Campaign Blog

  • Cliff Willmeng

Pride, Bigotry, and the Radical Fight for Love and Human Liberation

Pride Month, Bigotry, and the Radical Fight for Love and Human Liberation

The high school I attended in the 1980’s was full of wonderful and thoughtful people and at the same time, suffered an environment that didn’t allow a single person to publicly announce that they were attracted to or loved people of the same gender. This condition lasted for the entire four years I spent there and was decorated by all the slurs and innuendos necessary to keep homosexuality pushed into the shadows. I’m not gay or even bisexual so it never caused me any personal discomfort. The fear and suffering people were experiencing was invisible to many folks like myself, and even as a young activist it never occurred to me to take on this issue even as a peripheral ally.

Sometimes repression is so deep, commonplace and harmful to the lives of its victims that an explosion has to take place before it can be confronted and weakened. To some extent all movements begin with such acts of public, unapologetic defiance. We learn about Rosa Parks and the marches and bus boycotts in the Jim Crow south, the occupations of the auto plants that gave birth to the United Auto Workers union, and the uprisings throughout our national history. One such rebellion that doesn’t seem to get mention much is the Stonewall Riots that took place in New York in the late 1960’s. LGTBQ folks were so fed up with police harassment after raids on the Stonewall Inn that open rebellion erupted. Physical confrontations against the police took place which were called “violent” by critics. (In American society, we are reminded, violence is only supposed to flow from the top down. It only becomes an issue for many when the favorite tactic of the American state is taken up by the people themselves.)

Those folks shook the world on those nights, so much so that nothing would be the same again. They turned repression into an unapologetic expression of freedom and defiance. It’s the hallmark of all movements and human progress.

Of course, history never progresses linearly and the same forces that drove those raids and

attempted to harm folks on the basis of who they love wouldn’t disappear. Just this week in Lafayette a man had “DIE FAG” spray-painted on his car in letters big enough to be seen from a city block away. Imagine what this person has to live with every moment following such an act. Imagine the uncertainty and fear that the act is meant to provoke. We are now mobilizing a response here in Lafayette, a town I have come to love in so many ways. We will do what we can to demonstrate support and try to find real justice so that the harm can maybe begin to be repaired if it ever really can.

From my limited perspective it occurs to me that this struggle for love and human liberation, like all such movements, can be harmed or fractured in a thousand ways. It can be throttled, tricked, tamed, misled, commercialized, exploited and derailed. Even so, where there’s an effort that works on every level to hold back the basic human spirit, that basic element will at some stage break free. It will be fierce, untamable, frightening at times, and other times gentle, persistent, and quietly unyielding. But it’s going to find expression and it’s going to drag all human consciousness forward, ready or not.

I will be at Pride this month and will be bringing, at her own insistence, my nine-year old daughter Sasha. I will be there as a supporter, a dad on Father’s day, and her and I will be marching with my union sisters and brothers in UFCW Local 7. We get to join all of the thousands of people that are showing up for a day that honors the revolutionary character of human love and liberation.

Pride may be the opposite of shame, and it doesn’t offer any apology. That is stuff that liberation is made of.


© 2018 Willmeng for Grassroots Power