April 27, 2012

Hillary Clinton: Straight Talk In A Queer World

She’s My Hero

Some people may have a short memory, but I don’t. I was just thinking about how much our Secretary of State has changed and evolved. And then I thought, hey wait a minute. Maybe we’ve changed and evolved as a nation - because she’s still the same articulate and intelligent woman that she has always been. 

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at Syracuse University this past Monday. She didn’t make a formal speech, but she had a lengthy discussion about a number of topics that I think you might be interested in. I edited the transcript to reflect her discussion about women’s rights, LGBT issues, and domestic politics.

You can read the entire transcript by clicking HERE.

David Zimmerman at the Boston Globe wrote:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke recently at Syracuse University. Secretary Clinton spoke on a wide range of topics including human rights in the United States and abroad, specifically targeting women’s rights and those of the LGBT community. In discussing the rights of the lgbt community Clinton highlighted the difficulties in dealing with some African and Middle Eastern nations that refuse to even acknowledge the existence of lgbt citizens.
Below is the edited transcript of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's appearance Monday at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She answered questions from Maxwell School Dean James Steinberg.

NOTE: The bold highlights of the text are the sentences and passages that I thought were outstanding.

On Women and LGBT Community

The other aspect to this is when you have human rights standards that are so foreign to other cultures. I’ll give you three quick examples. If you’re someone, as I am, who believes strongly in the empowerment of women and talk about the rights of women everywhere I go – I’ve done this now internationally for 17 years. Honestly, a lot of – in a lot of places, it’s just not understood.

“Of course, we take good care of our women. We don’t let them out of the house, so that they never get into trouble.” (Laughter.)

We don’t let them drive cars, so that they can never be taken advantage of. So we are protecting the human rights of our women.” You can imagine the conversations that I have. (Laughter.)

Or we believe that you should not be discriminating against or permitting violence against the LGBT community in your country. And in many places, in particularly Africa and Asia, that is just a totally foreign concept.

I mean, the first response is, “We don’t have any of those here.” (Laughter.)

Second response is, “If we did, we would not want to have them and would want to get rid of them as quickly as possible. And it’s your problem, United States of America, that you have so many of those people. So don’t come here and tell us to protect the rights of people we don’t have or that we don’t want.” (Laughter.)

And so, I mean, I call leaders and I say, “You’ve got a legislator who’s just introduced a bill that calls for the death penalty against LGBT people. That’s really a terrible idea.”

“Well, we don’t have any of them. They’ve been imported from the West” – (laughter) – “and we don’t need them.”

I said, “Well, all right. Let’s start at something very basic. Why do you have to kill them?” (Laughter.) “Well, maybe you’re right about that. We won’t impose the death penalty, but they may have to go to prison.”

Okay. Let’s – I mean, that’s the kind of discussions that you have when you’re talking about human rights. And it’s not that people get up in the morning and say, “I’m against human rights.” It’s that from where they come, on women or LGBT or minority groups, you say, “You don’t treat that minority group very well.” If you’re talking in the Middle East sometimes, “Take better – be nicer to your Shia or your Sunni.” Or, “Please don’t discriminate against your Christians.” It’s a very difficult conversation because it’s just not been one that people have had up until now. I think it’s very important we do that, but I give you this sort of flavor so that you understand we can either have a conversation and try to convince people to move in a certain direction, to provide greater protection for human rights, or we can lecture at them, we can call them names, we can preach, and the lives of the people who are being discriminated against will not change.

So sometimes I feel that we get criticized because we’re not being as vocal or strident as some in the advocacy community would like on some of these issues, but I’m trying to save lives and I’m trying to change attitudes. So trying to do that simultaneously is sometimes quite challenging.

On Politics

Politics, especially if we’re talking about electoral politics, is very challenging. There’s no doubt about that. But I often tell people that politics is part of everything you do. There’s academic politics – I was on the faculty of a law school. There’s church politics. There’s family politics. There’s corporate politics. Everything you do, to some extent, is “small p” politics, where you have to get along with people, you have to express opinions, you have to marshal others to your side of an argument if you’re making a presentation in a corporate boardroom or in an academic faculty meeting. So it’s, I think, short-sighted to say you don’t want anything to do with politics, because you will, in some way or another, be involved in the, quote, “small p” political process.

Electoral politics is very, very hard but exciting. It’s exciting to have ideas that you would like to work toward. It’s exciting to convince people to work with you towards implementing those ideas. And again, politicians are human beings, so you get what you expect with any group of human beings. Some are incredibly admirable, and some are less so. But the fact is that the reason democracy is so worth defending is that we don’t give any group of people a monopoly on the truth. One of the challenges that some of these new democracies are going to face is if they are a religiously based political party, you get into arguments where it’s not just politics; it’s also faith and religion. And so how do you argue against that? How do you compromise over that? So I think politics in our democracy is especially important today to continue to make decisions that will benefit our country. And I make an urgent plea for evidence-based decisions, and in the budgetary arena, decisions based on arithmetic and not ideology.

So we need people who are willing to get into politics, knowing how hard it is, willing to keep going at it, understanding you have to compromise, but sometimes getting a little bit is better than getting nothing at all. And so I would urge that people who are interested in politics, working in a campaign, working for a political leader – a county executive, a mayor, a member of Congress, whomever – see it up close and personal. Decide whether it’s for you. It may not be, but I certainly never thought I would ever run for office or hold office. I certainly never envisioned being someone running for president of the United States. But I believe in the political process, and I don’t think we have an alternative. I mean, we can cede decision making to people you may not agree with, but you’re not willing to get out there and argue against them because, you know what, they may attack you. They may say terrible things about you. And it may not just be that one person; it may be legions of people across the cyberspace world.

So you have to be willing to enter into the political fray, but I think we need you more than ever. So I commend public service, whether it’s in a not-for-profit NGO, the faith community, government service, politics, because we really need to keep replenishing the energy and the ideas and the idealism of the next generation involved in our politics. And we also need more citizens who take politics seriously. I mean, we can disagree on what we should do on climate change, and that’s totally fair game. We may not want to make the investment because we have other priorities, but let’s not disagree about the science. We can disagree about what to do about the deficit or the debt, but let’s not pretend you can keep cutting taxes and end our deficit and debt.

I mean, so let’s have an evidence-based discussion. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with the solutions that are proposed, but we do great damage to our political system when we act like ideology in the American political process is more important than facts. We are a fact-based people. One of the reasons people from all over the world could come here and get along and work and succeed is because they didn’t have to be captured by ideology or by religion that tried to dictate how they lived. That could be part of their private life, their private belief, but our politics were wide-open debates about who we were as Americans, where we were going, what we wanted to achieve. And we need to get back to that, and we need to be very honest about what the facts are.

And then we can argue about the politics. After you look at the arithmetic and you realize, you know what; cutting taxes is not going to produce huge amounts of revenue. We tried that in the 80’s. It didn’t work so well. My husband had a different idea. He kind of understood arithmetic, and so he said, okay, we’ve got to do a little of this and a little of that. And we got to a balanced budget and a surplus. And then we get a chance to actually eliminate our deficit and our debt, and we decide no, we’re going to cut taxes again, because that’s going to create more revenues, which of course it didn’t. And then we have two wars that we refused to pay for, for the first time in American history. And guess what? We’ve got a huge deficit and a just unbelievable debt.

And if we’re really concerned about it, then let’s have a reality-based conversation about it. And we don’t have to fix it. We can take the consequences if the political system can’t bear the hard decisions. But let’s not pretend there are easy decisions that can resolve climate change or debt and deficit and all the rest of it. Because what I see happening in other countries is a refusal to face hard decisions, and I don’t want that to be us. That’s not who we are. We’ve always been a pretty realistic people. We have a lot of disagreements, but we not only need to set the standard for democracy, we need to set the standard for the kind of reasoning that should underlie any kind of democratic enterprise.

straight talk in a queer world.

 3© 2012 JIVEINTHE415.COM