Article Title:Be Ever Vigilant!
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Doreen Agassiz-Suddens
Published on:8th November 2001 - 12:00 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
Story ID:12
Text:During the political hiatus between the local body elections and the coming general elections Doreen Agassiz-Suddens, a "lesbian, feminist, member of Rainbow Labour who has an MA (Hons) in Political Studies with a thesis on the Pink Vote," suggests we keep our political antennae carefully tuned. Next year New Zealand faces another parliamentary election. Some political parties are selecting their candidates now with the hope of building higher profiles in electorates before polling day. Brand name recognition translates into votes. Just as political parties are preparing for the election, so too should the gay and lesbian community. For we have become a much sought-after group of voters, and it is important that we start to go into political training so that we can better analyse the policies, promises, and baubles that will be presented to us. We need to see beyond the flattery and back-slapping that will be heaped upon us, and to continually ask ourselves hard questions about what, why, and how each political promise will be of benefit to the gay and lesbian community. The key word for us to remember is vigilance. We need to scrutinize all political parties and their candidates - even the parties that we personally support. We have to look at what they do, and not just accept what they say. So, to get us into political training and thinking critically, before we cast our Pink Vote, I have included a few things for us to ponder. 1. We must not be lulled into accepting what is told to us as a community by candidates who profess to be on our side without looking more deeply into their statements. Often candidates have different stories for the different groups they wish to woo. We need to look at what they are saying to other sections of society such as the Returned Servicemen's Association, and the church groups, etc. Does what has been said to us match up with the presentations to the other groups, or have the candidates redesigned their views to suit the situation? The sin of omission, and spin doctoring are often used in the pursuit of votes. 2. Do not take for granted the views of people who have been politically active for years, and assume that you know how they think, and will vote. This advice can be applied to the parties of the Right and the Left. We need to be vigilant even with the people we know, for many people can have a blind spot where gay and lesbian issues are concerned. Recently I was made very uneasy by a 'straight', left of centre person who had once been a party candidate, and had recently received her Doctorate. I was lulled into thinking she was the sort of person the gay and lesbian community could count on for support and understanding. But this 'progressive person' told me that 'gay is not political'. She saw racism as a political issue (which I also agree with) but not gay issues. Homophobia, it seems, did not register on her political agenda as important - tell that to Napier's hideously assaulted and left for dead Jim Curtis! 3. The new line-up in the National opposition also needs to have questions asked about it. Why is it that when the party needed more high profile women, and a strong showing on Auckland issues, they virtually ignored their next highest ranking woman after Jenny Shipley - Auckland's Belinda Vernon? Why was she not promoted to the front bench? Vernon was leap-frogged by people with less political experience than herself. Why did National's new leader Bill English, who is a moral conservative, anti-abortionist, father of six, not give Vernon a more influential position? Could the answer lie in the fact that she is a strong supporter of gay and lesbian issues, and has many friends in our community? Does this sort of progressive thinking frighten English, and the rest of the Brat Packers? If so, are they the people we want to see in power and running our country at the next election? 4. We must also not let ourselves get side-tracked, and overwhelmed, by a narrow range of issues. Issues such as same-sex marriage, and same-sex adoption - even though these are extremely important concerns for our community. Because while we are over in our own corner debating these issues, the conservatives (behind our backs) could be moving into more broad-based issues including education, health and welfare, and be gaining ground by stealth. So, with a parliamentary election ahead of us next year, we need to cover all political fronts. Perhaps these are times when we need to put aside the partying and take a look at the Party! Doreen Agassiz-Suddens - 8th November 2001    
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