Saturday, November 7, 2009

But For a Little Support, What Might Have Been?

Here's the man who would have been the Mayor of New York City if things had been just a little bit different on Election Day. In a contest widely believed to be a battle already won by Mayor Bloomberg long before Tuesday, outgoing Controller Bill Thompson searched far and wide for some real backing from his own Democratic Party after winning the primary race on September 15. Thompson received help from some local officials, including Public advocate-elect Bill De Blasio (D-Park Slope) and Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Sheepshead Bay), who said after Thompson's defeat, "a lot of Democratic donors who sat on their wallets are kicking themselves tonight." But, believing Thompson already defeated, many prominent Democrats proffered only tepid support (or none at all) for Thompson's campaign. even the pollsters were predicting a blowout victory for Bloomberg, but something funny happened to Mike Bloomberg on the way to his landslide: Thompson almost upset him out of office.

Defying the talking heads and naysayers, even those within his own party, Thompson built on voters' anger over Bloomberg's brazen power play in repealing term limits, and the mayor's heavy-handed campaign style and lavish spending, to gain nearly half the city's votes. When President Obama managed only a "half-hearted" endorsement of the Controller, it was seen as a "bad sign". Many Democrats were leery of backing Thompson, because they feared alienating the "politically powerful" Bloomberg. But Thompson had the support of the voters, who went for him in numbers far exceeding even the expectations of his campaign. The relevant lesson for gays and lesbians of color is, imagine where we'd be today if we just supported each other a little more.

To cite just one example of what I mean by this, consider Finding Me: Truth. This sequel to the successful Finding Me movie is stalled in production for the want of adequate funding. Here is a movie (disclosure: I participated in the making of this film) which should be "in the can" by now, a story for and about gay men of color, and yet it languishes on the shelf. Part of the reason for this is lack of community support. Gays of color are quick to cite the wildly popular Noah's Arc television series as evidence of how the community supports our artists. However I look at it another way: Noah's Arc is a good example of what can happen when we do support our creative people. By extension, how readily do we support those we know in their pursuits? It seems to me that the "crabs in a barrel" syndrome is a recurring theme in our world.

This was certainly reflected in Thompson's near-miss, when it was evident that some who should have been in his corner, tried to tear him down instead. Just think how different New York City history would have unfolded if Thompson had the support he needed. The salient point here is that Thompson was left out in the cold by his own party, and this is something we do to our artists and leaders in the LGBT community all the time. Just imagine how much more visible we'd be, how much more seriously we'd be taken, if we gave our support to those who work so hard to put a human face on all of us before the world. Our community is teeming with talented people looking to enrich our lives through their activities and their art. We need to recognize and encourage them all, so we won't be like H.G. Wells' lost time traveler, "haunted by those two most terrible words: 'what if'?"

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