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May 23, 2011 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-05-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ELI FENYES I
It's not "all right"

Monday, May 23, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
JEFF ZUSCHLAG E-MAIL JEFF AT JEFFDZ@UMICH.EDU
naldTruo to No 000 better not dkappeont
Longsr Run fooPresident jnmecnst, Sooth
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,yG f

I still haven't seen the movie
"The Kids Are All Right", which,
knowing me, is kind of surprising.
I'm involved with the Spectrum
Center. I give any vaguely homo-
phobic sentence a cold retort.
Rainbow is my favorite color. But
I can't get excited about this movie
- in fact, it kind of frustrates me.
This movie makes me react the
same way I did with the momen-
tous repeal of "don't ask, don't tell"
in December 2010 - first: "Great,
what took so long?", followed by:
"This doesn't change everything."
Despite Julianne Moore cud-
dling with a woman on screen and
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Led-
ger winning MTV's "Best Kiss"
award for "Brokeback Mountain",
who can actually call Hollywood
- let alone America - gay friend-
ly? Whenever a movie comes out
featuring a gay couple, everyone
around me seems to celebrate -
"Look! Gays on the big screen!
It's the end of homophobia!" Of
course, these blockbuster films,
along with others such as "A Single
Man" and "Milk" are a huge step
in the direction of making people
more comfortable with homosex-
uality. But sometimes these mov-
ies seem commercial rather than
genuine, with viewers bragging
about their tolerance. Hollywood
still manufactures gender roles up
the wazoo, still ignores bisexual-
ity, transsexuality and BDSM, still
makes it seem like the only "nor-
mal" is heterosexuality. And that's
why I'm annoyed with people giv-
ing a huge "Hoorah!" when mov-
ies like "The Kids Are All Right"
come out (pun intended) - we're
only at the tip of the iceberg. We're
only seeing movies that don't
make people too uncomfortable.
It's a start. It's not the end.
Homosexuality is no longer
classified in the Diagnostics and
Statistics Manual of Mental Disor-
ders as a mental illness, as it used
to be. Organizations for LGBTQ
teens and students exist, making it

1
1

easier to come out and meet simi-
larly identified people, which is a
great new resource. Lady Gaga is
breaking ground, exploring new
frontiers of bringing realistic sex-
uality into the media. But what
else can be done to make LGBTQ
identities as mainstream as het-
erosexuality? What new argu-
ments can be made? I'm worried
that recent films with gay protago-
nists only try to be a band-aid for
deep problems of intolerance, and
that they're only preaching to the
choir. Homophobia and prejudice
against people identifying as queer
has a long history in America and
in the rest of the world, and just
like racism and sexism, it won't
just end with a few movies and
songs. We need education, we
need conversation and we need it
to be okay for people of the same
gender to walk down the street
holding hands.
So cheers, Hollywood, for tak-
ing another step towards sexual-
ity equality. Keep going. I dare
you to eliminate fear and preju-
dice and to stop making it seem
like women must have long hair
to be considered sexy, or that guys
have to dress like guys. I dare you
to make me less nervous about
posting my name on this article.
I dare you to make it not "gay" to
talk about queer rights. Because
seriously, it's time. I promise to
see "The Kids Are All Right" if
Hollywood makes a movie version
of "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugen-
ides, or if they feature a rainbow
flag in "Transformers 3". I might
even promise to see "We Now Pro-
nounce You Chuck and Larry" if
they make a movie where they at
least mention bisexuality, or one
where a girl wears a tux to a wed-
ding. Hollywood definitely has the
power to change minds and opin-
ions, to make people more open
and accepting. I want to see this in
action, and I want to see it soon.
Eli Fenyes is an LSA sophomore.

Democracy 2.0

2011 has been a year of unri-
valed pro-democracy activ-
ism around the world. The
Arab Spring,
chock-full of
revolution,
governmental
change, war
and protest ;
has altered the
dynamics of
the region for- JONATHAN
ever. Whether AYLWARD
its role has been
overempha-
sized or not,
relatively recent developments in
technology have played an unde-
niable role in aiding organization
and communication among activ-
ists. The world is craving democ-
racy and technology is providing
a means of attaining it.
So what? This is the U.S. We've
already got democracy, right?
In the last presidential elec-
tion, we had one of the largest
voter turnouts in the history of
our nation at less than 60%. That
means more than a third of the
country's eligible voters stayed
home. During non-presidential
elections, less than 40% of eli-
gible voters turn out on aver-
age. That leaves a glaringly large
portion of the population com-
pletely outside of the democratic
process that we so cherish. Could
it be possible that people are just
content with how things are and
don't see a need to vote? Accord-
ing to a Pew Research Poll from
last year, only 29% of Americans
are satisfied with the state of the
nation. The average American
is not happy and by not voting is
either apathetic, helpless or pro-
testing. These are systemic prob-
lems. It is time to reconsider and
revamp our democracy.
I remember being confused in
my high school history class when
the topic of the founding fathers
and democracy was broached.
Democracy was a pillar of Ameri-

can freedom and a major rallying
point as the colonialists garnered
support to break free from the
British. When the constitution
was drafted, however, the most
obvious and pure form of democ-
racywas avoided - peopleweren't
directly voting on legislation
themselves or actually participat-
ing directly in the government,
but instead were electing officials
every two to four years to do it for
them. I was told that this was to
protect against the tyranny of the
majority. I thought then, and still
believe, that the whole point of a
democracy is to gauge and enact
the prevalent opinion of a society;
the majority trumps the minority.
This is its most endearing trait.
Why not let the people decide,
instead of officials who by their
very nature have personal inter-
ests and only partially represent
the electorate?
Amid an era with public senti-
ment ripe with cynicism and apa-
thy towards government, there is
no better time to turn to a trusted
remedy: enhanced democracy.
The youth of the Middle East
and North Africa have taken the
first step in coupling technol-
ogy and democracy in the public
consciousness. Everyone seems
to love investing our technologi-
cal prowess towards the creation
of the perfect iPod or the most
realistic video game. What no one
seems to give much attention to is
the idea of improving our democ-
racy with technology. The poten-
tial technological applications
toward strengthening democracy
are boundless if only desire and
ingenuity were present.
Here's an idea: every Ameri-
can over the age of eighteen is
given a polling device. To raise
an issue for state vote, a certain
amount of signatures on a peti-
tion must be reached - these
could be entered, searched and
signed via the device. The elec-
torate of the state would then

directly vote on it through their
voting devices on a designated
day. This proposal is really just a
technologically enhanced version
of the current citizen-sponsored
ballot initiative, nothing too radi-
cal, just a simple improvement.
People would have more agency
over the factors that affect their
lives, and the democratic process
would undoubtedly be improved.
More exciting than anything is
the incredible ease with which
normal citizens could more easily
enact positive change.
Our diluted
government can
be purified.
Unless your last name is
Mubarak or Gaddafi, you are
probably in agreement that
democracy is essential to a free
society. Surely there are obstacles
on the way to achieving a truly
democratic state, but technologi-
cal pragmatism is no longer one of
them. For progress to be made, a
willingness to accept the fact that
our nation does not possess an
inherently perfect form of democ-
racy is essential. Yes, our diluted
democracy works, but we can
always purify it. Our peers in the
Middle East started something
incredible when they decided to
use Facebook for something more
than self-obsession. We should
take note and consider how we
want to use technology to shape
our world. To get this issue onto
the public radar, discussions need
to start now on how we can best
use technology to benefit civics in
our country.
Jonathan Aylward can be
reached at jaylward@umich.edu.

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