Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy and my Life....My First Election.

Very few people in Michigan know of my early political life and might be surprised to learn that I was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1980. I was elected as a Kennedy delegate from the 15th Congressional District of Ohio (Columbus) and went to New York City with my partner in August 1980. I was all of 23 years old.

President Jimmy Carter had lost a huge amount of support in the late 70's, when I was a student at Ohio State University in Columbus. The economy was in a shambles, with unemployment, high inflation, gasoline shortages, and the Iranian hostage crisis was in full swing.

As a young liberal Democratic activist, I started a "Citizens for Kennedy" committee in my working class neighborhood in Columbus' north side. Delegates were selected by caucuses in
congressional districts, prior to the primary. I ran a surprise grass roots campaign to be selected as a Kennedy delegate, and built a coalition of pro-choice, environmental, and gay activists. To everyone's surprise (including my own) I came in first place among hundreds of activists and party workers. I beat out the labor delegates and the party leaders, including the chair of the local party.

In the Ohio primary, Kennedy did well, although he did not beat Carter in Ohio or in my district. But because of the porportional way delegates were selected, I managed to become a delegate.
Kennedy did well enough in my district to get a couple of pledged delegates.

I was the youngest delegate ever selected and also the first openly Gay delegate from Ohio.
(maybe this won't surprise very many people).

During the convention in New York City, I got in trouble for hanging a giant banner out of my hotel window that read "You forgot us President Carter, 20,000,000 Gay Americans.
I had carried that same banner when Carter toured Columbus, and I will never forget the look on his face when he saw it from his limo. We frowned and shook his head no, disagreeing with my banner.

One of my favorite memories was attending a reception held by the delegates from Puerto Rico, which featured giant bowls of pina coladas. (This wont surprise anyone either !)

Kennedy was a liberal lion, and attempted to carry on the "Chamelot" legacy of his brothers.
He lost the nomination then, and Carter of course lost the election to Ronald Reagan. I never got to meet him, but at the Gay caucus (there were about 75 gay delegates at the convention) we were visited by a nephew.

My first Democratic party activism was in 1972, when I ran a neighborhood campaign for George McGovern. I was 15 years old, and protesting the Viet Nam war. And of course last year, I was an early endorser and campaigner for Barak Obama.

Maybe none of this surprises anyone. Some things just don't change.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Responding to Critics Again on Capital Punishment

Last week another letter to the editor in the Woodward Talk criticized my comments on the issue of capital punishment and the fact the Michigan does not permit that option in its criminal justic system. I think it is great that residents are voicing their opinions. People are generally so pleased with the way Ferndale has progressed, that there is not enough debate on issues that need discussion.

I appreciate the belated sympathy expressed by Pat Dengate and friends regarding the traumatic and very serious home invasion I suffered last April. Many residents contacted me after the incident and offered caring support. I also even welcome debate over my opinions on capital punishment. But I take issue with parts of their letter, which included a glaring omission.

My statements about capital punishment had nothing to do with the thefts from my home. My statement said that if Butler (the parole absconder charged with the burglary and arrested on murder charges) was indeed guilty of murder, then I regret that Michigan does not have the death penalty. My position, by the way, was not "intemperate", but rather a belief that I have developed over the past thirty years. I hold no indifference or "glee" in this position.

Butler will get a separate trial for my home invasion. The material things have been replaced, and we all get to help pay for them as our home insurance premiums will climb. My beautiful $28,000 hybrid Ford Escape, which was trashed and totalled, now lies in a junkyard in southern Ohio. Hopefully it will be salvaged and recycled.

Dengate said in his letter that we are a civilized society, and thus we should not engage in having the death penalty for crimes such as murder. Of course we wish to live in a civilized society. My preference is that we should value life, and that violence is very wrong and evil. Unfortunately, there are very violent and evil characters in society who do not share that belief.

A most salient point in their critical letter was what was missing: no mention of Anthony Moxley, the 28 year old man murdered last June. Police believe Butler went to Moxleys home last year, chased him through his own house, shooting at him with a handgun. Evidently not content to scare him or injure him, Butler allegedly shot Moxley several times. As he lay dying on his floor in Hamtramck, Butler allegedly shot him again and again, emptying his gun until there were no bullets left. Anthony Moxley died on the floor of his own home.

If Butler is found guilty, he could get life imprisonment, or perhaps even a lighter sentence. He will get to watch tv, be served 3 meals a day, and maybe work out in the prison gym. Moxley's young life is done forever.

If Butler kills again, what would his punishment be? Going to prison does not always end the life of crime. Guards and other prisoners are attacked, injured, and even killed every year by other inmates. How do you punish someone who kills a second time, or a third time?

Maybe I’m wrong on capital punishment. But I can’t believe that if they find the killer of young Nevaeh Buchanan, the 5 year-old Monroe girl who was snatched from her driveway, sexually abused, and then buried alive on a riverbank, covered with cement, that giving that killer the ultimate punishment would be nothing less than justice.

And how do you explain to the family of Nevaeh that we won't provide this ultimate justice for the horrible crimes against their child, because we are a civilized society?