Column: 2017 - Already One Hell of A Ride

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So far, 2017 has been one hell of a ride. June is already here, which means that it is time to get moving on my “To Do List” for 2017. Almost half a year is gone, and the second half has a habit of going by at a much faster pace. The arrival of June also reminds me to take some time out to celebrate the Summer Solstice later this month, making a Midsummer Night’s Dream by stirring up some merriment and awakening the spirit of mirth. 

There are a couple items swirling around my head this week that I want to mention. The first is the May 10 “SFGN” issue, reporting on the Diversity Honors Award Ceremony, specifically the comment by Stuart Milk, Executive Chair of the Harvey Milk Foundation. “We made a statement this year that LGBT is not just a liberal issue. We set the tone with some conservative speakers.” 

Wow, really? No longer just a liberal issue? Pretty easy for the conservatives and the rest of the closeted queens of years gone by to claim the spotlight now that all the fighting, sacrificing, and dirty work has been done. By mere definition of the word “liberal,” LGBT issues can be nothing but liberal.  Where were these Conservatives in the early days of the movement? Where were they when LGBT lives were being ruined, attacked, and arrested for speaking out for equality, justice, funding for HIV/AIDS research? Disgraced Congressmen like Mark Foley and Dennis Hastert, apparently felt a need to play with under-aged boys instead, while the “liberals” were marching for equality in San Francisco, New York, and other urban centers where the LGBT movement took hold and blossomed into a national movement. 

No problem for Stuart Milk though. “I prefer to think about the 99.5 percent of the people who enjoyed the event and don’t even know who Mark Foley is.” That deserves another Wow! Really? I can guarantee that most of the attendees at the Diversity Honors know exactly who Mark Foley is.  Looking past the controversy of the awards ceremony, the Harvey Milk Foundation and Stuart Milk have done tremendous work in the worldwide fight for LGBT equality. Hopefully next year’s event will honor regional leaders and leave the divisive speakers, such as Nancy Brinker and her guest Mark Foley, off the speaker list. 

Another topic on my mind is a “Tale of Two Islands.” As someone who grew up during the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis, the Cold War, and the Mariel Boatlift that overtook Miami, I am somewhat amazed at the comparisons of two islands very close to one another--Cuba and Puerto Rico. When 125,000 Cuban refugees where flooding into South Florida in 1980, the national news outlets covered it around the clock. However, there was little media coverage when in 2014, more than 140,000 people left Puerto Rico for the mainland, followed in 2015 by even greater numbers, with the exodus continuing as their economy falters. Fellow citizens forced to leave family and their homes in search of jobs, education for their children and economic security. Little or no media coverage on what might be one of the largest population displacements ever seen outside of a war. 

One would think that it should be the other way around. Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the richest nation in the world, should not be bankrupt, should not have such a high poverty rate, should not have so many citizens fleeing its shores. Cuba, an island that has endured a trade embargo for 60 years and imposed Communist rule, should be the one suffering such a fate.  Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that both systems have their faults when left unchecked. A totalitarian regime that limits the freedoms and of its people and an unchecked free market system that saddles its people with huge debt burdens, both leave a lot to be desired. 

Returning to the shores of our own island, Wilton Manors, the summer heat is rising, the humidity is rising, and so are my FPL bills.  The 2017 Hurricane Season has begun, so take some time to make a plan of action, bulk up on supplies, and get acquainted with the helpful information on the Wilton Manors and Broward County websites.  It’s always best to heed the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” so we can get over whatever hurdles we may face this Hurricane Season. Being ready for what might head our way will make it easier to say afterwards, “Life is just better here….”  


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