Disconnected

I had a great time in Vegas. I didn’t do much besides walk with my friends from one casino to another while watching one of them play slots as the other played poker, but the trip was very relaxing. Starting from around 10:30am on Friday, I had zero access to the internet all weekend. At first I was hesitant to be so disconnected from the world (I could have bought 24 hour access to WiFi in my hotel room for $12), but having no internet was a great way to force myself not to think about work or any other worries.

In other news, when I came back home Sunday afternoon, I found out about the swine flu outbreak. I hate hearing about possible pandemics; they really scare me. My heart starts racing any time I read about the Spanish Flu. I’ve been keeping up with the news on the swine flu, which makes me worry more. I really hope the World Health Organization (WHO) can get things under control quickly.

What a great way to come back from a weekend with no worries: worrying about a pandemic. I guess I can’t escape reality forever.

All Deserve A Chance

I was in my car driving on the freeway on my way to work. That is what I was doing when I listened to President Barack Obama’s inaugurational oath and speech. I think this is one of those moments that I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing when it happened, like September 11th (except happier).

On a typical day, I would have already been at work well before 9am and had no access to a TV or radio. But today, I had to run an errand for my company in which I had to drop off a government document to an LA Superior Courthouse, the closest one being 1.5 hours away from my office. I woke up an hour early so I could get to the courthouse when it opened (8:30am).

My timing was perfect. I finished my business and got back to my car just a few minutes before 9am. Since my trip to my office would take 1.5 hours, I got to listen to President Obama’s entire oath and speech as it happened (with perhaps a few seconds delay due to possible radio broadcasting delays).

A few times throughout President Obama’s speech, I felt a tingly feeling wash over me. I knew that this was an incredibly important moment in history. There were many things President Obama said during his speech that spoke to me, but one phrase in particular stood out to me:

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

Right after he said that, I felt like he was talking to all the gay people and all those who voted yes to banning equal rights for gays. Doesn’t everyone deserve a chance to be happy?

Anyway. I can feel the hope and change in the air. I’m really glad I got to hear the speech today. I got home really late from work (like 11:30pm), so I’ll probably try to watch the inauguration on YouTube or my DVR tomorrow to get the visual effect too.

Second-Class Citizens

The election truly was historic. I made sure to come home from work before the polls closed so that I could watch the election coverage as the results unfolded. I watched as the electoral votes from California were announced and Senator Barack Obama became President-elect Barack Obama. I listened attentively as John McCain delivered a very moving and gracious concession speech, and I eagerly awaited Barack Obama’s victory speech.

As I listened to Barack Obama’s speech, I kept thinking about how far this country has come in terms of racial discrimination yet how much widespread and accepted discrimination of gays there still is. There were many moments during the election coverage last night when I heard African-Americans feeling like they are no longer “second-class citizens.” Unfortunately, there does still exist a second-class of citizens. And I am one of them.

Even before the results of Proposition 8 were confirmed, I already knew that California would fail me (as much as I hoped otherwise). The unyielding determination of so many Americans to hinder the freedoms of one class of people is so strong that the passing of Proposition 8, I feel, was inevitable. I wasn’t at all surprised that all the anti-gay ballot initiatives around the nation were passed. As much as I’m glad that Barack Obama is going to be our next president, his victory for me is overshadowed by the sadness that so many people still feel so threatened by the “gay lifestyle.”

America was built on the idea that everyone has unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No law in America should be able to take those away. As Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, in the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967 to allow interracial marriage:

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

How is it that over 40 years later, the freedom to marry is still a “vital personal right” that can not only be hindered but even be revoked?

In researching the Loving v. Virginia case, I found out that Mildred Loving gave a public statement on June 12, 2007, the 40th anniversary of that momentous court case. Here is the conclusion:

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone, they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

You can find the PDF of her statement here.

I only hope that I don’t have to wait 40 years to see my freedom restored.

A Personal Election Day

I got up extra early today so that I could get to my polling place right when it opened. I probably could have sent in an absentee ballot or voted early, but I like the experience of going to vote on Election Day. I always get excited about voting, even though I never followed politics much before this election (more accurately, I deliberately tried to stay away from politics).

Today’s election is especially personal for me, as you may have guessed from previous posts. History will be made today (technically speaking, it’s made every day, but you know what I mean). No matter the outcome, this election will have a lasting effect on my personal history. I feel like this is one of those days/elections that I will always remember.

If you haven’t voted already (and live in the US), go vote!

Prop 8 At Work

I have a coworker whose office is a couple cubicles away from mine. I can hear when she talks to her friends on her cell phone, I can hear when she watches YouTube videos during work, and I can hear when she yells at customers over the phone (she really doesn’t like to be bothered when she’s “working”).

Yesterday, I could hear her talking to some of my other coworkers about voting yes on Proposition 8. She said that if gays are allowed to marry, then “the next generation will be chaos,” and “the next step will be brother and sister marrying.” Again, today, I overheard her talking to a different coworker about Proposition 8 and how our kids will learn about gays in school and how terrible that would be.

Needless to say, I felt frustrated, shocked, and hurt. Reading strong opinions over the internet is one thing, but listening to a coworker talk like that really hit close to home.

I told one of my friends at work what I had overheard, and she was just as outraged as I was. I mean, I’m okay if a coworker has an opposing view on this subject, but do I need to hear about it during work hours? I tend to leave politics outside the workplace. We should maintain a professional work atmosphere. I may be in the minority, but spreading discriminatory remarks and moral judgement just doesn’t seem professional to me.

Even though I felt very hurt for the rest of the day, I didn’t get involved in the conversation. There wasn’t any way for me to change my coworker’s views on gays or gay marriage, so arguing with her wouldn’t have accomplish anything except causing a ruckus in our office. I decided I should take the high road. If I stooped to her level, I might give a bad reputation to all the No On 8 supporters.

Anyway. This wasn’t a victory for the No On 8 campaign, but I thought I would share this experience on my blog as an excuse to continue talking about Proposition 8 since it’s been on my mind so much lately. Plus, I wanted to participate in Write to Marry Day! I’m submitting this and my previous post.

This is one of the most important battles we will ever face in the fight for equality of gays and lesbians (and all people in general). Please vote NO on Proposition 8.

Proposition 8

For those who don’t know, Proposition 8 is a California initiative that, if passed, would amend the California Constitution to say “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage back in May, declaring that the ban was unconstitutional (which it is). Proposition 8 would negate the victory the California Supreme Court made. After all, how can a ban on gay marriage be unconstitutional if it’s written into the Constitution?

I’m so frustrated by Proposition 8. I can’t believe there are still so many people (possibly a majority) who oppose gay marriage, and so fervently. I always thought California was progressive and liberal (maybe it’s because I grew up in LA), but I’m really scared that Proposition 8 will pass. I hear the Yes On 8 ads on TV and  the radio all the time (even a Chinese language one), yet I’ve only seen the No On 8 ad on TV once. One of my neighbors down the street even has a Yes On 8 banner stuck into their lawn.

As part of researching this Proposition, I’ve tried to see things from other perspectives different from my own. From the legal perspective, the Yes On 8 group argues that banning gay marriage will not take away any rights that gays and lesbians already have. In particular, they argue that the benefits from a civil union or domestic partnership have the same legal rights and benefits as that of a marriage.

The question that I have with that argument is why define one set of rules for one group of people and another set for everyone else? From Wikipedia: “Separate but equal is a set phrase denoting the system of segregation that justifies giving different groups of people separate facilities or services with the declaration that the quality of each group’s public facilities remain equal.” Will we end up with restaurants that only serve heterosexuals? A drinking fountain only for homosexuals?

A different perspective (the “moral” one) is that gay marriage (as well as being gay in general) is “wrong and disgusting.” I read that phrase somewhere and I keep thinking about it. When I try to think logically in their shoes, my only explanation for this reasoning is that they cannot see outside their own eyes. I suppose for a straight guy, visualizing himself marrying another guy just doesn’t make sense. It feels wrong to him. Therefore, since being straight is normal, same sex marriage must be wrong (and somehow disgusting).

Being on the other side of that, I can’t imagine marrying a woman. It wouldn’t make sense to me. But that doesn’t mean I think straight marriage is wrong or disgusting. It’s just not for me. Being attracted to guys (emotionally, not just physically) is what is normal for me.

(Side note) Along this same logic is the notion that homosexuality is a choice. If people just took a step back and saw things through another person’s eyes, they’d understand that it’s not a choice. Personally, being gay was never my choice. When I was growing up, I prayed and cried so hard not to be gay. I wanted to be normal. What took me years of guilt, self hatred, and doubt to figure out is that I am normal.

I also don’t understand why so many people are against teaching kids acceptance toward gay people. In the same way that growing up in a heteronormative society didn’t turn me straight, a few conversations about and interactions with gay people are not going to turn our society’s youth into homosexuals. If your kid ends up being gay, wouldn’t it be better to have a society that accepts them? To have a state Constitution that protects all the rights that they should have?

In the end, I truly think Proposition 8 isn’t about gay marriage at all. Rather, it’s about everyone’s right (not privilege) to love and be loved. Voting NO on Proposition 8 would protect that right, which is certainly what I’m voting.

History In The Making

The Dow lost 777 points today, the largest one-day point loss ever. Banks and investment firms are failing left and right, and the economy is only going to get worse before it gets better (especially when the government can’t decide on a relief plan). There’s a lot of talk that the US is headed for another Great Depression. You can read about today’s stock plunge here.

It’s both interesting and terrifying to be living in such a time. I don’t really keep up with news very consistently, though; I mostly just hear/read highlights. I find history incredibly fascinating, but for some reason I’ve always been uninterested in news, which is really just history in the making. I think it’s about time I stopped living under a rock. Important changes are happening in the country (this election is going to be crazy), and I really should be paying attention.