Tuesday, November 18, 2008

They've Been Outed

The turmoil over the passing of Prop 8 continues. People are rightly pissed and channeling their anger in important protests. Now the proponents of Prop 8 are on the defensive. It’s been interesting to watch. I’ve seen/read several quotes in the media from people who voted for 8 say they didn’t mean to hurt anyone. So they’re now understanding that their actions to deny a portion of the California population rights to marry could be painful?

To me the greater lesson in this is empathy. I’m not a gay person but I can certainly understand how it would FEEL to be denied certain rights. I don’t have to walk in their shoes in order to understand that concept. But others do. The blacklist of donators to Prop 8 is teaching an important lesson. Now they know how it feels to be signaled out and be treated (in their view) unfairly.

The good of Prop 8 passing is that we see the bigotry that exists in the minds of those who voted for it. Now all we have to do is change that perception. Yeah, I know – is that all? Once people truly acknowledge their prejudice we can move forward. Once they stop pretending/lying that the issue is that gays/lesbians want to change the meaning of marriage and admit that the real issue is that they don't accept/agree/condone love between same sexes, we can have a real discussion about it.

The main instigators for Yes on Prop 8 seem to have come from the churches. I’ve always thought Christianity would be a better religion if they viewed Christ as a political activist. I’m not a Christian. Maybe some sects do. But what I've heard being preached is that Christ died for people's sins. Didn't he die for his beliefs and for bucking the establishment? Wouldn’t he be doing that today? Wouldn’t he be at the front lines protesting against injustice? Wouldn’t he vote against Prop 8. Wouldn’t he stand for love?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Say it isn't so

There’s been a sad blow to Civil Liberties here in California. Proposition 8 which redefines legal marriage in California as being between a man and a woman narrowly passed. The margin is so slim that it won’t be officially ruled upon until Dec. There’s still hope because it’s out of the hands of the religious right who’ve been driving this campaign and imposing their views onto others.

The No on 8 Campaign made the issue about Civil Rights. No question, we are denying same-sex couples fundamental rights. But what about the separation of Church and State? Where is it? Where does this definition come from that marriage is between a man and a woman? Who’s defining it? If the answer is, The Bible, we have a problem because we are allowing the religious doctrine of one group to define the rights of another. To my mind, it’s not just morally wrong, it goes against the founding principals of our country.

In California, marriage is a civil union. That’s why a judge can officiate. Seems simple but proponents of Prop 8 seem to forget that. It wasn’t that long ago that when a woman married a man, she was his legal property. She didn’t have rights of her own. She couldn’t own her own property. When her husband died, she was in dire straights. We've come a long way in redefining the rights of women in marriage. She can now legally inherit the property of her husband, no question. Not true for the future of same-sex couples if Prop 8 does pass. But marriage isn't about just property rights. The modern view is that we marry for love. In Jane Austen times, marrying for love seemed hypocrisy. Now we call women who marry for money gold-diggers. In today’s mind, marrying for love seems the rightful thing to do. But according to Prop 8 proponents, marriage, and love, can only be between a man and a woman. Interesting, since the ancient Greeks, founders of Democracy, put love between males above all else. (I am excluding the point that women weren’t treated that well in ancient Greek times, but they didn’t fair well under early Christianity either… so… Democracy, and equal rule for all, does takes awhile…. )

If people want religion to play a part in their marriage, fine. Get married in a church, synagogue whatever. That's their business. But marriage is a legal contract overall, entitling participants to certain rights and it's unjust to entitled those rights to only a "chosen" few. And if marriage is truly about an expression of love, no one has the right to determine what's in the hearts of people willing to devote their life to one person of their chosing. Love is love and no one religious doctrine has the right to define what that is for anyone, let alone a whole state.

You know what I love? Our fundamental rights - and the power of the people to keep someone's church out of it!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can

Last night, like many others, I spent the later part of the evening in tears seeing Barack Obama become President. Such joy, such jubilation and a struggle of so many over decades to finally see an African-American in the White House. We truly have transcended.

Again, like many, after watching Barack’s energizing speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, I wondered, “why isn’t he running!” News commentators talked about the rising star in the Democratic Party. When others pleaded with him to run in 2006, we watched his humbled reaction saying he wouldn’t. But then he did, because so many people wanted him too. I had a crisis of conscience. I really did want Hillary to win the nomination. I admired the skill of Barack as an inspiring orator, but I trusted her experience. I knew her and what she stood for. And when she conceded to Barack, I couldn’t accept the answer that “at least she showed that it could be done…” It wasn’t enough for me.

I struggled with switching my vote to Barack. The debates changed that. Calm, cool, collected, he didn’t fall for the traps set out by Republican machine. And they set many, from Ayers to Marxism. He didn’t falter. He knew who he was and what he stood for and trusted that we could see beyond the fear and hate-mongering of the Right. To me, that’s the greatest showing of maturity. I was ready to elect him as president.

His greatest gift to us as Americans is belief. Belief in ourselves that we can create change. As he said last night, the victory doesn’t just belong to him but to all of us. What I found most significant in his speech, reminiscent of Kennedy, is that he emphasized that the work didn’t stop with him but required that to make the change we want, we all have to participate. It is true that it’s not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country. And we’ve seen our country taken over by the Right for the last 8 years because many of people who could vote didn’t. But yesterday they finally did, in record numbers. On The View today, Sheri Shepard, the African-American comedian, said she voted for the first time. She’s my age – 40 – and she’s never participated until now. And there are many like her, finally participating, taking action. We can discuss at length why African-Americans have become disaffected voters and the historical reasons that so many thought there could never be a black president. But the only way to change old beliefs is to replace them with new ones. He’s a true testament to: It’s not what people say that matters, it’s what you believe that counts. This is why I feel that Barack’s phrase last night, Yes We Can, resonated at not just a high inspirational level but at a high Universal level. It’s the highest truth that our beliefs create reality and by saying yes we can - we speak in the affirmative that we can have what we want. And to truly get what we want, we have to act on our beliefs.

In Barack’s speech last night he said that there’s a lot of work to be done and he needs us to do it. It won’t be easy and there’s an uphill battle. Is he laying the groundwork so that if he can’t fulfill his promises, we won’t be disappointed? I don’t think so. I think he’s harkening back to the earlier days of our Democracy when it was bestowed on all of us that we can lead ourselves. It’s up to us to look at our own lives and take action in it. He can give us a roadmap but if it’s not the one we want, he’s willing to listen. He isn’t a messiah – someone to take us to the Promised Land. That isn’t the role of this president. He’s a guide – someone who acts on the behalf of others’ wishes. It’s up to us to ask for what we want and our job is to discover what that is.