Saturday, November 08, 2008

In Which I Feel that I'm Vicariously Living through Junior High Yet Again

I was filled with such hope this past Tuesday evening, when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. I kissed the wiggling boy in my arms as I felt a lump forming in my throat. My precious son will think nothing of electing a president of any race or ethnicity. Tonight, we have made this world a better place for him to inherit.

But by morning, my hope turned to despair. The same state that delivered the presidency to a man who would have been forced to take the back seat of a bus forty years ago had told its gay and lesbian citizens that their temporary welcome at the front of the equality bus was overstayed, and it was back to second-class status for them.

I wept when I saw confirmation of my worst fears: California's Proposition 8 passed. I spent my prescheduled counseling session crying and discussing the damage California's voters had done to my psyche, rather than talking about the personal issues I had hoped to work through. The sadness and depression has been lingering over my head all week long.

I have never given money to any political cause, but I gave money to the "No on 8" campaign. As my longtime readers know, two members of my first family are gay, so while this was a personal fight to me, it seemed to mean a lot more to me than that, for some reason. My goodness, I am more upset than the person nearest and dearest to me who is impacted the most by this defeat! She was taking it in stride, while I am still a mess.

After some Friday night introspection, I was able to figure out why this defeat upset me so: It's like living through Junior High School all over again! Hear me out.

Proposition 8 was a measure to decide what kind of rights a minority group of people should be allowed to have. Are their actions sufficiently acceptable to the general public? Basically, it boiled down to a popularity contest -- were gays and lesbians popular enough to be allowed to remain on equal footing with their heterosexual counterparts?

Do you see how flawed that method of decision-making is? It's reminiscent of Junior High School, in which your fate is determined by consensus of the most popular students -- they decide who gets tripped on the way to the cafeteria or who gets their face plunged into the toilet bowl; whose life is hell on earth and who can just live their lives in peace. It's juvenile and it's not in the spirit of the entitlement of all people to the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I'm sorry, but nobody's rights are up for debate. Even the most vile and bigoted people are deserving of equal protection under the law. That's the whole point of having a Bill of Rights, and of having separation of church and state -- to allow people to follow their own path even when their views or private behaviors are incredibly unpopular.

For example, I think (as do most people who would read this blog on a regular basis) that white supremacists are some of the most vile and bigoted people in the world. Should we vote on their right to vote, marry, or live their private lives in peace? Absolutely not! Their popularity (or lack thereof) should not be a consideration when it comes to how they are treated under the law.

I see that some gay rights groups have filed lawsuits against Proposition 8, arguing that by allowing Proposition 8 to stand, "you are effectively rendering equal protection a nullity if a simple majority can so easily carve an exception into it. Equal protection is supposed to prevent the targeting and subjugation of a minority group by a simple majority vote." By contributing to their legal fund, I hope to find some cathartic release, almost as if I were helping my fellow nerds fight back against the assholes who dunked their proverbial heads in the toilet. A win for equality will go a long way towards healing many emotional wounds, including those I sustained at school some two decades ago.

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