Author’s Note: Obviously times have changed since Prop 8. Think of this as a “period piece.” I apologize if there are any errors in my writing here – I was sixteen(?) at the time. Still, I am quite proud of this piece. Warning: If you dislike politics, don’t read on…
Through the span of one year, our country and the state of California itself have undergone momentous social change. Hilary Clinton emerged as the first serious female candidate for the presidency, California authorized same-sex marriage (only to repeal it some months later), our first black president was elected, and now California has legalized medicinal marijuana. While some welcome these changes and others cling to conformity, I think we can all agree that it is a relief that finally, in 2009, some of these long-standing issues are being addressed – and indeed, we as an American people are being quite vocal about them… and that’s incredible. Hell, let yourself be heard. Isn’t that the point, anyways? To stand up for what you believe in? To be the change you want to see in the world? It doesn’t matter, in the long run, if I disagree with you; the point is that you have an opinion of your own, and that in itself is a gift. So before I begin my rant, I will ask that we all appreciate our ability to choose for ourselves what is right and what is wrong while still retaining a flexible mind and a healthy respect for the opinions of our adversaries.
The way some Americans – indeed even people within our own community and school – react to the societal changes of today are shocking to me. Not long ago, as I’m sure you all remember, we had the wave of elections which included Obama vs. McCain and California’s Prop 8, which put same-sex marriage up to ballot. I was among those students on Westlake Blvd. protesting against the ban on same-sex marriage, and within the time I was out there many passers-by literally screamed their rage at us; they flipped us off, verbally insulted us and belittled our cause, and in fact one even threw a bottle at one of the protesters and was legally accused of assault. Mind you, the most adamant, vicious, and self-righteous of these people were full-grown adults directing their fury on us, not only a group of peaceful protesters but a group of highschoolers. This begs the question: have we as a people strayed so far from fundamental benevolence that we have adopted barbarism and radicalism to establish our places in the world? Can we turn a blind eye to hypocrisy in order to champion self-serving goals? Can the Christian man who told me I was despised by God and going to hell for being a lesbian’s daughter also truly believe in God’s will that we should love all of His children when he does not himself live a life that reflects that message?
Same-sex rights were not the only object of unjust prejudice some months back. A friend of mine was indefatigably teased for the various pro-Obama knick-knacks on her bag and binder. I myself had an Obama poster in my locker, and received several jeers for it – not for this man’s political stance, but specifically because he was black. I’ve found that Westlake High has a potent conservative backbone – whether in the ideology of the general student body, class lessons (ex: you will die in a horrible fire of death accompanied by crying, rotting koalas if you have premarital sex), or even in the subtle (or not so subtle) opinions of the teachers – certain teachers – who implement in their instruction advocacy of Pro-Life ideals, Christian doctrine, and a rejection of liberal-supported developments such as stem cell research and the acceptance of global warming. One such teacher spent a whole class period on a sermon about why their students should not “defile” their bodies by having sex – another day this same teacher told us how despicable it was that people “killed babies” through abortion and stem cell research – yet another day this teacher told us about the joy of finding Jesus. It is no wonder that many students seem to be so closed-minded. They are not taught to assess a situation and all its factors or to trust in their own senses of reasonability; instead, they are spoon-fed biased information and inexorably uphold this robotic dogmatism. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with loving Jesus or waiting until marriage or disliking stem cell research or anything of the like. To each his own. What I disagree with is structuralism. My point is, and I do have one: Truth is only what you interpret it as, so do it yourself.
Another thing I ponder on is the selfishness of voters. A while back I was watching TV with my Grandma, and when a Proposition commercial about raising taxes to fund education came on, she said she’d never vote for it. She said she was old and had no young children anymore; what did it matter? She wasn’t going to pay for the education of other peoples’ kids, she said. I can think of more controversial issues to apply this to – the gay-marriage debate, for instance. Sure, you’re anti-gay. Don’t like the thought of it. Kind of gives you the creeps. Voting Yes on Prop 8 appeals to you. Well, here’s my advice to you: DON’T GET GAY MARRIED. But do you really want to impose your personal beliefs on everyone else? You might not like it, but hell, other people do! Other people are in love. They don’t just go away because you decide it’s wrong. So in the spirit of liberty, cringe from gay people if that’s what suits you, but next time, vote No … not because you agree with their lifestyle but because you agree with the American ideal of letting people choose the way they want to lead their lives. I cannot picture myself ever being able to get an abortion, but I would not presume to deny another woman her right to make her own choice on the matter. Similarly, the prospect of polygamous marriage does not appeal to me at all – it seems strange and unnecessary and demeaning to women – but I would not deny a polygamist their right to marry. That is, after all, their choice, and it doesn’t affect me personally. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to share my husband with eight other women either.
And for the love of God, keep God out of it. I absolutely don’t respect people who vote according to what their God thinks is “right.” This country advocates religious freedom. A Christian woman wouldn’t like to be forced to cover her all of her skin and not eat pork based on the religious beliefs of others, so why should that same woman justify voting against someone else’s marriage because her God doesn’t like it? When I was protesting, one antagonist really stood out to me. She said of our same-sex marriage support, “You’re taking away my religious freedom.” There is so much irony and hypocrisy in this that I think the quote alone speaks for itself. Implementing religious beliefs in your vote is forcing your religious ideals on others and is a rejection of everything our country stands for, no matter how you choose to look at it. Kind of reminds me again of my Catholic Grandma who just put a picture of Jesus over the front door despite the agnosticism of the rest of the household. Point being, honor secularism; it’s a beautiful thing.
By this point I’m sure you all get that I’m a democrat, but I hope that no matter what your political stance is, you will consider some of the issues I have raised here, and be fair-minded in your criticism. Enlighten yourself. Put yourself in another’s shoes. If you want to stay afloat in this fast-paced world, then open your mind. Reevaluate your stance on ideas you once adamantly rejected. At the very least recognize the importance of a cause to others and respect their opinions the way you’d want them to respect yours – don’t throw bottles at teenagers and condemn your adversaries to hell. After all, there’s something to be said about treating people right. And moreover, make decisions that benefit the majority, not just yourself. You never know when the time will come that someone else gets to vote on your rights.