off while they return to focusing on the march.
I sat in shock, reading the postings and comments by people concerning Barney Frank’s words. Ever since the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, I’ve been shocked at the pompous attitude of much of the "2010" camp toward anyone with an opposing opinion, and since the march was announced, the anger from those in support of it against those questioning it has been the same. I stated that I supported a ballot measure in 2012 and that I didn’t think the march was a good move. I also stated that if 2010 ended up being the year that I’d do what I could to help, as well as wishing the march success despite the fact that I wasn’t attending and felt our energies could be better utilized elsewhere. I certainly never heard anyone from the 2010 camp say anything other than those who’s opinion landed in 2012 were "lazy", "not engaged", "traitors" and on and on.
Equally, since the debate began, those in support of the march have routinely decried and denounced angrily those of us who questioned its validity. But nothing prepared me for the anger heaped on Frank. Suddenly, organizers of the march were labeling him "useless" and it seemed many of those commenting would be happy to see him rushed out of Congress with pitchforks. Is this mature? Reasoned? Intelligent? Pro LGBT rights? No, no, no and no. It’s shameful, not only in the immediacy of it, but in the fact that none of those people must have any idea how hard and how long Barney Frank has worked for OUR RIGHTS.
Instead, this hateful and completely irrational condemnation of Frank from the internet, Twitter and elsewhere, raises a much more important question. Was this effort carefully considered from the beginning, or did everyone simply jump on the ship without analysis? Generally such a vehemently aggressive reaction to one person’s opinion, let alone a person who intimately knows how things get accomplished in Congress, as well as one who’s ON OUR SIDE, indicates a defense mechanism protecting some sort of underlying doubt.
Doubt is key. I hope all activists maintain some level of doubt in the absolute success of an action. If we don’t, given how much we’ve lost recently, how many of our efforts have failed, how much of the country is still against us, then we’re not learning. If we don’t, we’re unwilling to diverge from an established method to try a different path. If we don’t, we become divided, as we’ve witnessed since Prop 8. We splinter into groups who each decide they have the answers, denounce the others, and reduce our power as activists and Americans. Any activist who is absolutely certain one particular action will succeed, at this point in the game, is delusional.