Thursday, March 14, 2024

Sometimes not losing is enough to celebrate

During his struggles for the rights of migrant farm workers, Cesar Chavez was quoted as explaining the celebratory nature of the union's gatherings by saying "We have so few victories we have to celebrate our losses." He was joking, but the truth of it remains: the importance of hope and even finding joy in the struggle.

Because sometimes, it's enough to not lose. The estimable Erin Reed, tireless tracker of LGBTQ+-related legislation, brings an example.

She reports that legislative sessions in Florida and West Virginia have adjourned sine die - that is, without setting a date to meet again. What that means is that any bills that have not passed are dead and must start from scratch when the legislatures get back together.

Which is good news for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people and their supporters and allies because the effect is that over 20 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in each state are now dead. At the same time, again in each state, only one such bill passed. This dramatic contrast to the results of the past few years not only represents a victory for the increasing pushback against such bills but also provides a respite from the assault and space to plan for the battles to come.

While the passage of any such legislation is yet another attack on basic rights of transgender folks, the failures here are nonetheless heartening. It had already seemed to me that the spread of the legislative bigotry was stalling, with most - not all, but most - of the action this year coming in states that had, as Erin put it, "historically targeted transgender individuals" rather than spreading to new ones.

Some have suggested that this has been a case of the bigots and fear-mongers engaging in some CYA in the run-up to the November elections: Anti-LGBTQ+ stands have not been a big winner for them this year, so they want to downplay the issue now, intending to get back to it once the threat of democracy is behind them.

Personally, I suspect that this is less related to the elections than to the right wing's practice of "slash, burn, move on," that is, of glomming onto some issue where they think they can get an inflamed, unthinking response, loudly and viciously defaming/decrying/denouncing their target, doing as much damage as they think they can before real resistance sets in, then moving on to the next boogeyman.

(After all, how much screeching have you heard about Critical Race Theory of late? Even the general all-purpose smear "woke" has become more of a vapid cliche used ritualistically than a verbal weapon.)

That of course doesn't mean those concerned about LGBTQ+ rights can relax; as Clarence Darrow said, "Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more." But it does mean that as part of strategizing we can include going on the offensive to secure rights in some areas rather then solely resisting their denial.

So hold to hope, embrace justice, and celebrate victories (even the small ones), because like the song says, "Every victory brings another" so long as we "carry it on."

Footnote: Another relevant quote from Cesar Chavez:  "Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore."
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