Monday, November 02, 2009

Tales from Rural Maine: "Question 1"

Earlier this year, Maine legislators took the admirable step of granting equal marriage rights to all Mainers, including same-sex couples. The governor signed the legislation into law and ever since the spring, it has been legal for any two adults to marry in this state, should they choose to. The governor, who once spoke out in favor of civil unions instead of true marriage, says he signed the law because he came to realize that separate is inherently unequal. He is now an advocate for equal marriage rights (bless him).

Unfortunately, shortly after the new law was passed, some Mainers gathered signatures to create a ballot initiative similar to California's tragic Proposition 8, which took marriage rights away. Tomorrow, Mainers will go to the polls to decide the issue.

I moved back to Maine this year in part because of this law. I might like to get married someday soon, but as a bisexual citizen and native Mainer who happens to have a male partner, I feel that any law which denies civil rights to lesbians or gays denies them to me, as well. For this reason, I take the No on 1 campaign personally (as with Californa, a No vote means yes, gays can marry) and it's been deeply upsetting to see Yes on 1 signs sprout up all around me. I have at least one friend and, I suspect, at least two close family members who will be voting to deny me my right to marry tomorrow. This hurts. It hurts so much that I decided not to engage with them about it. Will they have a revelation, as the governor did, before tomorrow and either vote No or abstain? I hope so. Could I have persuaded them by engaging in debate? Definitely not. So, I've left them and their consciences to it.

While for me, the denial of marriage rights is personal, for my straight friends, there is no reason they should be compelled to vote No--no reason, apart from a passionate commitment to equality, freedom, and American values. I have been profoundly moved by the fire with which my straight, married and unmarried friends have fought on behalf of my minority. (For the record, I would have rather been a lesbian, but I had no choice in the matter. You love who you love and there it is.)

We, the not-heterosexual people, cannot attain equality without the consent of the majority. We cannot be equal unless enough people who aren't like us believe this to be so. Fortunately, amazingly, almost all of my straight friends get downright furious when they even think about Yes voters. And I love them so much for this fury. This fury is love, it is fairness, it is the good fight. And no matter what happens tomorrow, I am buoyed by this love and righteousness.

I am also moved by the continuous stream of unexpected No voters. One straight, married friend's dad, an elderly man with conservative views, for instance. He is legally blind, so my friend was tasked with doing his voting for him. She was very tempted to vote No for him--he'd never know!--but of course, she would never actually do such a thing. She had to make her peace with the act of ticking that Yes box for her father.

When the day came (he voted early) she read him the question. Then she read it to him again. After one more time, he gave it some thought and then he said, "I think I'll vote No. Let's give them a chance."

As much ugliness has risen up around Question 1--a great many No on 1 signs in our town have been found flattened with tire treads embedded in them, for instance--there is also this beauty. For every neighbor who stakes a Yes on 1 sign in her yard, there is someone like my friend's dad who says, "Let's give them a chance."

In the picture (above), my first girlfriend (a native Mainer) and her fiancee (whose Mom lives in Maine) stand in Bucksport with me and my sweetheart, Peter. We are all created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. Among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While some joke that marriage is not happiness, we would all like a chance to try. If you agree we have that right, please vote NO tomorrow on Question 1 and urge your friends and loved ones to join you at the polls.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

It's Time to Go Back to the Future

In Sean Penn's acceptance speech at the Oscars this year, he said, "I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

Hear, hear.

Mr. Penn got a rousing round of applause and whistles from his audience.

I found this part of his speech to be particularly moving and memorable because it asks us to step outside the time and place in which we are immersed; it asks us to move away for a moment and to see with the help of the light shining back at us from the future; and because it asks us to remember the world our grandchildren will live in. I say "remember" not "imagine" (while Penn says "anticipate") because... we have been there already. We are all someone's grandchildren. We are all now arriving in what was once someone else's far-off future. That distant, futuristic time when black men could be President and the Red Sox could win the World Series. It's crazy, right? Except that it happened. Just like men on the moon and women on the Supreme Court. It really did happen.

Penn's speech reminded me of something I wrote in my journal about a month before the Academy Awards, just a few days after President Obama was inaugurated. I share it with you now, on the first night after the California Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the legality of Prop. 8, because I, too, hope that those who object to equal rights for everyone will, as Penn says, sit and reflect and anticipate the future--and then make the brave choice to open their minds in the way that suffragists did; to trust that even if your religious faith or your personal preference mean that you do not approve of gay marriage, that you will stand on the side of democracy, equality, the Constitution, and human kindness, just as abolitionists (and every civil rights advocate ever) did.

Here's what I wrote:

"If you think you are one of the people who--if transported back in time--would stand up for the things you know to be right; if you think you would fight for women's suffrage or to free the slaves or to stop the war in Vietnam; if you think you would protect child workers or poor immigrants or sharecroppers; if you think you would stop the Holocaust, or register black voters, or desegregate schools, or refuse to give up your seat on the bus--then I'm telling you: your time is now.

If you were to travel back in time and be given the chance to end discrimination, fight for freedom, or foster peace, what makes you think you would not tell yourself the same things you tell yourself now: that you are too busy; that it is too soon; that you cannot afford it; that someone else will do it?

What makes you think that you would not go back in time and worry more about whether you looked cool, fit in, or earned enough money? What makes you think you would not obsess about your weight/your love life/your job/or some celebrity's divorce/relationship/plastic surgery/wardrobe/weight gain or loss?

What makes you think you would not just watch TV and buy a house and work to pay your mortgage?

To us, looking back, it is obvious that slavery should end, the states should be united, people of color, poor people, and women should all be allowed to vote, hold office, become doctors or teachers. To us, looking back, it is obvious that blacks and whites could--and should--drink from the same fountains, attend the same schools, and sit wherever they like on busses. (Ditto recycling, wheelchair ramps, accessible bathrooms, and female athletes.)

But to the people of those times, it took vision, determination, and courage. It took imprisonment and hunger strikes and a war time resolution to finally get women the vote. It took even more than that to get it for black women. It even took more than what President Obama likes to call "hope."

To the people 40 years from now, we are 1969. You have traveled back in time from then and you can spark the change that your future self believes in. If you stood up for Barack Obama; if you elected the first black American President, then don't sit down yet. Stand up until a woman President is elected. Stand up until there is more than one black Senator. Stand up to protect a woman's right to make her own healthy, well-informed, reproductive choices. Stand up until the health care system is fixed. Stand up until corporations are treated like businesses (not people) and held acocuntable as such under the law. Stand up until tax dollars are spent responsibly. Stand up until there is an equal rights amendment. And, for the love of God--or if you prefer, for the love of democracy--stand up for same-sex marriage and family rights.

Whatever your religious or personal objections might be to same-sex marriages and families, those same things were said about blacks in the 40s and 50s and 60s, about women in the 1860s and 70s and 80s (and on...), and about Asians, Jews, immigrants, Catholics, Native Americans...

You can't go back to 1969 and tell everyone what their new President is about to do; you can't join the protesters who were trying to stop the war; you can't convince Robert McNamara that later on he'll regret it; you can't be there to help at Stonewall; you can't save Mary Jo Kopechne or Sharon Tate or the civilians at My Lai; you can't watch the first men land on the moon or attend Woodstock; and you can't stop AIDS.

But you do have a chance to travel back in time from 2049 to 2009, to the difficult and magical days just after the first African-American President was elected in this country; a time when the world found itself facing a nearly unprecedented financial crisis brought on and perpetuated by corporate greed, bureaucratic apathy, a bloated and distracted government, and a confused and overmatched electorate. The system is broken. This is an opportunity for change. You have a chance to go back to the future. So what will you do?"

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

In Defense of Marriage--For All

On Tuesday, three states passed propositions that would limit the rights of same-sex couples to marry. The next day, at my Facebook page, I posted a status that said, "Naomi is exhausted and sad."

My friend Elizabeth asked, "why sad?"

And I responded thusly: "I'm sad because there are still so many people determined to deny others the right to marry. three states yesterday...and because bigotry makes my heart ache. And because someone blew up a predominantly black church near here this morning. And because, truth be told, I really, really, really wanted to be celebrating the first woman President today, and while I threw my full support behind Obama--and am humbled and proud and full of respect for the progress we've made as a nation in electing him--I ache with a longing so profound I can barely articulate it for the day when this same sense of victory and equality will be shared by women."

I also changed my profile picture to the one you see above and joined a couple of Facebook groups that are rallying to repeal Prop 8 in California. The California proposition was especially upsetting because I used to call California home, and because two of my best friends were married there this summer, only to now experience the devastating news that their marriage vows may be rendered invalid.

And here's the beauty of Facebook. I was able to feel less alone in my grief and upset. I received coomfort from friends and was also able to offer it to others. And I also received this note from a high school friend that I enjoy connecting with on Facebook, but who I haven't seen in more than a decade.

She identifies as "moderate/conservative--purple," Christian, and is married with a young child. She wrote today to ask me this:

enlighten me please....why is it okay for homosexuals to reject christianity and our God, which is where marriage gets its origin, but it's called bigotry or discrimination for christians to ask that they establish civil unions for their relationships instead of marriages (which is a christian institution)? if we are to respect all people equally, does that not go both ways? i'm not saying that their relationships should have any less legal standing, they should have rights too, as everyone should, but if they so reject the premise of marriage, which is between a man and a woman according to God and christian principles, why do they so crave to have their union referred to as a marriage, not a legal union.

i'm not trying to sound mean or better then anyone, i'm legitmately asking a question from someone whom i respect and believe is more enlightened then i am on the subject. thanks naomi."

I am sharing my response to my friend here, and welcome your comments--and also encourage the sharing of my response with others. Forward along, if you see fit.

Here is what I told her (my response was so long I had to break it into parts in order to send it through Facebook):

"I am so glad you asked...

I think the answer to your question lies in our understanding of what marriage is.

You are defining marriage as being “between a man and a woman according to God and Christian principles,” but, while that may be true in your church and for you personally, it’s not actually true universally and should not be a lawful definition of marriage under civil law. Would you say to a Jewish couple that their marriage is invalid because it was not made according to Christian principles? Certainly not. (I hope not, anyway!)

I understand your attachment to the definition of marriage as being according to God and Christian principles—it’s very important to you--but marriage pre-dates Christianity and it also exists in myriad valid forms outside Christendom. Thousands of people get married every day, all over the world—and in our own country—in faiths other than Christianity and their marriages are still “marriages” despite not having a single wit to do with Christian principles. If a Buddhist couple in Japan or a Muslim couple in Afghanistan or a Jewish couple in Israel or a pagan couple in Ireland or a Hindu couple in India or a couple of secular yahoos in England (or California, for that matter) get married, they definitely do not define their union as being according to “God and Christian principles,” but those marriages would all be recognized as marriages in the United States.

Just as being married—and calling it that--is incredibly important to you, it’s equally important to non-Christian and same-sex couples who may hold different definitions dear to them, based on their personal or religious beliefs. How would you feel if you couldn’t call your husband your husband any more because some other religious group said so? (You’d feel frustrated, dismayed, angry, and awful, I expect—and rightly so.)

Giving same-sex marriages a different word is exactly the same as giving black Americans separate train cars, schools, and water fountains. To give it another name is to make it less-than, separate—and as Barack Obama (and the Supreme Court) will tell you in a heartbeat—separate is inherently unequal.

A different path

There are, essentially, two kinds of marriage, religious and civil. At issue here is only the legal contract of a civil marriage, as recognized by individual states, not the religious ceremony. (The Defense of Marriage Act prevents same-sex marriages from being acknowledged across state borders, so for the purposes of our discussion today, the issue is at the state level.)

The two kinds of marriage, religious and civil, often overlap one another—most Americans do both--but they are two separate and distinct events. One happens in a church, synagogue, or other sacred venue; the other happens at city hall (or wherever you file your marriage license). They are related, but they are not the same thing. For instance, it’s the civil marriage that you have to break when you divorce, not the religious one. (That’s why you need a lawyer.)

What same-sex couples are seeking is equal treatment under the law. They want to legally marry, not according to God and Christian principles, but according to a lawful civil definition of marriage.

There, but for grace

You, as a Christian, understand marriage to be one thing. You have a strong and clear belief about what marriage means in your faith, but each faith sets its own parameters for what marriage is and what it means.

Your idea is vastly different from my Mormon friends who were sealed in a private ceremony in a temple for all eternity. And it is also different from my Jewish friends, my Jehovah’s Witness friends, my Buddhist friends, my non-religious friends, my Wiccan or pagan friends, and even from some of my other Christian friends—the Unitarian Universalists, for instance. In some faiths, marriages are arranged. In some, there need not be witnesses. In others, a dowry is still required. Because there are so many different forms of marriage based on faith, it is not fair—or legal, in my opinion—for any one religious group to control what marriage (or any other religious practice) means to other religious or non-religious groups. Just as a church has a right to baptize its members by dipping them in a river instead of anointing them with oil or holy water (or whatever other form they find sacred) at whatever age they feel is appropriate, if a religion wants to allow same-sex marriages, then that is its right; if it doesn’t, then that is its right, as well. But when it comes to rights granted by the states, those should absolutely not be dependent upon one religious group’s interpretation of the right.

When I had a Jewish girlfriend, for instance, I could not have married her in her temple—not because I was a woman, but because I’m not Jewish. No one is trying to pass a law saying that Rabbis have to marry non-Jews in temple—nor, for that matter, that they have to marry same-sex couples. That’s entirely up to them. Decisions about religious marriage belong in the faiths; decisions about legal contracts of marriage belong with the states (or, I would argue, at the federal level, but again, that point is moot for now).

To have and to hold

What is particularly egregious about the Prop 8 situation in California is that opponents of same-sex marriage, motivated by religious doctrine, voted to amend the state’s constitution in order to explicitly deny the right to marry for same-sex couples. The U.S. Constitution and the state constitutions are documents designed to grant rights, not take them away. It sets a dangerous and disturbing precedent to use the Constitution to single out a group of people and deny them a civil right based solely on one religion’s interpretation of marriage.

The First Amendment was designed to prohibit the establishment of a national religion, or the preference of one religion over another, or the preference of religion over non-religion. To use a religious definition for state marriage contracts is to impose one religious view on the populous, flying in the face of what is arguably the most important tenet of our entire society (along with freedoms of speech, press, and assembly).

If you don’t believe your church should marry same-sex couples, then I would argue that’s a battle to fight in your congregation or with the leaders of your faith, not something that should happen at the constitutional level.

We are all granted by our beautiful, necessary, incredible Constitution the right to practice our faiths freely. In fact, it’s so important that it’s the very first line of the very First Amendment. This is true not just for marriage-related rituals, but for all sorts of other things as well. My Mormon friends don’t baptize their children until the age of eight, for instance, and are forbidden from drinking hot beverages or alcohol. I assume that you baptized your child sometime shortly after she was born and perhaps, if you are Catholic, she will have a confirmation—or if you’re not, she won’t.

I think to get a good view of the issue, if one is in the majority religion (as you are), one has to try to take a big step back from one’s religious beliefs, take a deep breath, and then imagine what life would be like if one were in the minority. What if, for instance, Mormonism were the dominant religion in our country? It is, after all, the fastest growing religion in the world and it spent a reported $22 million backing Prop 8 in California. What if, after marriage, leaders of this religion moved on to amend the Constitution of your state to ban alcohol (we tried this once, remember, and it was the origin of organized crime) or to ban coffee (egad!) or to remove the right to baptize a child within its first year of life, etc.? What if this were about requiring or banning circumcision?

I assume this would bother you. And it should bother you. At its center, the United States is a place where we should be able to live free from religious oppression. It is the very thing the pilgrims came seeking when they fled; it is part of what we will celebrate on Thanksgiving. (And, it’s what the ancestors of my beloved Mormon friends were seeking when they fled violence and persecution to go west and eventually create a safe haven for themselves in Salt Lake. Unfortunate that now this church is apparently leading a movement to oppress others…)

Religious freedom is an essential part of what makes our country great. Separation of church and state means that if you want marry in your church, whatever wacky church that might be, then “mazel tov!” The state won’t stop you. So, why should the church be able to say to the state, “No way, no how, you can’t ‘marry’ unless you do it our way”?

I believe that every adult has a right to make a loving commitment to another consenting adult to join their lives and finances together as spouses and to make a family, if they so choose--and to call this marriage. Remember, it used to be illegal for a black person and a white person to be wed, but now we acknowledge that those people have a right to marry—regardless of their faith. I believe same-sex couples are entitled to this same basic human right.

For me, it’s not about homosexuality. I would be just as sad today if someone from another faith were preventing you from legally wedding your husband; I would fight for your right to marry, too.

What is at issue here is that people—of any gender—who wish to marry should have the right to do so, even if it offends or upsets members of certain religious groups. Same-sex couples seeking a legal marriage are not “rejecting Christianity and your God” as you say. They are trying to embrace a life of romantic and social commitment. As difficult as it may be to let go of your religious perspective, this is a civil rights issue, not a religious issue. The voters are not trying to amend your church’s canon; they are trying to amend a state’s constitution. And this is wrong.

I welcome your feedback and hope I’ve answered your question. :-)>>

I haven't heard back from my friend yet, but what I love about this is that she respected me enough to ask--and I care for and respect her enough to answer. I hope that my respect came through in my response.

As President-elect Obama says, "I will listen, especially when we disagree."

On whichever side of this issue you stand, I hope that you will really and truly open your ears and your heart and listen to the voice of the other side--and speak with respect in return. It is my great hope that you will come to stand on the side of tolerance and human rights and equality. But, whether or not you do, the Obama Presidency is not just about an African-American family in the White House; it's not just about ending war in Iraq or helping the middle class or resolving our economic crisis. It's about this great, intangible thing that he articulated on election night. It's about becoming a new America--a United States of America--where we can achieve change; where we can be honest, even when it's difficult; and where we can listen, especially when we disagree.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Count the Votes in Michigan and Florida

I wrote this letter today to the DNC. On May 31st, they will meet to decide about Michigan and Florida. If you want those votes to be counted and those delegates to be seated, please take the time to contact the DNC today. Feel free to use any or all of the text below from my correspondence.

One way to contact them is through this form at Hillary Clinton's Web site. You do not have to be a Hillary supporter to use this form to tell the DNC what you think.

Yours in support of democracy,


>>Dear Mr. Dean:

While I understand that the DNC intended to take a hard line with Florida and Michigan when it set the punishment for moving up their primaries/caucuses, and that the democratic leadership in those states undertook the decision to move elections knowing full well what the punishment was, it is clear that some action must now be taken to include the voters in those states.

It was too harsh a punishment, devised naively and unfairly, in my opinion, and a remedy must be sought--something fair and reasonable.

What is paramount is this: the voters in Michigan and Florida must be heard. It was not their decision to move the primaries, but rather that of their party leaders. We must not penalize the citizens for the mistakes of their party.

Further, because the race for the Democratic nominee is so close, so hard-fought, it is vital that every state be counted. The entire country should be allowed to choose its nominee.

I know that both candidates consented to run knowing that Florida and Michigan would not be counted, but what choice did they have?

And, of course, we cannot ignore the vital importance of considering two states, which can swing the final outcome in the general election in November. Democratic Floridians, in particular, have been injured profoundly by elections-based mistakes and misdeeds in the past. It is vitally important that we make right by them this time around.

Please, count the votes and seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan at the convention.

Sincerely yours,

Naomi Graychase
Easthampton, MA>>

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Think...and Vote

My dearest friends,

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, aka, "Super Duper Tuesday," "Giga Tuesday," and "The Tuesday of Destiny."

If you are in one of the 22 states holding primaries and/or caucuses tomorrow, I'm hoping you'll go vote.

If you are in Massachusetts or California, you can vote (I believe) in the primary even if you are registered as an Independent.

If you haven't registered yet, what a great time to do it!

I think you can get a voter registration form at your local post office, or you can visit an online site, such as Rock the Vote to register online or learn how to register in your state. If you get registered, you'll be able to vote in the election this fall--and that's very important.

In general, I don't like to urge people to vote one way or another. I am pro-choice, and this includes politics. I think you should make your own informed choice and act on it--and that it's a private choice that is basically none of my business.

This year, however, I am breaking my mind-your-own-business rule, and I'm sending out this e-mail asking you to give Hillary Clinton your vote tomorrow.

I will keep my plea simple. If you are not currently planning to vote for her, I will only ask you to take a few deep breaths and then give *real* thought to the reasons you have felt resistant to voting for her. Among the reasons I have heard from my (independent or democratic, progressive, intelligent) friends of late:

--"I'm too much of a feminist to vote for her just because she's a woman."
--"I don't like the way she handled her husband's infidelity."
--"She can't win."
--"I won't be able to stand watching FOX news go after her for four
years, if she wins the Presidency."
--"The conservatives hate her too much. I'm sick of divisive politics."
---"It's too much, this Bush-Bush-Clinton-Clinton, thing. It's like Pakistan. It's not healthy."
--"She's not personable."
--"I don't like her."

If any of these are your reasons, I implore you to consider the following:

--We live in a society, which has seen 43 consecutive male Presidents; where the Senate is not even 10% female; where, in essence, our world is governed by men for men. We are not done--not even nearly done--with the fight for equal rights. We barely have one generation
of women who were born after Roe v. Wade and Title IX, and each of those things are in dire jeopardy even as I write this. Our work is not done. It still matters a great deal that women get a seat at the table, that little girls--and especially little boys!--learn that women can be powerful, women can be leaders, women can be EQUAL. Try this, if you don't believe me: find a little girl--or an adolescent--and ask her to name five famous women. If she names anyone
who isn't either fictional or in the entertainment industry, then go ahead and vote for a male candidate.

--How much do you know about the other candidate's marriages? Is the way a candidate chooses to handle his or her spouse's infidelity really and truly the standard of measure you want to use when electing a PRESIDENT? Hillary Clinton is not running for President of the PTA or your senior class. This is much bigger than her marriage. How she handled that painful, embarrassing situation is her own business--and, honestly, if what she's done is honor her vow, even when it felt impossible, isn't that a good quality in a President? If what she's done is found forgiveness instead of hostility, isn't that the kind of leader we want?

--Almost everyone said the NY Giants couldn't win yesterday, and look how that turned out. We thought Bush couldn't win, and he did. Twice. Don't rule Hillary out because you believe she's not electable. Focus on your own ideas about what's important and vote based on that. You
simply cannot know what the American electorate will do in November, so don't give up on anyone based on a fear that they can't win. Give her a chance. She may surprise you.

--If the idea of FOX news coverage of her Presidency bothers you so much, how about you just stop watching FOX news? :-)

--We are a divisive nation. It's time to stick up for what you believe in. Besides, if the people who believe in everything you stand against hate your candidate, then that candidate is doing something right. The small-minded hate-mongers won't love any democrat or progressive,
ever. They hate Obama, too, it's just less politically correct to come out and say so. In short, you can't not vote for the right person just because you fear the ire of the bad guys. They hated Bill Clinton, too, but his Presidency is widely regarded as a whopping success.
Don't let hate win by being afraid of it.

--As for the Bush-Bush-Clinton-Clinton thing...the bad guys stole at least one election--and a lot of people have suffered and died as a result. Voting against Hillary Clinton because sixteen years ago her husband won an election and then another, and then somebody stole one?
It's just bad logic--and unfair, if you ask me. (Which, you didn't, I do realize.) :-) The system is flawed, but the way to fix it is not to reject Hillary Clinton.

--As for the last two complaints, if you've met her and still believe she's not personable, or you still don't like her, then go ahead, vote for someone else. But, if you are basing this on FOX news, or most any other media, just give her the benefit of the doubt and take a moment
to investigate further. Watch this video, for instance. Or listen to her daughter. Or, at the very least, consider the actual value of having a personable President. The idiot running the show right now is known for his folksy, personable nature and he's the worst thing since taxation
without representation. Maybe we'd be better off with someone who comes off as a little more...Presidential.

The last thing I'll say is this: my e-mail is not an anti-Obama message. I gave money to the Obama campaign. He's a great candidate and the implications of having the first African-American President are monumental. I do not wish to get into a debate about which is more important--a woman or a person of color.

This e-mail is an attempt to counteract some of the small-minded foolishness that has seeped like a conservative fog into the minds of even some of the brightest and most progressive among us. If you have said or thought any of the above, I am trying to wake you up, splash
some cold water on your face, and invite you out into the fresh air and sunshine, so that you can make your choice with a clear head. If, after you give it some honest thought, you really and truly believe that someone else deserves your vote, then by all means, vote for another candidate.

In short, I want you to THINK. And I want you to VOTE.

Thank you so much for tolerating my e-mail invasion of perspective. It makes me really uncomfortable to pontificate, but it just feels so important to speak up...

This concludes our broadcast. :-)

Feel free to forward.

With love, both for you and democracy,


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shopping for a Candidate

I should begin by saying that in the last election, I voted for Dennis Kucinich. Not only did I vote for him, I relinquished my status as an Independent and registered as a Democrat for the first time in my life so that I could vote for him in the primary. I discovered later that in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts one can vote in a party’s primary even if one is not registered in that party, so the gesture wasn’t necessary, but the point is, I was committed enough to do it.

This time around, despite my fondness for Congressman Kucinich, which was intensified after meeting him last time, but then somewhat dampened by his decision to marry someone other than me, I was feeling like maybe I ought to get in with the cool kids. I mean, this time around, it’s not a choice between dull and duller, or lame and lamer, there are actually some exciting candidates in the running.

After much internal struggle—do you support the guy whose faith and politics you really love, but who has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected, the woman, or the black guy?--I decided to go for the woman.

So, I went online to buy some Hillary gear.

I haven’t paid awfully close attention to the Presidential campaigns yet, although I’m horrified that Mitt Romney is running (having endured him as governor here) and I did watch one of the debates, the one co-branded with YouTube and hosted by Anderson Cooper. (He sure has come a long way since hosting The Mole, hasn’t he?)

I thought that Obama gave the best, most Presidential performance, with Hillary a close second. Sadly, my favorite candidate was the butt of a (really funny) joke that he didn’t quite get. But, that’s okay. We still love you, Dennis.

I started my Presidential schwag shopping with Hillary because, after some unsettling conversations with some of my favorite female (and feminist, I think) friends, I realized that, despite her fantastic fundraising abilities and her performance in the polls, there seems to be a real lack of support among the people I think should be automatically supporting her: white, progressive, liberal and/or Democrat women. I mean, she’s a woman. Don’t you understand what this means? How important it is for your daughters? For us? For the world? 43 consecutive white, male Presidents and you want to quibble over her haircut or her ability to alienate the right wing? Come ON.

So, I decided it was time to put my money—and possibly my fashion—where my mouth is and gear up. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything I really wanted to buy at Hillary’s site, with the possible exception of an “Asian American [sic] & Pacific Islanders for Hillary” button, which I thought would be funny on me.

Other groups singled out were African Americans [sic], Jews, gays, nurses, veterans, women, children, and educators. The only one I fit into is "women," but, honestly, while I am supporting Hillary primarily because she is a woman, I don’t think I want to wear a Women for Hillary button. I was looking for something really stylish or really clever. Something that made a great statement. I still display on the wall of my office the "Vote for Hillary's Husband," buttons I got when I volunteered for the Clinton/Gore campaign in '92. I guess I was hoping there might be a "Vote for Bill's Wife," button to complete the set, or something...but there wasn't anything like that.

I was on the brink of buying her somewhat stylish and kind of clever slim-fitting signature tee shirt (for $20.08 plus shipping and handling), but then my best friend reminded me that I never wear tee shirts. Oh, Hillary. Why don’t you sell tank tops? Why?

I wasn’t getting quite what I wanted from this candidate, who, on the face of it seems to be my ideal match. So, I decided to just, you know, take a peek at Barak Obama’s site. Now, this guy, he knows how to give the people what they want. If you want to back Obama, you can do it with a cozy fleece blanket, a wide selection of gorgeous buttons, or—yes, that’s right—ladies tank tops. Unfortunately, most of the attractive, affordable, made-in-the-USA tank tops sport the “Women for Obama” slogan, which I find alienating. However, Barak did not stop there. There are a plethora of shirts and tanks for women, including several color schemes with cap sleeves and cute little hot pink baby doll number with Obama’s face between the boobs—for only ten bucks! I was nearly sold…but then I thought…perhaps I should just look at Kucinich’s merchandise, just to see what’s out there. I mean, before I write him off completely, why don't I see what he can do for me?

And that’s when he got me. As soon as I landed at his web site, my heart (and my wallet) was won.

My favorite candidate; the guy who tells the truth and soldiers on and genuinely cares about America; the guy with the hot wife and the UFO sighting: he was offering a signed, pocket-sized Constitution, just like the one he carries around. He carries around a Constitution! How could you NOT love this guy.

So, Hillary can keep her “Let’s Make History” shirts and Obama can keep his sexy tank. I gave my $50 to the Kucinich campaign, in exchange for my very own signed pocket-sized copy of the Constitution. I put my money where my heart is.

Tonight, I watched a YouTube video of Dennis speaking before an ani difranco concert, and with tears in my eyes, I went back to the site. His campaign is trying to raise $1 million by tomorrow. They have, to date, $277,000 toward this goal. Money given before the end of tomorrow (November 29) is eligible for matching funds. So, tonight, I gave another $40, in exchange for a collection of buttons, stickers, and signs. I’m going to give some to my mother, who introduced me to the candidate in the first place, and use the rest to spread the word.

You may think that Dennis Kucinich is unelectable, but this is only true if you don’t vote for him. One of the great things about America is that if enough people believe, anyone is electable. And the more money he has, the longer he can stay in the race, and the longer he stays in the race, the more he can influence the debate. This is a different sort of victory than winning the White House, but a victory nonetheless.

I’m hoping you’ll give to the Kucinich campaign, and that you’ll give him your vote in your state’s primary or caucus. And if his message of peace and prosperity doesn’t sway you, if honesty, courage, and compassion aren’t enough to get you to open your wallet or your mouth, then you might at least swing by the Kucinich campaign store. They have a coffee mug that’s very tempting, and a kerchief for your dog that’s practically irresistible.

Naomi Graychase first registered to vote in 1990. The first election in which she was old enough to vote was 1992. At that time, she was living in Washington, DC doing an internship at the Smithsonian. She spent her free time touring the museums and monuments of her nation's capitol, and volunteering for the Clinton/Gore campaign. She shook Governor Clinton's hand once, as he was arriving at the Washington Hilton (which she recognized as the site of the Reagan assassination attempt, an event which she watched on TV at the age of nine while sitting in a bar with her father. )

Naomi took the results of the last two elections very hard, but she has tried to do her part to combat the darkness at work in American society and politics by forming Sister Spit Northampton, registering voters, and encouraging others through her writing, performances, and speaking engagements to do what is necessary in times of darkness: make more light.

After voting in four Presidential elections, she's batting .500, which would be good if she were a slugger, but which feels pretty crummy, given how many people have died as a result of President Bush remaining in office.

Despite having nearly lost her faith in the Supreme Court, the democratic process, and the American electorate, she is still moved to tears every time she enters a polling place. She loves to vote. I mean, she LOVES to vote.

If you have abandoned your town's voting booth, if you've given up on the democratic process or the American electorate, she hopes that you will see that this is what the bad guys are counting on. She hopes that you will re-emerge, stronger, determined, more optimistic, and that you will re-discover the beautiful privilege of voting for yourself. People died so that you could do this. Don't let them down.