Prop 8 passes, Californians tell the world, “We’re bigots!”
California’s bigots passed Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment to strip the existing right to marry from same-sex couples. Californians must be so proud. On Tuesday, they demonstrated to the world that one can be mature enough to elect a black man as President, and still be diseased with bigotry. While no longer fashionable to spit on black people, apparently it is still popular in the US to spit on gay people. So popular, in fact, that we can still pass laws keeping them just shy of legally human. Bigots to gays: “Yes, we can… hate you.”
It staggers the imagination how stupid people can be about gayness. In America today, most people are settled with the concept of black person = person. It was pretty hard to get that basic idea across to folks, and required not only a Civil War but decades of strife and suffering. All because a lot of people who weren’t black thought they were the master race, and got their kicks reveling in how great and superior they were, as they drank themselves to death in their trailers.
The civil rights struggle really was only skin deep. Apparently a lot of people failed to get the memo that civil rights apply to other minority attributes, too. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern era of racial equality. Now everyone is proud of how non-racist they are. But the idea behind civil rights wasn’t skin color, it was humanity. It was about forcing people to finally admit to themselves that everyone on the bloody face of the Earth doesn’t have to be your bloody clone. There are different kinds of people, and just because you are a particular kind of person and a lot of other people are like you, doesn’t mean you get to stomp your boot heel into everyone else’s neck.
America is great not because of how many bombs it has but because it was founded on the idea that the majority doesn’t get to put the minority into concentration camps. The majority doesn’t get to tell the minority how to think, how to live, where to eat, and which end of the bus they can sit in. Democracy in America is not the kind of democracy where two wolves and a sheep get to vote on what’s for dinner.
The bigots of California are no different from the bigots of any of the other states where gay marriage bans passed on Tuesday. Bigots are all equal in their willful stupidity. But in California they took their loathsome evil one step further… they took rights away from people. They decided that gay sex was icky enough that no one should get to do that and also enjoy the legal rights of hetero couples to safely and reliably manage property and child custodial rights. Perhaps next they’ll insist that gay people cannot run for public office, or gay votes are only worth three fifths of a human vote. Why not? If you’re straight you’re part of the master race, right?
It was especially demoralizing for Prop 8 to pass on the same day the US elected the first black President in US history. It was as if the bigots were saying, “You think you liberals can win? Well, just you wait. We’re still here, and our evil will never die.” Homophobes are already on the ash heap of history, and Prop 8 is their high water mark… they just don’t realize it yet. What, do they think gay people will just give up wanting equality? That gay people will just vanish quietly? The homophobes are fighting a losing, defensive war against an opponent who will never give up, never go away, and never stop reaching for equality.
People want freedom. Wasn’t this W’s big theme? People want to be free of nosy neighbors telling them which way to unroll their toilet paper, what haircuts they can have, what thoughts they can think, and what kind of private adult consensual sex they can enjoy. People are sick of having obsessive-compulsive halfwits waving Bronze Age fairy tales around and shrieking about sin. People want to be left alone to live their private lives in peace and security.
You want to know what the gay agenda is? It’s to have a life that is free of pestering, sexually-repressed zealots. You know what? That’s my agenda too, and I’m straight.
Years from now, after civil unions are normal and commonplace, after bans on gay marriage are quietly removed from state constitutions – as quietly and shamefacedly as interracial marriage bans were removed years ago – people will shake their heads and try to imagine how people could have been so stupid and evil back then. Students in political science classes will laugh at how idiotic and self-contradictory it was for people to pass laws discriminating against gays on the same day they voted a black man into the White House.
I wish more people had the honesty and courage to look at their own shortcomings – their own fear, ignorance, and blind hatred – and realize that the problem isn’t with gay people, or Jews, or blacks, or left-handed people, or whatever the hell idiosyncrasies their delusions have fixed on. The problem is their own sense of absolute, cosmic importance. Have you ever known a bigot to believe in racial (or sexual, or religious) superiority, while also not themselves belonging to their imagined perfect demographic? Me neither.
Today I’m so proud of having lived long enough to see this Presidential election. I can’t even talk about it in person without tearing up. I grew up in the late 1960s, in Alabama. My grandfather was a Grand Wizard in the KKK. He lived a life of bitter alcoholism, permanently furious that he couldn’t enjoy the lavish lifestyle of his own plantation-owning grandfather. When I was a little kid, a black woman whose own grandmother was a slave took care of me and fed me while my mother worked. My black other mother – as I thought of her in my childlike way – used to tell me stories of the old days, when she and her sisters were my grandmother’s servants, and when picking cotton was a lifelong profession. I was lucky to have her in my family – which she was, regardless of genetics. I was also lucky that my own parents did not buy into the poison of their Southern pasts. I was lucky to learn better than that.
On Tuesday our nation took a big step forward. I just wish we hadn’t taken a little step backward at the same time.