A Question Of Love

Because WordPress is a bee-yotch*, it will not allow me to embed the video, but I urge you to go and watch Keith Olbermann’s comment on Proposition 8.

I have had a love-hate relationship with K.O.’s show as of late, as the Special Comments became sometimes more than I could bear in terms of stridency, but this one should be watched and distributed as much as possible. The least I can do is quote the full text, without a jump:

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics, and this isn’t really just about Prop-8.  And I don’t have a personal investment in this: I’m not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can’t have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don’t cause too much trouble.  You’ll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you’re taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can’t marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn’t marry?

I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage. If this country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage, some black people still couldn’t marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not “Until Death, Do You Part,” but “Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.” Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn’t marry another man, or a woman couldn’t marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the “sanctity” of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don’t you, as human beings, have to embrace… that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling.  With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate… this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don’t have to help it, you don’t have it applaud it, you don’t have to fight for it. Just don’t put it out. Just don’t extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don’t know and you don’t understand and maybe you don’t even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

“I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam,” he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love.”

(*And seriously: I am considering moving back to Blogger because of this alone, and I loathe Blogger. Maybe Movable Type is in order or something.)

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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.

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.

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.