Change is here… hopefully!

This should be the happiest moment in many years for all Americans.  

We have just inaugurated a new president.  The air is filled with a spirit of hope and change, and all of that is for the better.  The prospects of a happy and healthy future for America look better than ever, and that has nothing to do with Republican or Democratic politics; but everything to do with a fresh outlook and a new, positive direction for our country.  

But as with every change, there is sure to be resistance.

Naturally, I am seeing resistance from staunch Republicans who think that Barack Obama’s policies are “a lot of talk that will cost us a lot of money.”  They are sure that he will fail, and that America will not step up to the challenge to come together and work for a better future for our country.  And while I respect these people for having their opinions– because they are certainly entitled to them– I wish they would just step back and give Mr. Obama a chance to prove himself before they declare him a failure.

The most frustrating thing about this whole situation is, the same can be said for many of my GLBT brothers and sisters. 

I have spent the past few weeks being a relatively silent observer to the historic events taking place around me.  

When Prop 8 passed in California, I, like many other GLBT people across the country, felt the sting of disappointment.  I wanted to join the protests but couldn’t; yet my feelings on the situation were the same as everyone else’s.  The GLBT community voiced its disappointment with a resounding and unified cry– the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Harvey Milk or the outbreak of AIDS.  It was inspiring and exciting to see.

However, in recent weeks, I get a sense that we as a community are going way too far… to the point where we could be called “The Community Who Cried Wolf.”  

Since that first group of protests, there have been at least 4 other organized protests around the country, including here in Chicago.  Those protests started out with clear goals – one was in protest of the Cinemark theatre CEO, who supported Prop 8; one was demanding that Obama repeal the Defense of Marriage Act– but when the protests actually happened, they were paired with other, much more obscure measures– measures that I had never even heard of.  Instead of unifying our voices to one cause, we began spreading ourselves too thin, and our voices became muddled.  I decided that I would not participate in any of these protests unless they were for clear and completely understandable goals.  

This spirit of anger has also begun to permeate into the support of our new President.  We have grown entirely too gun-shy… too skeptical of every move he makes; and most of the criticism came before he even took the oath of office.  

When friends and acquaintances bemoaned the selection of Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, to give the Inaugural invocation; I kept my opinion to myself until I got all the information I could on the selection.  At that point, I decided that his selection was probably not the best move, but the message it sent to people on all sides was a message of inclusion for all- even differing viewpoints.  Later, when Bishop Gene Robinson was selected to give the invocation at this past Sunday’s “We Are One” event, I felt that the gay community’s concerns were alleviated, and we got the reperesentation we needed by our incoming President.

But when the broadcast of the event occurred, and Robinson’s invocation was cut, immediately the community started crying “Foul!” and “Betrayal!”  Granted, I was disappointed that his invocation was cut, but once again our community started laying blame before we got the whole story.  I’m sure protests against HBO and the Inaugural committee are sure to follow.

The point I’m trying to make here is:  We have a new president, with much more progressive ideas and beliefs than our former president.  As his new whitehouse.gov website outlines, he is planning to do more for our community than has ever been done before.  I just wish that our community would give the man and his administration time to find their footing and get the ball rolling before we start condemning him.  Besides, there are much bigger fish for them to fry than our concerns anyway.  They have an economy to rebuild, two wars to manage and hopefully end, and countless wrongs from the past to hopefully right.  Our concerns are just a few of a great many.  Will they all get addressed?  Probably not.  But let’s see where things go before we pass judgment.

I was a witness to Change

**UPDATED** with a new video from my friend Paul (see below!)

The day started early.  I got up, got dressed, and walked to my polling place to vote.

A Walk for History

It was a beautiful Autumn day. It was warm and the sun was shining. It had to be 70 degrees already at 9:30 in the morning. Perfect day to vote.  There was something special in the air.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I just knew that this was going to be an historic, amazing day.

Walking to vote

When I got to the polling place, as expected, there was quite a long line. I figured I’d wait an hour, maybe an an hour and a half. So I put on the iPod and waited.

In Line

After a few minutes, one of the judges came out and asked if there was anyone there voting for Precinct 14. I wasn’t sure, so I gave her my address and she went to check. When she came back, she informed me that I was in Precinct 14 and that my line was inside. INSIDE! That meant a short line. So I followed her in, and sure enough, I walked right up to the table. Sweet!

I got my ballot and filled it out, making sure to be extra careful when I drew in the arrow for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. I completed the ballot, gave it to the judge, got my receipt and I was on my way.

I was going to go with a friend to a bar to watch the election results, but just before I left for work, I found out that he got a chance to go to the Obama Rally with someone else, so I was feeling left out. I had registered for a ticket over a week ago, but I never heard anything, so I figured I wasn’t going to get one. So I made a tentative plan to go to the overflow rally — or, as I called it, the “steerage section,” after work. It was better than nothing, and I’d still get the experience of being there.

As I left for work, I decided not to bring my camera with me.  I wasn’t sure what was going to happen that night, and I didn’t want to lug my camera around if I had no reason to use it.  

Work was pretty slow – everyone had the election on their minds, but we still had work to do. I was feeling kind of bummed because I had no plans for that night to watch the election results. 

At about 1:45PM I checked my home Email, and I saw a letter from “Democratic Party” that was titled, “Your Printable Election Night Ticket.” I jumped out of my chair. “OH MY GOD! I got a ticket!” I started singing “I Got A Golden Ticket” from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I couldn’t help it. I was so excited! I clicked on the Email, printed it out, and from there the day went super-fast.

The boys at the RallyI Emailed some friends and found that they, too, were going to the rally, so I planned to meet up with them and we’d all walk over.

We met up, ate at Jimmy John’s, and walked to Grant Park en masse.  Along the way we met up with other friends and they joined us.  It felt like this impromptu parade through downtown Chicago.  All along the way we met other Obama supporters in T-shirts, buttons and other paraphenalia, and we grew more and more excited.  

USAAs we neared Michigan Ave. and Congress Parkway, the official entrance to the rally, we could see how huge the crowds were growing.  We had no idea just how huge it really was.

There were numerous security checkpoints.  The first was at the entrance, where they checked tickets and IDs.  The next was, I guess, and Electronics checkpoint.  All electronics had to be turned on and visible.  Once through there, we were herded into holding areas, and kept in groups of maybe 200 or so at a time.  Finally, after 3 or 4 checkpoints, we made it to the metal detectors.

Waiting to get inOnce past the detectors, we were in.  And we high-tailed it to the rally area.  We picked our spot on one of the softball diamonds and stood firm.  We guessed we were about a football field’s length away from the stage or more.  We could clearly see the actual stage when we got there, but surely that would change as time went on.

JumbotronThe crowd kept filtering in, and a palpable sense of excitement was in the air.  Straight ahead, next to the stage, was a massive Jumbotron screen, where coverage from CNN was playing.  As states were announced, the crowd erupted in cheers or loud boos.  But clearly we could tell that Obama was already well in the lead.

Amanda and GarrettSuddenly I heard a woman’s voice shout, “RICK! RICK!”  I turned, and I saw my friend Amanda approaching me.  How she found me in that enormous crowd I will NEVER know, but I was SO happy to see her!  We hugged and she told me she was there alone, so she stayed with the rest of our group throughout the night.  I had invited my friend Garrett to come along with me as my “plus one.”  Garrett recently moved to Chicago to go to Architectural school at IIT, so I figured this would be a wonderful chance of a lifetime for him to enjoy this historic moment.

Behind usThe crowd grew even more enormous.  There were people as far as the eye could see.  And we were all there to witness history- together.  We struck up conversations with complete strangers, trading stories and expressing our excitement over what was to come hopefully very soon.

And then, it came.  At 10:00 PM Central time, Wolf Blitzer was on the screen, counting down the seconds before the West coast polls closed.  And when they did, it was announced that Barack Obama was elected President.

The pandemonium was amazing.  Cheering, crying, hugging, screaming, jumping, clapping, fist-jabbing and chanting “YES WE DID!” and “O-BA-MA!”  It was the most exhilirating experience of my life.  

This video is from my friend, Paul Mumberger. Watch it… and live that moment with us. It was AMAZING:

President ObamaThen, of course, it came time to hear from Obama himself.  When he arrived it was just amazing.  And his speech was so wonderful.  And as I looked around the field, I could see people hugging, crying, and holding their heads in amazement.  We all had to be thinking the same thing: This is HISTORY.  This is a life-changing, WORLD-changing moment, and we are HERE to witness it.  Nothing like this has ever happened before, and nothing will ever happen like it again.  It was hard to contain the tears of joy.  

Leaving the RallyAfter the speech, we began to file out of Grant Park. But the excitement of the crowd never diminished.  We walked toward Michigan Avenue, which had been closed off completely to traffic, so everyone walked down the street.  It was a parade of joy.  Black, white, hispanic, and all colors.  Walking Down Michigan AvenueFamilies, men, women, gay, straight, lesbian, bi and trans.  Young and old.  Some in wheelchairs.  Some with babies and small children.  Every single person was cheering and smiling.  The noise echoed from the ground to the buildings above us.  And as they went down side streets to catch trains and buses, the canyons reflected the cheers and chants.  It was the biggest, loudest, most amazing parade, and everyone was featured.  This was our time and our celebration.  And celebrate, we did.

Chicago witnessed an historic moment that night.  We were witnesses to Change.  And change is a powerful and beautiful thing.  O Happy Day!

Time Magazine: Why Barack Obama Is Winning

Barack Obama, courtesy of Time Magazine
Callie Shell / Aurora for TIME

Joe Klein of Time Magazine has written a fantastic article about the Obama campaign, and gives some really good insight as to why he is, so far, winning. It’s a great read and I wanted to share it with you.

Excerpt:

General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for “maximum flexibility” going forward. Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views “under advisement.” Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action — especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind. “You know, if I were in your shoes, I would be making the exact same argument,” he began. “Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security.” Obama talked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the financial costs of the occupation of Iraq, the stress it was putting on the military.

A “spirited” conversation ensued, one person who was in the room told me. “It wasn’t a perfunctory recitation of talking points. They were arguing their respective positions, in a respectful way.” The other two Senators — Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed — told Petraeus they agreed with Obama. According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting — which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing — ended agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama’s perspective was, necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command. …

Full article at Time.com

"That One" T-Shirts- On Sale NOW!

Believe it or not, I’ve been getting a lot of requests for T-shirts of my “That One” designs, so I have set up a Cafe Press store so you can get your very own “That One” T-shirt.  There are tons of “That One” items there, but none have the same design I did (thankfully!) 🙂  

Click here to go to my store:

Support This Site

Here are the items available (click to be brought to that item in the store):

“That One” ringer T-shirts, in white cotton with red, blue or black ‘rings’. Sizes available: S, M, L, XL and 2XL. $24.99

That One Fitted T-Shirt
“That One” fitted T-shirts, in white cotton. All Sizes available: S, M, L, XL and 2XL. $25.99

That One plain white T-shirt
“That One” plain white T-shirts, 100% cotton. Sizes available: S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL and 4XL.
$24.99

That One Light T-Shirt
“That One” light T-shirts, 100% cotton, available in natural, grey and light blue. Sizes available: S, M, L, XL, 2XL and 3XL. $24.99

10% of all proceeds will go toward to the Obama-Biden campaign. After the election, those proceeds will go toward various causes. I’ll have more products to sell in the near future.. so watch for more goodies! Thanks for your interest!

Obama talks about gay issues to Advocate

I’m not very shy in my support for Barack Obama.  I’ve discussed on the pages of this blog and on other blogs how I chose to support him for the Democratic nomination, and was (initially) chided and even derided for my choice because of his spotty public support for gay-related issues.

Truth be told, it has been rather hard to pinpoint Obama’s views on some of the more “hot-button” issues.  He hasn’t done interviews with the gay press, save for an appearance on Logo’s Democratic debate; and the mentions he has made have been vague, at best. 

Still, I sensed a truer honesty coming from Obama, rather than the “Rah-Rah, I’m in your corner” tactic used by Hillary Clinton.  To me, her overly vocal support borders on pandering.  It’s almost TOO much.  I certainly appreciate her support, and recognize that she has done good things in her time as a Senator, but really, saying things like “I want to be first U.S. president to march in gay pride parade” just seems a bit forced to me.

Obama, however, has a more honest approach.  While he doesn’t believe that gay marriage is the answer, he supports civil unions.  He supports equality in terms of benefits for partners of gay people.  He supports the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and gives very good reasons why it should be repealed.  To me, his views and beliefs seem much more realistic and doable than those of his opponent.  As a gay person, I expect the Democratic candidate to represent me, but I also expect him or her to be realistic about what they can do.  A president can have all the great ideas in the world, but the president doesn’t make all the end decisions– despite what Bush may want us to believe.  Obama is thinking about this, and knows what can pass and what can’t.  Rather than make empty promises, he’s giving realistic promises.  I like that.

Obama sat down for an interview with The Advocate recently, where he discusses these issues and many more.  That interview was published today on their website.  If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth a look.