In Florida, fall is spring. It’s an ironic time of awakening, when the days grow shorter but the weather turns from oppressive to outright energizing. It coincides with the start of school and football season. It also marks the beginning of the cultural calendar, with a fresh new television season and all the best books, movies and theatre stacked up like so many planes on a runway.
For me, it’s always been a time for self-assessment—far more than the New Year. Let’s face it: nothing new or ambitious is going to happen in July or August, so when September rolls around it feels like time to focus. What do I care about? How do I feel? How do I want to be?
Often, the answers have been driven by circumstances: this is when I regroup after the hurricanes, or this is when I help my family recover from the death of a loved one. Last fall I was furious about the rapidly declining state of our nation, and cared deeply about electing a new and better president.
This year the process has been a struggle. Although we’re told the worst of the downturn is behind us, the economy still feels like its contracting. It’s easy to feel powerless. But I’m inspired by those in our community who are demonstrating that there is opportunity embedded in every circumstance.
The owners of a dormant building in St. Petersburg are developing an “Arts Arcade” with rental space at less than $5 per square foot, and LGBT-friendly tenants are flocking. Instead of the condo tower envisioned just a year ago, the arcade will bring personality and foot-traffic to St. Pete’s evolving downtown.
Across the bay, Mariruth Kennedy and Scott Taylor have developed myQmmunity.com so that LGBT organizations and businesses can network on a mass scale. I just had lunch with an Orlando attorney who is adding foreclosure mediation to his practice because too many of his clients—and friends—have been subject to the cold inefficiency of that process.
Likewise, I’ve decided to combat powerlessness with pro-activity, even in the smallest ways. That ten pounds I’ve gained? It’s coming off this fall. The overgrown backyard? I’m turning it into a blooming showplace. The bottom line: Wickipedia may someday describe the “Great Recession,” but I want to look back and remember positive things about this time in my life.
And politically, I’m bracing for the struggle that will define the next decade. With the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic congressional majority, the Spoiled Rotten Right is scared that they are losing control (we can only hope!). Their strategy is clear and growing more extreme: scare the electorate back into their clawed grasp.
This is the same right that has called the shots for the past eight years, and if they succeed our nation will have proved itself largely ungovernable. Our problems will remain unaddressed, our opportunities will remain unexploited, and economic disparity will grow. It will take apocalyptic results to force real change. We were close just 10 months ago, but that has already been forgotten due to the competence of the new administration the SRR so derides.
Being proactive is a challenge in this environment, especially if you’re not into screaming or carrying firearms. One important way is to support Fair Districts Florida, which has proposed two constitutional amendments that would ensure some semblance of fairness in the drawing of legislative districts.
Ever wonder why Florida’s congressional representation seems so ineffectual and out of touch? Why we have no mass transit? No real tax or insurance reform? No gay adoption?
In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by six percentage points, there are almost twice as many Republicans in elected office. In the U.S. House, Republicans hold 10 of 15 Florida seats. And that’s because Republican incumbents have drawn their districts so that the threat of challenge—and thus the pressure of accountability—is almost nonexistent.
If in power, Democrats would likely do the same. Real progress in Florida starts with compact, competitive redistricting. Log on to FairDistrictsFlorida.org today to see what you can do to make a difference.
Call it being proactive.
As someone who spends lots of time in both Tampa Bay and Orlando, I’d be remiss if I didn’t encourage some cultural cross-pollination next month.
For those of you in Orlando, if you’ve never attended the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Oct. 8-18 this year), you’re missing something special. There’s nothing like sitting in the gloriously rococo Tampa Theater watching good gay movies with hundreds of good gay people. If you stay in Ybor City for the weekend you can also experience the resurgent—and historic—gay nightlife district. Visit cliptampabay.com for the impressive film lineup.
And if you live in Tampa Bay, consider making the 75 minute drive over to Orlando for Come Out With Pride on Sunday, Oct. 11. The weather is perfect, the parade winds through one of Orlando’s most scenic downtown neighborhoods, and the expo and concert afterward are at beautiful Lake Eola Park—a venue you won’t want to leave. Go to ComeOutWithPride.org for details.