18 November 2008

Prop 8 Reflections (from 11-05-08)

(apologies to those who rec'd this email after the election - wanted to post it here)

Today, for the second time in my life, I woke up with fewer rights than when I went to bed. Today, for the second time in my life, voters in the state in which I lived eliminated some of my existing rights while giving animals more.

In 1992 I lived in Colorado, which Clinton won and which passed a law protecting Black Bears from being hunted. In that same election, my fellow Coloradans passed a statewide constitutional amendment making city-level anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation in housing, employment or services illegal; the laws in Denver and Boulder were voided. A cartoon in the Denver Post the next morning showed two hunters, one aiming at a bear. His buddy says “Wait, Frank, black bears are protected in Colorado!” to which the shooter replies “Not if he’s gay!”

You could fire me, deny me housing, deny me health care, deny me equal protection under the law if you wanted, all on the basis of your “discomfort” with my “lifestyle.” It was repugnant and illegal. It was eventually overturned. Today in Colorado there are statewide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and housing. It was not “natural” or inevitable for this change to happen over the past 16 years – it took anger and effort and money and courage – but it’s there now. The fight over Amendment 2 inspired many gay people to come out, stand up and fight back. The religious right - and let's not kid ourselves, organized religions and their untaxed millions are behind these moves to rescind the rights of me and other GLBT folk - over-reached, and they haven't won a statewide issue in Colorado on GLBT issues since.

But if you’d have spoken to me that morning and asked me if I thought I’d have the option to marry in 16 years, even in California , I’d have laughed. Ruefully and angrily, but I’d’ve laughed.

Last night when I went to bed, Prop 8, nullifying friends and neighbor’s marriages, was passing (yes = no same sex marriage). Prop 2, giving chickens the right to bigger cages, was passing. I wanted to bask in the glow of our nation’s maturity and to cherish the beautiful words of President Elect Obama and to believe in the nation that I thought we can be, before I knew for sure that I was going to have fewer civil rights. When I woke up this morning, sure enough, chickens won and gays and lesbians lost.

A friend wrote this:

Our struggle as gay and lesbian Americans is a baby in comparison to other civil rights' efforts and we are certainly suffering from another setback today. But if last night's election proved anything it is that in the United States progress is inevitable, sometimes is just takes time. Almost a decade ago, anti-gay Californians passed similar discriminatory legislation with the Knight campaign that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. But their victory that night was much more decisive. Today we see that Proposition 8 will only pass by the narrowest of margins. And as Barack Obama took the stage last night, for the first time ever, I was mentioned in a presidential acceptance speech. As he talked of inclusion, he spoke of uniting not just Blacks, Whites, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, the rich and the poor, but of gays and lesbians too. Two times in one night, history was being made and I was part of the conversation. Change is on the way and history will recognize our struggles. The chickens may have been victorious last night, but this caged bird knows he'll get to sing very, very soon.

While I appreciate his sentiment, I would like to point out that it doesn’t take only time and it isn’t inevitable. Progress only happens with hard work, and sacrifice, and challenging others to do better, and leadership. My sorrow and my anger – and to be clear, I am hurt and I am angry – at waking up with fewer rights today than I had yesterday must be and will be turned to something positive. I need to work harder. To tell my church-going neighbors what it means. To remind my fellow residents of this beautiful, progressive state that separate is not equal. To knock on more doors and shake more hands and tell people that their bigotry towards me – not “the gays” but me – is as irrational as any other, and comes with a human cost. To debunk the lies told by the other side – funded by $18 million dollars of Mormon/LDS money, by $1.5 mil of Knights of Columbus money , by millions of dollars from fearful men and women from every state across the country – that my marriage would not weaken religious freedom, or require that gay sex be taught in schools, or destroy traditional marriage.

Progress is not inevitable. But the group of 7th graders at a friend’s house on Halloween who didn’t say “Trick or treat!” but instead asked “How are you voting on Prop 8?” and responded with a cheer when told we were a “NO!” house showed me great hope. That would have been incomprehensible ten years ago. We learned last night – we showed last night – that with leadership we can be better versions of ourselves. And I was reminded that I’m not done – I need to provide more leadership, and use my anger and apply effort, and it needs to start today. Those 7th graders need good things to vote for.

Slash and Perla rockin' against 8

How cool is this?

No, not the fact that I figured out how to embed a vid (and Fitz and Todd, you're off the hook, cuz you'd've rec'd emails, both of you), but that Slash and Perla are rockin' out against discrimination:


I've loved G'N'R since "Appetite for Destruction" came out in 1988; that was pretty much all we listened to that whole summer painting, and I could not hear "Sweet Child O' Mine" loudly enough. Or often enough. (That intro still makes my heart race a little. You can take the boy out of Indiana...) No idea what Axl is up to, but Slash is fighting the fight.

"Be loud. Be proud. Stand up for your rights."

Hill at State

Well the Guardian called it this morning: Senator Clinton is to be Obama's Sec'y of State.

This could be a great thing. While I'm sensitive to those who say that she might bring some of Clinton's drama to the White House, the reality is that if you are in Tokyo or Berlin or Moscow, "Secretary of State Clinton" does sound different than "Secretary of State Kerry" or "Secretary of State Richardson." I think Chuck Hagel (R-NE) would have been a great pick - he's a man of prodigious intellect and it would show that Obama is serious about crossing crossing party lines - but this is better.

Many people have written this week of LBJ's dictum on J. Edgar Hoover, "It's better to have him in the tent pissing out than outside pissing in" while referencing this pick. I think there's some of that, for it's very hard to see a scenario in which Obama is challenged by another Dem if it's not Hillary. I also think that, like in so many other ways, Obama may shift from recent precedent and cashier Biden at the end of his first term and make Clinton his VP opening to her a run for the Presidency in 2016 on her deep resume. By that time, surely, people will have forgiven Bill for all of those years of peace and prosperity.

There are political calculations, but I think she would be brilliant at State in no small part because she is, after all, brilliant. She works tirelessly. She is a fierce advocate for our nation and for women. My concern is that State is one (the one?) cabinet position where discordance between the President and the Secretary has real implications for our foreign policy, and let's face it, Obama and Clinton aren't Truman and Acheson; but maybe like those two there is enough raw talent and commitment to what's best for the nation that this will be the new standard for State/Presidential relationships.

Read the papers. It would be a great time for a new standard.

12 November 2008

Screw the South / Dig the South (pt 1 of 2)

"Ambivalence: simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action."

I really am ambivalent towards the South.

On the one hand... I really resent them as much as many Southerners may resent me as a tax-and-spend supporting, science loving, civil liberties using, equal protection believing, northern (by birth) gay liberal. I mean, I really agree with everything this polemicist had to say after the 2004 election.

Some of you may have heard me refer to the entire region of the 11 former states of the Confederacy as "The Slave States" or "The Treason States" or in less charitable moments "The Crackah States" or "The Developing World States."

There was a winner and a loser in the Civil War, yes, but there was also, unequivocally, a good side and a bad side. The good side - the North - was anti-slave holding. The bad side - the South - was committed to "the peculiar institution" of chattel slavery. In the Civil War, the South's position is morally indefensible.

Those Southerners who claim "cultural heritage" as they fly the Stars and Bars would elide the reality that Southern Culture was built on the free labor of million of Africans. Many poorer Southerners who claim the antebellum South as their own have bought the simulacra pedalled by "Gone With the Wind," "Birth of a Nation" and other films, books, and narratives that placed white southerners, regardless of class, as the victims of Northern agression and incipient Black violence. It's simply not true that poor whites were represented by the political institutions in the South at the time of the Civil War, but the twisted pathology of disenfranchisement combined with racism makes some of their disenfranchised descendants - poor whites - look to the Slave Holding South as a golden age of their culture and a time and place in which perhaps they were not so powerless.

The antebellum South was home to a morally repugnant and corrosive political and economic system that had to fall, and it took the death of 360,222 young men from the North to bury it.

In many places in the South, they've not moved on. Along I-40 in Eastern Tennessee there is a HUGE Stars and Bars flying just north of the pavement that was built by Liberal Northern men, capital, ideas, political will, and engineering expertise.

Can you just imagine the South without the huge transfer of wealth that we as Northerners or Westerners - as NON-Southerners - have poured into that region? Eastern Tennessee without the TVA? Houston or Huntsville, Alabama, without NASA? Atlanta without the NIH? All that Northern money and expertise and - gasp! - science poured into the poorest, least well educated section of our nation to finish the work of Reconstruction and to form a more perfect Union.

I really hate ingratitude.

And they resent us, and have held national politics hostage for the past half century as they have resisted school integration, and funding on science research (18 of 37 "No" Senate votes on stem cell research came from the South or border states, the largest concentration by region), and on ridiculous and divisive issues like the attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw flag burning. I can't think of more political speech than burning a flag in protest, and they came within one vote of success. Disgusting.

And the racism... let me just mention the racism. I am not going to forgive Milwaukeeans their terrible history of racial predjudice, or Chicago of its deep and continuing polarization along racial lines, but let's be honest - the South has got racism down. The high school in Alabama where the principal threatened to cancel the prom instead of letting an interracial couple attend and the kids, good on 'em, had to sue to proceed, or the town in Mississippi which had its first interracial prom THIS SPRING, are uniquely Southern phenomena. The Georgia woman who disinterred her dead auntie from a cemetary where they started interring Black people is surely a Southern phenomenon. James Byrd and Brandon McClelland. Stone Mountain, Georgia. And all the Confederate hagiography around seemingly every courthouse or town square in the south is disgusting - lionizing people who took up arms against the government (a/k/a "traitors") to preserve slavery seems to me a visceral reminder to their black neighbors that violence to maintain racial status quo is acceptable and likely. I know how I feel when I drive by a church or pass a car on the freeway with a "Yes on 8" sticker; how can African Americans feel living with these symbols of armed treason in support of slavery on the front lawns of courthouses at which they must go for justice? It is repugnant.

(click on the pic and read about the "Tragic surrender at Appomatox" and the effort to "guarantee the security of persons and property," a/k/a slaves. From the courthouse lawn in Washington, Georgia; June 2008. I stood there reading it, stunned.)

All these years later the Civil War isn't over for some in this sector of our nation, despite all of our investments and despite their ability to dominate the national agenda. "The South Will Rise Again" we were told. Well, in some ways it did - from 1968 to 2008. But it's over. Southerners no longer dominate national politics, and while it's early for one election to constitute a trend, the NYTimes ran an article with a fascinating look at the waning national influence of the South, including maps that show voting trends from 2004 to 2008 - nearly all the red on that map is in the 11 states of the Confederacy, Oklahoma and Kentucky; much of the rest were in the home states of the GOP ticket, Arizona and Alaska.

Please, in the name of all that is holy, let that be the case. Please, let the South go back to being the colorful backwater of fattening food, slow paced life, and colorful politicians. Please let the white Southerners who believe in "states rights" (until it comes to Bush v. Gore or decriminalizing marijuana or gay marriage) retire in the face of a new generation who see the need for taxes and infrastructure and e pluribus unum and loving who you love despite color or gender.


(Next post... "Dig the South." It'll be shorter. )

11 November 2008

Welcome to Bren's Left Coast

My first blog entry.

Since it's 1992 on my iPod and my closet still thinks Kurt Cobain is alive, I guess I'm not that far behind for my personal timeline.

This blog is going to be a forum for my political views, rants and action items, with occasional sports babble and gloating about how freakin' awesome life in Urban SoCal really is.

I've been thinking about this for a while. Some of you have, inexplicably, shown an interest in my opinions or asked for more of them as I started ranting about the South, the role of organized religion in idiocy, how Indiana was winnable for Barack, the logic behind the numbering scheme of the Interstate Highway System, why we should make Mexico take Tejas back, how the Colts could still make the playoffs, etc.

Instead of trying to remember whom was asking for what, it's all here: your one-stop fulmination station. Thanks for reading, and check back often. Pics to be added soon!

Why I'm boycotting Yahoo!

So yeah, some of you may have rec'd a bounced email from my old Yahoo! account announcing my move over to Gmail.

I didn't want to leave them. I liked the way the inbox was set up and I had used them for years. My first ever email address was on Yahoo!, and I used their March Madness features, travel features, and IM features frequently and Yahoo! maps obsessively. I was a loyal Yahooligan. But I felt forced to do it.

Yahoo! accepted significant (still researching how much, exactly) money from the Yes on 8 liars in the weeks leading up to the election, and not just banner ads (which, fair enough, are annoying but I have trained my eyes to ignore them) but pop-up ads that were simply obtrusive, obnoxious and obstreperous.

"So?" you may ask? What's the big deal? Yahoo! is strapped for cash, looking desperately for a buyout, and are a business, afterall, so it's their right to take money from whomever they can cage it, right?

Well, no. Not to my mind.

First, Yahoo (and I'm going to dispense with the exclamation point, it's tedious) has statements on their website that list what they value - inlcuding "...a personal responsibility to maintain our customers' loyalty and trust." I wonder, did no one there think that taking money from a dishonest campaign on one side of the most divisive issue on the ballot was going to affect customers' loyalty? Or erode the brand?

Further and even more helpfully they list on their website what they don't value. Interesting - things like "discrimination" and "a stick in the eye" and "closed doors" and "rear view mirror." Were I to list the things that Prop 8 does and stands for, well, I couldn't do much better.
Finally, their mission statement:
"Yahoo's mission is to connect people to their passions, their communities, and the world's knowledge. To ensure this, Yahoo offers a broad and deep array of products and services to create unique and differentiated user experiences and consumer insights by leveraging connections, data, and user participation."
Unique and differentiated user experiences? Assaulting everyone on a California ISP with a pop up ad telling us that we had to "protect marriage" by voting Yes on 8 is a unique and differentiated experience? Really? Because it seems "one size fits all" - something ELSE they say they don't value.

How can you trust - and do business with - a company that doesn't even follow its own values?

Finally, there is the fact that Yahoo was birthed in the nursey of innovation, tolerance and diversity: California. Richard Florida, in his research on "The Rise of the Creative Class," showed how innovation needs diversity and tolerance to flourish, and California's Silicon Valley is the ne plue ultra example of this. Diversity and tolerance are the things most intrinsically under attack by Prop 8, whose supporters pander to fear and seek to isolate gay and lesbian folks from other Californians.

For the geniuses at Yahoo! to accept advertising from a group heavily subsidized by out-of-state money (some of which you can see here and all of which you can see here) to make California less California-like and more like the theocratic, un-diverse, un-innovative other parts of the country goes against their own long term business interests. And it's just rude, you don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Even if you don't think it's enough that Yes on 8 eliminates existing rights - and think about that; in 2008 it's possible to eliminate rights from a class of people by simple majority vote! - and causes real human anguish to over 20,000 married Californians and untold others who were thinking of it, or for their children or other loved ones, for the sole purpose of preserving linguistic hegemony for a non-threatened majority; or if you don't think it's enough that by accepting funding from Yes on 8 to run obnoxious and dishonest pop-up ads supporting this revocation of rights that Yahoo made themselves collusive to it; then surely Yahoo's violation of their own corporate standards and vision is enough to boycott them?

Of course, reasonable people can disagree. But that's why I'm on Gmail.