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.

10 comments:

Leonardo Ricardo said...

I´m glad you went too...I´m certain it would have been fun...there was a little miracle of self-saving that went on in Central America today...a longterm younger friend of mine reached out for help, his life was at critical crossroads and he chose, probably while you were at the rally, to live...a different sort of freedom but freedom none the less.

It was sunny here also.

Thanks for the report.

BTW, have you seen this: www.sevenweekstoequality.com/petition, Endorse the Call to Action?

Scott Hankins said...

well. how beautiful is that (?!)

reminds me of the year we sat at the intersection in Oberlin...

I didn't know what I was doing then, and I don't know what I'm doing now, but, somehow, things always move on...(amazing, isn't it, Doug...with prayers for your spouse)

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that your friend chose to live, Leonardo.

Yup, there was a certain amount of "gay time" at our rally in St. Louis as well. Cooooold, first day of winter, and windy. Cheery, of course, and I was surprised by how many drivers honked and thumbs-up-ed, including commercial truck drivers, school sports team buses, and miscellany of private drivers. There might have been one heckle, lost in the general noise.

NancyP

Counterlight said...

We had a lot of drive by honkers and high fives here too.

I'm not surprised about St. Louis. In the time I lived there, the local gay community changed dramatically from deeply closeted to very out loud and proud. And the city survived and largely accepted its gay folk.
Quite a change from the days of Police Commissioner Peach.

Counterlight said...

Pardon the senior moment, that was prosecutor George Peach.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

So happy to read about this!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Counterlight, what a lovely account. I'm so pleased that things went well during the protest.

Oh, and NancyP, in St. Louis, too.

Leonardo, thanks be to God that your friend chose to live,

Grandmère Mimi said...

PS: Counterlight, you can't be having senior moments already. Those are reserved for the likes of me.

David G. said...

Gramdmere Mimi is delirious with Christ ...don't listen to her.

The Older... The Wiser,..unless you happen to have Alzheimer's disease, then whatever you say is law for those few moments.

Anonymous said...

we got a horn honk from a big ol' cruise ship, in San Diego! Which had the biggest protest of them all, quite remarkable if you think about it..

Will it last? Will this movement really work? I hope so...

One step at a time but often the first is the biggest as Leondardo's friend has found.

IT