It's taken a while to wrap my mind around this election. On Tuesday night, I shared champagne with several of my favorite people, toasting the wisdom of a people who chose an articulate, intelligent, compassionate man to be their president. We understood the weight of this moment in history, and there were wet shirt collars all around. We shed tears of joy, delighted that a man so worthy, and his beautiful family, will soon occupy the white house. I think we also shed tears for the pain this country has endured, steeped in its own racism, for so long. I hope we have turned a corner. The election is a great symbol, but I'm not sure that we can declare victory in the cause of civil rights for African Americans. Too many barriers remain--visible and invisible.
The struggle for civil rights is a long one--a frustrating back-and-forth dance, dependent upon the fickle hearts of the American public.
Speaking of civil rights...as much as Tuesday night rocked, Wednesday morning sucked. There's probably more eloquent language, but "sucked" is the right word.
I wasn't expecting much out of Florida, or Arizona. I wasn't holding my breath on Arkansas, either. And all of them threw their electoral weight behind that made up political trope: "traditional marriage." Not too surprising, and not desperately disappointing. It's safe to say that the LGBT community isn't hanging its hopes on Florida, Arizona and Arkansas...
But woe to you, California, my erstwhile home. Proposition 8 was a beacon of hope to those of us living in the hinterlands. (Object to the word "hinterlands?" Let me tell you how Missouri voted. See next posting.)
Yes, Prop 8--which reverses California's ruling allowing same sex marriage--lost by a much smaller margin than the last No Gay Marriage proposition. It picked up 8 points. And the groups vying to get it passed--the Mormon Church, the Knights of Columbus and other relics of a bygone era--had to spend $32 million to achieve their evil purposes.
Still, it sucked. One civil rights movement made strides last week, and another took it in the gut. Sadly, the stories overlap. African Americans in California voted 69% for Proposition 8. The fact that African Americans came out in unprecedented numbers to support Barack Obama may have tipped the scales. Ouch.
Even worse, once again The Church was out in front opposing the rights of lesbian and gay couples. There were some victories. The bishop of the Sierra-Pacific Synod (basically the northern halves of California and Nevada) made a public statement opposing Prop 8. At a rally in San Francisco, no less, which will require him to take meetings now with churches in Lodi and Stockton. Kudos to you, Mark Holmerud!
I'd like to think that progressive people know that some churches worked to defeat Proposition 8. Some of them do. I'm inclined to think, though, that most of them, especially those who are queer, just looked at the campaign for Proposition 8 as another black ball in the box against The Church.
Those of us trying to speak a word of hope to the LGBT community from mainline church pulpits already feel like Sisyphus a lot of the time. Proposition 8 just made our rock bigger.
So I guess we go back to the gym and get ready to roll that rock back up that hill one more time.