Monday, May 31
by Sue on Mon 31 May 2010 03:18 PM EDT
Like many veterans, my grandfather remained intensely private about his military experiences. My childhood memories are limited to stories handed down from my father and the only fear I ever saw in John's eyes -- when the fireworks exploded on the 4th of July. He would try, but always failed to remain outside. Even as a pool drenched six year old shivering under a beach towel, my excitement about the festivities was dampened by that look and his eventual retreat inside.
John grew up to work in the steel mill. It was his destiny as surely as the four generations of mill workers who had come before, to continue the legacy of the Industrial Revolution. He went into the mills in 1932 after graduating high school and started a family.
Then, in 1942, he was drafted into the US Army Air Force 305th Signal Division Company. (I may have the wording wrong b/c of conflicting documents.) He did his basic training and eventually ended up in the Philippines and then ... well I'll get to that. He was a radio man, a fascination that stayed with him throughout his life. Always a transistor radio at his side.
The few things I know either from family lore or his discharge papers.
- He survived a tsunami in the Philippines. It just reminded me that he went to the beach every year, but never swam. Hmmm. His records don't list this stop along the way, but my father assures me he somehow ended up there.
- He was sent to Puerto Rico and then Okinawa. Yes. I know what that means.
- He was on Ie Shima when the Japanese formally surrendered. We have some photos (I can't post them b/c they are somewhat racist) of the surrender.
I also have letters, dozens of letters he wrote to my grandmother from 1942, throughout his years overseas and ending with his last six months of service when we was stationed in New York. Her letters are lost to history, but I think she saved every scrap. Cards, notices about financial matters, post cards, military camp PR materials and memorabilia from her trip to visit him in San Francisco.
In the letters, he makes very little reference to anything military related except for mundane things like laundry, food and the boredom he experienced. A few times, he apologized for interruptions due to "being in the field" or away from paper and pen. The overwhelming emotion in the letters is loneliness. While stateside, he describes going out with friends and the occasional homecooked meal from a friend's wife. Once he left the US, it was all about a craving to recreate the every day lives of his family through written word.
This is what remains of his military service.
Once he was home, that was it. Obviously, he shared some with my father and I believe his brother, our Uncle Jimmy, had some stories to tell as well. Jimmy was in Africa and Europe flying airplanes. That's an entirely different story.
I really don't know much about the military history prior to the WW II generations. My great-grandfathers and great-great uncles signed up for the draft for WW I, but I've no evidence they were ever called up. One great-great uncle disappeared, so I assume the worst. My aunt's husband was in the Navy. HIS uncle was a fighter pilot for Kaiser Wilhelm II and left Germany before WW II, eventually settling in Canada. My great-uncle worked on the Manhattan Project (allegedly). My uncles both served in Korea, but also never speak of it. My father went to sign up for the draft for Vietnam, spoke fluent French and was turned down for medical reasons (Thank God). Since then, no one in our family has enlisted, at least in my immediate family. We do have a slew of engineers who work on all sorts of projects they can't discuss, but who knows why?
I'll never know the experiences my grandfather had. I'll never know what it was like for him to live with the memories, good and bad. I'll never know what he would think of desegregation, women enlisting and things like DADT. None of that really matters. He did what he was asked to do. Then he came home and did what he needed to do. The every day story of men all over the world whom we remember, along with their fallen comrades, on this day.
John and his sister Diddy on Decoration Day 1942 (now known as Memorial Day)
History is filled with accounts of heroic actions, daring escapades and sacrifices. It is important that we remember the everyday women and men whose quiet sacrifices are oft overlooked.
The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected- Sun Tzu, the Art of War
Sunday, May 30
by Sue on Sun 30 May 2010 10:35 AM EDT
Some believe these actions and the increasing visibility of the community's discontent played a role in the House vote on DADT.
Now they've turned attention to visibility around ENDA. Recently, GetEqual organizer Kip Williams disrupted a speech by President Obama to show that not everyone in the LGBTQ community is willing to patiently wait for leadership. The President was not amused and continues to cover his lack of leadership by deflecting attention to the "real" opponents. This redirection is not unfamiliar here in Southwestern PA, but that's a topic for another post.
Such direction action by individuals are not without precedent. From the Washington Post:
My favorite part:
The tactics worked. Segal had a face to face with Cronkite to explain how CBS News was censoring the increasing gay activism. Cronkite paved the way for on-air coverage and Segal went on to found The Philadelphia Gay News.
Hmmm. The argument against direct action as a viable tactic has not only historically, but currently proven wrong. Segal has gone on to play a significant role increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania.
Impact on the legislative process requires a multitude of tactics from letter writing to direct action. It is all about visibility. The emergence of groups like Get Equal demonstrates our potential to delve into the rich history of LGBTQ activism to tackle issues like DADT and ENDA.
I do need to point out that what we are missing in Pennsylvania is that activist/direct action middle link. I've written recently about the workings of the insider/Alist advocates who have embedded themselves into the system and work for change from within. I've also written about the tactics of groups like Bash Back who are at the other end of the spectrum. What's missing is the visibility of those in between -- those who are losing patience and seeking leadership to openly channel that frustration and disillusionment.
Telling us "I've got it" isn't enough. Vandalizing property out of anger with the system is also not working. I believe neither approach resonates with the average LGBTQ person without the in between, the actions that connect with our lives and our experiences.
In my case, I experience the tension of the in between most days. I don't trust those who say they've got it because the results of that approach are not changing lives or meeting the promises of the politicians making the decisions. I am dismayed when people believe the damage to property has any positive impact other than to announce they are angry.
Finding the leadership for the in between is the key.
The old joke is that Pittsburgh is 20 years behind the curve in most trends. Let's hope the slight forward momentum finds inspiration from the national scene to defy those odds.
Saturday, May 29
by Sue on Sat 29 May 2010 11:57 AM EDT
Bash Back, a radical transfolk/queer group, has had two recent actions in Pittsburgh. One involved an evangelical church that promises to cure homosexuality. The other involved our favorite bakery, Peace Love and Little Donuts. You recall a recent favorable review published in Cue Pittsburgh? Here's the response from people who care about these things.
Now, I am not in favor of vandalism. I don't think its constructive, but I also think the mainstream community's refusal to explore the underlying anger and engage the participants is equally not constructive. We just go round and round.
The unknown factor at this point is whether Cue Pittsburgh will print the retraction or the promised follow up article. It did not appear in the June issue.
Do the readers of Cue care enough to raise their own ruckus? More to the point, do they care enough to stop buying the damn donuts?
Speaking of caring, I am searching for info on the promised meeting with City Council regarding the gay bashing incidents in Bloomfield. I've been encouraging elected officials to get off Grant Street and meet queer folks out in the community to ensure they have information (and solutions?) from diverse points of view. I'm hoping they respond soon.
by Sue on Sat 29 May 2010 10:37 AM EDT
Gosh, I've been so caught up in DADT, work and wrestling with my bike that I haven't given very much attention to Pittsburgh PrideFest.
It is right around the corner.
This coming week, we'll see a political rally with Cleve Jones, the Dyke March and the GLENDA Diva's for Diversity.
The official pride site.
The official Pride Guide 2010. I like that its up now so you can check it out before the event.
Perspective? Moscow Pride is thrilled they managed to march for five to ten minutes. Pride is illegal in Moscow.
Love, love the guy using his smart phone while marching! Such a me thing to do. I usually live tweet the Dyke March and inevitably trip over something.
I'm curious which politicians show up. Onorato, I'm betting. Sestak, I'm hoping (especially because protocol dictates he goes first, eh?). State folks are trickier because "GET THE BUDGET DONE" Ahem.
by Sue on Sat 29 May 2010 10:03 AM EDT
will he have an office with a working phone? Does ALCOSAN provide email addresses?
by Sue on Sat 29 May 2010 09:26 AM EDT
The Trib ...weighing in on Congressional vote to authorize DADT repeal.
What we don't see is any commitment or promise from Republicans to support the repeal if the Pentagon report gives a thumb up. Because they are counting on?
Once again it seems the personal bigotries of homophobic soldiers carry more weight than the best interests of the nation's defense.
So we wait to see (assuming the Senate takes action) how these "what the Pentagon report finds" folks respond if that report creates a reasonable implementaton process. Hmmm.
by Sue on Sat 29 May 2010 08:11 AM EDT
Always interesting to see which NYT pieces that PG picks up ...
Today they chose to look at the practical implementation of openly LGBTQ soldiers, especially morale. Opinions vary from shrugs (since its already happening) to concern about backlash and harassment to the ever-present rhetoric about destroying anti-gay, homophobic rights to hold those opinions (aka losing their religion.
Why Keith? Why does it threaten you so to deal with reality?
Friday, May 28
by Sue on Fri 28 May 2010 07:42 PM EDT
From Pam's House Blend.
Hmmm. I've seen many local Pgh folks celebrating the *repeal* of DADT with no indication that they grasp exactly what the amendment language means. Others celebrate the small step of progress. No real local backlash thus far, at least not online.
Some of these dynamics play out with regard to the LGBT advocacy in Western PA. I think people are pretty comfortable acknowledging there are backroom politics at play; they just want to cultivate a sense of loyalty among those who don't have access and take some personal offense when they aren't believed about what happens behind those closed doors. I also think we have a lot of folks who "opt out" and that doesn't help.
This indicates that part of the system that is broken is the LGBT advocacy system itself. There's a lot of power concentrated in a few hands with little opportunity for participation or dissent. Long gone are the days when someone took the (open) mike at Pridefest to challenge the status quo or the powers that be.
Still, there is something to be said for engaging people in terms of outreach to their elected officials, so I'm sort of straddling the idea that people need to engage within the system AND create more transparency to connect with people who are disengaged. How that gels given an emerging LGBT political power base that mimics the old-school SW Pennsylvania Jurassic political system ... anybody's guess.
Getting back to DADT, this is progress, but progress that we need to keep in perspective. John Aravois from AMERICAblog has this to say.
by Sue on Fri 28 May 2010 06:38 PM EDT
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 28, 2010
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE ... more »
by Sue on Fri 28 May 2010 08:39 AM EDT
Bear in mind that this vote does not repeal the ban on openly LGBT men and women serving in the military. The policy is still in effect. It does start the ball rolling, but it could realistically be several years until the ban is lifted. It could also remain in place. So proceed with caution.
Good call on the part of Steel City Stonewall Democrats to keep Critz off the slate. He voted no on the repeal.
Well, he did make it pretty clear he was not a liberal.
More later on how the gay community is sorting itself out in response to this "progress." This is a pivotal moment, but we may disagree on why.