Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Open Wound

In June of 2008, I was cocky and naive. I wrote a blog entitled "It's Over," about the gay marriage issue.

The polls at the time were showing that more and more Californians were in favor of it, fabulous gay nuptials were springing up all over, and I couldn't care less what the rest of the backward-ass country thought of us. Once again, my state had it right, and we led the way. Prop 8 was on the ballot, but I wasn't really worried about it. At the end of the entry, I wrote that I was hoping this was the last I'd be writing about this issue for a long time.

Then came November 4. I was just so...fucking...ashamed.

I can still remember that night vividly. The surreal sight of Barack Obama and his family, looking so wonderfully, completely different than any other president in history, coming out to accept victory. Tingles. Chills. Elation.

Perhaps ten minutes of good feeling. Maybe it was only five. Checking the computer as the polls closed in California. What? 54 to 46 in favor? Sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Elation becoming shock. Exchanging Facebook posts with other incredulous Californians. Disbelief. Sadness. Shame.

Denial became guilt. I should've done more. I hadn't even gone to any rallies. I'd tried to go to one, but it was raining, and there was traffic...I had donated $100 to No on 8, but I could've given more.

Then I realized that I wasn't really ashamed of myself. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed of California. I was ashamed of us.

Guilt became anger. It's been almost a year. The anger hasn't left.

We took a huge step forward by electing our first minority president. Many of those same people who voted for Obama caused us to take two steps back by voting Yes on 8. This is more than incongruous for me. This actually makes my head want to split wide open.

How do you go to the ballot box and make the decision to take away someone's civil rights? To negate their happiness for something that affects you not in the least? How did this happen?

Riding my bike to school the morning after the election, I came across one of those plastic yellow "Yes on 8" signs on the ground. I stopped, got off my bike, and put it in my backpack. At the time, I wasn't sure why I was doing it. When I got home, I put it in the closet in my "Mantic." Whenever I catch a glimpse of it, it still raises my ire. The illustration depicts the silhouettes of a happy little family, all holding hands under the sunny "Protect Marriage: Yes on 8" banner. It makes me wretch.

Years from now, when my kids ask me "Why would people vote that gay people couldn't get married?" I'll show them that sign. I'll tell them about the fear and misinformation the homophobic, compassionless masses spread in the name of their religious beliefs.

They said children would be taught about gay marriage in kindergarten. I'm not even going into all the ways that this is ridiculous, but the most illogical aspect of it is the fear of zealots that exposing youth to the idea of homosexuality encourages them to be homosexuals. As if being unaware that there's such a thing as homosexuality is the only way to not become gay oneself.

They said that their rights would be infringed. Their churches would be forced to marry gays. There would be lawsuits. What this completely ignored was that churches already had rules in place about who could get married in their cathedrals. I should know. I had to satisfy all sorts of requirements in order to get married in a Catholic ceremony by a priest. The Mormons don't even let non-Mormons watch their wedding ceremonies. The gays would somehow be able to ruin all that.

They claimed morality. Their justifications start with "Well, I'm a Christian, so..." and "That's just not the way I was raised." You wonder why we atheists can't just be neutral toward religion, why we claim it's actively dangerous? Look no further than Prop H8te. Not all religious people voted for it, but those who did were almost exclusively Christian. Why their religious beliefs supersede someone else's civil rights and happiness is something no one has able to explain to me.

Then came the backlash of people even angrier than I. I in no way condone acts of vandalism or violence. But supporters of Prop 8 act bewildered that the rest of us just can't accept the majority's decision and move on. They just don't get it. This wasn't an election about a new tax, or a new park, or re-naming a frigging street. This was people's lives. This vote told an entire segment of the population that they were second-class citizens. You organize and fundraise an effort to take something away from people that you personally enjoy, and you don't like it when they show up in front of your church? Tough. You reap what you sow.

Of course, the great irony in all this is that Prop 8 only postponed the inevitable. Either a court ruling or a counter-vote will remedy the situation within the next 5-10 years. Even the homophobes must understand that, at least subconsciously. I was right in that original post; I just underestimated how hard intolerance would die, and how effectively it could rally, to paraphrase Henry Ward Beecher. I think that's what gets to me the most. It's so easy to chart the course of history, yet the ignorant ignored all that and voted based on their own personal prejudices.

If you voted for Prop 8, let me put this in language you should recognize: You have sinned against your fellow man and everything this country's supposed to represent. You have shamed our state and tainted its reputation.



willo the thrillo said...


well said sir.

Anonymous said...

Well said Nolan, I felt that same feeling of shame for our state's incredibly ignorant decision. What makes me still upset is the fact that every person who I have talked to claims the position of forced marriage and school teachings of gay practice as their sole reasons for voting yes. Can’t the people of California sue for spreading blatant lies or claim campaign fraud I mean wtf. How can that practice of spreading blatant lies like that be legal? How can an organization sponsoring such ads be held unaccountable.

Nolan said...

Anonymous, all's fair in politics, basically. Those ads were distortions but not quite outright lies. There's always some half-assed citation at the bottom.

As for those people who blame their vote on those things, the bottom line is they're ignorant homophobes. That's it.

Jessica said...

I hate to be the salt on the snail but Obama has also said that he is against gay marriage.

All those people who voted for Obama didn't exaaaactly betray that vote by voting Yes on Prop 8.

Nolan said...

Ladny, I know Obama's responsible for everything bad that ever happened, ever, but he's not to blame for this one.

I know Obama's stated stance (like all centrist Dems) is that he's pro- civil union but anti-gay marriage. He HAD to say that if he wanted to be President. I don't think he gives a crap and probably knows the time will come when he'll switch sides- when it's politically convenient. No way someone becomes president in 2008 being a proponent of gay marriage AND black. It sucks, but it's a reality I can live with.

FURTHERMORE (and you're partially excused from knowing this since you weren't living here at the time), he campaigned openly AGAINST Prop 8, saying that a constitution shouldn't be amended to take away people's civil rights. How do I know this? I, like most other Californians, got a robo-call with his voice urging me to vote no on 8. His stance on that issue was clear to anybody who cared to know about it.

Jessica said...

A) I hate those freaking robo calls.

B) I don't think Obama's responsible for EVERYTHING bad that EVER happened...just everything this year.

C)What you are saying is that when Obama states his position and you don't like it, he's just succumbing to political pressure and doesn't REALLY mean it. That's pretty weak of him not to mention two-faced.

If he's for gay marriage, say so, if not say so. But don't buy this line of crap that he said it but he doesn't really mean it.

Gah, this whole this is lame. Let the gays get married! Who freaking cares. In 10 years this will hopefully be a complete non-issue.

Nolan said...

Yeah, it's crazy to think that a politician would say something he didn't mean in order to get elected. Calling a politician two-faced is like calling water wet. As I stated, it sucks, and I wish he could tell all the homophobes to go to hell like Newsom did, but those aren't the political realities.

Jessica said...

It's gonna be a long road in California I think because even though there's a dominance of Democrats, a growing segment of that group are people coming from pretty conservative, religious backgrounds.