Wednesday, November 5, 2008

some thoughts for the next (first) day

November 5, 2008: yesterday was a pretty important day here in the United States of America. Today is a brand new day; today I, along with millions of fellow citizens, residents, visitors, as well as onlookers in other countries, rejoice in the naming of the new President-Elect, Barack Obama. This is the start of a period of healing and renewal and progress. Watching Obama's speech last night, I had to keep reminding myself that it was real, that it wasn't just a fairy tale playing on the screen.

The result of the presidential election, however comforting and awe-inspiring, did not come as a surprise to me. What does surprise me is the result of the vote on California Proposition 8. I really did not expect it to pass. I noticed the extra push by the No on Prop 8 campaigners in the last few days leading up to the election, but I couldn't imagine that their efforts were anything more than a security buffer.

You may remember that I had a hard time with Proposition 8 when I first moved to California in August. Well, I still do. Either way I look at it, it makes me upset. I don't fully understand it, and I cannot tell what will happen in the future as regards this issue. Ultimately, my vote on Prop 8 came down to a matter of trust in the prophet and apostles of the Church, trust that they are blessed with greater foresight than I, trust that they know what they are doing, trust that they would not endorse a particular position on a particular political issue if it were not very important for some reason(s) that I do not yet understand.

Am I happy that Prop 8 passed? No, decidedly not. Would I be happy if Prop 8 had not passed? I'm not sure. Maybe, at least in the short term. The good that I see coming from the passage of Prop 8 is that it will not last. I know it won't. Too many people are upset and hurt (and can you blame them?) and they will not sit back and say 'oh well, we tried.' We will be called to vote again, we will be called to act, we will be called to enact a change that is really functional. I don't yet know what it will be, but I believe that after several incarnations of prop 8's and counter-prop 8's, we may eventually hit upon something that everyone can agree on. Call me a foolish idealist if you will. All I know is that it's not working now. But that doesn't mean that we should give up hope. Hasn't the Obama campaign taught us anything, after all?

What follows is a text that I originally wrote in an email to a friend, since we had earlier begun a conversation on the topic. When I came to the end (which is far from an end to the discussion), I realized and commented that perhaps it was a little silly to be writing this in an email. While my primary intent was to renew our dialogue, the primary effect was that, even before receiving a response and yet ignorant of whether my friend would even read what I had written, I felt better (if ever so slightly) just having gotten my thoughts out on paper, so to speak. Writing is mostly narcissistic. But every once in a while it transcends. And our stubborn hope in that once-in-a-while, I suppose, is what propels us humans to continue sharing our writing, somehow or another.
To be sure, I do not feel "vindicated" or even, more mildly, "justified" by the outcome of the prop 8 vote, nor do I feel any sense of relief. I do stand by my decision to follow my church leaders' counsel in voting on the issue, but I never did feel comfortable asking others to vote as I would (and therefore I did not). To be honest, the whole issue makes me feel sick, literally sick to my stomach. Part of me wants to run away from it, but mostly that tells me that it is important and must be dealt with somehow.

Regardless of which way the vote went, the very fact that it was so close tells me that this is not a simple black-or-white issue. Though others who voted "yes" may rejoice that we "won," I know that's simply foolish. I know very well that this is not the last we will hear of it, nor is it the last time it will come up on a ballot. Besides, the way I see it, democracy ought not to be about winning or losing. Something's wrong if we're fighting. If an issue is so starkly divided, that to me means that neither side is wholly right. There must be some other resolution that will make everybody better off.

Frankly, I think that we are in need of major reforms, more revolutionary perhaps than legalizing same-sex marriages. Under the law, take away the right to marry from everyone. Let any two people establish a civil union and enjoy the legal (and equal) rights that come along with that, and leave marriage entirely up to the churches. It's a semantic issue, perhaps, a matter of names. But what's in a name? For me (the phrase "the Word was God" comes to mind, not to mention my linguistic/literary background), words, names, are very important and far from empty; it seems, too, that I am not alone: a lot of the emotion surrounding the prop 8 issue, I believe, stems from the meaning(s) we attribute to the word "marriage" itself.

This is just the beginning. I do not know what will happen next, but we will continue to live in the struggle.

La vida es lucha, y la solidaridad para la vida es lucha y se hace en la lucha. No me cansaré de repetir que lo que más nos une a los hombres unos con otros son nuestras discordias. Y lo que más le une a cada uno consigo mismo, lo que hace la unidad íntima de nuestra vida, son nuestras discordias íntimas, las contradicciones interiores de nuestras discordias.

Miguel de Unamuno, La agonía del cristianismo


rantipoler said...

I'm with you on this one, it wasn't easy before and it'll be even more difficult now. I'm so disheartened and saddened at all the hate that's going around right now. I'm glad you're an idealist. Maybe it'll make up for my disappointment at the nasty situation we're in.

Vanessa Swenson said...

Sorte com isso, menina.

It makes me wonder how much longer this is going to drag on in CA.

Em said...

I'm glad you're an idealist. I'm stealing your "leave the marrying up to the churches" and sending it to all of my stubbornly closed-minded in-laws. :-D

Al said...

If people trusted their brains a little more when their religions conflicted with it, the world would be a better place. So would the world's religions.