Tag: Prop 8

Obama and the New Terrain of Battle, Part 1: Green Light

This is the first part of an ungodly long piece I posted during the actual inauguration over at Fire on the Mountain. I have decided to trim it a little and post it in three parts, today, tomorrow and Friday, in the hopes that more folks will read it. I may even put it up at Daily Kos, though I can’t imagine that it will be well received there.

With Barack Hussein Obama making history and a wave of optimism engulfing the country, it is a good time to review what faces us ahead. I want to flag three features of the road we are heading down over the coming months.

   * First, there is a green light for struggle to advance on many fronts.

   * Second, the anti-war movement, by contrast, faces a huge roadblock to moving forward.

   * Third, as far as the economy goes, the bridge is collapsing and we are on it.

A Green Light for Struggle

Since November 4, there has been a dramatic uptick in popular struggle in this country. The election of Barack Obama, and the massive mobilization of people from all parts of the US and all sectors of society that made it possible, have created a vastly different terrain of battle than that of the last 8 years. Last month, I heard “Si Se Puede” and even “Yes We Can” chants rising from within a crowd of hundreds of SDSers and other serious young militants mobilized to defend college students who were carrying out an occupation (overall successful) of the New School in NYC.

The emotional highlight of the last few months has been the victory won by another occupation. Union workers at the about-to-close Republic Windows & Doors plant in Chicago seized control of their factory and won nationwide sympathy, including a statement by President-elect Obama affirming the righteousness of their cause and ignoring the illegality of their tactics. When they won their demands, the UE members left the plant chanting, yep, “Si Se Puede” and “Yes We Can.”

Now a wave of protest against the police murder of a young Black man, erupting at times into outright rebellion, has shaken Oakland, CA. Police departments across the country are reviewing their “deadly force” policies and training–and updating their riot preparedness plans.

Any one of these can be dismissed by the cynical as an isolated particular. Let me instead suggest a look at the broadest protest movement which has broken out since the election–the battle which followed the passage of California’s anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8. This ballot initiative, a little gem of rancid bigotry, not only denied same-sex couples the right to wed, but even officially “un-married” tens of thousands of lesbian and gay Californians. It was hands-down the biggest bummer of Election Night, 2008.

But look at what has ensued!

First, there were a couple of weeks of near-spontaneous demonstrations, pulled together by email, instant message and Twitter. Often thousands strong, they reached all 50 states. Many protesters quickly–and correctly–identified and focused on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) as the main target. Rallies took place in front of Mormon temples not only across California and in other modern-day Sodoms like NYC but even at LDS Central in Salt Lake City.

The effect has been profound. The demonstrations gave rise to an incredible cultural flowering in defense of gay marriage, from the movie-star-laden YouTube micro-musical “Prop 8: The Musical” (starring Jack Black as Jesus) to the tongue-in-cheek petition drive launched in Princeton, NJ for an initiative forbidding Princeton freshmen to walk on town and campus sidewalks.

Major media outlets and think tanks undertook investigations which showed that, just as protesters charged, LDS money and machinations were at the center of the Prop 8 campaign. Boycotts of tourism in Utah and of Mormon firms, as well as other businesses run by Prop 8 backers, are underway. Members have quit the church or spoken out publicly against its embrace of bias.

On the political front, Obama has felt the heat, especially after his inaugural invitation to Prop 8 supporter Rev. Rick Warren triggered a spasm of revulsion even among his loyalists. One response to the pressure has been his unexpected and unequivocal pledge to move rapidly to end the Armed Force’s homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

To grasp the new mood of struggle, try and imagine the scene if Proposition 8 had passed during the grim 2000 or 2004 elections. The anger would have been swamped in the overall angst and depression. The flowering of protest and culture would never have taken place. Most important, we would not have the current mood, the overwhelming optimism that the passage of Prop 8 is just a bump in the road which will soon be behind us.

So why am I not divorced yet?

I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around the “gay marriage threatens ‘traditional’ marriage” meme. Marriage between same-sex partners was legal in California for a few months, until the passage of Prop H8; it’s now legal in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, Norway (as of January 1 2009), South Africa, Belgium, The Netherlands… I’m not getting this. Didn’t ‘separate but equal’ fall by the wayside a long time ago?

OK, I confess…I AM divorced. From Husband #1. But that divorce was in 1981, long before same-sex marriage was legalized anywhere in the United States. So golly, what happened?

I’ll tell you what: physical abuse threatens marriage. Emotional and psychological abuse threatens marriage. That’s what happened to me. Abuse that was never acknowledged by my ex; never dealt with, admitted, apologized for, or STOPPED.

We tried, mind you…or I should say, I tried. I took my marriage vows seriously. When I said, “For better, for worse…’til death do us part…” I meant it. I admit, it hadn’t even occurred to me at the time that my death might be a lot more imminent than I thought. It never occurred to me that my husband (who had sworn to love, honor, yadda yadda yadda) might try to do me in within a week or so of having taken that vow. When he told me he planned to be a triple-A husband, little did I suspect that meant Abusive Alcoholic Asshole. So when the drinking and the violence started, I insisted on counseling. I tried to keep it together. I tried to be the understanding wife.

I’m far from a perfect human, God knows. I know I have my flaws. But I don’t think ANY person deserves to have the kitchen table overturned on top of him/her, for having forgotten to put the milk on the table at supper. I don’t think ANY person deserves to be dragged down the hall of the marriage therapist’s office by the hair, being kicked in the back at the same time. I don’t think ANY person deserves to be called vicious names; to be accused of non-existent infidelity; to have dishes flung at one’s head; to be verbally and emotionally and physically battered.  

So yeah, abuse threatens marriage.

Here’s what else can threaten a marriage:

Chronic or serious illness. The death of a child. Addiction. Financial worries. Unemployment. Infidelity. Just to name a few…

I’ve had some experience with a couple of these, too. I’ve been married to my second husband for almost 24 years now, and we’ve faced money problems, life-threatening illness, and the death of our firstborn. That last was probably the toughest thing any parent can face; we lost our beloved daughter to a drunk driver, just a few months before she would have wed the father of her two young children. At least she wouldn’t have been denied that right, had she lived…we wouldn’t have had to fight for her to be able to do that.

We’ve been lucky. We’ve managed to survive those potential threats, and have worked at growing stronger as a couple as a result of those challenges.

But same-sex marriage? Holy shit, that’s not even on the RADAR as a potential cause for a split. How the hell could it be? How can the thought of a same-sex couple wanting to commit to one another in a lifetime of monogamous fidelity possibly threaten our marriage, or that of anyone else?

Rather, does it not uphold marriage as the ideal? Does it not say, that’s the brass ring…that’s the ultimate commitment goal…that’s what many loving couples want to publicly declare?

Granted, not every opposite-sex couple choose to marry, nor should they be forced to. I’m sure there are same-sex couples who feel the same way, whether out of fear of commitment, not wanting to ‘mess up a good thing,’ the costs involved, the legal hoops to jump through, or whatever. But for those who DO want a public, legal, recognized marriage, why the hell should they be denied that? If they are adults, why can’t they enter into that contract with one another? And why can’t it be a marriage, just like any other?

I’m sorry to hear that there are some folks out there whose marriages are on such shaky ground that the thought of another couple wanting that same level of commitment would destroy their legal relationship. Must have built that house on sand, eh?

I’m happy to say that my feet, and my husband’s, are on pretty solid rock. Our marriage has not always been smooth sailing, and if we live long enough, we may yet hit stormy seas. But I am confident that, should we ever face a serious threat to our closing-on-a-quarter-century marriage, it WON’T be because Adam and Steve, or Ada and Eve, decided they want the same level of legal and social recognition for their relationship that we all too often take for granted.

For those who want to ‘preserve marriage’:

Support equal pay for equal work.

Support stronger families, of ALL kinds. (Real ‘family values’ means valuing all families. Honest.)

Work to end poverty.

Work for full employment.

Work to end disease.

Work to end abuse.

Work to overcome addiction.

But please DON’T tell me that love isn’t love. Don’t tell me that the gay couple down the street, who may have been together even longer than you and your spouse, are not entitled to marry. Don’t tell me that the lesbian couple whose kids attend your kids’ school, aren’t a ‘real’ family.

It IS a civil rights issue. And America should be at the forefront of the movement to grant those rights to all its citizens, not playing catch-up.

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