by John Aronno | Originally posted at Alaska Commons
This past Saturday in Anchorage offered us two tragic realities: the death of a human being; and the rash of ugly and bigoted comments made by some about that death, reminding us of where we are as a divided community — and the need for our active involvement in local government.
Rational voices do not dominate local politics in Anchorage, Alaska.
Don’t beat yourself up. Rational politics barely have a foothold anywhere in America. This is by design. De-legitimatize the executive, legislative, and even judicial functions of a democracy and the clear distinction can be made between an aristocratic rule and a landed-gentry. Between Obama’s high-flying rhetoric that no one, including Jesus Christ, could live up to, and Anthony Weiner tweeting his junk for the nation to see, and you have the breeding ground for a body politic that doesn’t get their news from their local representatives, their state delegation, or from a self-oriented critical analysis; but, instead, from the Daily Show and Colbert Report, or, unfortunately, Fox News.
When complacence and acquiescence to a system that is broken beyond a point of belief or repair rule the day, the aristocracy can rule without the worries of the populace rising up in objection.
Government becomes the comedy show, and is thus easy fodder for us to ridicule and not feel any ownership stake in.
Here’s the problem: Watching Jon Stewart point out everything that is wrong with politics as usual is hilarious and cathartic. But it doesn’t do anything to improve the situation. Our DVR boxes have afforded us the ability to fast-forward through commercials, but offers no incentive to email our representatives and point out how backwards they have been behaving. It’s self-serving, but not self-situation-improving. While pointing out the tragic pointlessness of our current government, it misses the point entirely in terms of our obligations to fix it; to be involved in it.
This past Saturday in Anchorage offered us two tragic realities.
The first reality was a tragedy on all accounts. Someone died. I use the term “someone” loosely, and for a purpose. To many (a figure which, in a perfect world, would consist of everybody), James L. Crump was more than a somebody.
WHEREAS, James L. Crump, RN, worked for the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services and loyally served Anchorage citizens in need; and
WHEREAS, James Crump, at age 50, exemplified public service through his dedication in treating and taking care of Tuberculosis clients and their families; and
WHEREAS, through public education and TB prevention efforts, James Crump served as a health advocate for all Anchorage residents; and
WHEREAS, his enthusiasm for the department and his colleagues was evident in his valuable participating as a member of the Safety Team, a volunteer on the Holiday Committee, and his dedication to making sure every potluck celebration and meeting was successful; and
WHEREAS, on Saturday, June 25, 2011, only minutes after it began, Anchorage’s Annual Pride Parade ended in tragedy with the accidental death of James L. Crump, a loved member of the Anchorage LGBT community; and
WHEREAS, James is and will be greatly missed by all who knew him as their care-giver, colleague, and friend, along with his commitment to excellence which will not easily be replaced; and
WHEREAS, the Anchorage Municipal Assembly joins the Anchorage community in mourning his loss;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
The Anchorage Assembly remembers, recognizes and honors
James L. Crump.
The second reality is a side effect of human nature. We don’t like to stare mortality in the face, and we avoid eye contact with it whenever possible. If we are afforded the option of partying on, we party on, and put a blinder towards the sobriety of the situations that confront us. Thus was the case with much of PrideFest, though the organizers did an amazing job weighing the solemn situation they found themselves in with the nature which is Pride Fest: the day we celebrate our community; ALL of our community here in Anchorage. Even the parts of our community that don’t benefit from the protections they deserve as human beings.
Tuesday night’s Assembly meeting sought to address that, partially, in a manner which didn’t address the overarching, “quantitative” manner, but nonetheless addressed the immediate tragedy and loss of life that Anchorage residents, and Alaskans et al., were shouldered with.
I personally thank the Mayor and the Assembly for honoring this man who touched so many lives.
But there is so much more to be done; not only in his memory, but in the memory of so many others. We need to remember that we’re all in this together, and, sadly, we haven’t reached that point as of yet.
When news of this tragedy reached the internet, on websites covering it, like KTVA, comments were made. They were removed promptly, but that does not negate their existence, which bares a sad reminder of where we are as a divided community.
“Well that is what happen when you are at a dirty little Faggit event ”
“Just another example that gay life style can be deadly.”
“It is sad to know where his soul may have gone. I wish all gays could see where he has gone, because gays will never enter heaven within the Lord. If only gays knew this they would turn from their shameful life style and repent. I hate to see the moral values of America rotting away.”
“IM not religious at all. And i know that it is wrong. So what are you going to say about me. Its wrong and not healthy to stick it in the wrong hole! Yet, you keep putting it in are faces everywhere. I dont want to here you are gay. I dont tell you Im straight everywhere.”
“What the hell is glee. i am sick of homos pushing their lifestyle on straight people and demanding they except it. I don’t care what you do in your home. just keep it there, and i will be ok. i don’t want my kid seeing stuff like that at a young age because i don’t agree with your lifestyle and i don’t try to force my opinion on others. If I don’t believe homosexuality is ok makes me a homophobe or a superbigot then you should pull the thingy out of your A! ADAM AND EVE DUMBASS NOT ADAM AND STEVE! HAVE FUN WITH AIDS”
I apologize for airing the grammatically embarrassing, dirty laundry of bigots, but it was requested by a friend who stressed the importance of the truth being aired. These comments, and others, were submitted to the Mayor and the Assembly. It speaks to the issue of the “quantifiable” bigotry that has been largely ignored.
We have an education problem. And I have a suggestion. Actually, not as much a suggestion as a plea.
Thomas Jefferson was a Republican. He was far from perfect – and far beyond imagination from what the Republican Party now embodies, but I believe he got some things right. He believed that policy should be enacted at the ward level; i.e., he believed in local government. He actually believed in government at the most local level; akin to the way our municipal charter tasks us with taking part in our community councils. That’s kind of a good way to get involved.
I believe in that cause. I believe that President Obama is a really cool guy that I’d love to shake hands with and talk to about history, but I know that the reality is that Mayor Dan Sullivan and my Assemblymen, Paul Honeman and Adam Trombley, have more of an effect on my daily life than President Obama will ever have, and I beg the rest of our community to wake up to that reality too.
We need you.
Not just once every four years; not just to gripe about what should happen.
Make it happen.
Here’s one of the bravest people I know, and someone I am beyond honored to call a friend:
From my heart, thank you Chris. I know I told you that earlier, but as Shannyn Moore pointed out on her show earlier: “He showed up. He totally showed up.”
There’s no better fitting description of you. And there is no more important duty tasked to any individual who hopes for change.
Anchorage is a beautiful place to live, filled with the most amazing people I have been privileged to call as friends. But there remain rigid divisions that we need to man up and address. It’s easy to sit at home and make fun of the brazen idiocy of how politics works. But policy is different than politics, and politicians are different than statesmen. It’s time we demanded one over the other, in every category.
What happens if we stand up together? The future is ours. We just have to start showing up and claiming it.
Otherwise, Dan Fagan wins. And we all know what that means. Boo-burgers everywhere.
Text of Christopher Constant’s letter[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Christopher Constant and James L. Crump shortly before the beginning of the Anchorage pride parade on June 25, 2011. James lost his life in an accident a few minutes later."][/caption]
Editor’s note: This is the letter Chris wrote to Mayor Dan Sullivan and the Anchorage Assembly, and read during public testimony at the Anchorage Assembly meeting on June 28, 2011, as shown in the second video above.
June 28, 2011
From: Christopher Constant
To: Mayor Dan Sullivan and Members of the Anchorage Assembly
Re: OBSERVATIONS ON THE CLIMATE FOR LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER CITIZENS
Honorable Mayor Sullivan and Members of the Anchorage Assembly:
It is with a heavy heart that I stand before you today. Having been a close witness to the tragedy of June 25, 2011 costing Municipal Employee James Crump his life, I am blessed with a certain clarity of purpose I have rarely experienced in my life. Many of you know me as a community activist, a citizen participant in the civic community, and a leader. I am engaged in a rainbow of projects including the arts, community revitalization, governance, politics, social issues. Since witnessing the tragedy this past week, I have been asked by several people if I have been reappraising my life in the context of my eye opening experience. The answer of course, is that I have re-evaluated my life. I am really surprised by the answer.
I am fully affirmed that the work of my life is exactly the work I should be doing. Standing up for my community; fighting for the survival of my Fairview neighborhood; and fiercely advocating for equality for myself and for my brothers and sisters composing the LGBT community.
In that fight, sometimes we celebrate. Fairview celebrated two weeks ago. The LGBT community celebrated last weekend. That celebration transformed into a tragedy mere feet from me, right in front of my eyes. I am wounded here as I stand before you. I have watched the light of his beautiful soul depart this world, mere seconds after shaking his hand in warm embrace.
And in this modern age of communication, I have participated in community healing through unparalleled connection, sharing, and congregation. But I have also witnessed the dark side of Anchorage. There is a poison that lies barely under the surface of our community. Bigotry and discrimination. While it can be really difficult to demonstrate specific cases, all you have to do is turn to the anonymous world of news reporting websites to see a documentary record of the enmity against the LGBT community.
Believe me, I have heard these types of comments levied directly to my face. My friends have had rocks and eggs thrown at them. Recently. We are a society living in denial. The published comments get so bad that the Anchorage Daily News just shuts them off because they are just too abusive and horrifying. And while these words are just comments, and anyone would rightly argue it is protected speech, it is the tip of the iceberg of the real animosity that many people direct at members of my community all the time.
I present for the record the following limited transcript of comments made about the tragedy that took Mr. Crump’s life as well as comments directed at me and my neighbors because we dared host members of a local cabaret troupe onto the Fairview Block Party stage.
Please hear these words and know that these unedited sentiments provide a true snapshot of the living condition in our fair city.
Honorable Mayor and Members of the Assembly, the only thing I ask of you today is that you read these words. That you hear these words. That you have a tiny snapshot of what life is like being LGBT in Anchorage. Even in the face of devastating tragedy. I submit this document as an indictment against the system we live under. I submit this document with
the hope that together we can create a community where all are welcome and that we can live united.
Humbly in service,
Editor’s note: Appended to the letter was a transcript of antigay slurs and comments posted at the websites of KTVA Channel 11 reporting about James L. Crump’s death at the Pride parade on June 25, and later in a story about tolerance of homosexuality in Anchorage; and at the Anchorage Press with regard to the Fairview Block Party, which Christopher organized. Some of those comments are reproduced above in John Aronno’s post. Some of the most virulent comments have since been removed from those sites as being against the sites editorial polices. Commenting was shut down at virtually every story about James Crump’s death at the Anchorage Daily News website because of the number of ugly comments made there.