Dustin Kight

12,000 Flags for...Fundraising?

Filed By Dustin Kight | November 17, 2007 2:35 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, fundraising, HRC, Log Cabin Republicans, National Mall, SLDN

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
Light Appetizers

"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
National Mall

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Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- its effects on members of our community and the possibility of having it repealed -- are equally serious these days.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.


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Yes, education, an aspect that appears to be painfully overlooked by most LGBT organizations.

It takes money to fight this battle, you poor naive little thing. Equality and justice are not free.

I agree with you Dustin. The AIDS Quilt on the Mall worked because people knew what it was about, and if they didn't when they walked up to it, they were educated by the hundreds of volunteers in attendance.

I understand the need to fund our organizations, particularly since that is what I do everyday. However, I find the condescending remarks from the last person to be hurtful, unnecessary and certainly do not move this discussion forward.

My take:

2 educational activity
1 social activity/slightly direct action possibilities (all wear a t-shirt to the stadium, etc)
1 fundraising activity

That's pretty damn good if you ask me.

I'm not sure how Dustin concluded this was a fundraising effort when, if you look at the information, there is no charge for attending ANY of the events on the weekend's line-up.

In addition to the display of 12,000 flags on the Mall (which is free & open to the public), there is a community forum featuring veterans impacted by the law (also free & open to the public), a community reception for those in Washington who want to meet with others interested in this issue (w/no cover at the host bar), an Army-Navy Game Football Party, as that is always a big social event for veterans to get together (where there is also no cover charge at the host venue) and a prayer service Sunday on the National Mall (which is free & open to the public).

So who, exactly, is making money here?

This is a public education campaign, not a fundraising campaign. I'm sure, if individuals want to help underwrite the cost of purchasing the flags for the event, they can help out by making a contribution to do so. But there is NO official fundraising component to the weekend, nor do any of the events require a fee or donation to attend.

Let's get the fact - ahem - "straight" here. This is about recognizing the vets who have been fired under this law, and putting together community events to rally the public to get behind repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

While I appreciate the added information about how these events explicity do or do not raise funds, the point still stands:

No one who finds fault with my post substantively addresses the issue of missed opportunities.

We all know that getting a bunch of queers together to talk about queer issues is great, good, necessary, etc., but save starting a small revolutionary army, it doesn't really further our cause of winning over enough allies to press for change.

Tell me how this mostly social agenda, be it direct fundraising or not, aggressively furthers the cause of ending DADT, on par with placing 12,000 flags on the Mall, and I'll pipe down and push these events to all the people I know.

There are, in fact, MANY ways these events help our cause:

1. The flag display will be open to the public, and anyone - gay or otherwise - visiting the National Mall in Washington will see the exhibit, know what it's about, and hopefully stop and think about the consequences of the policy.

2. We believe the media coverage of this event will be significant. The exhibit will go far beyond Washington, onto the front pages and TV screens of Americans from coast-to-coast, hammering home the message of how destructive DA, DT really is.

3. The exhibit will be on the 'front lawn' of the U.S. Capitol, where Members of Congress will know, as they did with the AIDS Quilt, that a significant issue is staring them right in the face.

4. There is much education about DA, DT still to be done in the LGBT community. Many in our community have (understandably) strong feelings about the armed forces, and believe DA, DT to be what its name implies, which it is not. There is also much education to be done about the far-reaching impact of repeal - beyond the military - when our government gets rid of a vividly anti-gay piece of legislation. Bringing the LGBT community out to see this exhibit, and talk about it, is instrumental, too.

The 12,000 flags on the Mall aren't just about our community. They are about reaching the public; reaching Congress; and driving home the stark reality of what this law has done.

I, for one, cheer the veterans who spearheaded this event and think that every step is an important one.