8.20.09 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotIf you’re disturbed by the tenor of the health care debate, get used to it. The anger (read: fear) on display is far more elemental than the topic at hand. It’s evidence of change—or more accurately resistance to change—that is inevitable and long overdue. And it has everything to do with the resistance to our struggle for full LGBT equality.

There is a significant minority in this country—not inclusive of all Republicans, and not exclusive of all Democrats—that is scared to death right now. Call them ‘traditionalists.’ They believe in a white world of controlled Christian patriarchy that, to them, reflects everything that’s good and decent and predictable about America. They also believe that wealth is finite, and that their claim to a shrinking piece of the pie is growing more tenuous every day.
It’s no surprise that many of the traditionalists screaming loudest at the health care forums are senior citizens. Their belief system is undergoing full frontal assault.

In 1955, the year I was born, fewer than five percent of children in this country were born to single mothers. By 2007 this number had skyrocketed to 40%, with the most pronounced recent increases among women age 20 to 34. In 1955, 35 percent of women were single. By 2007, a full 52 percent of women reported living without a spouse.
Meanwhile, six states have legalized marriage for gays and lesbians since 2003, and another six states now recognize some form of meaningful civil union. Opinion polls show that more than half of those under age 35 now favor full marriage equality.

Gloria Steinem described the fear engendered by these dual developments when I interviewed her back in 2005.
“The adversaries of the women’s movement and the gay and lesbian movement have always been the same, and the reason is because the root issue is the same. To be free, women have to be able to separate sexuality from reproduction. And gays and lesbians stand as living proof of that separation… and equality in relationships.”

But truth be told, none of this is as difficult for traditionalists to swallow as the changing face of America. Our nation remains mostly white, and mostly Christian, but demographic experts project that won’t be the case much longer. This is visible evidence that control is slipping away, underscored by the election of a black president. As one sobbing women lamented at a health care forum captured by television news cameras, “This isn’t my country anymore!”

She and her fellow traditionalists are truly afraid, and this is apparent in their increasingly conspicuous disconnect from reality. They’ve imposed a different religion and heritage on President Obama, envisioned “death panels” in proposed health care plans, denied that Medicare is a government program, and distanced themselves from the record deficits of George W. Bush as they decry our growing national debt. Meanwhile they offer no solutions, blinding themselves to the trenchant problems and inequities that must be addressed.

This is a tantrum; a childish strategy born of desperation, and it’s getting louder. We must not let them succeed.
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For the third time in fifteen years, I am happily retreating as Watermark’s editor. I held the position from 1994 to 2001, until we were established enough to hire someone full-time. I stepped back into the role after the unexpected death of Dave Wiethop, and then again when a tanking economy mandated temporary budget cuts earlier this year.

I am pleased to say that we’ve weathered the downturn, and proud to announce the promotion of Tampa Bay Bureau Chief Steve Blanchard as editor of the newspaper. In his five years with Watermark, Steve has covered a number of important stories with balanced diligence, and gained the trust and respect of the local LGBT community as a result. He’s more than prepared for the job, and I look forward to watching the paper grow under his leadership.
And me? I’ll do what publishers are supposed to do: step back, see to the proper operation of the company and set goals for the future. I’ll also return to writing a regular ‘Viewpoint’ column.

Coming on the cusp of our recent 15th anniversary, the timing feels perfect.

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