I was hoping this would be the first major election in eight years that didn’t make me cry—and for a few minutes, I was just crying because I was happy. Seeing Obama up there, looking thrilled and tired, thin-necked, big-eared, shockingly human under the weight of all that history and all those hopes; thinking about Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. and his grandma looking down on him…for a few minutes, America was everything I needed it to be.
When Obama talked about how his election isn’t the change we seek but just the opportunity to continue seeking it, when he gave a little shout-out to the gays (and how many presidents have done that in their acceptance speeches?)…for those minutes, I thought, “Yes we can.”
And then California decided it was all about deciding who exactly got to be included in “we.” As in, “We can get married, but you can’t.” As in, “We can use the constitution, which should be sort of a secular bible, to put into practice all the whimsical and shitty things we’ve exploited the actual Bible for.” Arkansas did it too, only worse. Arkansas decided, “It’s not enough to fuck the gays with this proposition—let’s screw over kids in foster care too.”
Despite the blogosphere’s reputation as a cesspool of unmediated rants, plucky old Bread and Bread is usually all about introspection, conciliatory language, giving people the benefit of the doubt, tempering things with good natured sarcasm, blah blah blah. At least I like to think so. But tonight when Jody gave a no doubt well-informed critique of No On 8’s strategies, I was in no mood for lefty self-critiques. No On 8 might have made mistakes, but it didn’t create the hate and ignorance that apparently run strong in California. It’s the haters I’m pissed at and no one else.
I’ve been in such a weird, nervous mood these past few days, and while part of me says, That’s the worst a proposition can do? Put you in a bad mood? Wow, you’re really oppressed, aren’t you?, that’s the voice I’m ignoring tonight.
After our fellow election night revelers/mourners went home, I cleaned up the kitchen and AK searched the internet for inspiring quotes from Kermit the Frog (because we have to look to our strongest leaders during times of crisis). She stumbled across a trailer for Brokeback Mountain and watched it quietly. “That’s what happens when it’s not safe to be gay,” she said, and I was thinking about how I need to read a book or see a movie about oppressed people surviving really awful times. I was thinking about how art is there when you need it most.
Then I thought how, wait, no, this is oppression too. Prop. 8 might not be the worst thing that ever happened, but it’s not just some tiny chink in my unfathomably privileged life. It’s real and it sucks.
Then I thought about how maybe I would keep the house extra clean or stop eating, those late-night, anorexic, “if I can’t control the world around me at least I can control this” thoughts.
And I thought about what Ed Bacon said about seeing soul to soul if not eye to eye with people who vote differently than we do, but I also had a frighteningly vivid image of myself poking the next person to utter the phrase “protecting families” in the eye with something sharp.
Ed, Barack—I’ll get there. I’ll take the high road. But right now I’m still stuck in traffic and I’m full of road rage.