Politics, A Park, And A Proposition genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak
I've found myself puzzled by my own silence for the last few days...wondering if I'm paralyzed by the anxiety that comes with an important election or if something larger were at play. Then I watched the following video and the answer began to emerge.
This isn't a new video. I remember seeing it when the San Diego mayor first offered his support for gay marriage in 2007. However, watching it on the eve of the presidential election brought a clarity that comes when the promise of hope nears the moment when it achieves its historical affirmation.
Let me attempt an explanation. Last Sunday, at the last minute, I decided to attend the Obama rally in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver. Fortunately for me, the path I traveled to the venue put me at an entrance that placed me in the middle of a crowd estimated to be well over 100,000. In that location, I was at the back of the first wave of onlookers...just in front of a security walkway. A sea of faces stood lined up on the other side of the portable fence used to create it.
As I pondered the notion of thousands taking the time to listen to a speech they had likely heard before, on a beautiful fall Sunday, I wondered why they came. Standing there, waiting to see and hear Barack Obama...I found myself facing away from the stage...mesmerized by the sea of faces lined up behind me...and all of a sudden an answer emerged.
In those peaceful and diverse faces, I saw a hunger and a hope for a new direction...a belief that real and meaningful change could be more than an ethereal dream...a growing certainty that this potential might well be embodied in the unlikely candidacy of an African American.
The fact that thousands more stood behind them simply served to reinforce a shared assumption. The realization that a black man could succeed in bringing such a diverse crowd of Americans to the same conclusion underscored the collective spirit of this nation and the persistence of its humanity.
The sheer weight of that awareness put a lump in my throat. The subsequent sound of U2's song, Beautiful Day, blaring from the massive loudspeakers, led me to tears. In that instance, it was clear that we still possess the power to alter the future if we summon the will to embrace the transformational opportunities presented by such rare moments of magnitude.
A full week has now passed since I attended the Obama rally. With each day has come a sense of destiny accompanied by an abundance of anxious trepidation. It's akin to awaiting the brief instance at which one's reality intersects and aligns with one's dreams...providing a wondrous window through which one can jump...leaving the shackles of the past behind...taking that first certain step towards a friendlier future.
That brings me back to the above video. In watching the mayor of San Diego risk the ire of his constituents, in order to stand up for the rights of gays to marry, my weeklong journey had come full circle.
You see, it reminded me of the significance of Civic Center Park. For many years, this park has also played host to the annual LGBT Pride Day festivities. Each June, on a summer Sunday, it is filled with hopeful faces...faces that are also hungry for the moment when the windows align and they're able to jump away from the limitations of the past and towards the promise of a more accepting future.
As I wiped away my tears, I understood the connections between the faces I'd seen in Civic Center Park this past Sunday and the ones I encounter on those Sundays, each year, in June. Nonetheless, our faces are unable to reveal the entirety of our stories...or the unique complexities confronted by each constituent group and each individual.
While all of our journeys share a similar destination, some segments of our society are at different points along the path. For as long as I can remember, I've felt a kinship with those whose paths have been cluttered with unwarranted and excessive obstacles. My empathy for those forced to confront these added challenges continued to expand as I discovered and embraced my own homosexuality. On consecutive Sundays, the divergent distances yet to be traveled by some of these groups could not be missed.
As we approach the end of the 2008 election, one group appears poised to make the jump...and I couldn't be happier. As I've pondered the possibility that America will elect its first African American president, I've allowed myself to imagine the joy that will undoubtedly accompany such an amazing affirmation. The mere thought of it brings tears to my eyes.
It also brings clarity to my sense that this election is about something much larger. This is the moment at which the eloquent words of Martin Luther King, recited in his "I Have A Dream" speech, navigate a necessary journey. Through the willful act of an enlightened electorate, his hopes will no longer exist as unfulfilled abstractions. Instead, the essence of his dream, adopted by the acclamation of millions, will be reinforced and history will mark this as a defining moment in the affirmation of African Americans.
At the same time, the next step in the affirmation of my LGBT brothers and sisters is in the hands of the California electorate. The opposition, in the form of a proposition to ban same-sex marriage, is intense and the prospects of victory remain in doubt. Despite my disappointment with the potential for defeat, come Election Day I will steel myself for either outcome.
Should we win, I'll know that the LGBT community has taken another step in our long journey towards affirmation. Should we lose, I hope to be able to take consolation in the election of an African American president. If that happens, I'll be encouraged that Barack Obama's message of hope and change may bring us closer to that moment when a majority of Americans will look back and reach through the narrow window, grasp our hands, pull us through, and speak the words we long to hear, "Welcome, my fellow Americans...the journey's over...you've reached your destination."