Wednesday, November 05, 2008
It's hard to describe the mixture of feelings I felt this morning. There was a base of exhaustion, both physically, the hoarse voice and aching back and feet from standing for 13 hours near polling sites (a legal distance away) passing out "No on 8" cards to poll-bound voters, and emotionally, from having invested so much money, time, and sweat in the No on 8 campaign, only to come so close and miss. I should have been absolutely exuberant at the Obama landslide, a campaign I also devoted much energy to earlier in the year, but emotionally, the cloud of Prop 8 overshadowed what should have been a dawn of triumph. "Yes We Can" rang hollow when it turned out that here in California -- California! -- no, we couldn't quite. When I step back and try to be dispassionate about it, I appreciate it's a great day. If I were given a choice between Obama winning or Prop 8 losing, and I couldn't have both, I'd definitely take the outcome that we got. Obama's victory is huge, and I have great hope that he will live up to his promise of being the greatest president in my lifetime. And the fact of a black man winning the highest office in the land crowns a trajectory of equality traced by Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I should be dancing in the street and singing hallelujah. Maybe tomorrow the Yes We Can spirit will reinspire me with hope, but today I'm just feeling spent and a bit dazed, like someone who won a big lottery and lost a loved one all in the same day. (Obama himself may be feeling that way too, having lost his grandmother on the eve of his victory.) I can't help but ponder the bitter irony that the overwhelming black turnout for this historic election may well have been decisive in passing Proposition 8. And I can't help but feeling a twinge of resentment that Obama didn't come out more forcefully against Prop 8, which could well have made a big difference for black voters. Of course I understand full well why he didn't and why he shouldn't have, but emotion has its own logic. And Prop 8 was so much more personal than the presidential race. The proponents succeeded in turning it into a referendum on the unworthiness of gay marriages as a moral example for children. While individual marriages vary, I'm personally convinced that gay marriages can be as morally praiseworthy and exemplary as straight ones. I'd like to think that my godson and goddaughter, whether they turn out to be gay or straight, might find some qualities to admire and emulate in their uncles' marriage. I respect the right of Californians to disagree, but it's demoralizing to find that 52% of them do. But what's worse is to find that 52% of Californians are willing to translate their moral disapproval into constitutionalizing our unequal treatment by the law. To anyone who doesn't understand why this is so personal, I ask: how would you feel if your marriage were on the ballot, subject to the approval of voters? And how would you feel if your marriage were voted down?