Thursday, December 09, 2004

Conservative Community Service?

I'm a life member of Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-educational service fraternity. (I know, I know, if it's "co-ed" why is it a "fraternity"? It's a long and involved discussion that's irrelevant here.) What drew me to it in college was its huge focus on community service, an emphasis the traditional Greek fraternities didn't seem to have. I'm big on the whole community service thing. I try to do volunteer work when I can, even though I'm usually pretty busy with work and other general "life" stuff. When I have free time, I like to give of my time.

Recently, a fellow APO alumnus has taken it upon himself to create an alumni group here in the area, for purposes of organizing APO alums for community service events from time to time. Frankly, I think it's a great idea, seeing as at my age I feel like it would be strange to be hanging out with 18- to 21-year olds doing volunteer work. I'd really feel like an outsider. So a group of adult alums might be perfect for me to get back into the swing of being involved, and through my fraternity, no less.

There's a slight hitch.

The guy who's forming the club took it upon himself one day to post a message to the yahoogroup he formed complaining about the fact that Target stores have decided not to permit the Salvation Army from soliciting donations in front of its stores this year. You know what I'm talking about: those people in Santa suits ringing a bell all day long in front of a can where they ask for money. Those people will no longer be in front of Target stores anymore.

APO guy thinks this is a terrible idea. He thinks that it's horrible to deny the Salvation Army, which provides such a great public service, the opportunity to solicit money outside Targets, for no good reason. He even provided a link to his blog entry about this travesty.

And from this link I was able to read the rest of his blog, from which I am able to discern that the man is a conservative Republican.

Not that there's anything per se wrong with that.

But in my mindset, it's so difficult for me to embrace the thought that a person who could be committed to community service, to helping others less fortunate, to chipping in with global efforts, could be Republican. I mean, let's face it, George W. Bush hasn't met a billionaire he hasn't wanted to help to become richer, while welfare mothers don't get a very welcome reception from the administration.

So I posted a comment on this guy's blog entry. (Anonymously, becuase I'm a chicken that way.) I told him that I was upset with the Salvation Army's active attempts to subvert anti-discrimination laws by trying to negotiate with the Bush (II) White House for a special exception to any local anti-discrimination laws the protect gays and lesbians. I told him that any veneer that they had of being a "charitable" institution evaporated in my eyes when they decided that they could not associate with gays or lesbians and wanted assistance from above to allow them to fire people just on that basis. I told him I wouldn't miss the bigots if I walked into a Target.

The guy not only deleted my comment, he eliminated any trace that the comment ever existed.

I'm torn now. I do want to do some service work, through this organization, but if I did show up to any particular function, I know I'd spend much of my time seething at him, hating him before I had even met him.


melyssa said...

i guess i'm missing something here. hate is such a strong word. why do you hate him? because he deleted your post? because he's a republican? because he voiced an opinion? or something else?

Dennis! said...

Sorry, I guess I need to clarify:

- I'm still raw from the 2004 elections. I feel that people who supported W. weren't just voting Republican, they were voting for a particular hateful (there's that word again!) and wrongheaded brand of Republicanism. Thus, try though I might, if I find out someone's a Republican -- or at least a Republican who hasn't disavowed this president as speaking for the party -- I instantly dislike him from the get-go.

- In particular, as a gay man, I was incensed by the Salvation Army's tactic of trying to get approval of anti-gay discrimination. By appealing to the White House, no less. So to compound with the fact that my comment on the issue was completely silenced further aggravated me. Basically, it struck me as yet another Republican who plugged his fingers in his ears and went "La la la" when someone disagreed with him, however valid the reason.

Those feelings are what make it difficult for me to respect this guy even though he's trying to form a community service group in the area. Yes, "hate" may have been a strong word, and it may not be the best word... but it's the word I used, for better or for worse....

p.p. said...

I say screw the fraternity, screw the leader guy, and do some community service on your own. Yes, that's me simplifying things again.

melyssa said...

gotcha. but what if? and this is a what if... you participated, got to know the guy (maybe even become friends with him) thus changing his thinking. sometimes it's easier for people to delete/disregard words but when they put a person, a human being with those words, his or her perception is challenged and sometimes they even change.

for example, if you've read my blog you might know that i'm a pretty strong christian. but i would hope you wouldn't know it by the fact that i say i'm a christian, i'm a christian, i'm a christian ... i would hope you could tell so by my actions (described through my blog).

so basically what i'm saying is if you could stand it, befriending the guy might be the most effective way in challenging his one-sided thinking and it may even open his mind a little.

but i'm real analytical (unlike peter who likes to keep it simple!)

good luck with everything! :-)