Being on the wrong side of history is not a comfortable place to be. Think of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain or of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Chamberlain's efforts to appease Adolf Hitler were both futile and cowardly, while the "Noble Cause" that Davis defended turned out to be the vile institution of slavery.
History forgives many sins. Bill Clinton will not be judged by his multiple dalliances. He'll get a pass, just as Kennedy and Roosevelt did. Lincoln was no saint, and neither was Mother Teresa — but history will little note nor long remember their faults.
In local government we don't expect much, but we're willing to be surprised. We hope for competence, dream of wisdom, and we're delighted if our leaders are merely lucky. Most of all, we hope for a certain moral compass, the ability to move beyond the grubby politics of the moment.
During the mayoral campaign, Steve Bach said he wouldn't sign a proclamation honoring/welcoming Pridefest, which will celebrate its 21st anniversary on July 16 and 17. He said that he wasn't discriminating against gays, quipping: "What about an event honoring people over 6-foot-5?" he asked. "Should I sign that?" (The mayor is 6-foot-5.)
As clarified this week, Bach says he won't sign any proclamations "with political connotations," as a matter of principle.
It was, and is, a ludicrous excuse. It's a calculated political ploy to reassure conservatives.
As a former pol of the same generation, here's what I hear in Bach's statements: "Listen, I can't be as specific as I might like to be, but you know what I'm getting at: Your mayor is not going to be prancing down the street at the head of the Gay Pride Parade in a gold lamé suit! I'm a righteous, God-fearing, pro-life Christian — so don't worry!"
I don't know whether the mayor really feels that way. He's been largely apolitical during his 45 years in the community, focusing on making real estate deals and working with other civic-minded businesspeople to improve and protect the local economy. Most likely, he regards the issue as a sideshow, a diversion, an irritating reminder of a contentious campaign.
Won't it just go away?
No, Mr. Mayor, it won't. Gay rights are not, as political troglodytes still believe, frivolous demands for "special rights" from a class of people who aren't a class at all. It's about the legitimate claims to equal rights made by people who have been mocked, maligned, bullied, beaten and delegitimized for centuries. It's about us, friends, our children, our parents, and our city. The tide of history is turning — and we're about to be stranded.
Mayor, I know this isn't easy for you. We grew up in the same homophobic schoolyard culture. Remember the boys game, "Smear the queer"? Remember when being called a "homo" meant you had to fight?
Let me suggest that you consider two recent events.
In New York last month, three Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in the state Legislature in approving gay marriage. As far as I know, none were closet liberals, nor were they bribed by gay-friendly centimillionaires. They were simply persuaded that it was the right thing to do.
Here in Colorado Springs last weekend, two soldiers from Fort Carson were severely beaten outside a fast-food restaurant, apparently because their attackers pegged them and their companions as gay.
Think about it, Mayor. Where lieth the path of righteousness? Should you continue with your evasions or choose the more difficult path?
Two simple sentences: "After careful consideration, I have signed a proclamation welcoming Pridefest to Colorado Springs. As Fannie Mae Duncan so famously said, everybody welcome!"
Your change of heart would make national news, reshape our city's image, attract young professionals, and stamp you forever as a principled, courageous leader. You would be on the right side of history.
And as for breaking your campaign promise — well, such promises are made to be broken. And you once did say during the campaign, citing your long experience in real estate, "I know how to break a lease!"
Alas, it ain't happening. Bach didn't respond to messages, but in an email, Bach's de facto communications director, Stephannie Finley, confirms "he has not changed his mind about the proclamation for Pridefest."
So much for that fantasy.