Hate with Hate Won’t Work: Marriage Equality and Where We Go From Here.

I’m the first to admit i was infuriated and despondent in the wake of the (albeit expected) news of Amendment One’s passing. It was crushing because, more than anything else, i knew we hardly stood a chance in defeating it – but i had genuinely hoped that we could overcome the odds. I knew my despair was shared among many: my new feed was cluttered with colorful language and statements of disappointment over its passing, for which, i won’t lie, i took some real comfort in. But there was also a lot of hateful slanders from these very people against those who had voted for the amendment, which was far from soothing. Rather, images that compared the counties who voted for the amendment and counties with the highest concentration of college graduated with snide captions over the lack of formal education breeding stupidity left a sour smell in my nose.

For even in the midst of this hurt we all shared, an oft-quoted line from  Dr. King’s speeches and published works came to mind: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

In responding to those who voted for the amendment with spiteful comments about the low percentage of people with college degrees who populate their counties, or snarky remarks concerning their personhood, we are fighting hatred with hatred. Do i think they should have voted otherwise? Of course i do. Does this make me entitled to sneer and be as equally cruel towards them as they are to me? Absolutely not. Such an argument makes me no better than they are. It may be the easy choice – to go for the low blow, take the hard-hitting swing, but such a smack speaks more of my unchecked privilege than it declares my allegiance to fighting for justice.

Besides, the comment most especially concerning college education is inherently incredibly classist, and it shows the nastiest side to liberal intellectualism. It’s the we’re-better-than-you-because-we’re-enlightened argument which (hello!) is the same premise under which the anti-marriage-equality campaign is founded. Both arguments are praising an institution (the church vs. higher education) and both drive a divisive line between “us” and the ungodly “them.”

Which is why i was not comforted, vastly, by these statements. In the moment it may have been satisfying, but that’s the thing about the path of nonviolence: it is a way of life for courageous people, ergo it is not easy. I’m not trying to say everyone should believe in nonviolence or think like me (because who am i to tell you what to think?) but i do think if we’re going into this fight for the long haul, we ought to look to our forbearers and glean what wisdom we can from their victories. The last time North Carolina amended its Constitution it was to ban interracial marriage. I think, then, the ancestors we must turn to are not from the distant past, but from the immediately preceding history wherein people of all colors stood together to fight institutionalized racism. I personally thus find Dr. King’s words to be all the more relevant.

Yesterday, though, the country took a turn when President Obama publicly announced he was for marriage equality. To be totally honest, my initial reaction was: “About damn time, Mr. President!” But the importance of what he was doing still resonated deeply with me. The timing of it, coming so close after the loss in NC, was clearly artfully planned – but also an enormous risk. North Carolina is a swing state in national elections; we may have voted Democrat for the first time in sixty years in 2008, but that’s no guarantee we’ll do so again. In lieu of the tremendously powerful conservative vote displayed in Tuesday’s gubernational election, i think what President Obama did was a bold, and thus all the more commendable, action.

But he’s not the only one working for this. The most powerful response to Amendment One’s passing that i have yet seen came from an Episcopal bishop,* Bishop Curry of North Carolina. His words are pointed at all sides of the fray; he takes a religiously-founded stance for marriage equality but also holds his comrades in this accountable in decrying those who have said hateful things to the people who voted for the amendment. Whether or not you’re a person of faith (and not that my opinion on your autonomous decision matters but, for the record, i still love and value you and your rights even if you are not a person of faith) i highly encourage you to watch his response.

Most of all, however, i know i need to remember the humanity present in all of us. This isn’t a one-time, lizzie-writes-a-blog-post-and-is-now-a-saint thing. Rather, i know for myself i must choose to recognize this humanity in all of us every day – and most of all on days when this fight is exhausting and hurtful and i am at my most vulnerable. But in the words taken from the essay “Gandhi and the One-Eyed Giant,”by freedom fighter Thomas Merton: “love triumphs, at least in this life, not by eliminating evil once and for all but resisting and overcoming it every day.”

further things of interest: a petition to repeal amendment one; also, a counter-voice critiquing the slippery language of president obama’s marriage equality statement.

current jam: “tomorrow will be kinder” the secret sisters, from my playlist in response to the amendment’s passing.

*For friends who may or may not know: the Episcopal church has been at the forefront of the religious fight to ordain people of queer identities (you can be gay and/or female and still be a priest in the Episcopal church).

Thoughts in my Head: Constitutional Liberty & Seeing Rachel Maddow.

Last week has been one rife with meeting famous people. Or, if not meeting, sharing atmosphere with them. Or TV time. Whatever.

On Wednesday, i went to a panel discussion on whistleblowing in America to hear, most predominantly, Daniel Ellsberg speak. Yeah, the Daniel Ellsberg, of the Pentagon Papers fame, accredited largely in part with tipping the cards in favor of ending the Vietnam War. While his compatriots on the panel, Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, were considerably grave and constantly on the offensive, he was congenial, relaxed, and yet undeniably shrewd. It was a tense atmosphere; all three people on the panel spoke of their willingness to die in order to uncover illegal and immoral activities enacted within the most secretive – and most powerful – corners of the US Government. Their homes had been raided, they had been threatened with prison, and they were blacklisted traitors by those in power. And yet all three of them avowed that they would make the same decision to whistleblow again were the situation presented once more.

While my thoughts after the panel were somewhat muddled, i came away pondering one particular quote i managed to get down, said by Daniel Ellsberg himself:

“Don’t wait until the bombs are falling if you know the Constitution is being violated or if reckless decisions are being made … don’t go to Congress first, they’ll sit on it. Go to the press, and take the risk – take the personal risk, which is very significant – and tell the truth…You may a heavy personal price, but there are wars’ lives that can be saved.” 

And though the image that will forever first come to mind when reflecting on the panel will be Thomas Drake quoting Spock (“The needs of the many outweigh the few for the one” from a movie version, in case you needed to know), foregrounded in such recollections will be their commitment to the liberty promised by the American Constitution.

It’s a thought i hardly ever give any credence to; not exactly the biggest fan of “The Founding Fathers” myself as they are in, in the American psyche, more fiction than fact in my opinion. But the document rendered after the Articles of Confederation – the Constitution – is incredibly radical. And these people had committed the entirety of their lives to defending the rights it stood for. Whatever my personal qualms or questions entangled with that may be, i have to respect it.

Which brings me to my almost-asking-a-question of a woman for whom i have the most immense respect; none other than the namesake of this very blog post, RACHEL FREAKING MADDOW.

On Saturday night, she stood before a crammed auditorium overflowing with members from the general public and more politically engaged MoHos than you could, to use my mother’s phrase, shake a plaid-covered NBC-logo-bearing stick at. (Maybe not precisely how she says it).

After more introductions than necessary for anyone, ever, Rachel Maddow stepped casually out onto the stage, her book in hand and her neon orange kicks glimmering in the stage lights. Wearing her glasses reserved for what i imagine is strictly off-screen time, she grinned charismatically out at the roaring auditorium and exclaimed in the most genuine, geek-unbelieving-at-the-nerd-love-outpouring-from-her-surroundings, “Hi!” She actually blushed when she caught wind of what the crowd was actually doing; singing the most horrendously out-of-tune but incredibly heartfelt “Happy Birthday” Chapin Auditorium has probably ever seen. She’d had me at the sneakers. I pledged my unwavering adoration when she replied “As if i weren’t already blushing enough!”

Rachel. Freaking. Maddow. Fly as hell, as laid back as any Mount Holyoke student, and as cool as the cats come. With what certainly felt like an extemporaneous speech, she prefaced her book with the speech that “politics are my thing” more so than the military, but she wanted to explore the politics of the military and so she’d written a book. No big deal, or anything. Without any real ado, she dove right into reading a passage from her literary debut, Drift: The Unmooring American Military Power, a passage that she clarified was her favorite because it involved the Houbara Busterd, a bird that can excrete green slime as a defense mechanism. She clarified, giggling at herself whilst somehow, in the ultimate unfairness of the universe, maintaining such an unattainable level of awesome and intelligence i kind of melted into my edge-of-the-balcony seat.

While i don’t have any direct quotes to give you from the book, i can give it my whole-hearted endorsement to read. I intend to get my hands on a copy just as soon as i crawl out of this campus long enough to breathe air untainted with whiffs of “i-should-be-studying-itis.” But, really. Her wit comes through in her writing, but more importantly, so does her unyielding and excellent journalistic research. The book is clearly as thoroughly researched as her show and blends that perfect Maddow cocktail of classic reporting with modern sensibilities. And her arguments for the declension of America’s understanding of war are, from what i could gather through this reading and subsequent Q&A session, nothing less than provocative and nothing short of brilliant.

Something that has continued to resonate with me in the aftermath of these two lectures comes back to something Rachel said in response to a question from the audience:

“America didn’t go to war. America sent a military to go to war … and the power in the hands of one person – the President – to declare this war is contrary to what the Founding Fathers wanted ….  If you don’t have to defend your argument, your argument can suck. And George Bush didn’t have to really defend his reasons for going to war to Congress.”

Though both of these events, the panel on whistelblowing and Rachel Freaking Maddow, were not nominally about the same thing, i’ve come back to this question: how important is it to us, as Americans*, to defend and question the Constitution? We seeks always to “better” what has come before – a practice i endorse – but when i consider contemporary political discourse with the impending election, i see very little conversation about they best way to interpret our founding document.

Instead, all i see is fear. Fear of queer people, fear of sexually liberated women, fear of people of color. Fear that if we relinquish anything old, or anything that reminds us of what once way, we will lose our way entirely. Fear that allowing us, as a country still in our decidedly YOUNG adulthood, to make mistakes as women or gay people or undocumented immigrants will end in nothing but global doom. When the reality is, frankly, quite different. We are a country who have had nothing but peaceable elections for over two centuries. We’re not a nation without blood on our hands – far from it. But in the very knowledge that i don’t have to worry about my political part declaration posing a threat to my life violence screams to me that we are not doing our part as informed citizens. Instead of taking this opportunity, as people in a nation where peace was intended as our default standard, to engage critically with principles of freedom and explore what our role is as an empowerer and not a degrader, we bicker over women’s ability to control their bodies. OR the right of two people who love each other to get married. We defend a man who shot a young boy because his candy and warm clothing made him “look suspicious.”

We are getting it wrong.

If the whistleblowers were willing to lay down their lives to defend liberty – and the people whom Maddow talks about in the military were willing to do the same – don’t we owe them more than petty, useless bickering?

current jam: “some nights” fun.

best thing in my life right now: wizard rock and maddow.

*(If, you know, you are American. It is really, really okay if you are not. Welcome, actually!)

Thoughts in my Head: History is in its Writer.

It’s crazy to me how broad the commentary goes in this country concerning political debate aftermath. I didn’t watch the Florida debate last night (there was Downton Abbey to catch up on, and that’s quite enough drama and intrigue for one evening) but, ever the attempting-to-be-a-good-citizen-and-remain-informed-young-feminist that i am, i spent my breakfast hour this morning pouring over articles recounting last night’s throwdown.

Whenever doing this, i try to read articles on the same topic, but from three different sources. My favorites tend to be the BBC (no one is surprised), Al Jazeera (in English), and the New York Times. All three of the articles i perused over my coffee presented such varying perspectives on the debate – so distinctive, in fact, i wanted to share them here and solicit your thoughts on the matter.

I felt as though the AJE article had the most holistic perspective: focusing only minimally on the tax issue (which was pretty much the sole focus of the NYT & BBC pieces) and instead directing the reader’s attention to the candidates’ stances on Cuba, Gingrich’s ties to Freddie Mac, and quoting the campaign’s strategists by means of providing insight into the stances taken. In my opinion, i felt as though the AJE stance was pretty pro-Ron Paul in its selection of quotes and images, whereas both the NYT and BBC(as aforementioned) focused primarily on the tax issue, and therefore Gingrich and Romney.

And in some ways i think this makes utter sense – Gingrich and Romney are polled to be the heavyweight contenders in Florida. Yet Santorum, winner of the Iowa caucus, seemed to have little to no play in any of the articles. Perhaps it’s because i’m not really versed in the ways of politics, but this song-and-dance routine that has been the primaries for a Republican candidacy seems to be nothing short of a Broadway flop.

As always, though, i found that Jay Smooth (of illdoctrine.com) had the most brilliant and snarky commentary of the day. Ten points to the house of Smooth, ladies and gents:


current jam: ‘sprawl ii’ arcarde fire

best thing in my life right now: first day of classes!

done elsewhere: a video about eggs, v for vendetta, and smacking faces.