Thursday, August 25, 2011

Castro Biz Owner: MUMC's 

Rainbow Flag Plan = Emperor Has No Clothes

Isak Lindenauer is a refined gay gentleman of a certain maturity, schooled in traditional letter-writing and he posted this rant in the window of his antique store on 19th Street in the Castro. When I saw it this morning, I snapped pix of the many individual pages and transcribed them.

Honestly, we've had a few arguments over how he doesn't spray his letters over the web and lacks a blog, and don't for the life of me understand why he tried one avenue - the Bay Area Reporter - to get his message out.

It's one thing to have a flame-throwing radical queer activist demanding the illegitimate control of the city's rainbow flag and pole at Harvey Milk Plaza, public property, and another matter entirely when a soft-voiced member of the Castro merchant class gets angry enough to put his concerns down on paper and in his store's front window.

The president of the local Sterling Bank and head of the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro, Steve Adams, has never enjoyed even microscopic support from activists who want to return the flag and pole to the city _and_ members of the LGBT beyond the tight MUMC circle.

Adams and his colleagues now have a merchant so fed up with their flag nonsense and lack of a transparent process for lowering or hoisting policies, he's shouting his frustration from his self-created soap box at his antique store. This is a significant change in the dynamic to end MUMC's sole rule over the plaza's supposed community flag.

Here's Isak's long letter:

The Bully Pulpit

I wrote a letter to the BAR the morning Elizabeth Taylor died asking the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro to lower their rainbow flag in her honor. My request was denied. Then, I sent an email to the president of MUMC, the executive director and president of the Castro Benefit District, and our Supervisor Scott Weiner asking each to consider the need to address the issue of the current control of the flag and, in my opinion, the inadequacies in regard to its usage. Later, I spoke to the board of the CBD which considered my concern, but decided not to act.

Now Ruth Brinker [founder of Project Open Hand hot meals program] has passed away. The rainbow flag went unlowered again. I wrote the letter I've in posted in the window to the BAR, hoping to bring attention to the issue once more. The BAR has not published it. (In their defense, it's a long letter and perhaps inappropriate for their "Letters to the Editor" column.) I don't know why they decided not to publish it.

With no recourse left, (it's difficult to keep a feisty old queen down), I decided I would post this for the community who pass my window to see. Speaking out publicly in the only way I have left, in at least this small way I have stood up for Elizabeth Taylor and Ruth Brinker, and my belief that our community should have lowered the rainbow flag in honor of their incredible work on behalf of many from our community who no longer have mouths which with to cheer their great-heartedness.

Upon returning last Thursday evening from a week’s business in the South, it was with a mixture of sadness and gratitude that I noted the passing of kind, generous, caring Ruth Brinker. And that was followed by incredulity.


What is wrong with our community? First Elizabeth Taylor, and now, Ruth. These two straight women were giants in our community’s lives. They did what they didn’t have to do but felt compelled to do out of an excess of loving kindness for their fellow creatures, albeit queer ones.

Are we nothing more than a community of ingrates to let these women pass and not publicly acknowledge our appreciation of all they did for us by lowering the very flag which is inevitably shown in all the television coverage memorializing their deaths? Sad irony and shame on us.

Apparently, no one asked the MUMC board to so honor her by lowering the Rainbow Flag. This is the silence which equals death. But that loud silence is perhaps in part due to the board’s previous great recalcitrance in regard to affirming prior requests. This then is the silence which annihilates life AND death.

What does this say about such a board, guardians and protectors of the flag which is our symbol to the world, said board needing a community request before they decide to lower the flag for such heras of the LGBT community as Elizabeth Taylor and Ruth Brinker?

I ask you: Is that class no longer taught here? You know the one I mean: It’s called Basic Humanity 101?

This is an appropriate and honorable function of having a flag. No one ever wants to need to lower it, but from time to time wonderful, important, giving people amongst us die, and this is how we honor them. We stop what we are doing, we lower the flag, we take off our hats and bow our heads in silence and say a prayer of thankfulness that in a world which is too often bitter and cruel, we had the good fortune to have these good people grace our lives by walking for a time among us.

It is a moment in which we manifest our shared brotherhood and sisterhood, our basic humanity, our oneness.

And then, after a discreet period of time, the flag is raised once more in Pride, and once again we go about the business of our daily lives.

That we work now to correct this inequity in regard to our Community’s flag and its many functions is more important than ever. MUMC, the CBD, our Supervisor Scott Weiner, and others could consider joining forces and working together to spearhead an effort on our behalf.

They could start by scheduling a public forum at which a reasonable dialogue could be opened to engage those with both converging and opposing ideas in a civilized discussion. Perhaps a new method regarding the raising of finances needed for upkeep and use of the flag could be developed, shouldered more by the community’s many neighborhood organizations and foundations than it is now.

This might be accomplished through the formation of a more inclusive and responsive committee which could shepherd the flag into our future.

MUMC is certainly to be commended for having assumed the role of caretaker of our flag for more than a decade. It has been very costly and they have been dutiful and responsible stewards all these years. We are indebted to their efforts and generosity which have preserved the flag so it could grow into the international symbol of LGBT Pride it has become.

For saving it, they are to be commended. Let the mayor make a proclamation. Let a medal or a piece of parchment be inscribed. Let a plaque be placed at the flag’s foot in gratitude. But their current policies are parochial and uncompromising and their obvious lack of understanding in regard to the powerful symbol the Rainbow Flag has become in the world is manifestly clear for all to see.

MUMC, the Emperor, is wearing no clothes. If the organization to which I belong realized that fact, its board would not be afraid to honor the passing of illustrious partisans and friends of LGBT people’s struggle for Civil Rights and equal participation in the life of the world at large for fear some tourists who bring dollars into the pockets of merchants like myself will be disappointed not to be able to take a picture while they are here of our flag flying high and proud and perhaps decide not return to the Castro a second time.

Personally, I’d use the moment as an opportunity to tell them why the flag had been lowered on that particular day. Educate ’em. Why don’t we? That’s something different they could take away with them when they got back on their planes and buses. Or tell ’em to extend their visit, stay around in San Francisco one more day. We’ll raise the flag again tomorrow in Pride Everlasting. They can snap their pictures then.

The LGBT communities of the world look to the Castro to lead. The straight world recognizes our power and importance. Having been forced to at first by our many years of activism and our dying brothers in great numbers, it is slowly learning to accept us and now considers us more and more in the equation. Advances. Thanks to Harvey Milk and many others before and after him who have fought on behalf of our place in the sun; it is our legacy.

Let us use our flag which represents that legacy for all it’s worth: fly it proudly, lower it in honor when it is called for, and raise it always again to wave in hope of a better world for everyone.

As for Ruth Brinker: Farewell, rare and lovely lady with the great heart. My sympathy to her family and her many friends.


Jeffrey Taylor said...

Michael, there's still time for the flag to be lowered for Brinker. Her service is at City Hall on Monday 12 September.

Michael said...

thanks for that info, jeffrey. didn't know there is to be a formal sendoff at city hall. all the more reason to lower the damn castro flag. i'll phone POH tomorrow and see if they've made a request to the control queens at MUMC to honor ruth with a one-day lowering.