I admittedly don't follow politics very closely. The reason isn't that I don't care about what happens in the world, it's that I don't like to watch grown men slinging proverbial mud at one another, running dirty campaigns, and spouting their hateful opinions and misguided ideas to any media outlet foolish enough to listen. I also find the influence of money in the political arena heartbreaking; those campaigns with more money shouldn't "win" simply because their money buys more airtime and more flyers.
One issue in particular is always in the spotlight -- equal marriage rights. In fact, this battle rages on across the country making progress and then falling back. I'm sometimes shocked at how long "we the people" are able to debate an issue! Back when Inner Thoughts & Outbursts was just a column in a weekly newspaper, I wrote a piece comparing the battle for marriage equality (allowing same-sex couples to marry) to the battle for civil rights (allowing black children to attend the same schools as white children). In that editorial I stated that now, as always, the answer to a human rights question is equality. Denying marriage (or calling it a "civil union") to gay couples is unequal and unconstitutional.
Sitting down to reread the column (written this very week, six years ago), I am shocked that the issue is still so prominent in politics and in the public eye. I expected gay marriage to be commonplace by now. I didn't expect that the battle would still be so prevalent and that states that had granted equal marriage rights would have to fight to defend their positions, sometimes losing and having once-granted rights suddenly taken away.
All hope is not lost, however. About a month ago I read a story about a high school in California targeted by the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). The WBC routinely protests gay rights and carries signs reading, "God hates fags," "God hates the U.S.A." and other such nonsense. The WBC is also a group with enough cash behind it so as to have a sophisticated website and a whole staff committed to organizing press opportunities and protests. While I was shocked that such a group would target a high school, I was pleasantly surprised to read about the school's response.
According to the article, Gunn High School's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) planned a peaceful counter demonstration that not only showed its support in the fight for gay rights, but poked fun at the WBC protesters. Students from other schools and school groups joined the GSA and spent the morning singing songs, waving flags, and holding a peaceful demonstration. They even carried signs reading "God hates signs" and "Love is Love" to poke fun at the ridiculousness of WBC's hateful protesting.
Students interviewed for the article talked about the peace and love behind the demonstration, and discussed why they won't be deterred by protesters' intolerance. When I read the kids' sentiments and saw their funny signs, I felt a wave of relief rush over me; maybe the future isn't doomed! Perhaps there is still hope for polite politics!
The kids of Gunn High School showed class when they responded to such hatred in a peaceful and tongue-in-cheek way. They also gave me hope that someday marriage equality will no longer be an issue -- it'll just be the norm and everyone will be able to enjoy the same rights. Someday these children will grow into adults, and maybe the political mudslinging will stop. Maybe these young people will be able to separate politics from human rights and our national policies will change for the better. Maybe, there will come a day when I can turn on the television or read the news and not be dismayed by the ugliness and bigotry displayed there, because there won't be any.