Friday, November 07, 2008

The wind at our backs, the struggle ahead

Many wonderful things happened on Tuesday. But in California, one awful thing happened: Proposition 8, which enshrines bigotry in the state constitution, passed. Specifically, prop 8 bans gay and lesbian marriage.

You wouldn’t have known it if you were walking through the Castro on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Thousands of people were on the streets in the world’s largest gay community. They knew that prop 8 was leading, but people were exhilarated, even ecstatic, about Obama’s victory.

I kept walking, wanting to see how San Francisco’s neighborhoods were reacting; I was tired but I wanted to see all of it.

I stopped at the home of my friends Viru and Beth; it hit us that if a man named Barack Hussein Obama could become president, so could my boy, Liko Wai-Kaniela Smith-Doo, or their little girl, Anna-Priya Saiki-Gupte. America is now officially a multiracial country. It means a lot to us. This is personal, not political.

Back on the street strangers shook my hand and said, “Congratulations.” At one point I was walking down Market St. and a black man walked past me singing, “We got a black man as president!”

One member of the white gay couple walking in front of me shouted back, “Hell yeah, we got a black man as president!” The two men, one black and one gay, high-fived each other, and laughed.

Their voices sounded equally joyous; that moment encapsulated the best of the night for me. All of us saw the election as a triumph for our city, for San Francisco values, for progressive urban values: Cosmopolitanism, tolerance, thoughtfulness, fairness.

It’s three days later. I’m writing this in a crowded Castro café, and people all around me, most of them gay and lesbian, are still talking about Tuesday, recalling the thrill and the feelings of unity. (The barista is greeting costumers with, “Happy Obama!” which keeps getting a delighted little laugh.)

So Prop 8 won, but life goes on, and, for the first time in a very long time, we can feel the wind at our backs. The biggest question people in my social circle are asking is, what will happen to the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples, including our friends, who have been married?

For now, it appears, their marriage vows will be respected. California Attorney General Jerry Brown has stated in court papers and affirmed in the media that those marriages should remain valid in the wake of prop 8’s passage.

“I believe that marriages that have been entered into subsequent to the May 15 Supreme Court opinion will be recognized by the California Supreme Court,” Brown told the Chronicle. He noted that prop 8 is silent about retroactivity, and said, ‘I would think the court, in looking at the underlying equities, would most probably conclude that upholding the marriages performed in that interval before the election would be a just result.”

In time prop 8 will be overturned. America is urbanizing. It’s becoming steadily more educated. These are progressive developments, but they create contradictions, especially widening inequality.

Right after I watched the gay man and the black man celebrate together, I walked past someone sleeping on the sidewalk and someone else rummaging through a garbage can. Both homeless people were white; today in America, the lost and dispossessed can come in any color. They seemed oblivious to the election and they were utterly isolated from the people and city around them.

Perhaps I was just tired, but I ended the evening feeling sad, an emotion that seemed to arise from the certain knowledge, visceral and intellectual, that we never stop struggling. But at least now, for the moment, many of us can struggle together.

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A note: I feel like the recent focus on the election has cost Daddy Dialectic some readers; comments and traffic are both down. And that's fine on both counts: I had to focus on politics, I couldn't think about much else, and it is supposed to be a blog about fatherhood. No apologies, no regrets, but we'll be turning back to fatherhood in the coming weeks, and I hope you'll consider joining in on the conversation.

7 comments:

Backpacking Dad said...

A lot of politics is parenting. And parent blogging is just Parental Punditry.

I've been the same way though, writing a lot of political-leaning posts. It's the longview of parenting. I'm not writing about funding bridges or what to name the street two blocks over; I'm writing about families, their constructions, or the way the world looks when no one participates. Comments are down (but they're down all over, from what I can tell; especially with NaBloPoMo distracting/flooding readers), but if you aren't writing what you are passionate about why should anybody read it? So keep writing whatever the hell you want to write about.

Dawn said...

Well, heck, all the political talk just made me like you better. I figure that maybe when we talk about controversial stuff it may lose some readers but it holds onto the readers who most genuinely want to be there and helps you find new audience members who appreciate your message.

Katheryne said...

I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, politics and all. And if in your gentle and tactful way of writing you have offended some, so be it. They will be replaced with new like minded (to you) individuals who understand that we are all neighbors here and have to work together to make anything happen. Parenting, politics, life, whatever it may be. Thank you for being yourself and sharing with us!

Electronic Goose said...

Parenting and politics go hand in hand, and I have enjoyed reading your political insights as well.

Susanna said...

Hi, I just found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. The one comforting thing I've found since Prop 8 passed is reading/hearing about how others are dealing with it. It helps to know we're not alone; that we're all affected.

gonzonoir said...

Just wanted to say I stumbled across this post, and your blog, and appreciate the snapshot you've created here very much. Here's to keeping on struggling.

Carly said...

I work in a homeless shelter these days, and I just finished watching the inauguration with a group of our residents. Some of the people staying in the shelter are totally disconnected from the election and inauguration (and at least one resident fears Obama is going to "turn our country more Muslim")but I'd say the majority are psyched. The night of the election there was a woman dancing around the shelter beds chanting, "We're gonna paint the White House black! We're gonna paint the White House black!" Today, I sat with a group of women--white, black, Asian, multi-racial and watched Barack get sworn in. The group was much more quiet than they were on election night. When the television played the Star- Spangled Banner, a few residents put their hands over their hearts.