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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 1.25.07

WHO IS THE REV. FAUNTROY?

Eugene is such an interesting place to be a gay activist. In some ways, it's so supportive of the LGBT community's right to certain freedoms and liberties; in other ways, insensitive and uncaring by not realizing that being supportive needs to translate into a person's daily life not just as a personal mission statement written on the walls of the heart and translated into intellectual ethical beliefs.

Tuesday morning while mother nature once again sprinkled Eugene with snow, I and a number of local community members sat down around a table and shared breakfast with the Rev. Dr. Fauntroy at LCC. I had agreed to this before the op-ed in The Register-Guard as a matter of integrity with the local African-American community. I was under no illusion that I was going to magically change Fauntroy's mind. Sometimes you do things that prove you are willing to listen even though they may not seem like shortest route to having your own needs heard.

There were thirteen people around that table, including our host Greg Evans and Fauntroy; only two of us were Caucasian. African-American members of the LGBT community were strong voices for our lives. An LGBT member of the Latino community added his voice to theirs. Straight allies from the African-American community had our backs as well.

This was my personal experience of Fauntroy. Is he anti-gay? No. Is he opposed to gay marriage? Yes, though I do think his thoughts on that subject are evolving. Is he opposed to civil unions? No.

It is important to remember that justice is not a destination. It's a process. A process that requires dialogue, speaking from our hearts, listening with our hearts, as well as being open to new thoughts, ideas and understandings with our minds.

This is what Fauntroy had to say. Yes, he stood with those people and organizations. He also realized that the gay marriage debate was a wedge issue — an issue designed to unify conservative voters to put conservative legislators in Congress.

The first wedge issue, according to Fauntroy, was abortion. Eventually that stopped rallying the troops, so they needed a new one. It was gay rights. That lost its organizing power in time as well and they needed a new one. Gay marriage became that new wedge.

So what was the real agenda? Tax cuts for American businesses. Trickle-down economics. Less money in the budget translates into less programming. The first people to be affected are always the disenfranchised and the poor.

As a result Fauntroy has distanced himself from those organizations. He was being used. He knows that now, and he came to that conclusion by himself, which gives me hope.

Do I consider him and ally in the fight for LGBT rights? No. Do I consider him an enemy of LGBT rights? No.

So who is he? He's a man who has walked a very long walk in his many years. He has much to teach. The real question is, are we willing to listen? Are we willing to speak? Are we willing to open our hearts in the spirit of true dialogue to work for change? The answers to those questions are also the answer to who Fauntroy is. As with all of us walking this Earth, he is an unfinished work. This is also true of the many people who are that are like him regardless of the color of their skin, their creed, and where they are in life.

Alan Brown, Eugene

 

BENEFITS OF EMX

I am surprised to see that some of the so-called "progressives" are unhappy with the new LTD EmX route. I ride the bus every day, and it is obvious to me that the forward-thinking folks at LTD and Peter DeFazio got this one right.

Some mock the six minutes of time saved on the route or say there isn't enough traffic to justify the EmX. Hello! Ever hear about planning ahead?

The rights-of-way now in use for EmX will save more time as traffic increases and may very well become the light rail corridor decades from now.

It doesn't take a genius to see that acquiring the rights-of-way now is a sound investment.

As for the notion that the EmX lanes have ruined Franklin Boulevard, please don't make me laugh. I have lived off of Franklin for 30 years, and the EmX lanes, stations and adjacent work are a major improvement. Kudos to LTD for including the grassy areas in the lanes, the art work on the railings and the attractive stations.

I can't help but wonder if some in our community, including Bill Morrisette, are still stinging over the LTD strike last year and are unable to get past that.

Congratulations to all involved for bringing the EmX to our community. Mass transit is an important component of reducing our dependence on oil and reducing pollution which causes global warming. The EmX is a natural and forward-looking extension of our mass transit system.

Randy Kolb, Eugene

 

RECRUITER SHOWDOWN

When three young Army recruiting officers approached our Counter Military Recruiting table at LCC, I noticed my heart race, my breath constrict.

I volunteer in educating potential recruits on military service alternatives and disadvantages. My shirt read "Thinking About Military Service? Get All the Facts."

Time seemed to slow. Adrenaline flooded my bloodstream, and I reflexively scanned them for weapons. Then, I took a deep breath, and my rehearsals for such an occasion began to pay off. I began to see these two men and a woman, with their uniforms and medals, as humans rather than as enemies.

"We hear you've been telling lies about us!" I saw the officer's chin jut out, eyes narrow. I took a deep breath and said, "I'm guessing you're irritated because you want to be sure accurate information is given out?"

Reflecting my empathy for him, I guessed what he might be feeling and what his human needs might be. The dialogue that followed was a great lesson for me in the effectiveness of maintaining curiosity and openness to others. I found out his needs for safety, justice and service. By distinguishing common needs we have from possibly conflicting strategies, we choose to fulfill these needs. I succeeded in focusing my attention upon understanding this young officer. I listened to him.

When we parted 20 minutes later, we had a date to continue our conversation. He had been able to hear how we had common desire for accuracy of information and safety for people. I'm convinced he might have agreed to join our volunteer table if his desire for job security were not an issue!

A week later we had coffee together, and I found myself desperately wanting to educate him on my opinions (my thinking and strategies) and their superiority to his. What I had learned the week before helped bring me back to inquiry, curiosity and openness to learn more about this young man and really make a connection.

I've been studying nonviolent communication for two years. Every week my friends and I gather to learn more about this effective way to focus our attention on where we are likely to get what we want.

I plan and work with empathy skills. I'd love to get your calls for and about empathy at 689-7798. You can search the CNVC website (www.cnvc.org/training_list.aspx)or www.orncc.netfor local groups to help with the study and practice of peace through nonviolent communication.

Mark Roberts, Eugene

 

TESTIMONY TO POWER

I just read the article about Nuestro Lugar/Our Place Teen Center in last week's (1/18) EW. I was lucky enough to be able to work with LEAD during my last nine months in town, and I was fortunate to be able to watch the brilliance of the process that is the beginning of this much needed resource in downtown Eugene.

What LEAD and the Nuestro Lugar/ Our Place Coordinating Committee have accomplished with the opening of this teen center is a testimony to the power of the youth voice. It is also a testimony to the power of adults who recognize that the youth voice is an important one to listen to. Eugene should be proud of this new addition to its downtown. Congratulations, LEAD, and thank you.

M. Brooke Robertshaw, Logan, Utah

 

SAVAGE LOVIN'

Savage Love is the first thing I read in EW. He's entertaining and informative. There is an easy solution for the letter writer (1/11) who wants Savage to go "bye-bye." The letter writer just need not read Savage Love. Heck, the letter writer can easily just tear off the last page of the Weekly if the column is that bothersome to her or him. I, and many others, enjoy Savage Love.

Steve Brown, Eugene

 

IGNORANCE HELPS

Grass farmers and timber owners burn fields and plastic covered brush to deal with weeds and slash. It's supposedly cost effective. All you need is a drip torch and a meteorologist or forestry department OK. Ignorance and immunity from impacts of breathing toxic smoke helps.

Most farmers gave up the risks of field burning a decade ago. While Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority (LRAPA) cites individuals burning plastic, timber interests want regulators to allow them to burn plastic, increase slash burns near large towns and avoid responding to individual complaints. Yet Eugene/Veneta had 10 serious slash or thinning smoke incursions of carcinogenic burned plastic since 2000!

Class action suits by asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia victims and their families are nothing to sneeze at. Lawmakers should hold burners culpable and require a reasonable minimum insurance liability (say $20 million!) covering documented seasonal burning smoke illnesses from incursions.

Hefty mandatory liability insurance premiums would give farmers the freedom to burn or consider smarter options. Timber interests and other agencies risking management with fire also must assume responsibility and adequately insure prescribed burning.

The LRAPA board risked being mothballed for courageously advocating a field-burning ban. Will Oregon's Environmental Protection Agency and Forestry Department cave in to timber interests wanting freedom to burn more slash close to large towns, immunity from responding to individual rural complaints and the regulation of slash burns to become local political issues in Florence and other smaller cities? Are LRAPA or Oregon legislators our best hope for relief?

Ethen Perkins, Eugene

 

INGRAINED MISOGYNY

Are male threats and violence against women considered hate crimes by the city of Eugene and related human rights task forces? There are anti-woman graffiti, gendered hate language, violence and sexualized violence, and murder that are specifically male-supremacist. Although it may be difficult to look at such an ingrained and widespread prejudice as woman-hating, to do so can help us understand how interconnected we are in our various struggles for an egalitarian society and harmony with nature.

Kari Johnson, Eugene

 

SLOW LEARNERS

I remember Vietnam, my friends died in Vietnam, some were wounded there, some were broken there, some were never to recover. To many of us, Vietnam is not something in a history book. We lived it! Never did I think that this nation was so stupid to repeat Vietnam, never!

Only a virtuoso of stupidity could lead us into this nightmare, an unquestioned virtuoso! Did we learn nothing? The answer is obvious. Make no mistake: 70 percent of Americans supported this war. Those who forget the past? Those who arrogantly ignore the past deserve to repeat it, and we are and will, to our great pain, embarrassment and shame. Unfortunately this will not end soon, as this nation is slow to learn.

Joe Mogus, Corvallis

 

HAVE WE COME SO FAR?

How fortunate for Eugeneans. The Rev. Walter Fauntroy is taking time off from his crusade to deny the civil and humane right to marry for millions of Americans to come preach to us about "How Far We Have Come?" It appears the Rev. Fauntroy has come full circle.

Tommy Lane

Eugene

 

LEGITIMATE RESISTANCE

I'm writing in response to Randy Kolb's letter (12/28). As an incarcerated radical environmentalist, convicted of arson, I have been labeled a terrorist by both the state and the media. I am accustomed to such condemnations. However, I find it extremely offensive to be compared to a right-wing pro-life arsonist.

I will readily agree that property destruction, especially arson, can be perceived as violent. In some cases that is the most appropriate label. Just as in some cases it is the most appropriate tactic. Yet, there are extreme differences in how violence is directed and when it is deemed justifiable by the public.

Pro-lifers who use violence do so in order to subjugate women and force their moral beliefs on them, taking away not only a woman's right to choose, but her right to be safe. Eco-saboteurs use violence to attack an economic structure that has lent to global and mass extinction. This isn't a self-righteous struggle: It is a legitimate resistance based on scientific evidence. It is also a struggle supported by millions and millions of people worldwide.

I'm not interested in saving you, Mr. Kolb. This struggle is bigger than you or me. My concern rests with keeping corporate money-grubbing hands and their government yes men from destroying the ecological and biological diversity of this planet. If more Americans took an interest in American foreign policy or took steps to curb out-of-control corporations, maybe concerned youths wouldn't feel like the only hope lies in their resistance.

Jeffrey Luers, Salem

   

SIX RESOLUTIONS

A news broadcast reported Dick Cheney as saying that, "I hear no viable plan coming from anyone who opposes the surge," and the story ended saying that the administration "will not be swayed by congressional opposition." Again, they are using the "attack anyone who disagrees" tactic to bulldoze over anyone who wants to end the continuous loss of our troops in Iraq.

I received a correspondence from Congressman DeFazio that informed me of at least six resolutions by Congress and Senate members that outline plans to bring our troops home. The Democratic majority in both the House and Senate have had alternative plans all along, but the administration spin doctors continue to throw out their catchy phrases like "cut and run" to entrap the American public in their web of deception.

When President Bush states how awful he feels that so many have died in this debacle of an occupation, there is not one action that he has taken to back up his hollow words. He has not attended any memorials of fallen soldiers, does not flinch when his cronies in Congress cut veterans' benefits and was more interested in preserving tax cuts for the wealthy than he was in providing body armor and protective vehicles for our troops. The military recently sent out 5,500 letters to deceased military personnel asking them to return to active service. How desperate.

Flood the White House and legislators with calls and correspondence urging them to bring our troops home now!

Rita Babauta Kiley, Junction City

SILENCE IS BETRAYAL

"There comes a time when Silence is Betrayal." Martin Luther King Jr. delivered that speech about the Vietnam War almost 40 years ago. Many questioned the danger of him speaking out and opposing the government at a time of war. He said those who questioned him did not know him. That the injustice of the war was an injustice that could not be ignored, and a part of the bigger picture of his path of nonviolence.

King said, "The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls 'enemy,' for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers."

King nailed it. The U.S. government could not wield bloody wars without poisoning itself. The need to embrace nonviolence has no boundaries, no enemies. He understood that a guise of patriotism that only serves to oppress and violate the human condition was blind, and ultimately would ruin the soul of our country.

We must take a stand and speak out, insist that our representatives put a stop to the military presence in Iraq, including those who are in the armed services being asked to serve multiple tours of duty in Iraq.

Fran Gillespie, Eugene

 

MATTER OF RELIGION

I'm sure that Baptist pastor Walter E. Fauntroy is a good man and will have wonderful things to say as keynote speaker for the county's MLK celebration. The fact that he opposed gay marriage is a shame, and it's my guess that this decision had much to do with his religious views. With or without religion, there are good people and bad people. But religion sure can make good people behave badly!

Aaron Rosenberg, Eugene

SAVAGE SOAPBOX

Before folks start ranting about Mr. Savage's column, maybe they should take the time to read some of his past writings. In my humble opinion, he is a very dedicated and passionate activist, not only for gay rights, but for straight rights as well. When the Family Research Council was citing the evils of distributing the HPV vaccination to women (all women, not just young girls), it was big gay Dan that got his ass up on the soapbox. He brought awareness to lazy people like me, who skip the articles and go straight to the sex column. And don't even get me started on his great life's work, humiliating that neo-conservative Rick Santorum (Google it and see what happens).

I would be honored to be Dan's fag hag.

Aubonney Wood, Eugene

WILL OF THE PEOPLE

The war in Iraq has been a disaster from the beginning, and it has only gotten worse. There's no reason to believe that any number of American troops there would ever solve the problems that we have caused!

And then, while our soldiers have been in Iraq "protecting our freedoms," the Bush government has been systematically ransacking the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. The latest example of this that we know about is the self-proclaimed presidential option of opening private, first-class mail.

We don't need the troops protecting us in Iraq; we need the troops to protect us here in the U.S.

Sens. Wyden and Smith and Rep. DeFazio must do the right thing — the moral thing — and take whatever steps are within their power as our elected representatives to stop the war in Iraq. This is also a political mandate. As evidenced by the November election and most recent polling results, bringing the troops home is clearly the will of the American people.

David Mandelblatt, Eugene