Saturday, November 08, 2008

Taking It To The Streets

I am not much of a protest guy, mainly because it seems to me that money, legislative maneuvering and compromise tends to be what gets stuff done in America. As opposed to a bunch of committed, earnest people getting together and marching and yelling.

Not that such things can't be at all effective. Certainly, in years past, the idea of public protest had a significant impact on how Americans thought about issues like foreign wars and civil rights. To me, most of these mass public efforts, like walking the streets it protest, represent symbolic rather than pragmatic action. They are designed to allow people to be heard, which provides some level of satisfaction, and can educate other Americans long-term. But it's not about actually initiating significant change.

Pragmatic action was a Get Out the Vote effort for "No on Prop 8" in the weeks leading up to the election. This was actually quite effective; an enthusiastic private citizen, Robot Bill Clinton and Robot Magic Johnson all called me in the days before Nov. 4 urging me to vote No, as of course I eventually did. Unfortunately, though the vote was dramatically close, it was not quite effective enough to overcome the homophobia and bigotry of California's voters.

Walking the streets angrily after it has passed is purely symbolic action. I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, or that people who care about civil rights should give up. Everyone has the right to protest. Furthermore, I am optimistic that, because of the actions of concerned citizens, Prop 8 will eventually be overturned by the US Supreme Court. It is nakedly, unabashedly unconstitutional, in direct violation of both the spirit and the letter of our 14th Amendment.

I'm just not the marching type.

I was thinking about going anyway (in that way where you probably won't go but allow yourself to entertain the notion, semi-fancifully) to the big protest tonight in Los Angeles. Then I was sort of taken aback by one sentence in CauseCast's "invitation" to the event:

The LGBT movement and its allies won same-sex marriage rights and only a militant movement will ultimately prevail.

I think perhaps the author meant "strident" when he or she wrote "militant." Surely CauseCast, a lovely and deeply committed group of people with whom I have the pleasure of sharing some office space, are not advocating any acts of violence in protest against Prop 8. This is exactly the sort of thing that would only hurt the movement they are trying to build. The Weathermen didn't exactly bring the Vietnam War to an end; they just made it that much easier for right-wing scumbags to portray the anti-war movement as a bunch of "crazy hippie terrorist" caricatures.

Pragmatism, people. To win this kind of battle, you need to get that big mushy middle of mainstream America on your side. It can obviously be done. (I don't know if you guys heard about this, but the new president is a black guy that wants to engage in actual diplomacy with our enemies and give kids health care.) A "militant" protest in the streets of Los Angeles is not exactly a phenomenal PR move at this juncture. Or pretty much any other juncture.


Brian said...

What is being protested? The vote was fair and legal. The results are in. Accept it and move on. How is this any different from McCain supporters protesting the Obama win? Obama won, it's over. Proposition 8 passed, it's over.

Lons said...

Well, no, that's silly, because if a law violates the Constitution (which Prop. 8 does), then it can't simply be left up to "majority rule." Unconstitutional laws get overruled by the courts. It's a little thing you may have heard of called "checks and balances," Bri.

So, it's not "over" in the way the presidential election is over. In fact, it's not over at all. This is just one phase in the larger civil rights struggle.

Brian said...

Sorry Lons, sounds like sore losers to me. I am amazed at how many constitutional experts are out there, including you evidently.

The majority of Californians don't want same-sex marriage to be legal. That's what this vote says to me.

Anne Barlow said...

If civil rights were left up to majority rule, there would be no interracial marriage, schools would be separated by race, and men would control the wombs of women to this day.

I think those who have had their rights revoked with this election have a right to be upset. They don't have to take this revocation happily.

Brian said...

They can be upset all they want, protest, whine, and cry. That doesn't change the will of the people.

Comparing this to a race issue is crazy. Marriage is first and foremost a religious institution. This has nothing to do with civil rights.

I don't care what people do in the privacy of their own homes. I do care when the institution of marriage is being redefined for a specific group.

It was left up to the people, and they have spoken.

Anne Barlow said...

When government institutions treat married people different than unmarried then it has gone beyond a religious institution.

If it is only religious then just dissolve all marriages as far as the state is concerned and give everyone a civil union. If people want to get married as well then that is between them and their church. Please note that not all churches want to ban same-sex unions.

They have every right to address this with their government. In this case, the courts. I don't think the challenge will go through, the main case is concerning amending the state constitution by proposition which is something that is very specifically allowed.

I expect these folks to fight for their rights with all the power they can muster. Would you do any less if your rights were being taken away by a majority?

This isn't about re-defining a word, the institution of marriage has been through some hearty changes over the years. This is first and foremost a case of civil rights.

Brian said...

Appreciate the debate, we'll just agree to disagree.

James said...


"When government institutions treat married people different than unmarried then it has gone beyond a religious institution."

Just wanted to re-iterate that. It is very much like women earning the right to vote, interracial marriage, and nondiscriminatory schools.

gohlke said...

Ah, I love plausible denial: many of the same arguments against homos are the same used against negroes and broads in the past. If you "don't care what people do in the privacy of their own homes," then I take that to mean you wouldn't mind two strapping, ass-fucking men being wed in their own living room? Wow, I think this is the solution to all the problems: queers and dykes just need to hold their wedding ceremonies at home! Then people will stop minding so much.

I really can't fathom how people refuse to equate this to race. Even if you don't believe being a faggot is a result of genetics, and that therefore homosexuality IS a race, then at least you can admit that their struggle for acceptance by society, at least on paper, is completely analogous. Ah, the irony.

I obviously can't put forth as compelling, rational, and objective an argument as Anne, but in response to Lon's post, I will say this:

"I am against picketing--I just don't know how to show it."

Brian said...

to me, the fact that the government recognizes ANY type of marriage as having legal weight completely disregards the separation of church and state. the government should ONLY recognize civil union, no matter between gay or straight couples. If this was the case, gay people could get married in any church that welcomed them (the episcopalian come to mind), while our secret underwear sporting friends could chose to continue in their hateful ways. (I also agree that the morman church should lose tax-exempt status for advocating prop 8). Also, please don't confuse me with "Brian". This is Brian Holbrook.

Nathan said...

Ya, I didnt think that could be McConville. He couldn't possibly give a shit about "redefining" whatever. This whole thing is completely analagous to race, unless you think there is something innately wrong or immoral about being a gay, which of course I do. But supposing I didn't, then you pretty much have to give them what they want, else youza Discriminator. Plus, they're really helping out with overpopulation and consequently climate change (except that preggors Tranny dude in Hawaii). Sad as it all is, as the profoundly sage Margaret Hoover pointed out on the O'Reilly Factor last week, the youngenz are on board for the gays, so it's really just a matter of time. The haters all die some day.