Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A torn heart

I watched the returns roll in with a festive and like-minded crowd last night at the High Noon Saloon, and admit that I found myself getting misty-eyed on several occasions.

When the camera coverage on CNN cut to images of the Rev. Jesse Jackson with tears in his eyes, I almost lost my composure completely. I haven't agreed with everything he's done and said over the years, but still I have a great deal of respect for the greater fight he's been fighting. And here is a man who walked beside Martin Luther King Jr., and now he gets to see the election of this country's first African American president. Amazing.

Too, it's very nice to be on the winning side of a national election for the first time in my voting career.

We all deserve to feel really good, to revel in this massively historic accomplishment. But still, not to rain on any parades, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. Obama said it himself in his victory speech last night. It's going to be an uphill battle. We have far better tools and leadership with which to see that battle through now, but it's still not going to be easy.

With the new-found Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature here in Wisconsin, and a strengthening of those majorities at the national level, Democrats must now kick into high gear and get things done. And we, their constituents, must hold them accountable and push them to do the right thing. It's often very tempting for the majority party to just run roughshod, more focused on assuaging their own egoes and selfish desires than on actually working for a better country for all of us. Let's make sure that doesn't happen again.

And while we're at it, let's do something at the national level to actually fulfill the promise of equal rights for all under the law. Last night saw one giant step forward for equality, and several state-level steps back.

In California, for instance, Proposition 8 looks to have passed by a slim margin, stripping the rights of LGBT people across the state and (hopefully only temporarily) extinguishing the light of one of the great beacons of fairness in this country. It also throws into limbo around 18,000 same-sex marriages that have been conducted over the past 4 1/2 months.

I want you to imagine, if you can, waking up one morning to find that your fellow citizens have voted to revoke your marriage license, simply because your idea of love differed from theirs. I cannot even begin to understand how heart-rending this must be for all those couples who thought finally, finally, they were able to enjoy the same rights as everyone else. To know that so many people still have such a fundamental misunderstanding and fear of something as simple as the love you have for your partner. To realize that, after so much gained ground, you've once again been pushed back into the muck.

It's time to up our game, then--to launch a nationwide campaign to garauntee equal rights for all just as we did to rid ourselves of things like anti-miscegenation laws.

Just as important, though, is the continued and more quiet rise in visibility for LGBT people. The more gay folks people get to know on a personal level, the more they tend to support gay rights. It's about education and familiarity. The false spectre of the evil, degenerate, family-destroying gay falls pretty quickly to the wayside once people really meet and interact with members of the LGBT community. So despite these crushing blows to the cause--or perhaps because of them--it is crucial that we continue to fight the good fight, never stopping, because as Americans we have to believe that equality and fairness will eventually win out over ignorance and oppression.

We saw the potential for positive results yesterday, when Obama claimed victory. Take heart in that, and keep movin' forward.

TO ADD: I don't agree with the "fascist" part, but the rest seems about right:

This whole thing makes me doubly angry, because 1) it's super lame, and 2) it's making it difficult for me to be as happy as I ought to be about Obama winning. Blargh.

MORE TO ADD: Andrew Sullivan has a really good take on this here.

YET MORE TO ADD: OK, I'll buy this and dare to hope. The proposition alone may not actually be enough to amend the CA constitution.


Nataraj Hauser said...

I feel the same way. I had the honor of marrying two women friends this spring in Massachusetts (yep, that's Reverend Nataraj) and it was delightful. I listen to my ignorant coworkers talk about how they shouldn't get any special rights. Special rights?! What they want is to be equal. And you (and Andrew) are right. It's the ignorance thing. My coworkers don't know any actual (out) gay people, and so it's different/scary, and reduced in their limited imagination to a sex act (which the men find totally hot in one case, and totally disgusting in the other, but they would totally do their girlfriend in the bum if only she'd let him). Sigh.

Dustin Christopher said...

I couldn't believe Cali fell the way it did, either. The fact that a state that likes to paint itself as the prow of the nation's progressive movement failed so dismally to uphold the rights it ought to defend...well, I don't feel nearly as bad about the marriage amendment of 2006, and I ain't ever takin' any coastie's crap about being from a "dumb hick state" ever again.

It's like the Bradley effect, except nobody's coined a term for it yet, and I'm too tired.

As in 2006, I'm not too worried. In California, it won't last five years. In Wisco, a generation at worst. It's disheartening for now, but ignorance is on its way out.

M Big Mistake said...

How's this for torn...the overwhelming turnout of minority voters may be what caused the passage of many anti-gay measures on ballots.

Jake Streacker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

Jake - Good to hear, and I hope you're right.

Emily said...

Another take on that exit polling.

The Lost Albatross