Saturday, August 7, 2010

When Paper Tigers Roar

Today I woke up to my local paper running a front page story featuring California Attorney General Jerry Brown and our Governerator...Arnold Schwarzenegger calling on Judge Vaughn Walker to cancel the stay on his Prop 8 ruling and allow same-sex marriages to resume. The headline runs like this:

Schwarzenegger: Let Same-Sex Weddings Resume
My first thought, its nice to see such vocal support from our state leaders. The story also runs in just about every blog today in some form and the comments are all by and large expressions of appreciation for our Governor and Attorney General. They are lauded as stand up figures putting it on the line for the gay community. But thats when a sneaky second thought hit me...

"Wait a minute! What do these men really stand to lose by coming out now after its all but said and done?"....

oh dam you second thoughts...Don't go raining on my otherwise positive parade. But he was not to be dismissed. I kept coming back to it and to the words of our fierce advocate and President in the wake of the Prop 8 trial results. After all some of these people have publically claimed to be advocates for the gay community or at a minimum...not supportive of discrimination. But where exactly is the meat in this bologna sandwich?

That Jerry Brown would jump into the media spotlight with a statement like this is not unusual behavior for him by itself. However, he has been pretty consistant with verbal support for the gay community and the repeal of prop 8. During trial Both Jerry Brown and Governer Schwarzenegger vowed not to defend Prop 8...a move breaking from their traditional role of defenders of state law. By choosing not to defend, they sent a clear message about how they felt about the content of Proposition matter what their personal beliefs may have been.

But now my cynical side:

During the state trial over prop the litgators were setting up brilliant arguments to persuade the State Supreme Court that voting on gay Californians civil rights violated their constitutional rights...Jerry Browns office sent one Not the resourses of a department dedicated to seeing Prop 8 dead. One guy with a notepad who looked like he had put his case together alone...overnight...on a shoestring budget. Go back to the Youtube videos and watch it for yourself.

Additionally, the Governorship is coming up for grabs again, and the Attorney General has his eye set on that office. He also has a very conservative opponent in the person of Meg Whitman. Whats a guy to do to set himself appart?....Come out hard for gay rights mayby?....make grand statements in the press to Judge Walker when during the entire trial you had been nearly invisible except to announce your intentions to run for Governor? Coopt a little thunder for your campaign perhaps?

Now...Governor Schwarzen-i-believe-marriage-is-one-man-and-one-womanegger....TWICE had the opportunity to sign a bill that would have made gay marriage legal prior to the passage of prop 8. But that would have been too directly supportive of the gay community and would have probably meant  premature republican career lets pass that buck to the courts then shall we. Then, no matter how the courts decide, we can issue grand statements to the media as if we had supported that outcome all along. may be a Replican, but that doesn't mean that you can't take a page out of your Democratic Presidents play book of tortured logic. Where polititcians always go when they need plausible deniability for supporting a position they actually do not.

Which brings us to our "Fierce Advocate" who has been nothing if not contradictory concerning gay rights and same-sex marriage in particular. His viewpoint has been very plainly stated that he found Prop 8 to be "discriminatory" and "divisive". Then in the same breath expressed that he feels that marriage should be between one man and one woman. But hell...dont listen to me...Rachel explains it so much at 3:40

He does not support same-sex marriage...yet does support civil partnerships...which still seems a little Jim Crow to me. It send the message that what he has in marriage isn't appropriate for you to have as a gay citizen...which, even if a civil partnership conveyed all the same rights and responsibilities of marriage, seperates us from what he has. That is the inherent inequality of that situation and why I often bring up the separate drinking fountain analogy.

This is the nature of our allies...."I don't believe in your rights...but I also don't publically believe you should be discriminated against" .......or alternately...."I don't mind you being  gay and wanting to get married and all but I can't be seen getting too close to you guys or I'll never get reellected."

Um...o.k....thanks...but if you are our allies shouldnt you be helping?...or something? As elected leadership can you know...lead?

So, Jerry Brown, with Governor Schwarzeneggers backing, has filed a brief with Judge Vaughn Walker asking him to eliminate the stay, claiming that it is in the best interest of the citizens of California. But is it really the interest of California's citizens they are representing? If so, then  it's a wonderfull...if somewhat hollow gesture. In the end, Judge Walker is going to do what he thinks is appropriate...and influence from the Attorney General will do little other than lend appearances that benefit Jerry Brown rather than have any substantial effect.

And so the circus and media frenzy of the Prop 8 trial continues to provide entertainment for one and all. The elephants parade and the donkies charade. Everyone's got an agenda, opinion, or ax to grind. The illusion
 can be so mesmerizing it can become difficult to tell the real from the fake. The roar of the tiger can be so fierce when he knows someone is listening. Its only when his edges begin to curl that you can peel back the glue and see whats underneath. For all that ferocity, and all that noise, there is very little action to back up their claims of advocacy. Thats the nature of paper tigers.


  1. Bravo, Bryan. Another thoughtful post. "Everyone's got an agenda, opinion, or ax to grind. The illusion can be so mesmerizing it can become difficult to tell the real from the fake. The roar of the tiger can be so fierce when he knows someone is listening. Its only when his edges begin to curl that you can peel back the glue and see whats underneath." This pretty much describes the state of our over-saturated media, from radio to television to Internet. So much information, so little of it real, most of it half-truths twisted to fit some agenda. A truth-seeker has to find it by combining all the different half-truths, add a healthy dose of skepticism (not cynicism which adds a bitter taste) and let it simmer with a bit of contemplation. It's not as easy as the Happy Meals that come pre-packaged from the usual outlets, but taste much better, and healthier, too.

  2. I saw the news yesterday and was kind of shocked that Schwarzenegger actually said something pro-gay marriage. All this time he's been politically neutral and if anything against us, given him vetoing stuff twice. So with him, I'll take what I can get, and was quite pleased with the news. It is nice that some are stepping up at this important time, even if they're motives aren't 100% pure. I don't care too much about that, I just want results.

    I believe my initial impression of Obama has been confirmed. He's a politican through and through straddling the fence on divisive issues. I don't think well or badly of him for that. He's concerned with political survival which I understand, but obviously the "fierce advocate" talk is rhetoric. As long as he doesn't do anything negative against the gays I'm alright with it, although technically doing nothing is supporting the status quo which up until recently has been anti-gay. My opinion of him will directly be affected by his competition and just how supportive or antagonistic they are to the gay community.

    Like everybody I was so happy at the news of Vaughn's decision. I was pretty sure that's how things would go, but of course you never know for sure. I'm not a political person, so this has been sort of the 1st political event of anything that I at least partially followed or was even aware of (thanks to your channel, blog, videos, etc.). It's been really exciting, and I'm glad we came out on top for this round. Hopefully this continues for the future!

  3. Does it really matter? I mean, do politicians even have any influence on the issue anymore now that it has been stated that this is a civil right than can be voted on? (this is actually a question I'm actually curious about). I mean, it's all in the hands of the country's Judicial branch now, right?

  4. Most politicians are chickenshit to come out in support of LGBT rights.

    The reality of it is, they're terrified of the NOM and Tea Party crowds.

  5. Wow, powerful stuff. Especially, "Democratic Presidents play book of tortured logic". If I were you, I'd send this as a Letter to the Editor of every possible periodical. You know - in your spare time. <3 Sama

  6. I dont understand why humanity is so focused on dividing the us from the them. Why our group is better than the other people, and how its important for them to not to be treated equally. And i often wonder if one of the reasons the anti gay faction is fighting this so hard, is that really lgbt people are the only americans left who are second class citizens..... And if we were equal, who would be blamed for all of americans ills?

    Think about the groups that have been the scapegoats for our country, Chinese, Irish, American Indians, and people of various colors. But, one by one all of these groups have gotten equality, at least legally, and then the haters were off to a new group of people to hate all over. And for the most part, if you give it some thought, our jokes have mirrored this as well. The last acceptable group to joke about was blonde women....and then suddenly all of those jokes faded away, and now its lgbt who are the butts of jokes.

    I feel until a new group comes forward to be hated on, to be the ruin of our country and society as we know it, we are the scapegoats....sigh

  7. Indeed, The Governator has nothing to loose at this point, his tenure in California, my home state, is over this year. Jerry Brown may be trying for some political thunder, but he, at least, has been a consistant supporter of "gay" people. It would be nice if Judge Walker would rescind his Stay, but I think that the 9th Circuit would just issue their own Stay. We just need this to get through intact to the Supreme Court, and win with Theodore Olson at the helm. That would be a great day. Also, it would be a travesty if Meg Whitman became governer over the 8th largest economy in the world.

  8. I share much of the same sentiments you do: politicians always seem to be more worried about themselves than anyone else, and in many other professions that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. But when your job is, essentially, the public good, then it becomes a problem.

    On the other hand, politics is a really tricky profession: sometimes you have to sacrifice on one thing to gain on another. I'm no expert on Californian politics, but I could see a couple of reasons why these events turned out the way they did. The whole "ideal" of the government is that you're supposed to represent a body of people. Sometimes it's easy, and other times it's not. I could see someone like Arnold staying out of the battle because in an ideal sense, he should be representing the desires of the largest body of people he can under his jurisdiction. It sounds like he had already cast this ideal aside by not defending Prop 8, so you could interpret this move as either doing as much as he felt he could within his idea of reasonable bounds or doing as little as possible in order to capitalize on the winning side's wave of publicity. Perhaps he really doesn't support gay marriage, but believes that the Constitution should be followed and wants all American citizens to be able to take advantage of their civil rights. But again, I'm not an expert in Californian politics.

    On Cowboy's note about the modern media: I'm not so sure I agree. It is true that there's just so much information available now that it seems as if we're drowning in an ocean of it, but I do not see this as a bad thing. Every piece of work ever written/reported is biased, whether it was written two thousand years ago or broadcasted twenty seconds ago. The difference now is that we can compare thousands of opinions and compose our own understanding from them instead of three or five opinions; we're even better informed. Even the 'happy meal' articles are valuable: just one more viewpoint to consider. I think the real problem is the tendency of just reading the first article and believing that as true. We need to first learn, and then teach how to analyze and rate our information and finally derive a well-informed understanding of the topic from our own perspective.

  9. Schwarzenegger and Brown, who were named as the main defendants, could have easily decided to defend prop 8 in court, but they didn't. Because of that choice, Judge Walker let a group intercede on the side of the defense. That group may not have the grounds to appeal Walker's decision because they aren't the defendants named in the case. Schwarzenegger and Brown may have done us a tremendous favor by refusing to defend prop 8, so I don't think that its accurate to describe their actions as being too little too late.