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For the Brutal Truth of One on Behalf of Many: “Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank”



There is certainly something special about Barney Frank. The former member of the House of Representatives served his home state of Massachusetts well for nearly forty years. He is known for being outspoken to a fault, which of course is part of his charm. It’s my favorite thing about him despite his other many wonderful qualities. 


I have been a huge fan of Barney Frank for many, many years. The last few years he has been a presence on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” and I have enjoyed each minute of that more than the one before it. I suspect Bill agrees with me on this matter.

His style might be a little rough around the edges but he was certainly a mover and a shaker. I like his style never afraid to say what he meant. Better yet he made promises and kept them much of the time forsaking have a personal life to make public policy to make the world a better place. Or as he would say, to at least stop other people from making it worse.

A self-admitted workhorse, Mr. Frank has used his quick searing tongue for the good of his country. He served on the House Finance Committee and co-sponsored the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that passed in 2010 and prevents the circumstances that created the financial fall out in 2008.

In October of this year Showtime released a documentary called “Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank”. When I set my DVR I had no idea it would be so good I would need to watch it twice just to process of all the information. It is so well done and captures much of the very important moments our country has had because of him as well as earnest moments with the former Congressman himself.

Despite the fast-talking, joke telling, speech he is infamous for, his brilliance shines through. He is so smart that he can react with a quip before the other guy even knows what he is talking about. His mind never stops spinning. Perhaps tenacity is a good 
word as any for describing Barney Frank’s characteristic approach to a conversation. It doesn’t matter if he is talking to his paperboy or the president of the senate. He is more than outspoken, he has a way of correcting your view to a line with his but also being incredibly funny and on point. He seems to speak before he thinks which is something I can relate to. However he is so brilliant that no matter the topic he is always putting someone in their place, a place they didn’t know they fit into.

For me the most significant moments began with the mention of Emmett Till, the fourteen-year-old boy that was murdered in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Barney says that event really stuck with him as he new he wanted to work for causes that could change society. His love of legislating was largely based on the fact that he could tackle many areas to effect the most change. When Barney Frank traveled to Mississippi as a community organizer many years later, in 1964, the first thing he does after getting off the airplane is to drink from a water fountain designated for “colored people”.

Another holding tear back moments were during the speech he gave outside of the hospital in 1998 during the vigil that was held for Matthew Shepard who had been tortured and killed simply because he was gay and in Wyoming. Frank said that what we were witnessing was what non-acceptance looks like. Such powerful words that dives into the heart of this issue.

As a gay man himself, who came out in 1986, he knows of what he speaks. He was the first openly gay man to serve in the House and created a path for others to follow in.  Happily he found his soul mate in Jim Ready who he married on July 7, 2012. They were married by the Governor and had many in attendance including politicians and family. It was a wonderful site. Both Barney and I cried at his wedding even though I was attending from my living room.

When trying to defeat DOMA (Defense of the Marriage Act) in 2009, Frank said:  “If gay marriage threatens the institution of marriage than the argument should be made by someone who is in an institution”. Here, here Mr. Frank.

“Teddy Roosevelt said the presidency was the bully pulpit”, Barney Frank says “Well then so is the House”. This quote Frank believes sums up his experience as a member of Congress, as they are able to speak out on behalf of so many and create all kinds of policy. These positions in government provide a  “license to do good”.

Now that Frank has retired I a filled with sadness, it’s the same kind of sadness I felt when I left FDR’s house. Both men had such an influence within our society and I fear they don’t make politicians like that any more. Leaders, founding fathers had a grace and brilliance we are in desperate need of now. 

When on the campaign trail for Joe Kennedy III (who would succeed Frank in that House seat), grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, he closes his speech by saying: “Vote Democratic, we aren’t perfect but they are nuts”. Always with the humor this one.

Whether you agree with his politics or not you have to admit that he made his job look fun. It doesn’t look like work with him. He is seamless in the way he can move from topic to topic despite breaking down barriers as he goes along.

I hadn’t planned on writing this blog at all. It actually came as quite a surprise. One day I was going about my business trying to clear my DVR when I was immobilized by what I was watching. This documentary was so captivating I was glued to it trying to absorb every last detail. I had to rewind a bunch just to make sure I was hearing it correctly and that was only during my first viewing.

To say this feature had a profound affect on me is an understatement. The only other show that had a similar result was when HBO aired the Broadway show based on Thurgood Marshall. That one-man play was impressive for may reasons and I felt a surge of inspiration to share that with my readers (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2011/04/for-intriguing-story-of-justice.html).

During my second viewing of this documentary yesterday I was moved all over again. God’s honest truth I got the chills during this documentary especially as Barney himself wells up with emotion as his speaks on the floor of the House or even reciting his vows at his wedding. This is a man that feels everything on a deep level and isn’t afraid to show it. That is what kept drawing me in. What you see is what you get with Barney Frank. He is most definitely living his authentic life.

Barney Frank and I have more in common than our politics. For instance he is a fellow devotee of reading the hard copy of the New York Times. The fact that I share this trait with a 75-year-old man is not uncommon for me.

After all of this it appears that both Barney and I really are people persons whether we look like it or not.
  

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