Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What happened, California?

I thought California was supposed to be cool and hip and modern. The vote last week to amend California’s constitution to ban gay marriage didn’t pass by much, but it passed. I really don’t get it.

I know that, culturally, California is a bizarre bi-polar state that includes the hippy dippy Berkeley lefties and the tummy-tucked Irvine Reaganites, and that that combination can lead to some pretty strange results like, oh, I don’t know, the election of the Terminator as governor. But aren’t all Californians supposed to buy into the live-and-let-live mentality? I thought the Reagan right version of conservatism was just about kicking the poor a little more while they were down, all with a friendly smile and a nice optimistic attitude about the great future of our country, and that people were supposed to be able to do whatever they wanted, as long as they did it all themselves, without stealing any of the right’s hard earned dollars to pay for it. I didn’t hear about any gay couples asking for a handout to subsidize their weddings. And don’t all the really super wacko Bible thumping types live a few states over?

So what gives? The simplest explanation is that, at the end of the day, California has just as many plain old, straight up bigots as anywhere else. Gays are about the last group around about which it’s still pretty much acceptable most places to say, “you know, I just don’t like ‘em.” Most Californians may be cool enough not to come right out and say that – very un-Hollywood – but you don’t have to say it to think it, and voting results don’t lie. Feelings expressed through an anonymous, private vote are the real thing. There could be some outright fraud going on. In the year I lived in San Diego, I was approached more than once by people asking me to sign ballot initiative petitions for things there’s no way you could disagree with: end the torture of puppies; provide pencils for inner-city schools for kids with polio; eradicate acne on teen-agers. And just before I was about so sign, I would take a look at the actual text of the initiative (imagine that – an obvious future lawyer) only to find that the petition was in fact in support of one or another piece of anti-gay legislation. It was that brazen. All right there in the Carl’s Junior parking lot. So that could partially explain how the issue became a ballot initiative in the first place, but not how more than 50% of the population voted for it.

Well shame on you, California. We’ve been bumping off one prejudice after another, moving toward that wonderful world where we can all do our own thing in peace. Any you were supposed to be leading the way. We’ll get there someday. It’s just a matter of time before we produce a generation that’s shocked by the stories of the olden days where gays were treated as second-class citizens. But in the meantime, I guess your open-mindedness is just a cardboard movie set.

1 comment:

jaime said...

"And don’t all the really super wacko Bible thumping types live a few states over?"

Nope, they all live south of LA... a whole lot of them!