On The Use of Public Office

17 09 2010

When the list of truly reptilian public prosecutors is drawn up – ones with absolutely no humanity, no spark of kindness visible anywhere, Manhattan DA Cy Vance is going to be on it. It will be a rather long list. It will include the one’s who co-operated with the infamous “hanging” Judge Jeffreys, the French Reign of Terror’s Committee of Public Safety, those who ran the courts for Stalin and Hitler – and we haven’t even touched on the South American dictatorships. More than a list, it will be a heavy volume of names of men (it’s almost always men) who, for reasons ranging from venality to fear for their own safety, abandoned any claim to simple human decency – prosecuting the weak, the helpless and the outspoken.

Cy Vance has no access to the hangman’s noose but he does the best he can with the tools available. He has brought the full weight of those tools to bear on one of New York’s most respected and beloved activists. Kate Barnhart. Kate is executive director of New Alternatives For Homeless LGBT Youth, an East Village program now serving several hundred homeless kids with GED and SAT programs, food, help with housing and benefits and most important – a little love; a commodity most of these kids have had in short supply. What are the lives of these kids ordinarily like? Perhaps this poem can express it better than a volume of prose:

No One’s Child

In the darkness of the doorways,

Underneath the aging piers,

Hides a child of the rainbow,

Growing old beyond his years.

Furtive, living in the shadows,

Dancing sometimes with the moon,

Darkness is his best companion,

Fantasy his dish and spoon.

They who made him, turned against him,

He was different, so they said.

Somehow, those who should have loved him

Decided he was better dead.

Now he sleeps with rags or lechers,

Home is only in his dreams,

Hoping that the men who pay him

Might hear the silence of his screams.

We can’t hear unless we listen,

We can’t see with eyes we’ve closed.

We can cross the street and hasten,

But he is not what we’ve supposed.

A word in kindness could be offered,

Not expecting a return,

though kindness seems a thing most often

Quite difficult for us to learn.

Easier by far to judge him,

Hustler trash on midnight street,

Love is just a ghost behind him,

Ever more distant, dim and fleet.

Where will you go now, no one’s child?

What to do if they won’t pay?

There’s no more path for you to follow,

Your tomorrows are yesterday.

Formerly director of Sylvia’s Place, a shelter for homeless LGBT kids at New York’s Metropolitan Community Church, Kate has devoted her life to this cause with a selflessness that puts even the most charitable among us to shame. To really comprehend this, one needs to understand that this is most assuredly not nine to five work. Kate is on duty 24-7. Her cell phone can and does ring at any time of the day or night, weekends and holidays included, with a desperate call from a kid in trouble. That kid will NOT get a recording suggesting he or she call back during office hours. The kid will reach Kate and, depend upon it (as these kids do) Kate will do her best to deal with the problem. She won’t wait until Monday morning. She will do it at once as best she can. This is not new. Kate has been the abiding rock for these kids to grasp for many years, as the dark tides of fear, exploitation and helplessness threaten to pull them into a maelstrom of destruction such as only the underworld of as big city can produce. Kate has been at it long enough now to see the results – kids in college and doing well, kids who have jobs and apartments, kids who have hope where there once was none.

One boy who is now in college as a result of Kate’s help said to me ” Kate? She’s the most wonderful person in the whole world.” Well, there are some pretty wonderful people in this tired old world and Kate may or may not be the most wonderful but as sure as death and taxes, she is on the short list. Kate accomplishes all of this on top of caring for an aged father and battling her own quite serious health problems. If justice was served, she would be brought down to City Hall in a limo to receive a medal from the mayor. Instead of that, she received a subpoena from Cy Vance. The reason why is detailed in the story on our website. No doubt Vance can present a legal platform on which to rest his effort to prosecute Kate. You don’t get to be a DA without the skills to fabricate logic out of the treacle and sludge of the language of the law. However, when a servant of the law departs from the spirit to gain advantage from the letter, he betrays his descent into self-interest, self-promotion, service to special interests and hidden agendas. He has departed from the spirit of justice and entered the dark realm wherein the law is used as a tool to abuse the poor and the weak for the advantage of the powerful. So it is with Cy Vance.

Damaged and threatened from within though this nation is however, it is still a democracy and ordinary people are not entirely without resources. To begin with, it will be very interesting to see where Cy Vance’s campaign contributions come from. Are there significant contributions from the health care industry or its employees? Have an unusual number of executives of Aetna Insurance decided to support the electoral process by writing checks to the Vance campaign chest? We’d really like to know – just idle curiosity of course. Call us cynical and suspicious if you will but a more thorough waste of tax dollars than Vance’s effort to re-instate previously dismissed charges stemming from a life-saving demonstration at Aetna’s offices, conducted peacefully AND on a public right-of-way is very difficult to imagine. What then is the real agenda here?

Note to Cy Vance: we’re not all complete idiots out here in the land of the little people. Some of us have that really scary thing called a brain – one that has had the advantage of an education that trained us to spot bullshit when it is shoved under our noses. Our noses are twitching Vance old man – twitching hard. We smell BS and we smell a scumbag. Have you showered recently?

Link to the story


Link to video of demonstration in support of Kate  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xvv6Qr3n-bo




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