Thursday, February 7, 2008

Where are the villains?

First in a series of posts on the January Board meeting. Portions of this post were previously sent in private correspondence to a UU member.

In January the Board voted to affirm the choice of Fort Lauderdale as the site of this summer's General Assembly (GA). As a UU member said to me today "the GA Planning Committee has done the best they can with a very difficult situation".

I agree. You can find an excellent set of frequently asked questions about the conditions, precautions, and considerations about this year's GA on the UUA site.

I was part of the decision making with two different major conferences in the late 1980s after then Governor Evan Mecham rescinded Martin Luther King Day in Arizona. Though the dollar amounts were not as great, they were significant, and a stand worth taking with a clearly defined goal - and a clearly defined villain.

Quoting one of my fellow board members, there are no villains here. Four years ago the GA Planning Committee recommended the site for all the right reasons: multicultural, gay-friendly, inexpensive; and the Board agreed. The City of Fort Lauderdale and their convention bureau are not any more interested in having their facility in a security zone than we are - and could not envision that it would take 7 years to address the issue (a road by-passing security is supposed to be finished in 2011). The Bush administration? Well, yes, but I doubt they care much about UU conventions in Forth Lauderdale or would be the least bit impacted by our decisions.

So I look for the clearly defined goal. We move the site for what purpose? To put pressure on the current administration so that they no longer secure our ports? Or do what with those who have no IDs? To force the Convention Center - to do what? It appears to be a fairly internal one - that each of us can follow our conscience, rejecting white privilege by standing by delegates that could be turned away for lack of an ID, and/or asserting our right to not have to show an ID to worship. Obviously the strength of feeling on this across our membership varies. I have full respect and admiration for both positions, but my personal preference is to put my energy into battles that achieve more than that. If moving GA is the remedy, I strongly suspect we will accomplish nothing for those without ID that truly improves the situation for them. From an external perspective, it may just look like we made a mistake by holding the assembly in a place that had even the possibility of a security check. I am hoping this controversy has sensitized and energized enough people that the "teaching moments" at GA will result in real change.

From a board perspective, I do share the fiduciary responsibility for the financial health of the UUA. The nearly $1 million penalty we would incur if we attempted to move GA is 1/7 of this year's annual program fund - one seventh of all the money contributed to the UUA by the 1043 congregations that make up the UUA membership. Who would make it up? How would the members feel who do not feel as strongly about this issue feel about having to pay significantly more for registration (the estimate is that it would double because of the late date and the fact that Ft. Lauderdale is so inexpensive) or could be called on to contribute more to keep the organization viable?

I understand the dilemma of wanting to stand by those who are denied the privilege of an ID. But I also think every time I fly I am invoking a privilege - every time I cash a pension check, or take a write-off on taxes for home ownership, or collect rent money on the property I own. I could renounce all material wealth and live on the street in solidarity with the homeless - or use my privilege for a "greater good". Part of what I love about this faith is that it continues to challenge me to address the greater good.

Next post: Policy Governance as Holy Work

1 comment:

Justine Urbikas said...

indeed. I really liked the point the Charlie King made at the Board meeting about how anger shouldn't be directed at the BOT, GAPC, UUA, or Ft.Lauderdale, but at this unjust war with its huge deficit.