Two weeks from now, "12,000 Flags for 12,000 Patriots" will go up on the National Mall. When I first read the press release for this project, co-sponsored by HRC, SLDN, Log Cabin and others, I thought, wow, what an amazing idea. 12,000 little US flags, one for each soldier kicked out of the armed services since the inception of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's especially amazing that the action is attached to a specific policy -- DADT -- so closely associated with the Clinton brand, and we know how some in our community feel about the Clinton brand these days.
I immediately forwarded the alert onto others I work with, with a note: You guys, this is amazing, smart, savvy -- a grand symbolic action on the part of LGBTQ rights we haven't seen in a while. We could learn from this.
Then I clicked on the "more info" link, to a list of coinciding events. Sigh. Enter the disappointment I should have expected from the start.
Just so we're clear, here's the exact list of events advertised by co-sponsors:
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
12,000 Flags for 12,000 Patriots Display
Friday November 30 - Sunday December 2, 2007
National Mall, between 7th and 14th Streets
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Community Happy Hour
Friday November 30 at 6 pm
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Community Conference
Saturday December 1 at 9 am
HRC's Equality Forum, 1640 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington DC
Army-Navy Game Football Party
Saturday December 1 at 12 pm
Military Chaplains' Prayer Service
Sunday December 2 at 11 am
Yes, I took the locations off of the events that stink purely of fundraising. And, I'll admit, I could be wrong about this. If I am, please do correct me, but also know that if these specific events aren't to be seen as fundraising-only, then the advertising sucked.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- its effects on members of our community and the possibility of having it repealed -- are equally serious these days. And going through the trouble to place 12,000 flags on the Mall to signify the 12,000 individual lives touched by the policy, not to mention the friends, family members and communities affected, without serious public education follow-up and political action is at least disappointing, if not wholly irresponsible.
Trust me, I know that fundraising is important. I, too, work for a non-profit, and one with a relatively small budget at that. But you have to mix fundraising with substantive action, or your work becomes hollow and you make people cynical about politics and social change. Whether 12,000 Flags for 12,000 Patriots coincides with a series of meaningful events or not, it's still good work. But it could be great work. And with even our biggest legislative "victories" hanging by a thread right now, our community has no room for less than 110% effort.
I'll be in DC that weekend, and I'm planning to go to the Mall, to honor those soldiers whose military service was dishonored by their country's baseless prejudice. And if someone else is on the Mall, looking at the flags, unsure of what they're there for, I'll do my best to inform them, when it seems that others are not.