Where Are Our Heroes?

With the election looming, GLBT Americans face an uncertain future. On Nov. 5, we will awake to a changed world. Depending on the vote, GLBT families in four states will either be less or more secure; we will be more oppressed or freer. The outcomes of the presidential and congressional races will also determine whether we have more chances for equality in the future or fewer.
Unfortunately, the hope for victory for GLBT Americans is dimming.

There are a few bright spots. The brightest is the growing possibility that the largely pro-gay Barack Obama will be elected president. And, although not all Democrats are our friends and not all Republicans our enemies, the increasing likelihood of larger Democratic majorities in Congress could also lead to the passage of fairer laws.

But polls show an increasing possibility that we will lose the right to marry in California.

Polls also indicate that a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage may pass in Arizona, just two years after Arizona became the first state to defeat such a prohibition.

Voters in Florida may be poised to approve the most punitive kind of marriage ban—one that prohibits marriage equality and any form of legal right for same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexuals. Given that Florida requires a 60 percent “yes” vote to amend its constitution, it’s disheartening that polls show the ban within striking distance of passage.

In Arkansas, an underfunded campaign is struggling to defeat an initiative that would keep lesbians and gays from fostering or adopting children.

Early voting has already begun in some states. The rest of the country votes on Nov. 4. We’re running out of time. Pro-equality campaigns report that they are short of money.

I’m not joking when I say we need heroes right now. We need a Martin Luther King Jr. or a Gandhi. And, I wouldn’t at all mind if a Wonder Woman or Superman flew in to help.

We should be winning. This year’s electoral map looks increasingly liberal, yet we’re still struggling. As I gaze at the political landscape, I can’t help but wonder: Where have all our champions gone?
Personally, I think these people do exist, but they are impossible to spot unless we understand what it really takes to become a hero. To do that, first consider Superman and Wonder Woman. These fictional super folk illustrate the two characteristics shared by all heroes, imagined and real.

First, heroes have to have the ability to act. Because they face super villains, Wonder Woman and Superman need extraordinary powers. But even with their super strengths, these two couldn’t claim the title of “hero,” if they hadn’t first decided they have a personal responsibility to help other people. Wonder Woman could have lived regally as an Amazon princess. Superman could have ripped apart bank vaults and lounged in luxury with his plundered millions. Who could have stopped him?

In real life, heroes don’t need super strength. In fact, real heroes are quite ordinary before they ever do anything heroic. Martin Luther King Jr. was nothing more than the pastor of a church in Alabama before he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Gandhi was a lawyer before he launched his first crusade for freedom. However, both realized that they had a responsibility to act. Both brought their real-world gifts to the battles they faced.

I ask again: Where are the champions in GLBT America and among our straight allies? Who are the people who will save us?

What about you?

To be the hero of a political campaign, you don’t have to have super powers. You don’t even have to be able to give a great speech or be the world’s most brilliant political strategist. To be the hero of a campaign, all you need to do is to give time or money or both.

Volunteering is as easy as going to a website, visiting a campaign headquarters, or making a phone call to ask how you can help. If you’ve never worked on a campaign before, don’t worry. Every campaign provides training to its volunteers. Every campaign hands out talking points.

You also don’t have to be rich to make a vital financial contribution. If there is one thing Obama’s campaign has proven, it is that many small donations can be combined into an unstoppable political force. The Washington Post reported that more than half of the $264 million Obama had raised by June had mostly come from online donations of less than $100.

You have the ability to be a hero, but do you have the second characteristic necessary to take on the role? Will you accept responsibility to help people? Will you decide to act?

I ask again: Where are our heroes?

The pro-equality campaigns can be reached online: No On Prop 8 in California, www.noonprop8.com; Vote No on Proposition 102 in Arizona, www.votenoprop102.com; Say No 2 in Florida, www.sayno2.com; and Arkansas Families First, http://arkansasfamiliesfirst.org.

Diane Silver is a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, whose freelance writing has appeared in Ms. magazine, Salon.com, and other national publications. She can be reached care of this publication or at [email protected]

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