“Can you imagine if this many people turned out for the police brutality protest in February?”, I asked my friend.
“Yeah, Birk would have been prosecuted. Cobane too. We’d probably have a new police chief right now”, she said.
As I stood on 4th Avenue watching the Gay Pride Parade, I realized that what she said was true.
I’ve been to many Gay Pride Parades over the years, but my enthusiasm has been waning as of late. While watching the people go by, I realized that the parade has become a commercial. A three hour advertisement. It’s become so … corporate. Especially Seattle’s. Perhaps they have always been this way, or perhaps I am just noticing it more now that the economy is once again circling the toilet.
Take, for example, the Group Health contingent:
This month, Group Health increased my rates, cut my benefits, and awarded its president a 33% pay increase. And they’re a “co-op”. A non-profit. An entity that supposedly cares. Here they were, smiling and waving in my face to show support for gay people.
No offense, Group Health, but I’d just as soon you hate gay people and concentrate on, you know, not screwing your members. I think your gay members would prefer it too.
Then, here comes Amazon, a company that tried to suppress a government whistleblower. I’m supposed to forget about this because they like gay people?
As long as Corporate America is politically correct, all is forgiven. They get cheers and high fives and their image gets a PR boost.
I can’t get down with it anymore. I just can’t. I watched the Gay Pride Parade for two hours today, and I realized that I have changed over the years. Every time I saw a big sponsor go by, I felt sad.
Why didn’t Microsoft send a representative down to Westlake Park during the police brutality protests? Why didn’t Amazon show solidarity? I may have missed it, but I also didn’t see an “Alaska Airlines condemns police brutality” banner either.
So, why do big corporations line up year after year after year to march in the Gay Pride Parade?
It’s simple. Gay people have money. They are one of the most economically-advantaged subgroups in the USA. Folks who get stomped on in city streets generally don’t have disposable income.
The other reason Corporate America marches in gay pride events is because it is no longer controversial. Companies marching for gay rights in 1950’s Alabama would have been brave. Those same companies marching in 2011 Seattle are just following the cash.
At this point in time, gay people actually have it better than a lot of other groups. Economically and socially, they have it pretty well. Yet, here we are, year after year, pretending that it’s somehow edgy, enlightening, or brave to show our support for the gay community. The problem is, it hasn’t been edgy, enlightening, or brave for a long time. It’s just another in a long line of street parties where product placement and a good time masquerades as social cause.
Now, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the parade on some level. I did. I like watching the colorful characters and I enjoy listening to the music.
On a larger level, though, I’m just not feeling it anymore. When I stand on the sidelines of these things, I feel like we are all fiddling while Rome burns.
Corporate greed has bankrupted America, and the working class is staring down a coming depression the likes of which we’ve never before seen. For most people, “the recovery” is never going to come. Inflation is decimating wealth as wages shrink and the gap between rich and poor accelerates. This has all been brought to us by corrupt Corporate America bribing off our hopelessly corrupt government.
Yet, here I am, standing here waving and smiling at these corporate shmucks because they think moneyed gay people are a-ok in 2011?
It’s getting harder to do.
I’m glad that gay people have made advances in civil rights. I’m glad they make a decent living. I’m glad that society as a whole has become more accepting.
What about everthing else, though? Why can’t we get this kind of turnout and this level of corporate sponsorship for people who are losing their homes or their health care? I guarantee you that if I tried to organize an event to protest corporate greed or government corruption, I’d get 100, maybe 200 people if the weather was good. I would never, ever, ever be able to pull Gay Pride’s numbers, because corporate greed is nowhere near as sexy as men in ass-less chaps and drag queens belting out Madonna tunes.
It’s something that I could not stop thinking about today.
I think I’ve become to cynical for these events.
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