A thought on the Sam Adams thing

I was on a panel to talk about organizing and social change a few weeks ago, and one of the other panelists said something I think might be relevant here:

“Beware of anything that tries to get in the way of solidarity, of anything that tries to divide you.”

I am quoting from memory, but I think that’s pretty close.

This statement was addressed to OSU undergrads, but I want to say the same thing to Portland’s LBGT community right about now: Don’t tear down Sam Adams.  Other people are going to do their best, and they don’t need your help.

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9 Comments on “A thought on the Sam Adams thing”

  1. anonymous Says:

    Don’t tear down Sam Adams.

    So, in other words, he lied but it is ok because he is gay? Or is it because he is a politician? Or you like him and his ideas? Or he’s a democrat?

    Now switch the situation. Say he is a straight Republican who had an affair with a 17 or barely 18 year old female intern on his staff. I wonder if you would view it differently in another scenario.

    He LIED. That is wrong. If it turns out the young man was 17, Adams also broke the law. NO excuse for him or anyone else in the same situation.

  2. Dennis Says:

    Go down a few posts and follow the link to Michael Faris. He does a good job explaining a position I agree with. The short version is that Adams never should have had to the lie in the first place, because it’s messed up that the public even cares what he does in his personal life (as long as it’s consensual and legal). So yes, lying is bad – but Adams never should have had to lie.

    In other words, most of the stuff in your comment is not where I’m coming from. A Republican that has a relationship with a young women on his staff? If it’s consensual and legal, I don’t care, because it’s not my business.

  3. almost anonymous Says:

    Okay he lied. How many straight politicians have lied? What happened to them? Shame on our society. We force people to lie, then hang them out. What would you do in their position?

  4. Dennis Says:

    That’s not really a relevant question, as I’m not in their position. I don’t blame Adams for lying – I think he was right in thinking that admitting to the relationship would have hurt his chances for election. My issue is that I don’t think it should have hurt his chances for election.

  5. anonymous Says:

    I agree it is none of our business, as long as it was an ADULT he had the affair with. But I still have a problem with him lying. He should have said it is none of our business who he has relationships with, and we , in a perfect world, would have said “You’re right!, It is none of our business”

    And he was not forced to lie. He chose to answer that way. He had to know as a politician that he would be asked hard questions. For heavens sake he was elected as a gay man. Clearly Portland wanted him in the postition, or he wouldn’t have won the election. Lying about the relationship will probably be his ending in politics. What a waste.


  6. anonymous, you are right that he was not forced to lie. He was limited by society into two choices: lie and get elected or tell the truth and not get elected. I would imagine that the take you suggest, to say it’s no one’s business, which I like in a “perfect world,” would leave speculation open and probably still have harmed his chances — not to mention kept dogging him until he did admit or deny the situation. (Most of the time when a politician refuses to answer this question, the question keeps coming up.)

    Dennis, the passage you quote/paraphrase is a bit concerning to me, without more context. What is meant by solidarity? What is meant by division? If we follow this statement to it’s logical conclusion, a lot of dissent, esp. by marginalized folks, would be left out. Couldn’t Bush have said this — indeed, didn’t he pretty much?

  7. Dennis Says:

    Michael, I think you are not being very charitable =)

    I think the comment was directed at marginalized groups and others trying to organize. The ‘anything’ in the statement was implicitly directed at institutions that reinforce oppression and repression.

    As well, such a statement can leave space for dissent and discourse within movements, groups and organizing efforts; it’s not a statement against difference, but for maintaining solidarity.


  8. But my question was largely about what “solidarity” means. A dicey word that I actually love, and am glad the speaker used, but also can lead to the erasure of difference. The marginalized group that comes especially to mind is the feminist movement, which was and is full of dissent, especially from women of color whose needs weren’t being met by a primarily white middle class movement. I think this statement sounds great if we apply it to the white women who refused to accept the critiques from women of color, but with it’s moral ambiguity, it could easily apply to those “uppity” women of color, who could be said to be the ones bringing division. (For the record, I believe that it’s the people with privilege who divide, not the people without.) I’m being cautious, I think, not uncharitable.

  9. Dennis Says:

    Michael – I guess the question becomes something like ‘whose solidarity?’

    If solidarity requires giving up privilege, then I think it’s far more workable.


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