Saturday, August 30, 2008

Walking backwards in the right direction

An interesting snippet was forwarded to me the other day:

Opinion in L.A. Times --
A new measure of tolerance for gays?
The Zogby polling organization has released a startling finding: More than 60% of American voters say they would elect an openly gay president.

It's just unfortunate that Zogby International is rather (in)famous for being ultra-right, ultra-con, with an unenviable reputation for frequently being dead wrong. I long to believe that this time, in defiance of their track record, they're dead right ... but even if they're as incorrect as they usually are, something very good comes out of this, to my way of thinking.

Politics, society, the public mind, the great heaving ocean of Jung's collective subconscious ... they all have their eddies and tidal patterns. Politicians have their ear to the shore, and they know when to move their feet to keep them dry. I *think* the tide is coming in, and Zogby, as a massive international entity whose mission statement is (!) "To Offer the Best Polling, Market Research, & Information Services Worldwide Based on Accuracy & Detailed Strategic Information," just shifted its feet.

Being by nature ulta-right, ultra-con, Zogby itself wouldn't be caught dead in the liberal camp which welcomes and celebrates the GLBTIQ community (also political, social and religious free-thinkers, such as dissident poets, and the pagan community -- which, believe it or not, has as much or more reason to hide in many places in the US than the gay community! And yes, it drives you nuts, but what can you do about it?)

However, though Zogby would be reluctant to subscribe to the liberal camp, and pitch a tent where "PLU" means being different (if that isn't too Irish for you), they're not about to show a prejudiced, bigoted face to the same voting/polling public that keeps their CEOs in the Ferraris. This would be too politically uncorrect to be borne.

Time to rev up the marketing division, get in the spin-doctors. Get the corporate makeup artists to paint a fresh face on the old bus. You can think anything you like, but *say* the right things to the right people -- and when you say 'em, smile!

Which offers a valuable perspective on the shifting, ever-changing, powertful tidal force of the American collective subconscious. (Who am I to argue with Jung?)

What can I say? Great going. Terrific ... keep trundling in the right direction ... and (uh ... well; and you may hate to hear this, and you might not even believe me, so I'm going to provide the provenance for what I'm about to say) you'll catch up with South Australia in the fullness of time. Another thirty years or so.

That's how long it is since South Aussies elected ourselves a gay State Governor. (In this neck of the woods it's called State Premier; same difference. The Guy In Charge of the State. Like Big Arnie in California.)

Say, what?!!!

Yep. It was way back in the 1970s. His name was Don Dunstan. He wore pink hotpants to open Parliament one time. He had a boyfriend, and bouffy hair, and ... the whole nine yards.

Well, it was the Seventies! And South Aus has always been the place that made changes decades ahead of the rest of creation. We were the first place in the world to give women the vote. The first place in the world to ratify the "rape in marriage" laws. So it makes sense that, if anyone is going to elect a gay State Governor yonks ahead of everyone else, it's going to be us. We also have the biggest, most active, happiest, most open pagan community. Hey, this is a great place to party.

One of the many things you had to applaud about Don Dundtan was that he was a campaigner, an "Aussie battler," who got out there and did his damndest to change things. He took up the causes for several minority groups -- homeless people, and Aboriginals, for example. Also gays.

Now, back in the Seventies the gay community more or less "came out en masse," but there was a hell of a lot of counter-current swimming to be done. As late as 2000, I'd have to say the GLBTIQ section of the population was still feeling the current, but by then the swimming was a lot easier.

In 1999, Don Dunstan was posthumously remembered with the birth of a Foundation to continue his work. The speaker at the launch was The Honorable Justice Michael Kirby, AC CMG. Read the whole speech as a PDF here, and let me give you a small quote from it:

    "For myself, I was particularly glad to see in the documentation of the Foundation a proper, honest but not disproportionate reflection of Don Dunstan's pioneering and reforming work for his fellow citizens who suffer discrimination for their sexuality: Australian citizens who are homosexual, bisexual and trans-gender. It was a source of real pain for many who knew Don Dunstan well to attend, or hear accounts of, the official memorial ceremony in Adelaide where his partner of late years, Stephen Cheng, was excluded from the principal platform guests. And where politicians who spoke, although paying tribute to his work for women and Aboriginals, could not somehow get their magic lips around the little word ‘gay’.

    The game of shame which oppresses homosexual Australians is now crumbling. And part
    of the reason for this, is the reforming work and life of Don Dunstan. To the very end, staring death in the face, he was a stirrer and a shaker. He rejoiced in our democracy. He enriched it immeasurably."

[Source: DON DUNSTAN'S REAL LEGACY, spoken by The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG, Delivered at The Don Dunstan Foundation NSW Launch, Sydney Opera House 28 July 1999. Source URL.

I'd say Mr. Justice Kirky said it all, and said it right.

There's still a long way to go, politically at least, in this country. We keep on electing Federal Prime Ministers who thump the Good Book and can't get past the notion that "marriage is an institution between ONE man ands ONE woman." Not only does this exclude gays, but it also excludes Moslems, Mormons, Bohemians, and the scattered, obscure peoples of Micronesia and other regions, for whom polygamy is traditional. (Can we say, "exclusionist language?" Yet both the current PM of this country, Kevin Rudd, and the previous PM, John Howard, were pleased to quote these very words, or close enough to them to make no matter, on public radio. Hmmm.)

Here's more on Don Dunstan, for those who are interested in a real, true-blue political reformist ... and gender-bender ... who got things done, big time:

Late South Australian premier Don Dunstan back in spotlight.

Mike Rann on Don Dunstan.

What a character. If he'd been in a movie, you'd have said he was overwritten and impossible to believe, though he was a hell of a lot of fun. But no, he was real, it all happened, elephant and all.

Got to get some work done now. THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE is open in another window on this screen, and I have these two guys yelling at me to get back to them (being stranded up a creek without a paddle between them, and the savage tribes from the arctic hinterlands bearing down on them, and all ... they make a good point).



Gaycrow said...

To be fair, it should be mentioned that a lot of people didn't know Don was gay, or perhaps more accurately, bi. It was certainly not known amongst my peers. He also married twice, and had children, which may have "fooled" the general populace. If he had been openly gay, I wonder if he would've still been elected?

Mel Keegan said...

Excellent point. Mind you, in the circles in which I revolved in those days (high school, uni) it was common knowledge that he was gay -- or bi, as you say. No one questioned it. Perhaps he wouldn't have been elected if the general public had known ahead of time; but as his tenure developed, and he probably felt more secure, less driven to "be proper" (whatever that means!) I recall few people being so blind that they just plain refused to see the truth; and most folks were quite compassionate, which was rather surprising, given the time. I remember thinking, "Hey, there's hope for humanity after all!"

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