Jeff Cotter, a San Francisco psychiatric social worker, says he started Rainbow World Fund (RWF) four years ago because none of the traditional relief organizations were developing philanthropy and consciousness in the LGBT community. It is that dual mission — direct relief hand in hand with changing opinions and beliefs — that moves RWF. Cotter calls it a solidarity model, rather than a charity model.
“As with our community’s response to HIV, we can’t wait for the rest of the world to take leadership,” Cotter said. “And as a gay man, I thought, if I want to change the world, I should start where I’m at, in the community I live in. And the gay and lesbian community was a huge untapped market.”
In the past year, RWF has teamed up with relief organizations to increase access to safe drinking water in Central America, eradicate land mines in Cambodia, provide food for victims of hurricane Jeanne in Haiti and save the next generation of Africans from HIV/AIDS. The group works closely with larger charity organizations (such as CARE) to give aid immediately, where it’s needed.
Cotter balances his time between Rainbow and his “day job”: counseling rape victims and gunshot wound survivors for the city of San Francisco. He has spent the past three years building the infrastructure for RWF, and has begun helping victims around the world this year.
Because administrative costs are covered by the board of directors and grants from various organizations (including the Catholic Church), RWF can ensure that 100 percent of every charitable dollar goes directly to field service work overseas. In the case of Sunday’s quake and tsunami survivors, aid will go to food, water, vitamins and medical supplies for many months, and possibly years, to come.
But why doesn’t an LGBT relief organization give to LGBT causes? Why enlist gays and lesbians to help victims they know nothing about? The question, Cotter says, should really be: why not?
“Suffering is universal, and the LGBT community knows more than a little bit about that,” Cotter says. “When we took the aid trip to Guatemala earlier this year, it was clear that we (the LGBT community) had a shared history of oppression with the Mayan population there. There was a systematic genocide there, and the government invalidated their marriage relationships, among other atrocities.”
The excursion to Guatemala had another benefit as well. In the primarily Catholic and socially conservative country, Rainbow’s outreach was the first contact most citizens had with gays or lesbians. Promoting tolerance and understanding of differences among people and cultures, and at the same time providing much-needed assistance to impoverished and developing areas, is a win-win, according to Cotter.
“We’re about changing attitudes toward gays and lesbians,” Cotter said. “Many of the places we visit and help have very little LGBT presence. Everyone we’ve worked with has been surprised by our commitment, and very open and accepting to our presence.”
Over at Alternet, Lara Riscol describes 2004 as the year the rightwing showed the depth and depravity of its aversion to sex:
With a third of our HIV prevention billions promised to anti-abortion Christian-based groups, America is now exporting white weddings as social panacea from here to Africa. Masters of misinformation, theo-conservatives have spun abstinence successes into justification for their bulging billion-dollar entitlement. Abstinence works, they say, seizing upon 2004 data showing a big drop in teen pregnancy during the 90s — attributing 25 percent to abstinence and 75 percent to increased contraception use.
Duh. Abstinence from intercourse avoids pregnancy. And 30 years of peer-reviewed research says that comprehensive sexuality education delays first intercourse and reduces risky behavior once one’s sexually engaged. Not only does the data say nothing about the impact of abstinence programs, but President Clinton’s abstinence dollars under Welfare Reform didn’t reach states until 1998. Bush’s more restrictive abstinence didn’t hit the streets until 2001. Recent preliminary results actually show that abortion has increased since Bush has been pandering to its sex-obsessed base.
But it’s all about perception. Though almost no one does it — that is, sex only with one’s spouse until death do you part — the retro right has mainstreamed abstinence, which obscures its larger agenda to legislate a biblical worldview. Think The Handmaid’s Tale, or at least strict “man on top” gender roles and reinstituted enforcements of sexual morality.
But 2004 proves once again that purity politics works. In October, Bush spotlighted “real families” in Iowa when signing the Working Families Tax Relief Act. After Bush celebrated Mike and Sharla Hintz’ 13th wedding anniversary, Mike — a youth pastor and father of four — told reporters: “Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that’s going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that’s going to stand by what he believes.”
Earlier this month, the First Assembly of God Church fired Mike Hintz for sexual exploiting a 17-year-old girl in his church youth group.
Still, conservatives perpetuate their perceived stand for moral absolutes as a salve from our sex saturated culture, and their opponents as promoters of moral relativism, or even perversion.
In the aftermath of 2004’s greatest smirch upon America, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the conservative Heritage Foundation — source of strict abstinence-only language driving funding and intervention throughout the world ï¿½ syndicated a column linking the Iraq prisoner torture to liberal rot:
“With the non-judgmental, sex-crazed, anything-goes culture that we have become at home, it seems that America has set herself up for international humiliation. Our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13. We permit television and computers to bring all manner of filth into our homes. We permit school children to be taught that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. We allow Christianity and the teaching of Judeo-Christian values to be scrubbed from the public square. We allow our children to be taught how to use condoms in school, rather than why to avoid sex.”
In one distorted swoop, conservatives discredit proponents of sexual health and justice with the sick, the bad, the ugly.
Shirley Chisholm, an advocate for minority rights who became the first black woman elected to Congress and later the first black person to seek a major party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency, has died.
Gov. Schwarzenegger may have painted himself into a corner. He made statements over the break that angered the Republicans and now, apropos of nothing, he wants to re-jigger the state’s legislative boundaries so that fewer Dems will be elected to the Legislature. Today’s Los Angeles Times (free subscription) describes the mood in Sacramento as the Legislature returns to business:
More confident after weathering their first year with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Democrats who control California’s Legislature return to the Capitol today, eager to reclaim the loyalties of centrist voters even at the risk of greater confrontation with the popular Republican governor.
With an estimated $8.1-billion budget gap, the fiscal challenges are as severe as in Schwarzenegger’s first year. But easy solutions seem fewer, with last year’s gigantic borrowing package difficult to replicate. That makes extensive disputes more likely between Republicans, who oppose new taxes, and Democrats bracing to stop Schwarzenegger from cutting health and social services programs.
A long time ago, a former elected official explained to me Jeb Bush’s real purpose with his school voucher plan. The plan reduced funding to so-called “failing” schools and allowed parents to pull their children out and put them in private schools, at taxpayer expense. “He doesn’t want public schools to succeed,” my friend said. “He wants to dismantle the whole public school system.”
Little did we know that was just the beginning. Jeb has continued to pursue “privatization” of government services, but instead of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, they have consistently gone to friends and cronies. The only feeding at the public trough in Florida is being done by the well-placed.
This editorial in the St. Petersburg Times points out a basic question, if we are to believe the Jeb version of the privatization case: that services can be delivered more efficiently and cheaper by the private sector. But what about when they are both worse and more expensive? What’s up with that, Bushie Boy?
Fifty years ago, racist politicians like Strom Thurmond, Lester Maddox and George Wallace used their white constituency’s hatred of blacks to launch and sustain their politcal careers. Now a new class of bigots is coming out of the wordwork – but this time they’re using hompobia to grab the spotlight.
Rev. Keith Butler out of Detroit is one of these new Talibanis. The wrinkle is he’s black. Pam’s House Blend has background on the story:
I came across this article and couldn’t place this guy’s name for a moment. Then I recalled why it is familiar. Keith Butler was one of the black folks trotted out by the GOP at the NY convention in 2004 to add a dash of color.
He and fellow token, the infamous professional “ex-gay” Donnie McClurkin are also world-class homophobes that subscribe to the belief that being gay is a sin and that any comparison of any kindbetween the struggle for gay rights and the black civil rights movement is an insult. [The above McClurkin link goes to an excellent essay by Keith Boykin on McClurkin and the church’s ignorance on homosexuality.]
This “man of God” should be recognized as a fledgling member of the American Taliban, ready to impose his limited worldview on everyone.
There’s a footnote to the story about the three racist politicians mentioned at the top. Thurmond, Maddox and Wallace all recanted and apologized for their part in encouraging fear and hatred. And of course Strom kept secret for 60 years the fact that he’d fathered a child with a black woman.
No doubt we’ll hear recantations and apologies from the new Republican Talibanis one day – when it’s too late to undo the damage they are about to cause. And no doubt we’ll learn that among the newly prominent black gay-haters are a few who are playing around on the down low.
CA Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger calls special session to change electoral districts.
Schwarzenegger’s action could convulse the state’s political culture. He hopes to strip lawmakers of the power to create politically safe districts and give the responsibility instead to a panel of three retired judges.