Sarah Palin got it right.
Well, just one thing: Palin knows how to fill a void. Who else was able to upstage two solid weeks of 24/7 Michael Jackson media coverage? From the moment she announced she was resigning as Governor of Alaska, she started making new headlines all over again, giving more interviews, releasing more statements, turning the weeks after Fourth of July into Palinpalooza.
From the moment John McCain introduced Sarah Palin as his running mate last year, she worked hard to dominate headlines every day. Lord knows every "You betcha" hit YouTube - and every mistake and mis-characterization hit Mainstream America. Palin's antics polarized the nation, but we knew everything she said and did. For better or for worse, Palin was the story. And for better or for worse, Palin remains a story. Like the Michael Jackson story on Larry King, it seems Palin will be forever with us.
The year is more than half over. Summer is half over. Legislatures are winding down, or are done. The fun flurry of whack-a-mole marriage equality news is gone. And with it, our ability to move our agenda forward, at least in the hearts and minds of average, ordinary citizens. There's a void in the media and only a crisis - or leadership - will grab it.
It's time for us to take the lead and run with it.
We know that with heightened awareness of our issues comes heightened support for our issues. The American people are good people, many of whom simply don't know us, and don't know enough about us to care about us. That's why we need to stay in the headlines: to keep our message clear and consistent.
Have no doubt: The Religious Right will take over the conversation through Labor Day, if we let them.
Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, in an apparent Vulcan mind-meld with GOP Chair Michael Steele, just announced the creation of the "Faith and Freedom Coalition," that claims to be "younger, hipper, less strident and more inclusive." Maggie Gallagher's National Organization for Marriage is working hard with a new PAC in New York, and there's an extended effort that's making headway to repeal gay marriage in Maine. The Values Voters Summit - an annual bigot fest, exactly two months away - is gearing up with a promise of a new assault on same-sex marriage.
In short, it's the infamous "kinder, gentler bigotry" we've come to expect from the Religious Right and our opponents.
Despite a torrent of lies from Republican Congress members who labeled the Mathew Shepard Act, the "Thought Crimes Act," and from groups like "Faith 2 Action," which labeled it, "The Pedophile Protection Act," the Senate late last night approved the bill. But the Religious Right may still get their way, as a threat looms by President Obama to veto the Military Appropriations bill the Shepard bill is attached to.
So let's be honest: There will be little else happening in the LGBTQ rights arena until fall, and without a plan of action the chances of us keeping Mainstream America's focus on gay rights through the summer are slim.
Let us not be deterred. We must take advantage of the opportunity this hazy lull provides!
Let's look at some events that dominated headlines last August:
- The actor David Duchovny went into rehab for sex-addiction.
- Madonna and Michael Jackson celebrated their 50th birthdays.
- Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party nomination for President.
- Some Hallmark stores refused to sell same-sex greeting cards. The American Family Association also protested the free-market selling of those same-sex greeting cards.
- Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi wed in California - before Prop 8 passed in November.
Surely we can do more to get our message out this time around? The challenge is simple: Fill this media void with positive LGBTQ stories between now and Labor Day, until the regular political and legislative cycle resumes its natural course and we can move our message forward through political actions.
Let's keep the importance of our struggle in the eyes of our neighbors and fellow citizens. Let's continue our national conversation on gay rights. Let's help all Americans realize that we are their neighbors, their co-workers, their friends.
Politicians and pundits may take August off (remember George W. Bush's extended August vacations?) but the American people - especially given this year's economy - can't afford to. Those who still have jobs can't afford to go away. And we can't afford to let our message slide - or our guard down.
The opportunity is ripe! Let's fill the void of summer with positive messages that resonate with America. Let's look to the Prop 8 lessons we learned too late. Let's make it our mission to show America who we are.
Lord knows Palin's legacy of innanity will out-live her. And lord knows we have a better message, a more honest message, a more important message than Sarah Palin did. Let's spend the rest of the summer working as hard as she did to help show America that the "real America" also includes LGBTQ Americans.