Universal Declaration of Human Rights: An Anniversary With Fitting Parallel

December 10, 2008 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (0)


The date was December 10, 1948. The place was Paris, France. Some of the world’s most influential leaders and top diplomats gathered to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is an interesting parallel that today marks another step in the steady march of the marriage equality movement. “Calling in Gay” was planned to coincide with International Human Rights Day. Some people might balk a bit at comparing the civil rights effort for marriage equality to the literal life and death struggle for human rights being waged in so many parts of the world. To be clear, I am not equating them directly, but the concept of basic civil liberties for all people very much relates to the issue.
And today as I see the Tweets, blog posts and Facebook comments about this latest activist effort for marriage equality, I muse that while we’ve come quite far in the last 60 years, it’s rather remarkable that we still have so far to go.
That’s the bad news.
But there is good news.
In this era of compressed time and accelerated life experience, we have the power to learn from the past and change things now – and that’s precisely what is happening.
On November 15, hundreds of thousands of people across the United States took to the streets – a massive turnout inspired by the efforts of one woman in Seattle. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. An army of activists, galvanized by the travesty of Proposition 8’s passage in California on November 4, have engaged.
And much of these efforts are gaining speed and power thanks to technology. It’s a new generation of activism. From Facebook groups and Twitter accounts to web campaigns waged by “real world” organizations, like the Courage Campaign, the movement is gaining steam.
No. Scratch that. It’s not just gaining steam – it’s taking more solid form, and interestingly, technology is part of that too. While social media platforms are enabling all of these newly hatched activists to communicate, connect and mobilize, there are now some people leveraging technology practices like BarCamp to further strengthen the infrastructure of the movement itself.
One such effort is called EqualityCamp. Born from a conversation that took place on an Internet radio show hosted by the sassy and smart Heather Gold, EqualityCamp endeavors to “make a people-powered equality movement work.”
(Disclosure: I participated in the show, and am part of the posse organizing the event.)
The premise is simple – the marriage equality movement is marvelous, but it has some real and potentially critical challenges to overcome. At the risk of oversimplifying what is a rather complicated issue, the simple fact is that the old school, top down methods of political activism, just don’t work like they used to. In fact, in the case of No on 8, the effort proved to be a failure.
On the other hand, wholly grassroots, viral efforts are only as good as the energy of those involved. And let’s face it – most people are lazy. They have good intentions. They come out of the gate all eager and excited with grand ambitions of involvement, but when push comes to shove and it comes time to do things that are tedious, less fun and quite time consuming, most folks either lose interest or just can’t afford the time.
What the marriage equality movement needs is a serious injection of Obamafication. Okay, so that’s not a real word, but I think we all know what it means. It refers to the amazingly well orchestrated and utterly egalitarian machine behind Barak Obama’s campaign. There was clearly a central organization, but the people were empowered. They were given tools, a bunch of information and a central place to which they could turn.
It’s not about either/or. It’s about and.
And with that I’m reminded of the words of another Declaration – one that also lays near to my heart.
That all people are … created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights …


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