Doing the Right Thing
March 21, 2006
To the Editor
If the Academy wanted to honor a film that brilliantly explores how the races don’t relate, they had that opportunity 16 years ago with Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” (“Oscar Did Not Brokeback Away from Homosexuality,” by Nathan Riley, March 16-22). Not surprisingly, the membership didn’t nominate it for Best Picture or Best Director, and Lee’s sharp, insightful screenplay lost to the dull and uninspired “Dead Poets Society.” While “DTRT” is still edgy, hilarious, and powerful, “Crash” is simplistic, choppy, and convoluted. By selecting it as last year’s Best Picture, the Academy sent a message—but it’s not the message many angry over “Brokeback Mountain”’s snub believe it is: When African-American filmmakers tackle racism, they are being confrontational and irresponsible (white film critics and politicians, straight and gay, “warned” that “DTRT” would start riots; it didn’t); when whites tackle racism, they are courageous and deserve our praise.
James Earl Hardy
Author of “A House Is Not a Home” Sixth in the “B-Boy Blues” series
March 17, 2006
To the Editor:
Nathan Riley’s attempt to defend the Academy’s choice of the mediocre, manipulative “Crash” as Best Picture throws new light on the political and cultural poverty of the period we’re living through. A relentlessly banal, ham-fisted tableau of social stereotypes belching out laughably racist remarks, “Crash” offers no insight whatever on the causes of racism—except the offensive notion that affirmative action actually provokes it. In the end it does no more than satisfy itself with the cynical notion that because all people are racist and flawed, social progress is essentially impossible unless each of us, separately, tries to be better—a kind of cinematic elevation of Rodney King’s pathetic lament, “Can’t we all just get along?”
This isn’t profound insight or great moviemaking—it’s Sunday-School sermonizing masquerading as a Great Theme, and it’s dead wrong. Social progress happens because masses of people, with the right leadership, organize to make it happen. And it certainly never happens with the help of the police. I find it revealing that the storyline Riley claims raises the movie to “greatness” is in fact its most offensive and hackneyed—the notion that a racist, rapist cop would miraculously risk his life to save the African-American woman he had humiliated the night before. This notion exists only in the imagination of prosperous, isolated liberals for whom all social problems are the fault of flawed human beings and not the institutional and class interests that govern American life.
“Brokeback Mountain,” which Riley dismisses as “conventional,” in fact profoundly challenges those same interests because it both exposes, with great probity and intelligence, the human costs of homophobia and points the finger directly at society as a whole. There is to my mind no better measure of this film’s achievement as a cultural breakthrough than its having provoked both a broad new challenge to widely held prejudices and a particularly relentless backlash from those threatened by this challenge.
Rock the Sham
March 21, 2006
To the Editor:
Last Friday, Irish Queers protested our exclusion from the NYC St. Patrick’s parade. As the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the NYPD, and city officials again combined to deny the existence of queers in the Irish community, we planted ourselves on Fifth Avenue with pins, banners, and any other way we could think of to refuse to be invisible.
Cops, firefighters, corrections and court officers screamed slurs as they marched past. No evidence of a shift in the parade’s bigotry was visible—but neither were the boldface queer names who’d spent the previous week talking about challenging the AOH’s homophobia. Queer community interest in fighting AOH-sponsored, city-supported homophobia at the St. Patrick’s parade has waxed and waned, so we very much appreciate Chris Quinn’s willingness to use her new position to push the issue.
But Irish Queers wasn’t contacted until we called Quinn ourselves. Even then we were told little and asked less. Quinn clearly has other allegiances: she appeared at Bloomberg’s pre-parade breakfast before he marched off with the bigots; her Irish Heritage fete honored Tom Manton, a former AOH grand marshal; and we imagine she didn’t show at the demo because she would have had to face-off with her homegirl Hillary plus her entourage of green-sweatered donors, as they crossed the queer picket line.
Other strange things happened too. Brendan Fay, who has deliberately not been involved in organizing protests at the parade since 1994—and has alternately chided or ignored those of us who’ve stayed to fight—apparently told Newsday he has “spent the past 16 years in the thick of the fight to march.” ESPA, which threw over Irish LGBT people when Hillary decided to march in 2000, was suddenly decrying the AOH in the media—although still not Hillary.
In the coming year, we hope those who want to stand with Irish and Irish-American LGBT people—whether you’re a glamorous politician or a mere queer –will join with Irish Queers on the parade issue as well as other, happier stuff. And really, don’t forget to turn up next March 17—it’s a Saturday, you can make it—if you plan to talk the talk.
For Irish Queers Via e-mail
March 20, 2006
To the Editor,
In 1991 when the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with Mayor Dinkins,, it was with the “blessing” of the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ parade committee as well its state and national boards.
John Dunleavy, the current parade chairman, who made the ugly remarks comparing ILGO to the KKK and Nazis last week, was handed these analogies in 1992, by Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union. During a Human Rights Commission hearing into charges the AOH discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation, Siegel offered to represent the AOH. They declined, but Siegel filed an amicus brief in support of the AOH making the exact same comparisons.
Christine Quinn wins this year’s public relations battle hands down this year, but ILGO always held the high moral ground too but nothing changed. The AOH does not care what anyone thinks about their homophobia. I applaud Quinn for trying to broker some kind of deal, but incremental change is not something the AOH parade committee will ever allow. So, why not go the whole hog and demand to carry a banner?
Christine Quinn’s refusal to march in the parade last week was simply holding the ground, neither going forward nor backward in the battle, From my experience, any AOH member who shows support for our “cause” usually does so behind closed door.
I disagree with Paul Schindler’s analysis that the LGBT community doesn’t care much about who does or doesn’t march in the parade. Perhaps most homocrats have moved away from the issue but I believe it remains a litmus test for our “leaders” and the politicians we vote for. If it’s such a non-issue why all the hullabaloo again this year? Why indeed did Schindler write an Op-Ed on the topic the week before the parade?
Perhaps the fact that the Ancient Order of Hibernians does not in fact run New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is something that might interest Quinn. In 1992, a few of the boys on the committee, John Dunleavy included, incorporated as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration Committee in order to protect themselves from their superiors in the state and national AOH. New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is covered by the city’s grandfather clause, allowing it to close down Fifth Avenue on any day of the week, unlike most parades, but the corporation running the parade has no particular right to the permit. Maybe the City Council of New York can apply for the permit to run the parade next year. Now that would be interesting!
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