Wow. Okay. This is an unfamiliar feeling.
Today I am, for the first time in many years, proud to be an American.
Some of it is about race. I’ll freely acknowledge that. I am an unrepentant liberal, and I’m old-school enough to feel ashamed and guilty about my country’s ugly history on race… and proud when my country gets over a little bit more of its racism. And yesterday, my country got over a lot of its racism. Yesterday, my country elected an African- American man to be President of the United States. And I am so proud about that I could burst.
But it’s more than that.
I am proud that my country, for once, did not get deceived by the politics of hate: the politics of fear-mongering, red-baiting, name-calling, character assassination, and trivial- but- juicy issue- of- the- day distraction. I am proud that my country was able to say, “We don’t care that Obama sat on a charity board with a former member of the Weather Underground. We don’t care that his minister said some harsh things about America. We don’t care that his middle name is Hussein. We don’t believe that he’s a socialist, a terrorist, a Muslim, a diva… and even if we do believe that, we don’t care. We think he’s the most able leader to get us through a difficult time — and that is all that we care about.”
This was an ugly, hateful, deceitful campaign on the part of the GOP, a campaign that showed an insultingly dismissive attitude towards the principles of democracy, and a deep contempt for the voters it was trying to court. And my country did not succumb to it. Yesterday, my country acted, not like an easily- manipulated robot army led by focus groups and media advisors, but like citizens.
I am also, I will confess, experiencing more than a skosh of hometown pride. I’m from Chicago… and I grew up in the neighborhood where Obama lives. My family still lives there, in fact. The apartment where I grew up, the apartments where my father and my brother live, are just a short walk from the Obama home. So I am having a totally irrational, but surprisingly powerful, surge of pride that a Hyde Parker — a Hyde Parker! — is going to be our next President of the United States. (Ask me about Hyde Park sometime, and I’ll explain to you why that’s funny.)
And most of all: I am insanely, gut-bustingly proud about yesterday’s massive voter turnout.
Even if the vote hadn’t gone the way it did, I’d still be proud about the massive voter turnout.
For decades, I have been deeply ashamed about the low voter turnout in American elections. America is the cradle of modern democracy, for fuck’s sake. Americans love to talk about democracy and freedom and patriotism and the Founding Fathers. And yet, for decades, way too many Americans have shown themselves perfectly willing to piss on this crucial, hard-won right. For decades, way too many Americans have succumbed to the self- fulfilling prophecies that “my vote won’t matter” and “all politicians are the same.” And for decades, I’ve wanted to grab every one of these Americans by the shoulders, give them a good, hard shake, and say, “Of course your vote won’t matter if you don’t use it! Of course all politicians will be the same if the only people who vote are the people who are invested in the status quo! Haven’t you read ‘Stone Soup’? What part of ‘there won’t be good government unless I bring my share of it’ don’t you understand?”
Democracy and voting are among the few things that I get seriously earnest and misty-eyed over. They’re among the few things that I consider, in whatever secular meaning you want to apply to the word, sacred. And it’s made me intensely angry, year after year, that so many Americans treat this right — the right that our country was founded on, the right that so many people fought and died for, the right that millions of people around the world still don’t have — with such contempt.
But not this year. This year, people got it. This year, Americans figured out that our government is, you know, ours.
And I’m deeply, deeply proud about that. I’m feeling all gooey, and misty-eyed, and — dare I say it? — hopeful.
Look. I know that Obama isn’t perfect. There are a fair number of issues that I disagree with him on. I’m concerned about how eager he is to be liked by everyone. I know we’re going to have to hold his feet to the fire, probably more than once. And I fear that a lot of young voters are going to lose some of their excitement and passion about politics when they realize that their hero is not, in fact, the second coming of Christ.
But so what. Obama isn’t perfect… but he is way, way better than just the lesser of two evils. He is smart, thoughtful, articulate, well- informed, and both passionate and level-headed. In this campaign, he has shown a remarkable ability to keep his eye on the ball; to not get distracted by the stupid, trivial, non-issue controversies of the minute; to stay on message, on target, on the high road.
And he more or less agrees with me on most of the issues I care about most deeply.
I think I’m going to be reasonably happy to have him as our President.
And I’m intensely proud that my country got over itself enough to make that happen.
Right. Yeah. Okay.
As proud as I am of my country today, I am deeply ashamed of, and hurt by, and furious at, and bitterly disappointed by, my state.
My country did not buy the politics of hate and lies, divisiveness and bigotry. But my state bought it hook, line, and sinker. Over half of my fellow Californians proved themselves to be either bigots, or gullible, easily deceived sheep. Or — and this is the one I’m going with for a lot of them — far too willing to be gullible and deceived. Far too willing to let themselves be persuaded by any excuse, no matter how shabby and transparently false, for voting their bigotry instead of their better nature.
And so my state has told me that I am now — officially, legally — a second-class citizen.
My state wrote discrimination into its Constitution.
(The official line of the No on 8 organizers is that they’re not conceding until all the votes — absentee ballots, provisional ballots, everything — are counted. But right now, it’s not looking hopeful.)
I want so badly to be happy about the Obama victory. I am happy about the Obama victory. I wrote the first part of this piece earlier in the day yesterday, and I meant every word of it. I still mean every word of it.
But right now, I can’t stop crying.
There’s an atheist rant in here somewhere. Something about organized religion’s easy eagerness to force its Bronze-age bigotry onto the rest of the world. Something about religious zealots who care more about their invisible friend in the sky than about the human beings standing next to them. The Yes on 8 campaign was overwhelmingly funded and organized by the Mormon and Catholic Churches. California exit polls showed that those who attended church regularly voted against marriage equality 83-17%; those who attended church only occasionally voted for marriage equality 60-40%; and those who do not attend church at all voted for marriage equality 86-14%. And that pisses me off no end. I can feel an atheist rant coming on that will make Atheists and Anger look diplomatic.
But right now, I don’t have the stomach for it. Maybe PZ or somebody else will take it on. Maybe I’ll take it on myself later. Right now, I’m just tired and sick and sad.
I know that the arc of history is bending in our direction. Eight years ago, a similar proposition — the one that got overturned by the California Supreme Court earlier this year — won by 61% of the vote. This one won with only 52%. In another eight years, we can probably win. (And this initiative may wind up in front of the California Supreme Court, which will hopefully smack it across the head and snap, “What part of ‘Unconstitutional’ don’t you understand?”)
But right now, we’re not there. Right now, I don’t even know if Ingrid and I are still legally married. Right now, I — and the dearest love of my life, and a large number of our friends and colleagues and family members — have had a civil and constitutional right taken away from us by popular demand. This is a huge, grotesque, mutant fly in the ointment of yesterday’s inspiring and historic election, and I can’t pretend that it’s anything else.
Finally, though, I want to say this:
I am incredibly proud of all my blog readers who volunteered for, and donated to, and blogged about, and just plain voted in, this election. Especially the ones who volunteered for/ donated to/ blogged about/ just plain voted for No on 8. This one was really personal, for obvious reasons, and Ingrid and I are both deeply touched by all the people who said such sweet and supportive righteously angry things about the issue. And I was especially touched by all the people who said they’d been inspired to donate by my blog. No, we didn’t win… but we made it really, really close. Thank you for that.
And so now I make this promise to you:
No more political blogging for a while.
I’m exhausted. And I’m sure you all must be exhausted as well. I think I’m going to take a day or two off from the blogging. And then, unless something huge happens in the political arena, I’m going to take a break from the politics for a bit. After my day or two off, I’m going to come back to the blog with my usual mix of atheist rants, sexual philosophies, TV reviews, commentaries about science, observations about life, recipes, and, if we can get our camera to work again, cute pictures of our cats.
I’m deeply grateful to all of you for putting up with the unexpected turn this blog has taken for the past month. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.