Saturday, November 08, 2008

Between Hope and Despair

Tuesday morning broke as a stunning day. A rain had swept the earth clean and I walked out into a bright warm day (reminding more of spring than fall) with a fresh scent in the air, as though the world were newly wrought. The scent carried me through some unknown passage to my childhood, to my grandmother's house and neighborhood, and my eyes were seeing the houses along my block through those lenses again for some reason. The air was clean and warm, and I felt uplifted.

I walked to the polling place at the municipal building, which is only a few blocks away. I had no real wait (I think because the district is too small to really have one), and soon punched a button to elect a moderately liberal black democrat with a unusual name as the 44th president of the United States, and I knew the odds were excellent he would actually win. As I walked back, I thought to myself, "So this is what the 21st century feels like." And it felt wonderful.

I watched returns that night, and worried a little until the concession speech around 11:30, when I started to hear screams of joy from the campus a block away. I felt like joining in. It felt good. I had hope for a return from the brink. (Or perhaps more aptly, a chance to at least crawl back up to where the brink was.)

The elation lasted through late Wednesday morning. Then I read that Proposition 8 in California had passed. A majority of California citizens had decided it was appropriate to take away rights already granted to a minority, to chase down those who had been married and viciously tear apart their marriage licenses, symbolically tearing apart their families, their hopes, their very lives. I'm almost numb to most of this asinine nonsense now, and most of the other ugly and awful amendments (like in Florida and Arkansas) I'm almost used to. But in California, they took away peoples civil rights. They took away their rights and their marriages. Because of the children (except of course for the gay and lesbian ones, or the children of same), or because people want to pretend other people don't exist. Because gay people having lives is apparently just icky. And the appropriate response is to take away their civil rights and explicitly condemn them as not just second class citizens, but unreal, non-existent, and in fact, unthinkable. That hurts.

By Wednesday night I was morose. I'm still flitting between moods. I feel a thrill, a joy, every time I see or think about our new president, and the possibility of what he might accomplish, even if that's only a potentiality now. A relief that so much ugliness might end. And sometimes I think of the lives being destroyed and I feel as if I'm about to vomit, or I cry and rage. I'm not sure what to feel anymore.

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