Always Looking For Someone To Hate

tolesprop8I regard the unfortunate passing of Proposition 8 as more of an age gap thing than a racial or specifically cultural thing as a whole. Exit polls and surveying based on age proved that those 30 and over were voting for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in bigger numbers, and those are the folks who hit the polls right now. The turnover as the current 18-29 generation (yours truly included) becomes 30 and over will be much better for overturning noxious crap like this in the future, but it’s still disheartening.

Considering those exit polls, it doesn’t make any sense to blame black folk for Prop 8’s passage. Yes, I’m really disappointed in the 70-30 split. I thought we’d survived and emerged after having our rights denied for centuries. How do we turn that around and vote to strip other people of their rights?  It’s sad that we can’t see the irony in that; however, it’s not fair to lay it on black voters by forgetting to note that the only make up a little more than 6% of the state’s electorate.  It’s really on older, more church-going white folk and the largely Catholic Latino population.  Of course, we can’t forget the Latter-Day Saints funneling cash from Utah to fill the coffers and use scare tactics about children and religious freedom. Reprehensible stuff. Honestly, your preference to keep your children’s ears free from hearing about homosexuality end where other people’s civil rights begin.

But, I talked to a few family members in L.A., and they saw members from the black churches coming around and urging people to support Prop 8 — and there’s a bigger problem here. Yes, the conservative black, religious community has a homophobia problem; there’s a reason the “down low” has become a prevalent term.  I don’t have a whole lot of choice other than to say the black churches ought to be ashamed of even being a minor part of this effort — they may legitimately believe that that Jesus rails against homosexuality in the Bible (honestly, he really doesn’t) — but someone ought to be smart enough to recognize that your pastor’s preference shouldn’t guide public policy.  Black Pentecostal, Episcopalian, and Baptist churches were some of the moral centers when it came to helping urge people along in the Civil Rights movement, and to even hear of any members being a part of the Prop 8 debacle is rather infuriating.

However, the GLBT movement needs to do more outreach; the wide perception of “gay=white” is not helping it.  Much like feminism, it needs social advocacy, analysis, and critiques of race, class, and economics in order to be viable to more people — and it has to help out with GLBT folks who are a minority within a minority.

It’s telling that the majority of the No on 8 campaign’s advertising did not specifically mention marriage or say the words “gay” or “lesbian”, they only talked about discrimination and taking away rights (save an early ad with two white parents and the one with Samuel L. Jackson narrating).  This was reactive and an attempt not to actually discuss the issue. Ads directly tackling the fallacies in the Yes on 8 ads while talking about gay people and marriage rights would have been more effective. You don’t win by fudging the issue.


Yes, We Did

“If your grandfather could have been alive to see this, he would have heard that speech, fallen over, and died a happy man.” – my mother, late last night

After an 11-hour shift constructing an election show, after all those hours watching MSNBC as the results came in, as President-Elect Barack Obama won Pennsylvania, then Ohio, then Virginia, and then was taken over the top by my home state of California, after seeing those thousands gathered in Grant Park in Chicago, and watching this leader, this good man, give an absolutely moving speech upon his election, all I can do is think of what my grandfather would have said if he could have seen this day. After decades of living in Harlem after coming over from Barbados in 1918, if he could have lived to see the day when a black man would ascend to the highest office in the land, I know he would have told me this, the same thing he would tell me as a child when he would fly out from New York to visit my mother and me in Los Angeles:

“You see? I told you that you can be anything you want. Anything at all, even president.”

There is still so much to do, to fight for the end of racism, stupidity, and willful igrorance in America, but we cannot pretend that this is not a giant step forward in that fight.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I want to cry, it feels so good to have some form of hope again. I do not profess to believe that Obama is capable of solving every problem; that he can deliver on everything we hope and see in him. I will criticize him if he takes policy stands I think are wrong. However, after eight years of a country where logic, reason, and intelligence were seen as dirty words by our leadership, it is nothing short of wonderful to see a man, an intellectually curious and intelligent man, to lead our country again.

Yes, we can. Yes, we did. And yes, we can do so much more on our own, and with him as someone to look up to. We cannot be complacent, but we have the audacity of hope.

Proposition Hate

Yes, it’s the second time I’ve written about the attempt to put a ban on same-sex marriage in California’s constitution, but damn it, this matters: an influx of $20 million plus from the Latter-Day Saints has fueled the ads behind the Yes on 8 campaign in just the latest effort from the Lifestyle Police to dictate how other people’s rigths are determined.

I’ve never quite understood why folks get up in arms about gays or lesbians getting married. The ads against it say it’s about religious expression being threatened, kids having to learn about gay marriage in schools, or having the “will of the people” negated by state judges (and they never forget to mention that those California Supreme Court judges are based in San Francisco.) Arguments like that hold no water in front of this basic truth: once the federal and state governments got themselves in the business of giving legal rights to marriage (joint tax filing, hospital rights, etc.), same-sex marriage was the inevitable, and proper conclusion left in front of the state court when faced with Proposition 22’s constitutional basis.

Now, we have the bad precedent of Proposition 8, which, if passed, codifies the removal of civil rights into a state’s constitution — an absolutely noxious thought, when you consider that in many of the pro-8 ads, that if you simply substituted interracial marriage for same-sex marriage, no sane person would think it was such a great idea to write into a state’s constitution.

There is very little at stake in California as far as presidential politics go, but this is my motivating reason to get up and go to the polls before I head to work later in the afternoon: to give the morality and lifestyle police a big loss.

If Only To Halt The Tide Towards The Idiocracy

Obama 2008

I rarely vote for a presidential candidate based on his or her own merits. Inevitably, I’ve learned that they will always disappoint once in office, like most other politicians, and all I can hope for is someone who will at least stem the tide of overwhelming stupidity and acceptance of ignorance in political culture and our dealings with the world, if only for a few years. This has largely meant voting a straight Democratic Party ticket, and will again tomorrow, for reasons I will elaborate on — but regardless of whether you agree with me or not, please go out and vote tomorrow. It’s the least you can do as a citizen.

That Democratic Party ticket has not come without some head-hanging, usually at the lack of spine present in its politicians, particularly those selected to run for the Oval Office. This has been the case since I first became eligible to vote: Al Gore, John Kerry, even back to Michael Dukakis before him and my time as a voter — all Democrats, all withotut that much of a political fighting bone in their bodies.  Bill Clinton, despite the things I didn’t like about him economically, at least fought for the basic ideals behind the domestic goals.

Now, at least Barack Obama is a fighter, and I’ll be able to vote with a clear head and for someone as opposed to a vote completely against John McCain. But tomorrow is a chance to repudiate the noxious mess of the past eight years, where George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and a cadre of cads basically decided post-9/11 that a perversion of the Constitution in favor of extreme power of the executive branch was necessary and what they desired.  What died on their watch: habeus corpus, our refusal as a nation to torture, the respect of other countries, and the concept of sound policy — all thrown into the fire as a sacrifice to Karl Rove’s eternal campaign. Essentially, that eternal campaign left us with one unnecessary war that distracted from the real fight, the denial of science and logic in favor of pure ideological ignorance, and, in the complete denouement of more than two decades of voodoo economics, the current economic meltdown, in which we should be thrilled if it manages to only be a recession.

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Gay People Have Every Right To Be Just As Miserable As The Rest Of Us

I have to admit that I get a chuckle out of the ads on TV over Proposition 8, even when they’re making me sick at the same time.  You see San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom being a bit of a dick in a snippet of the ad, you hear a bit about gay marriage being taught in schools without parents being able to take their kids out of class, you hear about the need to protect “traditional marriage.”

If we really wanted to go back to traditional marriage, let’s mandate marriage be for the acquisition of property. Make it real old-school. You know, fathers pick suitors based on family bank accounts, suitability for the money, fuck that love shit. If you want to really make it traditional, mean it, because otherwise, I’m not sure why the hell the church-going folk and everyone else in support of banning same-sex marriage through the state Constitution is so hell-bent about what other people do in bed and whom they marry.

Right, right. Homosexuality is morally wrong. Sure. It harms the institution of marriage.  Like the divorce rate in this country doesn’t. How will children deal with eventually having to learn that men can marry men and women can marry women? Well, just like they ideally would learn about sex, drugs, etc, if the country at large wasn’t so fucking squeamish about anything reproductive.

Same-sex marriage is the return of a long-overdue bill that we floated checks on centuries ago and our collective ass could not cash it, kind of in the same vein of slavery in a society that decreed “all men are created equal.”  (Now, now, the parallels aren’t exact here.  Being forced to be white and closeted in close-minded times isn’t a ripple on being black and beaten.)  The basic problem is this: the state decided, like most nation-states do, to get involved in the business of sanctioning marriages between a man and woman; which used to be a mostly religious deal.  American society compounded it by allowing marriage to accrue medical and legal rights to a spouse, and now, with homosexuality becoming more normalized, it’s only natural that same-sex couples would like to establish those same rights — and under a lot of state constitutions (Masschusetts, California, and now Connecticut), the legal reasons to keep marriage hetero don’t jibe with those constitutions.

Happens. It’s kind of similar to the whole Loving v. Virginia case over interracial marriage. Societal standards change to adjust to new legal findings and decisions, and most of the political progress in this country doesn’t happen without prodding and backing from higher courts (Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Griswold v. Connecticut, etc.)

What’s especially noxious about the Yes on 8 campaign is, in the same ad using Newsom’s ill-advised gloating earlier this year, is that it feeds into the stupidity regarding the concept of judicial review, established way back when in Marbury v. Madison.  The basic charge against the California Supreme Court is this:

Four judges ignored 4 million voters and imposed same sex marriage on California.

This is a straight Republican trick that’s been developed over the past couple decades or so, and is leading to the developing idiocracy in the U.S.  It takes advantage of the layman’s lack of understanding of basic legal concepts and the court system, manipulating a court decision explained concretely in the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government to portray it as a willful defiance of the voting populace. Thus, all judges who render verdicts in ways conservatives find distasteful are “judicial activists.” If the verdict is in their favor, it’s merely “strict constructionism.”

Well, let’s put it this way: if those 4 million voters who voted Prop 22 into approval in 2000 approved something completely unconstitutional, then the state Supreme Court judges did their fucking job. Judicial review is one of the few things standing between us and mob rule, and if anything, the religious nuts behind Prop 8 ought to be struck down for that alone.

Here are the five lies behind that ad I posted above that the supporters of Prop 8 are using to write discrimination into the state’s constitution, in handy video form:

If you are registered to vote in California or know someone who is, plead with them to go to the polls and vote against this despicable proposition.  The state may turn out blue in the presidential election, but we need as many people as possible to fight off the people funding this.

The Past As Reflection Of The Present

By now we’re all pretty much aware that Barack Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, is fairly ill, and Obama has headed back to Hawai’i to be with her. The funny thing is that I’d never seen a picture of his grandparents, or one that I really remembered seeing, until I was scanning through both Andrew Sullivan’s and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blogs at the Atlantic yesterday, and found the pictures of Dunham with her husband Stanley, and Stanley with Barack as a young boy. If you haven’t, please read Coates’ observations about the photo and come back before I give my own.

It is striking when faced with the severe resemblance that Obama has to his grandfather — that facial structure, that jawline, that I am faced with the amazing task that they simply decided upon when their daughter Ann, in the early 60s, met and married Barack Obama, Sr. at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, married, and had a son: they simply decided to love their daughter and theri grandson, despite opposing the marriage (as did Obama’s paternal grandparents).  In the America of the 1960s, the right, and what seems to us, normal choice was not always the popular one regarding interracial marriages. Loving v. Virginia is not all that long ago. To embrace raising one’s half-black, half-white grandson in the 1970s, even in Hawai’i, is one small profile in courage.

I suppose it strikes me, like many other bi-racial children, that this picture is sort of a negative of my history.  My skin is light. I’ve got blonde hair. If I’d been born 30 or 40 years earlier, I’d likely have faced a moral decision about whether to “pass” or not.  When I speak, both my mother and aunt tell me it is my grandfather’s voice, and my smile comes from that side of the family.  My mother and I are still used to jaws dropping or people being slightly stunned if we say we are parent and child in public. We still get laughs out of it, too.

This is probably part of why Obama has appealed to so many people: the back story is unique but common to what we see in certain areas of family stucture right now: this is the face of a changing America. It doesn’t mean we’ve solved the problems (not even close) that continue to divide; this campaign alone and some of the rhetoric reeking of racism has proven that. But there is a new American story to tell as times change, whether Obama wins on November 4th or not, and to see him on the main stage at this point is to see that change that is a part of every child who grows up in a world where we are increasingly, as I will crudely put it, “fuck until we’re all brown” without a bit of consideration outside of love, for whatever comes afterward.

So-Called “Accidental” Racism

How would you translate this graphic below, which apparently is good enough to be made into flyers by Republicans in the Inland Empire?

I would have gone with “Obama is a nigger,” but that’s just me.

From the Press-Enterprise:

The October newsletter by the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated says if Obama is elected his image will appear on food stamps — instead of dollar bills like other presidents. The statement is followed by an illustration of “Obama Bucks” — a phony $10 bill featuring Obama’s face on a donkey’s body, labeled “United States Food Stamps.”

The GOP newsletter, which was sent to about 200 members and associates of the group by e-mail and regular mail last week, is drawing harsh criticism from members of the political group, elected leaders, party officials and others as racist.

Good, that’s a start. But this is the mentality of way too many people overall (I don’t mean Republicans or Democrats), and it still exists in this country, sadly.  And the group’s president, Diane Fedele, is not exactly helping herself with her defense. She says she’s going to issue an apology, which is still insufficient, considering her obvious inability to identify stereotypes (that’s probably being too kind.)

She said she simply wanted to deride a comment Obama made over the summer about how as an African-American he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

“It was strictly an attempt to point out the outrageousness of his statement. I really don’t want to go into it any further,” Fedele said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended. That clearly wasn’t my attempt.”

Fedele said she got the illustration in a number of chain e-mails and decided to reprint it for her members in the Trumpeter newsletter because she was offended that Obama would draw attention to his own race. She declined to say who sent her the e-mails with the illustration.

She said she doesn’t think in racist terms, pointing out she once supported Republican Alan Keyes, an African-American who previously ran for president.

Dear Lord.  “I voted for a black person before, so I don’t think in racist terms.”  That excuses you from re-printing the worst stereotypes in a graphic image? Please.