A Day of Grief and Resolve

On this anniversary of 9-11 I am sharing some stuff that was on my old website that I think is worth saving, starting with this, the first public statement I made soon after September 11, 2001:

I want to recognize that this is a time when we all are aware of the vulnerability of our country and our people after the attacks on the east coast. I have been reading about people feeling that those acts of terror have stripped away the sense of safety that we as a nation felt. While I acknowledge that is true in some important ways, I would also like to say that it has been a long time – if ever – since many of us felt safe, when so many people in this country and in our world are targeted, harassed, beaten and killed because of bias based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, ethnicity, ability, etc. Many of us have been aware that we have lived in a war zone all along. Six years ago my youngest son was beaten because he was bisexual. He committed suicide a month later because he believed he lived in a world filled with hate he could no longer face. When I watched the news and heard that people were throwing themselves from the windows of the World Trade Center as it was being destroyed, I thought of my son Bill. ~ Gabi Clayton

“If I Give Your Name”, performed 9/10/11 by Emma’s Revolution

“Speak up. Let your voice be heard. Use your voice to bring comfort and calm. If you hear someone making racist comments, please speak up and remind them that these were the actions of a few individuals, not all Arabs, not all Muslims. Remind them that these actions, if in fact eventually proven to be the result of Arab terrorists, remain the responsibility of those individuals. Terrorists come from all groups of people, from all walks of life, from all nationalities. Let us not make this tragedy worse by terrorizing our fellow human beings as these terrorists have done. We must show more compassion than they have shown their victims.”
~ Excerpted from Sept 12, 2001 – Message from The Equality Project On the Terrorist Attacks on the USA

Leonard Cohen – Sound of Silence (tribute to Paul Simon)

The answer, according to my daughter
by Chris Corrigan, written around the end of 2011

Dear friends and family,

I have E-mailed this to a number of people. I thought you might be interested. My daughter is 4.5 years old.

My daughter Aine and I were walking in the woods today playing a game. She was pretending that there were monsters in the forest and that they were coming to eat us. We had to be vigilant. We had to defend ourselves. I asked her “What is the plan? What are we going to do if we see one of the monsters?” She replied, “Feed them.”

“Feed them?” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “If we feed them they won’t want to eat us.”

I think she has the answer there. Imagine if President Bush took that $40 billion that Congress gave him and used it to feed people. Heck, take $20 billion to fix up US security and clean up New York and use the other half to feed people. And not just feed them with food.

What if we decided that people’s spirits needing feeding too? What if we chose to take $1 billion and build the biggest, most beautiful mosque in the world, right in the heart of Kabul. And what if we gave it as a gift, no quid pro quo, as a place for people to feed their spirits?

What would the reaction be? What do we want the reaction to be?

Take that $40 billion dollars and spend it in every neighborhood in the world. Put the world to work growing food, healing people, restoring land and water, building communities, creating the thin fibbers of connection between peoples, families, communities, cities, nations…

“If we feed them they won’t want to eat us.” Can you think of a better form of security?

Love to all,

Here is my friend Steve Schalchlin’s song “Holy Dirt”~ a song about violence and religion:

September 13, 2001 – this is from a letter to PFLAG members and affiliates from Arnold Drake, the organization’s President at the time and Kirsten Kingdon, then Executive Director:

On Tuesday, untold thousands of people were killed by terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., as well as the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. The devastation we are witnessing is ricocheting around the country and the world. It is taking a tremendous toll on all of us. Although some of us are more directly affected, as the tragic stories unfold, we all grieve.

This is a time that will test all of us. It is a time of national, and indeed international, tragedy. It is also a time of complexity, and we hope that as individuals, as PFLAG chapters and as a nation, we will respond to this horror in ways that will break the cycle of violence and move the world towards peace. Reports are already surfacing of threats and retaliatory acts against anyone who is, or who is perceived to be, Arab or Muslim.

In PFLAG we are united in our vision and our mission to celebrate diversity and work for a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. We know the needless pain and suffering experienced by people stigmatized simply because of who they are.

We have an obligation to speak out on behalf of and stand beside those who are stigmatized because of their perceived ethnicity or religion. Included with this letter is a statement sent out yesterday by our friend and ally, Faisal Alam, founder of Al -Fatiha, an organization for GLBT Muslims. We have already thanked him for his message and offered him support on behalf of PFLAG.

Therefore, we urge all of you to look for people in your community who may be adversely impacted by this tragedy and reach out to them. Let them know you support them. Participate in local rallies for peace. Work in coalition with people of color in your community. Build bridges among different faith communities. Speak out against violent attacks against Arab or Muslim people.

PFLAG is, at its heart, about love. It is about connecting with people. It is about treating all people with dignity, respect and equality. It is about connecting as human beings on a very personal level. This is a time that cries out for these values. This is a time for PFLAG members everywhere to embody those values and impact our communities for the better.

“Let It Be Me” by the Indigo Girls:

October 09, 2001 – I want to share this important press statement from the National Youth Advocacy Coalition:

Vengeance Must Not Substitute for Justice

Washington, DC – Following intensely emotional discussion, as well as considerable introspection, the staff of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition has decided that we cannot, as an organization committed to social justice, continue to ignore what is happening in this country and in the Middle East as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11th.

As people who work minutes from one of the targets of the bombing, and as proud Americans, we are horrified by the devastation wrought by these terrorists. We are acutely aware of the human toll that this attack has taken on our country-some of us are still grieving, having lost loved ones in this tragedy. Indeed, we stand in absolute solidarity and in sympathy with those who grieve the loss of a mother or a father, daughter or son, husband, wife, life partner or other family or friends.

And we, too, want to see justice done.

Nonetheless, we are greatly concerned by the response of our government, and we cannot support the dehumanization and increased racial profiling of Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and Central and South Asian people; the further loss of fundamental American civil liberties; a shifting of economic resources away from critical social and human services; and now, military action in the Middle East which puts innocent people, including US service members, at risk. Nor can we accept rhetoric and actions which disproportionately put young people and people of color directly in the line of fire.

These are not issues we take lightly.

In taking this stance, we recognize that it won’t be popular and it may even be dangerous. Even now, more than three weeks after this horrific attack, there exists a highly-charged, revenge-bent atmosphere-an atmosphere palpable particularly for people who look like they may be from the Middle East, but which ultimately affects all Americans. We are deeply concerned about the environment of suspicion, blame and violence fueled, in large measure, by the bellicose rhetoric which came early from the White House. We hope that their proverbial “better angels” guide all Americans in this time of turmoil. We specifically call upon President George W. Bush to be a leader in this regard, and we are grateful that he has begun to tone down the rhetoric.

Many have advocated for a national discussion which includes asking why so many people around the world hate the United States in the first place. It is just too bad that this becomes a central question for our government only after the US becomes a target.

We know we face the inevitable charges hurled from predictable quarters condemning our position as un-American. We are clear, however, in the distinctions between blind nationalism and true patriotism. We refuse to muzzle our deep and heartfelt concerns about this war, for fear of being labeled as traitors. If democratic ideals are ever to be truly realized by all Americans, we must all stand with our country when and where she is right, and work firmly and steadfastly to correct the course when, as now, we believe she is in danger of betraying the ideals that make her great.

A thirst for vengeance can never really be quenched. It comes from a place of hatred, not of love. By acting with our military, more innocent people will die-civilians, children, young soldiers, many with families of their own to support, both here and abroad.

As cliché as it may seem, violence only brings more violence. If as a country we take the bait, the healing will not begin, and this terrible national tragedy will only get worse as more terrorism occurs as a result of our actions. We would do well to remember the old adage about not becoming that which we most despise.

We are not saying that the US cannot work hard to bring the people who are responsible for these atrocities to justice. But, the ends cannot justify the means when the means require us to restrict the democratic values which make us American in the first place.

We are also aware of the need to offer more than just criticism of our government’s actions; and advocate for the following:

* The United States government must define clear goals and desired outcomes of this “New War.” We continue to be confounded as to what would, in this instance, constitute victory. It seems to us that this war is much like our alleged War on Drugs in that the targets are ever-changing, the resources needed for the fight ever-growing, and the only real evidence of results are the increases in incarceration rates for young people of color.

* The United States government must not reinstate the military draft. One need only to take a cursory look at some of the current and previous occupants of the White House and Vice President’s Residence to see that it is disproportionately the young and poor who will be pressed into service, not those whose political connections run deep. Of course, for LGBT young people who want to serve their country, their courage should be praised, not diminished by a policy that requires them to lie about their sexual orientation.

* As a nation, we must bring all available resources to bare against ethnic, racial, and religious-based profiling-always a negative side effect of war. Already we have seen hundreds of acts of violence against people who are perceived to be terrorists or terrorist-sympathizers because of how they worship, how they look, or where they may be from in the world.

* The United States government must avoid the restrictions on fundamental civil liberties that the law enforcement community is already demanding in exchange for providing some illusory sense of personal safety. Basic civil rights for LGBT people have been under assault for many years, and any further erosion of the civil liberties of all Americans will only make it worse.

* Our nation must not allow the diversion of American resources to corporate bailouts, defense, intelligence, and the military industrial complex at the expense of social safety net programs-especially in the midst of an economic downturn like the one we are experiencing. Not surprisingly, non-profits that serve youth, particularly LGBT youth, are already seeing dramatic declines in corporate and individual giving. For youth programs, particularly those who depend on government funding, the shift to a wartime economy could be disastrous.

Some may ask why an organization working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth would even have an opinion about this war. In the past, we, like other social justice groups, have been attacked for our multi-issue approach to organizing. Even some of our colleague organizations may wish we would stay silent.

In fact, we did consider saying nothing.

In the end, however, social justice must be about something more important than a narrow agenda serving only a few. For us, it requires us to look at the connections which exist between oppressions, and refuse to accept a hierarchy which must always include a few at the top and many at the bottom.

It is important for all of us to remember that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth are represented in every race, religion, and in all parts of the world; and that they suffer injustice compounded by their multiple identities. We must be vigilant, especially now, in our efforts to fight injustice in all its forms.

We are humbled by the spirit of community which has come into our country in countless untold ways over the past few weeks; and we honor the powerful courage shown by so many of our fellow Americans. Now should be a time to grieve for those whom we have lost, celebrating their lives and spirits, and to reflect upon what it will take to end violence, and hunger, and poverty, and tyranny in every corner of the world.

We should not sit back and accept that so many more must die in order for the US to appear strong. Our national ego cannot allow vengeance to substitute for justice.

The National Youth Advocacy Coalition, or NYAC, which ceased to operate on May 12, 2011, was an organization which sought to fight discrimination against and promote the leadership and wellness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LBGTQ) youth. Founded in 1993 as the National Advocacy Coalition on Youth and Sexual Orientation, a project of the Hetrick-Martin Institute, much of its work centered on both social justice advocacy work, LGBTQ youth organization capacity building, LGBTQ youth leadership development, and HIV/STI prevention and education.work.

Let this anniversary be a day grief and resolve.

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