Liberal March Into Neocon Central

It’s a landmark week for progressives marching into Colorado Springs, home to Focus on the Family, anti-tax guru Douglas Bruce and the place that many gays and lesbians – not jokingly – still call the Belly of the Beast for its reputation of hostility.

One after the other, former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark, bestselling author Eric Schlosser and the gay organization Soulforce are headed to Colorado Springs with separate demands for a changing of the guard.Wednesday, Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, will arrive for a $250-a-plate fundraiser for Jay Fawcett, the Democratic retired Air Force Lt. Colonel who is running in what is one of the most conservative bastions in the country. Clark will also hold a public rally that afternoon between 2 and 3 p.m. at the Retired Enlisted Association, at 834 Emory Circle in Colorado Springs.

“I’m looking for good guys who will carry the banner of what our values should be to congress – particularly people like Jay who has served in the military,” said Clark in a Monday telephone interview. Those values, says Clark, include standing as a nation, providing equality of opportunity, helping and taking care of those in society who are least capable of taking care of themselves, respecting others  – and that includes reinforcing our allies abroad “without making enemies with the rest of the world.”

On Thursday, Eric Schlosser, author of the New York Times bestselling book Fast Food Nation – which has turned the fast-food industry on its head – also arrives in Colorado Springs. He plans to deliver a similar message – one of respect and the need to help people in need – during a fundraising dinner and booksigning that is open to the public. The $45-per-plate dinner, at the all-natural Ranch Foods Direct restaurant off Interstate 25 and Garden of the Gods Road, is designed to help former employees of meatpacking plants who have been severely injured and, instead of receiving assistance from their corporate employers, have been herded out to the pasture of the unknown. The next night, Schosser is the keynote speaker at the national American Grassfed Association, a group that is the antithesis of America’s corporate feedlot mentality of the past two decades.

“It’s an opportunity to hear what’s going on with the [natural] meatpacking industry and to have a meal with people who are trying to do things the right way,” said Schlosser, who is fresh off an 8-week book tour with his latest offering, Chew On This, a book with a topic similar to Fast Food Nation – providing a history of how the fast-food industry has impacted society – but designed with the teen market in mind.

Mike Callicrate, owner of Ranch Foods Direct, says the number of reservations that have been coming in to the event have been lower than expected.

“If it’s a cancer event or a kidney event, people just show up and open up their billfolds,” he said. “But when you’re talking about something even more important – the food supply and how people’s lives have been devastated by their working conditions, well, they need to be reminded.”

As a finale, on Saturday, an estimated 80 to 90 members of the gay group Soulforce – which fights for freedom for GLBT people from religious and political oppression – will arrive Colorado Springs, capping a three-day walking trek from the steps of the state Capitol in Denver to the mammoth headquarters of Focus on the Family.

Earlier this month Richard Lindsay, interim media director of Soulforce, said he hopes 1,000 people will join them to rally against what he describes as Focus on the Family’s pattern of portraying gays and lesbians as pedophiles, unworthy of raising children, and capable of being “cured.” The group also staged a massive rally at Focus on the Family a year ago.

The actor Chad Allen, of Our House and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman fame, along with Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, will help lead this year’s march, and the event will be capped with a performance by Broadway performer Billy Porter. (Read more about the event at the Colorado Springs

A complete interview with Mel White, the charismatic co-founder of Soulforce, can be read at the Colorado Springs . White, a former ghostwriter for Pat Robertson, struggled with being gay for years – including spending tens of thousands of dollars in therapies to “cure” himself –  before he ultimately accepted that his sexual identity was neither immoral or sinful.

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