It's no secret that I am thoroughly a Democrat, and have been advocating for Barack Obama ever since the end of the primaries. By all means, today should be, and is, a happy one for me and all people who realized that our country needed change. But unfortunately, this day is all too bittersweet for me, and for many others.
The reason has nothing to do with the fact that I've lived and breathed news from this campaign for the last two years. I watched from the beginning as a set of candidates emerged to make their case for the nominations of their respective parties. I watched as the Republicans fretted about a candidate, and then as the Democrats fretted about the comparably quick choice made by their opponents. I watched as the Democratic side's candidates dwindled down to two incredible, ground-breaking figures, and continued watching as the race between them stretched into the summer. I watched as Democrats across the land became shrill and frightened, and I argued--rightly, as it turns out--that we all just needed to calm down; whichever nominee came out ahead had plenty of time to heal the divisions. And now, I've watched America make a turn for the better, and elect a stunningly bright, charismatic, passionate, and, yes, historic man as its 44th president, shedding the idea that the color of a person's skin is a qualifier, or disqualifier, for the highest office in the land. But frankly, as incredibly engaging and ground-breaking as this campaign has been, I'm glad to see it finished. Our country needs to finally be able to start the difficult work of rebuilding; of reclaiming our innovative spirit; of healing. And as long as the election was still going that couldn't happen.
Nor does the reason have to do with my initial choice for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton. I have great admiration for Sen. Clinton, which is why I threw my support behind her during the nomination phase (moral support, as I wasn't able to get off work to go caucus for her in Idaho). I think she is, by far, one of the smartest, most passionate, and most understanding political figures in America; however, I have long proclaimed that I would support either Sen. Clinton or then Sen. Obama, because both of them were clearly excellent choices for America. I had no regrets about Sen. Clinton not winning the nomination, because I knew that both candidates had the character and wisdom to integrate each others' ideas into their own, even if not fully. And I was proud and exhilarated when I heard that then Sen. Obama won the nomination, because I knew how much good he would, and will, do for America.
Make no mistake, I am incredibly proud of President-Elect Obama. I am filled with hope for our country's future because of the choice we have made. And I am relieved to finally be able to say it--Yes We Can, and Yes We Did!
But there is one thing that has been tugging my emotions from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows: the passage of California's Proposition 8, which has spitefully pulled the rug from under the collective feet of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens of California, and has dealt a blow to the hopes of the LGBT community across the nation. On Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 the residents of California decided to reinforce the notion that its LGBT residents are indeed second-class citizens. After being given another taste of a future in America in which we're treated as equals, we have been shown, once again, that majorities of even some of the most liberal places in the country still view us as lesser, as unworthy of the same class of citizenship as straight Americans.
I realize that these amendments have been passing in states across the country, and that other amendments passed on Tuesday in other states as well; however, California was the hardest blow to date. In any other year than this one, if California had passed this measure it would have been surprising, but not quite so painful. But the cruelty of seeing our newfound equality suddenly stripped away, in one of the most supposedly tolerant places in the country, is indescribable. It's like watching a lighthouse in a stormy sea, and then seeing it suddenly disappear, leaving you only knowing there's something bad out there, but with little left to give you hope of avoiding it.
What does it say about a country in which, years after the Civil War, after universal suffrage, after Loving v. Virginia, after the Civil Rights Act, and the day we elect our first African-American president, we're still looking for someone to call less equal, someone whose rights we can take away, someone who we can offer the hope of equality to and then dash that hope on the rocks of spite, and of hate? In a country I love so much, I'm heart-broken to see this travesty, this mockery of my claim to be an equal member of society.
I have wept more than once today.
I wept as I watched President-Elect Obama's speech, and listened to his stirring plea for sacrifice; his touching portrait of Anne Nixon Cooper and the history she's been witness to; his clarion call for a future in which we can be proud of things we will see; and his inspirational message of hope.
And then I wept as I watched some of my own hopes crumble into the ground. I wept as I realized that Proposition 8 would pass, at just how swiftly equality, once extended, could be torn away. I wept for myself, and for the millions like me who had been so bold, and so foolish, to hope that our journey was a little shorter, our destination a little closer in sight.
Have no doubts: we will overcome, someday. But our path just became steeper, our toil longer. Today, for me, and many like me…for us, hope comes with pain.