This is the first dispatch from Netroots Nation 2012. For those who don’t know, Netroots is the nation’s largest gathering of progressive activists, bloggers and political operatives. This is my second year at the conference, the first time being 2010 in Las Vegas.
While I don’t usually do travel commentary, I do have to discuss the trip across the country. I left Lansing on Monday at 1 p.m. and drove through to Milford, PA to stay with my friend Sean Strub. Sean is a fantastic HIV activist who started POZ magazine and produced one of my favorite plays ever — “The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.” Sean has become a friend and, frankly, a mentor in relation to my reporting.
Driving across PA on I-80 was beautiful but fraught with massive trucks which have zero interest in following the speed limits, or recognizing the lane delineations.
Anyway, MapQuest directed me up I-81 to I-84, but Sean texted me about midnight and said to take state route 209 through the Poconos. It was a lovely drive, but the deer were all over the place. It was a bit white knuckle because every time I rounded a corner there was a deer on the side of the road staring at me like, “What are you doing? I am standing here.”
I arrive safely in Milford, only to find my cell phone was unable to call Sean — and I ended up wandering around for nearly an hour to find a place open to call him. I was in bed by 2:30 am. Had a lovely breakfast at the historic Hotel Frauchere, which Sean co-owns. It was a delightful breakfast of a lobster omelette.
Left Milford at 1 pm, stopped at a nearby gas station which turned out to be in New Jersey. Did you know in New Jersey it is illegal to pump your own gasoline? Seriously. If you do you get a ticket for “endanger the welfare of others.”
From there I was off to Rhode Island.
Wednesday was the LGBT Connect conference. This is a pre-conference event put together by fantastic folks like Bil Browning of Bilerico, Mike Rogers the infamous outing blogger and others. The morning sessions were, I admit, quite slow — however the afternoon was full of some fantastic conversations.
An important observation on that — often panelists and participants alike would note that “we don’t talk about that.” It is curious that a movement as diverse as the LGBT community has as many structural issues and concerns yet it is not talking about it. This was particularly keen in relation to HIV and other health concerns. I served on a panel with some fantastic folks, but sadly there just was not enough time to really get into any discussions about the health issues — at least in any level of depth. There was, however, one individual who announced that all the money in prevention should be abandoned to “let the older people die” and instead focused into comprehensive sex and reproductive health education. It was a shocking statement — particularly when one analyzes it in context and realizes it popped up after a quick discussion of the epidemic in African American men who have sex with men. The classicism, racism and simple ignorance demonstrated was stunning.
This is the end of the update for today — watch for more over the next week.
PS– While the Walker recall failure ought to have been the discussion of the day at a progressive conference, it was interesting to note the basic dismissal of the entire thing. Most people shrugged about it. This might change tomorrow when the full conference gets into swing. I will keep you posted.