Saturday, November 8, 2008

Brennan Blogs: Yes on Proposition 8 - The 8th Deadly Sin?

70% of African Americans voted yes. 51% of Latinos voted yes. 49% of Caucasians voted yes. You know who did not vote yes? Me. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride, and... "yes" on California's Proposition 8? I think so.

For those uninformed (or firmly entrenched hiding under a rock due to the threat of Governor Sarah Palin's rise to power), this past election Tuesday on November 4, 2008, California voters were asked to decide whether people can get married. These "people" just happened to be of the same sex. In the most liberal state in the union (maybe outside Hawaii), such voters decided that maybe they were not so liberal and that, maybe, once again, they'd rather not ask and rather avoid being told.

Although quite irrelevant to this conversation, I am not gay. However, I do want to get married one day and fortunately, for whatever reason, maybe even a flip of god's coin, I am allowed to do so in my socially-permissible heterosexual bliss. Over 100 years ago you might have read the same thing from someone like me praising their right to vote and their right to own land, thanking their lucky stars that they were born with male genitalia. Even earlier in our history, someone like me might have discussed the guilty fortune he felt from being born with less pigment in his skin and, because of that, being given all the rights that the United States Constitution affords.

(On a side note, isn't it interesting that African-Americans were given the right to vote before women were? And that now, we have the first African-American president prior to the first woman president? Makes one contemplate where the lines of discrimination may truly be drawn... but... I digress).

Is denial of gay marriage akin to slavery? No. To the women's suffrage movement? Probably not. That's not the point. Unfortunately, racism, bigotry, discrimination... it's all subtle and often deceptively innocuous. Who cares if gays cannot get married, they still have domestic partnerships... umm, right? At the time these issues are raised, they don't seem like such a big deal to common folk, even those who are actually tolerant. Often we just assume its only a matter of time until such problems are resolved and that, in the mean time, we don't have to deal with them, gleefully swimming in our willful ignorance. Truth is, eventually these issues are resolved, but in the interim, even those truly tolerant and accepting forget to vote, they forget to make a fuss, and, with feigned shock, they watch their fellow human beings denied their inalienable rights.

The real problem with this attitude is that people, such as the aforementioned well-dressed vice-presidential nominee, are allowed to say, and feeling good in doing so, that they are "tolerant." After such quick and flippant comments to convince themselves of their own righteousness, they are satisfied and feel that they have done enough. They get to say, "I am 'tolerant' of blacks, I am 'tolerant' of immigrants, I am 'tolerant' of Jews, and I am 'tolerant' of "gays." They then sleep at home at night feeling they have done heaven's work... until, that is, their so-called "tolerance" is actually tested by a family member, a neighbor, a friend, or, as in this case, a proposition.

The real problem is that it's not, never enough to be just tolerant.

I am tolerant of hot weather. I am tolerant of the useless parsley and too much salt that comes with my meal. I am tolerant of my mother asking me for the 10,000th time to help me fix her computer. The thing is - could I do without hot weather? Could I do without that useless parsley and salt? Could I do without always having to help my mother out with her computer? Yes, of course I could do without all those things, and, in fact, I'd prefer to. That's tolerance, i.e. understanding that undesirable conditions exist to which you can do nothing about and so you live life day to day "tolerating" such things.

The United States of America, even liberal California included, still only "tolerates" homosexuality.

Ironically, on this same election day of November 4, 2008, we finally demonstrated some acceptance. The United States of America decided not to just tolerate African-Americans, but in choosing Barak Obama as president, the United Stated of America finally and unequivocally stated that "you are black and we accept you." Homosexuality may be tolerated, but it is not accepted. Homosexuality is the black sheep. It is the disclaimer before an introduction. It is the "Will" to some Debra Messing clone's "Grace." Worst of all, it is still the issue and controversy at the forefront of many present-day debates. This remaining stigma attached to homosexuality ensures that it is still only tolerated and not accepted. The very notion that it was the central issue to a proposition in multiple states is indicative of that fact.

The most disappointing part was that to reject Proposition 8, one didn't even need to accept homosexuality, but only needed to read the 5th and 14th Amendments of U.S. Constitution. Those pesky Amendments, much to the disdain of social conservatives on the far right, guarantee all citizens equal protection under the law by state governments and the federal government, respectively. By voting "yes" on Proposition 8, voters did not just deny same-sex marriage, but they also indicted their own Constitution. A vote of "yes" on Proposition 8 declared that some people can have all the rights and all the protections most of us hold so dear, but, for whatever reason, others cannot. It is irrelevant as to who those people are that are currently being denied such rights and protections. At one point it was women, at one point it was African-Americans, and, now, in this case, it just happens to be homosexuals. Lest we forget, for example, there was a time in U.S. history where interracial marriage was illegal. Accordingly, this is nothing new. Discrimination, as it has always existed since the dawn of civilization, has no face but rather an amiable canvas that is ever changing and ever convenient.

We can discuss the merits between promoting tolerance versus acceptance, as we very well should, but the fact is that a denial of rights for some is an indictment on our own insecurities, an indictment on our commitment to our own values and morals, and an indictment on our confidence in our common man and our own country. By only promoting tolerance without true acceptance, denying a selected group their rights in the process, we deny ourselves a free and welcome society, sheltering ourselves from a nation where we can truly love our neighbors instead of being afraid of them.

To me, that is not only a shame, but it is also the 8th deadly sin.