Outstanding. This is an excellent reminder of most of the mistakes I’m ashamed to admit I’ve made myself. Sometimes being a good ally means leaving the safe space to the people you are supporting.

Mikki Kendall

1. Don’tderail a discussion. Even if it makes you personally uncomfortable to discuss X issue…it’s really not about you or your comfort. It’s about X issue, and you are absolutely free to not engage rather than try to keep other people from continuing their conversation.

2. Do read links/books referenced in discussions. Again, even if the things being said make you uncomfortable, part of being a good ally is not looking for someone to provide a 101 class midstream. Do your own heavy lifting.

3. Don’t expect your feelings to be a priority in a discussion about X issue. Oftentimes people get off onto the tone argument because their feelings are hurt by the way a message was delivered. If you stand on someone’s foot and they tell you to get off? The correct response is not “Ask nicely” when you were in the wrong in the first place.

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Guantanamo, Ten Years Later

Does It Matter If He's Guilty of Anything?

This article by a German citizen who was held at Guantanamo for five years without being charged outrages me and should outrage anyone who thinks our policies and practices should be ruled by our principles, which do not include the principle that “We can do anything we want, and it is right because we do it.”

This man did nothing wrong, but he lost five years of his life because we offered money to desperately poor people who needed it, in exchange for them turning over people they believed – or were willing to say they believed – to be terrorists.

We tortured this man, Murat Kurnaz.

We tortured an innocent man named Murat Kurnaz.

We, who preach democracy and rule of law to other nations, tortured Murat Kurnaz.

How many other men like Murat Kurnaz are in Guantanamo now? How much shame can we bear to inflict on ourselves? How badly are we prepared to undermine the basic principle of justice, that people are innocent until proven guilty, that people have a right to representation, and to face their accuser?

Our president’s first act in office was to sign an order that intended to shut the prison at Guantanamo within one year. That would have been January 2009. The fault lies, according to an article in the Miami Herald, not with the president, but with Congress.

Wednesday is Guantanamo’s Tenth Anniversary. Call or write your Congressperson and tell them they can’t expect your vote if there is an 11th anniversary.

“Shut Up. You Don’t Get a Lawyer!”: The Defense Authorization Act Guts Civil Liberties

I didn’t really pay attention to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate confirmed 93-7, and now I understand why. There was, and is, a media blackout, and according to many reports internet searches have been hampered or blocked. This is the scariest thing to come down the Global War On Terror – the Forever War – pipeline, probably worse than the patriot act. It’s the final nail in the coffin for civil liberties. Call it terrorism, and they can detain you indefinitely, or just have you killed. No court, no lawyer, no hope.

No recent piece of legislation has been more controversial than the NDAA, which passed the Senate last week and includes provisions that apparently grant the president unlimited power to detain American citizens arrested in connection to terrorism. The House approved its version of the NDAA earlier this year, so the legislature must hammer out differences and present a final version to President Barack Obama. For his part, Obama has threatened to veto the legislation not because it tramples on civil liberties but because it subject executive actions to congressional oversight.

“It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next,” says Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) in support of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.'”

Listen to this:

“Shut Up. You Don’t Get a Lawyer!”: The Defense Authorization Act Guts Civil Liberties – Hit & Run : Reason Magazine.

The Conversation over the Controversy of the Transgression of Neil Patrick Harris (UPDATED)

Okay, try to follow me here: Dan Savage was recently glitter-bombed and vilified for using the word, “tranny” at a college Q&A, when a student asked a question using the word “tranny” and Dan repeated it. Much hand-wringing ensued by the fringe of the Trans community, and nothing anyone can ever do or say (especially Mr. Savage) can undo the perceived insult. The attacks have been so fierce I’ve even read denunciations of Savage’s work with the It Gets Better Project. I’m sorry, but if you are going to attack something that saves lives and helps thousands (and is the work of many, many other people) you’re an asshole.

It’s not that Savage hasn’t said some boneheaded things in the past, it’s that he has clearly and publicly corrected them, clarified them, and apologized when necessary. The fact is he’s done much more good than anyone, or any mistakes he’s made, can erase. But he’s white, biologically male, and has been anointed by  the media to speak for the GLBT community; let’s face it, haters within the tent are going to hate.

And now the much beloved (and much less controversial) Neil Patrick Harris used the “T” word, and from what I read, in an actually insulting way.

So Dan Savage blogged about that incident. Then his readers responded; the conversation continuing on his blog is actually quite sane, spirited, and enlightening (I’m sure the trolls will get louder, but read past them.)

For what it’s worth, both Harris and Savage deserve the benefit of the doubt; their responses should be heard, and then the real – you’ll pardon the expression, transgressors – should be attended to. It’s not like there’s been a shortage of haters. The friends of and the GLBTQI community need to quit attacking their own.

But then I’ll probably be attacked for saying that. Which is a shame, because you won’t find a stronger supporter of Transpeople and Trans rights. You will  find a lot of non-supporters who are much better spoken than I – and never say anything that can be used against them.

Read the whole thing here: The Transgression of Neil Patrick Harris | Slog.

UPDATE: Yes, NPH has apologized:

Neil Patrick Harris apologized today for using the word “tranny” during a segment of Thursday’s Live With Kelly. “Truly sorry for saying the word ‘tranny’ on Live this week. Twice!” tweeted Harris. “Should have been more thoughtful. Didn’t at all mean to offend.”

And good ‘ol GLAAD has accepted his apology thusly:

GLAAD accepted Harris apology in a statement this afternoon. “It’s heartening to see a celebrity of Harris’ stature recognize and apologize for using the slur in such a timely manner, and for greater media attention being paid to its use. Many people do not realize that the word ‘tr*nny’ is one of the most hurtful and dehumanizing slurs that transgender people hear. Most transgender people associate that word with personal experiences of violence, hatred and derision.”

(via http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/12/02/neil-patrick-harris-tranny-remark/)

Well said. But rather than taking the word back, now we have another word which we cannot speak aloud or write without an asterisk inserted. This is not progress. I’m against “dirty” words, full stop.


Love is the Measure

WHY? Why would ANYone stand in the way of that? And if your god tells you to do so, don’t you get, just from that, that that god is no God worthy of you? A god who stands opposed to love? How can that be? There must be some misunderstanding.

People aren’t made for the law: remember? The law is made for people.

And a human who opposes Love; who recognizes it, but still opposes it: how can that be?

Be kind. Don’t resist joy when you find it in yourself or others. Celebrate with those who have found that rare thing: another human being who knows them, loves them, and will stick with them.

You know this: if you apply any rule to love, and find it doesn’t measure up – the problem is with the rule, not with love. Love measures all things, and is not measurable by anything. You know this.

Life is hard. Love is the thing best suited to help us cope with it, to learn to love life rather than merely to endure it. How can someone, for religious or any other reasons, claim to have any grounds for refusing to someone the best comfort we can have? How, seeing someone in love, could you bear to see it taken away, much less insist that it be taken away, and the lovers descend to a state of loss and grief?

When someone is hungry, do you deny them food? When they are thirsty, drink? When they are cold, does your god tell you to deny them clothing and shelter? Then how could it be that god or human would deny love to any human being? How could anyone, religious or not, deny love to another and not think themselves monstrous for doing so?

Love offers us the opportunity to be bigger than we are. If you have learned, or long believed, that the love between two people of the same sex is wrong, consider this. Through the ages, people have changed their minds about love. We now accept love between people of different races, classes, nationalities, ages, and even faiths. All of those things were forbidden before. In each case, the fact of the love between two people was seen, first, to break the law, and then to rewrite it.

Any law against love is illegitimate. Love is the higher law.

Abolish the Death Penalty in 4 Simple Steps

In the aftermath of Troy Davis, activists say they’re closer than ever.

I happened to be scanning The Root and saw “Abolish The Death Penalty in 4 Simple Steps” and sighed my “oh, like that’s ever gonna happen” sigh. For instance, Rick Perry getting an ovation for his execution numbers. But I read anyway, and it’s compelling stuff. So I’m not giving up hope (I know, I know – not in this instance, anyway). We need to keep up the fight here – change is getting made. Cynthia Gordy:

When Troy Davis was executed at a Georgia state prison in September, several hours after the Supreme Court deliberated (and denied) an emergency appeal, people around the world looked on in shock. Activists, convinced that there was too much doubt surrounding his murder conviction, including the fact that seven of nine witnesses later recanted their original testimony, had rallied for weeks, months and years on his behalf.


While many of those advocates are working to keep the name “Troy Davis” alive, in his emotional death they are also focused on another goal: abolishing the death penalty. With a global movement galvanized around the Davis case — which reflected the arbitrary nature of the death penalty, as well as the role that race and class often play in executions — they contend that now is the prime moment to surge forward in stamping out the practice.


If it seems like the death penalty and an American penchant for “eye for an eye” justice are here to stay, here are reasons that leaders on the issue say its abolition is possible.

1. It’s been done before, practically.

Despite the common assumption that the death penalty has been a constant throughout American history, the practice has fallen in and out of public favor, with a spotty presence over the years. In the wake of 1972’sFurman v. Georgia case, which involved a black man convicted of armed robbery and murder, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that death sentences are handed down arbitrarily, thus violating the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. The high court suspended capital punishment in the country from 1972 to 1976, with no executions during this period.

The door was left open for a comeback, however, by the argument that the death penalty could be constitutional if it were applied equitably. In 1976, as states returned with new laws designed to fix these concerns, the by-then more conservative Supreme Court ruled that the country could use the death penalty again.

“But it’s no less arbitrary and capricious now than it was in 1972,” Laura Moye, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign coordinator for Amnesty International, told The Root. “It’s really up to the justices to take a hard look, and right now there’s too much of a comfort level with the brokenness of the system.”

Even so, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and longtime anti-death penalty activist, is encouraged by the fact that the practice is used less frequently. Texas, which leads the nation in executions, executed 17 people in 2010, down from 40 in 2000. “It’s been all but abolished in the United States before, and it can happen again,” he told The Root, though he conceded that moving the needle of public opinion will be difficult at a time of high unemployment and “the mindset of scapegoating the other,” as people struggle for basic needs. “It’s going to be hard fought, but the momentum is moving in that direction.”

2. It may all come down to 10 states.

For the past 15 years, anti-death-penalty advocates have taken a gradual, state-by-state approach to prove that capital punishment is cruel and unusual. The less it’s used, the argument goes, the more unusual it becomes. And if it’s outlawed in a simple majority of 26 states, then the case of unconstitutionality could be viably made to the Supreme Court. With 16 states having already abolished the death penalty, there are 10 to go.

Based on a legal “evolving standards of decency” doctrine, the same strategy has been effectively used in the past decade to abolish the death penalty for juveniles and the mentally disabled. “The important thing is that this didn’t start out as a 10-state strategy,” Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, and former program director for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, told The Root. “Within the past two years, we’ve abolished the death penalty in Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico. Just two years ago this was a 13-state strategy. That’s part of why we’re confident.”

Low-hanging fruit that activists hope to add to the list soon are Maryland, Connecticut and California. Maryland placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2006, and this year lawmakers introduced a bill to fully repeal it. An anti-death-penalty bill in Connecticut was two votes shy this year, but advocates are eyeing 2012. In California, signature gathering is under way for a 2012 ballot measure to abolish capital punishment and redirect the millions spent on death-penalty cases to solving rapes and murders.

Jealous says these are all pieces of a national trend. “It was significant that the Gallup poll last October showed the lowest level of public support for the death penalty since 1972, when it was suspended,” he said. “We see the death penalty falling state by state across the country, just as it’s fallen country by country around the world. We’re the last Western power that maintains a death row, and it’s time for us to catch up with the rest of the world.”

3. The American “Wild West” mentality is wearing away.

For all the movement’s discussion of a changing tide in public opinion, a majority of Americans still favor the death penalty. According to the same October 2011 Gallup poll that Jealous mentioned, 61 percent of Americans approve of using capital punishment for persons convicted of murder. As Texas Gov. Rick Perry put it at a Republican presidential debate in September, after receiving wild applause for his execution record, “I think Americans understand justice.”

Moye, on the other hand, sees nuances when you look more closely. “I don’t actually think that retributive justice is strongly rooted in U.S. culture as much as the concept of fairness is,” she said. “When you start to talk to people in this country about alternatives to the death penalty that include ways that the offender can be held accountable, or provide for restitution to the murder victim’s families — and we can ensure that they’re not going to be a future threat to society if they are truly not somebody who can be rehabilitated — then you start to see that more people support those alternatives. They’re not bloodthirsty.”

The Gallup poll also found that 41 percent of Americans believe the death penalty is applied unfairly, and attitudes on the practice vary significantly between people of color and whites. While 68 percent of white adults polled favored the death penalty, support plummeted to just 41 percent among nonwhites.

“In our community, we face so many issues that people want to know that they can win before they really invest themselves,” said Jealous, on where he thinks many African Americans stand on the subject. “What we saw with Troy Davis and the tidal wave of public opinion against that execution, and against the death penalty itself, not only gave us hope that we can win, but that there’s no choice but to win. This is just a vestige of a dying social order that has to be stamped out.”

4. The movement is bigger, now more than ever.

Although the modern U.S. movement against the death penalty — including advocacy by the NAACP and other African-American-oriented groups — has been a decades-long battle, the execution of Davis in September was definitely a critical tipping point.

“When they write the book on how the death penalty was abolished in the United States, there will be at least a chapter about Troy Davis,” said Moye, who saw unprecedented traffic at Amnesty International’s Troy Davis Campaign website, including, this year alone, nearly a million signatures on petitions protesting his execution. “Troy Davis was making news everywhere, with people holding vigils and protesting all over the world. This was a turning point for a lot of people who weren’t really tuned into the death penalty before, where they started to understand the issue on an emotional level.”

But will the momentum last or fizzle out? “That’s really up to the movement that’s been built up around Troy Davis, and those of us who have some leadership responsibility,” said Moye. “We’re trying to keep the name of Troy Davis alive, but also to put the spotlight on prisoners like Reggie Clemons in St. Louis, and other stories of people who represent the worst of what is happening in this system.”

Warnock, who prayed with Davis on his final day on death row, said that it’s critical for those who advocated for Davis to continue organizing around abolition of the death penalty. “Although we hoped to save Troy, and we were sincerely fighting to save his life, we always knew his death was a real possibility. But he continued to fight, not just for his own life but on the issue of the death penalty itself,” he said. “In his last words right before his life was taken, he said he was innocent. He encouraged those who had been involved to continue looking into this case. He was an activist to the very end.”

Cynthia Gordy is The Root’s Washington reporter.

From: Abolish the Death Penalty in 4 Simple Steps, The Root.


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