Friday, November 9, 2012

Election Reflections: Hope, Solidarity, and Liberation

I'm still surprised at how different the universe seems today from the way it looked one week ago.  Last week, the world seemed bleak.  The media was offering reports that Mitt Romney had a good shot at winning the presidency, that Republicans could take over the House and the Senate, and that we were going to lose in big ways on the ballot initiatives in California.  For me Election Day was hellish.  I woke up feeling sick and riddled with anxiety, which just increased as the day wore on.

But there was a tremendous shift some point in the evening.  For me, it was a text from my father back in Virginia who told me that Ohio had been called for Obama.  I immediately called him back, "Dad, don't speak too soon!  Don't you remember 2000?".  He said, "No, you don't understand.  Virginia's going to go blue too.  They've counted the votes from everywhere except parts of the Norfolk and Fairfax".  My heart skipped a beat.  These are two traditionally more liberal parts of Virginia.  These are places where the votes would likely be around 60% for Obama.  Shortly thereafter the votes started officially rolling in, and a wave of blue like the morning sky spread across the swing states.

This election has marked a serious shift.  There's been all kinds of victories.  Victories that 4 years ago I would have never imagined possible.  Americans have voted to end marriage discrimination, legalize Marijuana, and supported all kinds of progressive issues.  I could go on for a while about all the important victories, but I won't.  You can read about them other places.  Instead I'm going to talk about two key elements of this election that give me hope.

The fight to label genetically modified food in California

"But wait, we lost that vote.  How does that give a pagan environmentalist against corporate domination of our food hope?", you ask.

Yes, it is indeed a tragedy that we lost this vote.  But proposition 37 was the first time there has been an electoral effort targeting Monsanto and protecting the health and vitality of our food on the ballot.  That's pretty exciting if you ask me.  And if you look at the numbers 47% of Californians voted yes on this initiative!  Those are some pretty amazing numbers considering the millions of dollars that corporations like Monsanto poured into the campaign against 37.  And I also want to note that in the context of this election, 47% seems to be a magical number that points you to eventual victory. Thanks Mother Jones! ;)

This is an amazing start.  And that's exactly what it is.  It's a beginning.  This is the beginning of a long fight that we will win.  I think about where we were 4 years ago when Proposition 8 passed in California.  I remember how my excitement for Obama's first term was made heavy with the fact that Californians had just voted to take away my rights and the rights of queer people across this state.  It was a bittersweet moment to say the least.  But look where we are today?  We have 4 states which voted to repeal discrimination and support marriage equality.  We have more and more openly gay politicians elected to leadership roles.  Four years ago, this did not seem possible.  In my heart, I know that if we continue this fight we can win and we will win.  If we continue to organize and talk to our neighbors and friends about the dangers of Monsanto and genetically modified foods on both our health and the health of the earth, we can build the momentum that will shift our relationship with our food and our relationship with the land.

Mark Takano is the first openly gay person of color elected to the House of Representatives.

This victory has been overlooked by much of the coverage of Gay Marriage and the exciting victory of Tammy Baldwin, the first openly lesbian Senator in US history.  But to me, this is HUGE.  Mark Takano is a progressive democrat, a former public school teacher, and the newest representative of the 41st District in California.  He grew up in Riverside California and comes from a Japanese family that was sent to the internment camps during WWII.  And he's gay.

Representative Mark Takano, the United States first openly gay person of color elected to the House of Representatives talking to constituents

This is a historic victory in the gay rights movement and I have to admit that I'm pretty frustrated that this moment is not receiving more news coverage and publicity.  Perhaps it's because Rep. Takano hasn't placed a lot of emphasis on his sexuality in his campaign--it's been a side note of sorts.  But I think it's more likely getting less coverage because our media is racist.  Rep. Takano's leadership throws a wrench in the story that popular culture likes to convey that gayness is a "white thing". 

As marginalized people we must not forget that our struggles for liberation are interconnected.  The election of another progressive person of color to the US House of Representatives is a queer victory.  A step towards the reflection of the diversity of our LGBT family in the House is a critical step in dismantling the invisibility of queer people of color from the dominant narrative in US culture.  It's a critical step towards building a movement that recognizes the ways that the fight for queer liberation and the fight to dismantle racism are the same fight.

This is a tremendous moment in US history and in Queer history.  I want to dedicate this blog post to this historic moment and I hope that you will honor this moment too.   Please take a min and write a letter to the editor of your local paper and/or gay media source honoring Representative Takano.  Copy and paste the image below and post it on your facebook page.  Let your friends know about this historic election and don't let the media define what queer liberation looks like. 

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