Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Respect" after Proposition 8

One has to wonder whether it’s sheer chutzpah or some utter vacuity that allows so many people who supported Proposition 8 to ask in saccharine tones why I can’t respect their rights when they’ve just dealt a blow to mine? Am I supposed to kiss the boot that just kicked me?

These writers profess that they like gay people but think that marriage is reserved for “one man and one woman” (and God bless the Mormons, relatively new to that concept, who are doing their best to assure us all that they’ve got it down!) But really, Dear, I don’t care if you like me. After all, many slave owners professed that they loved “their people” who were “practically like members of the family.” Of course they were still slaves. It’s very sweet in a condescendingly clueless and offensively hypocritical way. Actually it’s just hollow lip service. I don’t need your love. I got love! And my love and I just want our civil rights.

Your religion can say what it likes about marriage, or about anything. Men hunted dinosaurs into extinction when the universe was only 1,000 years old? Fine. Marriage is only between a man and a woman? Within your church that’s OK, sure!

But the fact is that marriage has been performed – utterly without religion -- in city halls and by justices of the peace all over this country since its beginning. In countries even more secular than ours, even in the atheist Soviet Union, marriage has been performed and recognized as a legal, secular institution, and that has never been questioned – until now.

Once the man I’ve loved and shared my life with for the last 14 years got a chance to make it legal your religious hackles are up. Fine. Have a prayer group about it, but when you’re whining about your religious freedom, remember that has to cut both ways. My religious freedom is not only as valuable to me as yours is to you, but the Constitution says both have to be considered equally. I don’t have the right to make you marry a person of the same sex, and you don’t have the right to force my relationship into your religious rules.

Democracy? Right… Democracy works when the rights of minorities are respected, and all citizens are equal. Majorities don’t get to vote away the rights of minorities. That’s how Jim Crow laws came into place. And it was the courts, not ballot initiatives, that struck them down. Yes, indeedy. _Brown vs. Board of Education_ and _Loving vs.Virginia_ overthrew the popular will of the majority. And thank you, Jesus!

The most amazing feature of this has been the parents protesting that they want to be the ones to decide when and how to inform their children about homosexuality – apparently by having them sing all about it on youtube and waving signs on the streets. OK, you taught your kids about it. Now can I get married?

Heck, all I really want is my rights so I’ll even offer a compromise. If you can change every law in the land that pertains to marriage so that instead of using the precious M-word that you want to keep so exclusively, you can replace it with another term, “civil unions” or whatever… that’s cool, too. But you have to change every law. Every last one. Get that precious M-word out of the law books and reserve it only for ecclesiastical application. Only then will “marriage” not be a legal definition of thousands of specific rights and responsibilities, but strictly a religious rite like you say it is. Then we really will be equal. Then we can really love and respect each other.

Then. Not yet. That’s an awful lot of law, Baby. You better get cracking if you want to feel the love!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thank God for Sarah Palin!

There have been certain individuals whose self-confidence and passion for what they do has gloriously outweighed their utter incompetence. Film aficionados are familiar with the delicious train wrecks that Ed Wood has put into film. (“Plan 9 from Outer Space” and “Glen or Glenda” are frequently celebrated as the worst movies ever made.) And classical music buffs should know all about the celebrated screech of Florence Foster Jenkins who rented out Carnegie Hall with her own money to put on shows that did sell out, but she never seemed to realize that her adoring fans were all there for the camp freak show, her vocal mangling of operatic arias.

And now we have Sarah Palin, truly the Florence Foster Jenkins of politics. Bless Tina Fey for her underlining of the travesty that governs Alaska. Bless Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show for offering clearer opportunities to laugh in the face of danger, when it seemed a rightwing nutjob with no qualifications could actually come within a sclerotic septuagenarian heartbeat of the presidency. Still even without the constructed satire, Palin herself was auto-satirical in those interviews with Katie Couric, in that meandering non-debate with Joe Biden, in everything from her pushing both for and against a famous bridge to nowhere to the inconsistencies and falsehoods that put McCain’s campaign on a bridge to nowhere.

It has gotten to the point where she doesn’t need a punchline or even a story. Just mentioning Sarah Palin’s name in progressive circles provokes smirks and giggles. And among centrists even raised eyebrows and groans of “Oh, God… What now?” are routinely attached to her name.

It’s hard to imagine that after Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle the Republicans could sink any lower in their choices for VP. At least those guys won before they became national laughingstocks. But, gosh, y’know? Sarah’s Maverick misfires were makin’ her the national joke right out of the gate.

Already jockeying for a 2012 run Sarah is promising to stick around. Can we have a “Praise Jesus?” As a self-created caricature of the radical right, along with her con-artist snake-oil mix of savvy and ignorance, her erstwhile-secessionist First Dude, her purely academic commitment to abstinence before marriage, her millenialist church complete with a witch-hunter and pray-the-gay-away ministry, her hunting from helicopters, and journalistic illiteracy she is hitting all the political notes with the uncanny comic horror of one of Mrs. Jenkins’ concerts.

Ronald Reagan carefully built on Nixon’s Southern Strategy, cobbling together a coalition of Western Libertarians, Southern Fundamentalists, and Coastal moneybags. With so many conservative Republicans jumping ship and voting for Obama, we can all see that Palin’s hubris is doing a fine job of tearing that alliance apart, dragging the GOP on its knuckles back into the well-deserved wilderness it had previously earned with Barry Goldwater, and again with Watergate.

The Reagan Era was largely a fulfillment of Johnson’s prophecy that by signing the Civil Rights Act he was condemning the nation to Republican rule for a generation. That generation has not entirely passed, but this year’s election has tipped the balance, and if Alaska’s governor remains at the vanguard of the old guard, leading in the traditions of Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz, we may enjoy an unfettered renaissance of progressivism buoyed by the accidentally comic antics of Sarah Palin. Yee-haw!