Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Revolutionary Costume for Today

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa....

As I was prepping to go and demonstrate in Los Angeles for the civil rights of a discriminated minority, I took stock for a moment and thought, "Wow...I am participating in my democracy."
And then I thought, "Oh my god, what the hell am I going to wear?"

And honestly, what does one wear to a gay protest? Does one put on a chicken suit, as so many did, to comment on the failure of prop 2 against the passing of prop 8 (Chickens, 1; Gays, 0). While the commentary and the comedy might be effective, this is LA in November during fires, so it was approximately 1 million degrees. Does one, perhaps, combine stripes and polka dots to exemplify the absurdity of separate but equal? While clever, one runs the risk of seeming like just a fashion idiot - this is a gay protest after all.

Finally, I decided on jeans, a t-shirt (nothing particularly radical, as I don't really own anything radical), and to top it off, a red bandanna on my head, to elicit Rosie the Riveter. I figured that was fitting.

And then I got back to thinking about democracy, when I read this reader dissent on Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"Yesterday my girl friend and I drove to downtown San Diego to attend the wine and food festival. We encountered much difficulty because of the No on 8 Marchers.

Efforts at mob rule have always worried me. This great democracy is fragile and I think we do not fully realize how very small numbers of people can cause great disorder. We had an election and the majority of Californians voted to preserve the thousands of years old institution of marriage. Demonstrations like the one I witnessed yesterday gain no sympathy from those of use who still believe the the rule of law and democratic process.

I am afraid we are going to lose this country."

Mob rule? Disorder? Preserving institutions? Democratic process?

I can't help but wonder who the "we" is in his final statement...

Let's do a little constitutional review, shall we?
From the Bill of Rights (that's civil rights...you remember those, right?)
1st Ammendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That last section is most relevant here (although that first part always needs reminding as well, it seems.)
So "mob rule" and "disorder" seem to be a most important part of our "democratic process." At least, according to our founding fathers. But what did they know?

And as for preserving institutions, let me remind you, and let me be clear:
People in California did not vote to preserve anything. The words "preserve" were not in the proposition at all. The words "Eliminate rights" were. This was not a vote to give gay people any rights. They already had them. This was a vote to take them away.

And with that, we go back to our constitution.
14th Amendment:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

A quick side note in case you forgot, this was the amendment that came out of the civil war. A civil war fought over the notion that a minority could not be oppressed by a majority.

So yet again, we see what our "democratic process" is really about. It isn't about putting civil rights at the ballot box and allowing a mere 500,000 votes to rule.

No, I don't believe that demonstrations like this will gain much sympathy from those that have nothing to lose, that have never experienced the sensation of having to fight for your rights. But that's okay. We don't want your sympathy. And while I deeply regret your not getting to the wine and food festival with ease, I don't regret you witnessing our democratic process in action.

See the thing is, we don't want to lose our country either.

2 comments:

Joey said...

This is a good post.

BT said...

Thanks, Joey!
I appreciate the comment.