Bradley Manning: SF Pride Still Doesn’t Get Why People Are Upset

San Francisco Pride would really like you to forget the whole Bradley Manning issue. After Manning was nominated to be honored by former Grand Marshals of the city’s yearly Pride Parade, the announcement was made public, some veterans and LGBT groups protested, SF Pride retracted the honor, faced community protests, changed its tactics, and was protested again — and yet the organization still hasn’t absorbed why the community is upset and why it matters.

Pride has announced via email that it’s postponing the May 14 meeting on Manning’s invitation until a larger, suitable location is secured, with the rationale that “We want to allow people to have a chance to voice their opinions about the recent controversy, but also have a large event coming up, and do not want to let one issue, as important as it is to some, overshadow the concerns and interests of the hundreds of thousands who attend SF Pride.”

The email went on to say, “SF Pride’s decision concerning the election process of Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal being consistent with SF Pride’s long standing Grand Marshal election policy is firm. Thus, the discussion of that matter is closed for this year.”

With this attitude that the matter is closed, any such meeting on Manning serves no purpose. The activists who gathered to protest both on April 29 and May 7 were not hoping to just get an idea out there, they sought concrete actions from SF Pride in order to best reflect the will of participants.

SF Pride justified this decision saying, “A meeting in a larger venue after the 2013 Celebration and Parade will allow people from all sides of that issue and others to fully air and hear one another’s viewpoints, without jeopardizing the production of this year’s event and the safety and security of the attendees. We ask everyone in the community to come together in Pride this June, recognizing that we can embrace difference without violence and hate.”

This is a classic strawman argument. There is no safety or security risk in honoring or not honoring Bradley Manning. And to deny the community a chance to be heard prior to the event is not respecting viewpoints of a diverse community; it is silencing the chance for those viewpoints to be reflected in action. This lack of representation in action has been a complaint of many protesters, and in its newest tactic to avoid controversy, SF Pride is showing just the attitude the protesters have become tired of.

In my observation of the protesters, I saw no hate for Pride as an organization or movement. Rather, their protest sought to better represent the community and was based out of a desire for greater inclusivity within the community. Many had frustrations due to SF Pride not listening, however this press release shows that such a frustration is well grounded. SF Pride wants to first have its event, and then have a conversation when it can have no effect on the outcome.

Originally Posted Monday May 13, 2013 here.

2 Responses to “Bradley Manning: SF Pride Still Doesn’t Get Why People Are Upset”
  1. Glenn Stehle says:

    Would it not be helpful to place the current imbroglio within its historical context?

    The LGBT movement grew out of and was part of the Civil Rights Movement, and therefore came to share a common ethos. One of the major fault lines that existed within the Civil Rights Movement was that between the assimilationists and the separatists.

    Martin Luther King often said he stood “in the middle” of these “two opposing forces.” “One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who…have been so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of ‘somebodiness’ that they have adjusted to segregation, and, of a few negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security…have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses,” King wrote in his Letter from the Birmingham City Jail. “The other force,” he continued, “is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement.”

    Despite attempting to stake out this middle ground, King was nevertheless often placed in the assimilationist camp by the separatists, and the debate between him and the separatists became quite acrimonious at times, as this video demonstrates:

    By the 1960s, the dominant culture in the United States had allowed various ethnic groups to assimilate (e.g., Italians, Germans, Irish, etc. ), but blacks, as well as Latinos and other brown-skinned people, and those LGBTs who couldn’t pass for heterosexual, were excluded from assimilation. King could therefore be heard to say that “The American racial revolution has been a revolution to ‘get in’ rather than to overthrow.” (Ebony, October 1966)

    But there was another Martin Luther King, the one who was heard to question: “Get into what?”

    Lawrence Goodwyn , In “The Populist Moment,” sums up post-1896 America as follows:

    “Today, the values and the sheer power of corporate America pinch in the horizons of millions of obsequious corporate employees, tower over every American legislature, state and national, determine the modes and style of mass communications and mass education, fashion American foreign policy around the globe, and shape the rules of the American political process itself. Self-evidently, corporate values define modern American culture.”

    And it was this corporate state I believe King finally came to realize he had aspired to “get in.”

    Towards the end of his life, King concluded that the price necessary to “get in” – complete surender to and ideological conformity with the corporate state — was a price too high to pay. He announced his fateful decision with his “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam” sermon.

    In Part 5, the “The Soul of a Nation” episode of the PBS series “God in America,” we find a masterful portrayal of this watershed moment:

    Rev. RANDALL BALMER: What I find remarkable about Martin Luther King is that he was willing to cooperate with politicians, most significantly with Lyndon Johnson. And yet King was able to maintain his distance, his prophetic distance, from power and from the lures of power.
    NARRATOR: King put his relationship with Johnson at risk, directly confronting the president on Vietnam.

    Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: -to oppose that abominable, evil, unjust war in Vietnam!

    RICHARD LISCHER: It’s one thing to be a popular prophet or an inside prophet, where you have instant access to the halls of power, you can have lunch or tea with Lyndon Baines Johnson whenever it’s convenient. But in his opposition to the war in Vietnam, he became an outside prophet, like Jeremiah throwing pebbles from the outside.

    Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You are too arrogant, and if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power!”

    RICHARD LISCHER: He knowingly and willingly burnt his bridges to the source of power in the United States. And he did so because, as he said, “I am a minister of the gospel, and I must tell that truth.”

    Rev. RANDALL BALMER, Barnard College/Columbia University: And I take that as an illustration of King’s ability to use the political system, but not to allow himself or to allow the faith to become co-opted by politicians, to become corrupted by access to the councils of power.
    NARRATOR: By the end of his life, Martin Luther King had fully embraced his role as political outsider and uncompromising American prophet.

    Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop. I don’t mind.

    RICHARD LISCHER: He had never spoken with such power and never articulated this vision with such a depth of feeling as he did on the night before he died.

    Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land!
    ANDREW YOUNG: His death was not the end, and his words and his spirit have moved all across the earth. It points to the fact that this is a religious universe. Most people, particularly most educated Americans, get uncomfortable when their emotions and their spirituality get the best of their intellect. But there are times when intellect can’t handle it.

    The truly religious moments in our Civil Rights movement didn’t make any intellectual sense. Nobody in their right mind would do some of the things that we did, but we did it because we were caught up in a spirit.

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