Tag Archives: Zach Wahls

Hero of the Week Award: June 22, Naka Nathaniel (and friends)

22 Jun

Hero of the Week

The Boy Scouts of America got a bit of attention at their annual meeting last month, leading to more bad press for their ridiculous anti-gay policies. This week, journalist Naka Nathaniel, an Eagle Scout, renounced his rank and repudiated the Scouts in an interview with MSNBC. His powerful words say it all.

When I earned my Eagle Scout rank 20 years ago, I was proud of my accomplishment. When my little brother earned his Eagle 13 years later, I traveled halfway round the world to attend his court of honor. I was proud of him and my family. My parents had raised two Eagle Scouts. Today, I’m ashamed to be an Eagle Scout.

I don’t want my son to participate in Scouting…The antigay policies of the Boy Scouts of America have forced me to turn my back on an organization that, along with my parents, I credit for helping me be a good son, a good husband, a good employee, and a good citizen.

Well put! For those who missed it, the wonderful Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout with two lesbian mothers, delivered over 275,000 signatures demanding a change in policy to the Scouts’ annual meeting. Another former scout, actor and activist George Takei, is hosting Jennifer Tyrrell, the Ohio lesbian who was banned from her son’s scout troop, at NYC Pride. Let’s hope more scouts will follow the charge for bravery in Scout Law and take action to pressure this organization to live up to some of its other standards, like kindness, courtesy, and helpfulness.

Honorable mention this week goes to General Mills. The Minneapolis-based food giant has “joined the culture war” and made a strong stand for equality. Earlier this month, a General Mills executive testified before Congress about the need for inclusive non-discrimination legislation. This week they company issued a strong statement opposing the Minnesota ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriages. Hooray — now eating Cheerios and Häagen-Dazs is a stand for civil rights!

Number 4 Hero of the Year Award 2011: Zach Wahls

29 Dec

Number 4 Hero of 2011

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to interview the very impressive and courageous Zach Wahls, who defended his two mothers in the state of Iowa.  Zach’s dedication to civil rights and his ability to stand up to a homophobic government earn him this year’s number 4 spot for Hero of the Year Award.

Zach’s moms, Jackie and Terry must be exceedingly proud of their son.  It is also nice to know that should Zach, and whoever his future wife should be, have a gay child, that child will be loved and celebrated.

FlashBack 2010: Admiral Mike Mullen earned the number 4 spot for Hero of 2010.

Millennial Generation: Interview with Zach Wahls

2 Jun

Zach Wahls

Many of you may remember the name Zach Wahls; he earned a Hero of the Week Award on the TSM.  Seeing the courage of this 19 year old in Iowa made me want to interview him for the Millennial Generation Series.  I have to say that, had my husband and I had children, Zach is the type of son I would be so proud to have.  His parents, Jackie and Terry must be kvelling!  Than you, Zach.  We look forward to your many more contributions to making the world a better place for all.

Zach is 19 years old and studying in college.  He has a younger sister.  He identifies as “a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.”

Politics

I’m a registered Democrat, but am not opposed to voting for intellectually honest Republicans. My biggest frustration with politicians is not about specific policies, usually, but about whether or not the politicians are being honest about what those policies will do, why they are presenting those policies, etc. Way too much of our policy making is about emotionally-charged and intellectually dishonest claims instead of realworld problem solving. Any politician with the courage to put forward solutions–that actually solve problems, even if they’re unpopular–is worth consideration in my book.

LGBT Issues

As important as marriage equality is, I think the bigger challenge facing the LGBTQ movement is the quiet, presumed homophobia of our social interactions. The casual use of the words “faggot” “queer” and “gay” in derogatory contexts is what fuels the culture of discrimination. Once we have, as a society, gotten to the point where we’re unwilling to permit such slander, I think most of the other challenges facing the movement will resolve themselves. This isn’t to say that we don’t have to do anything–quite the contrary. Getting to that point will take a *lot* of work.

Frame of Reference

Growing up, certainly 9/11 was a defining moment, politically, for most of my generation. I also vividly remember watching keynote speeches at the 2004 GOP National Convention that viciously attacked my family and me–something you hope never to hear from your elected officials, the people who are supposed to be protecting you and representing your interests.

I’ll also never forget the day that the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same-sex couples had the constitutionally-protected right to enter civil marriage. I don’t listen to a lot of U2, but I listened to their song, “Beautiful Day” literally all day. Restored my faith in our government.

Biggest Anxiety

People have expected big things from me my whole life, and I’ve come to expect big things from myself as well. From whence these high expectations came, I’m not entirely sure, but they’re persistent–at time frustratingly so. My biggest fear is of waking up one morning, realizing I’m 40 years old and having made no significant contribution to my community–be it local, state, national or global. I often find myself walking a fine line between “Don’t try too hard,” and “Work like you’ve got a gun to your head.” I guess this is related to the previous question as well, but I look at the world and I see lots and lots of suffering. One billion people on this planet wake up every morning without a secure source of safe, clean water. One out of six. Young gay people are about eight times more likely to commit suicide than a young straight person. This is terrifying stuff. But then I look around and see so much happiness and so many people enjoying life, and I think to myself that this is what life needs to be.

Biggest Dream

Haha, I’m not one for dreams. I’m more about what we can actually do. I did really like *Inception*, though.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I’d rather make a significant contribution to something that actually mattered without recognition than canonized for doing something that didn’t matter.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

Well, I think my generation is uniquely situated. I have more technological power in my cell phone than NASA had when they put a human being on the surface of the moon. I am–and if you’re reading this on a computer, you are too–a walking, breathing technological superpower. Not only that, but we grew up with this technology in such a way that it’s really second nature to us. We’ve got the capacity to advance the average human condition on this planet in immeasurable ways. Huge potential. The question is whether or not we’ll deliver. And that remains to be seen.

Creating a Contagion of Community

6 Mar

What must it be like to live in Clatterford? For those not in the know, this fictional British town is the setting of Jam and Jerusalem, a sitcom written by Jennifer Saunders (of Absolutely Fabulous fame). Aired as Clatterford in the U.S., the show is a touching look at life in a small village, mostly through the eyes of the members of the local women’s guild. The remarkable thing about Clatterford (other than the expected Britcom eccentricity) is the true sense of community. Even if they get on one another’s nerves, the citizens of Clatterford care for one another for no other reason than their shared community. They are neighbors, and neighbors care for one another. (In fact, the weakest relationships in the stories are those of family.)

I know that life in Clatterford is idealized, but watching it always makes me think about how fractured our modern sense of community has become. Michael and I are very lucky to have wonderful, supportive, caring neighbors. This has not been the case in every place that we have lived. Most of the people I know have at best a passing acquaintance with their nearest neighbors and no sense of a larger neighborhood or community. Many who do engage, do so as part of a fractious neighborhood association that obliterates any sense of true community.

Modern American life places a low value on work / life balance. For those who try to find a good middle ground, the life part often gets subsumed by rushing from obligation to obligation, not taking the time to get to know the people one interacts with as anything other than another Board member or soccer mom.

“Reality” television sets bizarre expectations for what it means to be a normal person. Communities are painted as hostile and competitive. People don’t matter unless they’re winning something and defeating someone else. Participation is reduced to an Oprah-esque purging, with each person waiting for their turn to mist up in the guest chair.

Online “communities” also contribute to this artificiality. FaceBook is a fine place to share passing comments with casual acquaintances or to post a joke or opinion. Among the farm animals, pointless dining updates, and inappropriate airing of grievances, however, there is very little real community. Internet communities are fine for what they are, and often let geographically disparate people share interests, but they are not a substitute for real human interaction.

In the places we can interact with real humans, half the people around us are texting, tweeting, and shouting into their gadgets. Caught up in a false sense of urgency, one can mistake the ability to be connected with the need to be, ironically failing to engage with the broader world one is actually in.

There are, of course, wonderful exceptions. It is heartening to see people like Zach Wahls take the time to engage with their communities and use voices for good. I am fortunate enough to work in a field that has community at its very heart. (In fact, the theme of this year’s Oregon Library Association conference is “Libraries build Communities build Libraries.”) Michael and I have been lucky enough to live in two supportive, engaging communities. It just feels like this is the exception rather than the rule right now.

It takes energy to be part of a community, but it is energy that is returned multifold. As winter wanes, let’s all use the new spring as an opportunity to get out into the world.

  • Turn off your television.
  • Walk away from your computer (For the record, I fully acknowledge the irony of posting this instruction on a blog.)
  • Leave your phone at home.
  • Find a place to gather with people and make the effort to actually talk to them.
  • Mix community and good works – volunteer!

Community is contagious. Let’s all try to be carriers.

P.S. – As an added bonus, Jam and Jerusalem has one of the most perfect theme songs in television. Ray Davies (of the Kinks) brilliant paean to community, The Village Green Preservation Society, is lovingly and gently adapted by Kate Rusby.

Hero of the Week Award: February 4

4 Feb

Despite the bigoted hate coming from the House of Representatives in Iowa, there was a moment of brilliance that shined and inspired hope.  That moment of brilliance was Zach Wahls, for the  speech he delivered about his life growing up with his two moms.  Zach Wahls earns this week’s HWA.  Bravo! Could his parents be any prouder?  Who would not want to raise a socially conscious human such as Zach?  Yes, this is the type of person that same sex couples can produce.  Wow-pretty scary stuff.  What if all of Zach’s generation turned out be compassionate thinking humans that found their roles as global citizens?  We might not have wars, or attach women’s rights, or re-define rape so that victims feel raped twice.  Click here to see his speech.

Defining a family…

2 Feb

As Iowa starts to crumble into a homophobic bigoted state, although all is not lost, I found this beautiful video of a young man talking about his family.  Zach has two moms and a sister.  He comes from a wonderfully loving family and is quite well adjusted and successful.  Here is his video. I’ve also had time to reflect on my family. I have a loving husband and four cats–okay so having four cats does make us a bit odd perhaps, but a threat to Marriage? a threat to Western Civilization?  I think not.  While I’m happy to take responsibility for my obsessive needs to clean my hardwood floors as part of the deterioration of American values, my GAY marriage has no effect on any of you fearful heterosexuals.  We have yet to hear our neighbors say: “Oh gee, Michael and Robert seem so  happy together. I can no longer go on as a heterosexual.”  Quite the contrary, our friends and neighbors, who happen to be heterosexual (Robert and I are very open minded) are quite loving and embracing of us–they are also very comfortable in their heterosexuality. This is a civil rights issue–you do not get to decide what I’m allowed to have. Thank you to all of our heterosexual allies, which now include Barbara Bush.  For those of you obsessed with homosexuality, like our Maggie, and NOM and FRC–you have my pity.

Does this strike fear into the hearts of heterosexuals?

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