My relief at Obama’s election was quickly eclipsed by despair, as the polls in California closed the instant the President elect was called on CNN, and the prop 8 race was close. I monitored the polls until 11PM, and expected to know the results when I woke up this morning, only to find that the vote was still too close to call. I listen to a story on Prop 8 as I write this now, with cheering pro Prop 8ers sure of their victory.
I realized at some point last night that the fight would continue: gay rights advocates will fight prop 8 in the court, anti-gay marriage haters will try to have existing same-sex marriages annulled.
I’m jaded, I know, but I’ve lived in so many places that were allegedly the most progressive in the country, and have always been disappointed, feeling either stranded on a small island of tolerance– I hate that word, but I am using it intentionally here– or feeling bitterly betrayed by the shallowness of progressive commitment. I live with the small sliver of San Francisco’s black community that hasn’t been pushed out of the city in the Fillmore district. From this vantage point, in the most progressive city in the most progressive state, I have to ask: What does it mean to be progressive in the United States?
Electing a black president is perhaps one of the most progressive acts of the national American electorate in the history of the United States. But I’m not sure how hopeful that makes me feel about the direction the United States will take. One day into the reality of a President-elect Obama, I am sick of the electorate patting themselves on the back for electing a black person, especially as they use their other hand to casually swipe at the rights of another minority group.
My hope is that Obama will eventually change the conversation, and prompt a civic engagement with a universalist bent that will deliver me and the rest of the world from the divisiveness that rules our country, without compromising so much that no good is accomplished during his Presidency.
A tall order, I know.