Saturday, November 15, 2008
"Sign me up in the Book of Love! Civil Rights Now!"
The rally that I thought would have a small turnout because of the weather turned out to be huge. I got there 30 minutes early, and there was only a handful of people with signs on Broadway by City Hall. They were having to dodge the occasional heckler on the sidewalk. My heart sank. Within a half hour, the crowd was so big the cops had to close off 2 or 3 lanes of Broadway. I couldn't see from where I was, but I could hear the sound of cheering and chanting from quite a great distance. I was told that the crowd stretched all the way up Broadway to outta sight. I have no idea how big the crowd was, but it was definitely in the thousands.
I enjoyed 2 lovely little bits of serendipity. The first was the weather. This morning, it was pouring down rain. It was still overcast and threatening when I left the house. When I arrived at City Hall, the sun started to break through. There were lots of remarks about this being a sign from God about what He really thinks of His gay children. The second was the sign that I was handed. It said the very thing that I would have written myself, "Did we vote on YOUR marriage?" I still have it here with me.
The crowd was overwhelmingly young, though there was a respectable turnout of us old timers.
The best most thoughtful speeches, I thought, were from some of the younger speakers. The emphasis in nearly all of them was on embracing the positive and leaving aside anger and vindictiveness. My long standing wish that progressives embrace national symbols, and reclaim them, may finally be coming true. This is the first protest rally I've ever been to that began with The Star Spangled Banner (sung by the Gay Men's Chorus). The people around me in the crowd took it seriously and doffed hats and sang along. That may be a change wrought by the Obama phenomenon. The reason people winced at patriotism for so long is because they felt it didn't belong to them, that they weren't part of The White Christian Republic as defined by the formerly dominant party for the last 30 years. That has suddenly and dramatically changed over the last 2 weeks.
Another effect of the Obama phenomenon were numerous admonitions to the crowd to reach out to constituencies other than the LGBT community. They pointed out how Obama won in states, and in constituencies, where experts long said a Democrat could never win (and certainly not a black Democrat). We were urged to reach out to family and co-workers, even those we assumed to be hostile.
As always, these big gay political affairs are happy and festive instead of angry, and this was no exception. I remember when activists used to complain about people turning political rallies into parties. I've always thought that's as it should be; the struggle is hard, but there's no reason for it to be anything but joyous. One of the things that I will always say for politics, this is one of the few areas in life where just showing up really matters. Alas, I went by myself. Significant Other had to work, and he hates these rallies anyway. They send his agoraphobia into over-drive. However, he's entirely supportive and glad I went. I'm glad I went.
Posted by Counterlight at Saturday, November 15, 2008