Wednesday, November 05, 2008

bittersweet

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.

8 comments:

Claire said...

I don't live in CA anymore, but I'm seriously disheartened by the passage of Prop 8 and the gay marriage bans in other states.

People should spend more fucking time dealing with their own lives, relationships, & families than on forcing their religious prejudices onto other people. Failing that, let's spend the next 2 years putting a bunch of young, healthy liberals on the Supreme Court.

Cheryl said...

Amen, sista.

Peter Varvel said...

I hate admitting this, but I need to allow myself enough time to calm down so that I can respond more rationally to Prop H8.
I've always viewed my own anger as energy that can be put to constructive use.
Let's get to work!

Misty Harris said...

So California voted to make its animals' lives better (Prop 2) but not the lives of its own people (Prop 8)? Do I have that right?

I am honestly shocked. What a strange election. I hope the untallied votes give this story a happier ending (but hooray for the long-suffering animals all the same!).

Tracy Lynn said...

I can't tell you how sad this made me.

Cheryl said...

PV: I think there's a place for seething, unproductive anger and then, when we've gotten it out of our system, for righteous, productive anger. I'm feeling a little better about things now, but that might just be the coffee talking.

MH: I was really happy about Prop. 2, but yeah, a lot of people are rightly making that comparison. My friend updated his Facebook status to say, "Matias is thinking of changing his sexual orientation to 'bovine.'" (Now, if I was really all about equality, I'd go learn what's coming up on Canadian ballots. I'm so clueless.)

TL: I'm happy to know so many great people, gay and straight, Californian and otherwise, who are sharing this joy and sorrow. Although there's also part of me that wishes I knew a few haters to yell at.

Don Cummings said...

I am filled with rage, blogged about it. The adult in me feels I need to tamp things down in a seamly manner---but I just couldn't. I understand being blinded by rage is ugly and somehow reflects a scared little being. But right now, I feel like a scared little being...I want to lash. Oh man. Okay. I lashed at home. And I'm lashing here. And once I finish lashing around, I will do something very productive. But before I even get to that, I need to slap some Mormons with a dildo.

Cheryl said...

We spend enough time being well-adjusted adults that I think we've earned a little lashing-out karma--especially when our civil rights are taken away as if they're a bond issue people can give simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down to.

The night of the election, I told AK that usually I refrain from making fun of Mormons because I'm sure many of them are nice and they seem like an easy target, but that I was going to grant myself a one-week open season. Bring on the sacred underwear jokes!