Being an adult who keeps up with politics can be an emotional roller coaster. We were electric the day Obama was elected president, but that evening I attended a protest in West Hollywood with a devastated crowd: Prop 8 had passed. I stood among throngs of people, angry, confused and disappointed by their fellow Californians’ callousness, and held signs that asked passing cars, “When do I get to vote on your right to marry?”
I realize I never posted the photos I took there. It seems appropriate to post them today to commemorate our disappointment and burning desire for equality. Almost five years later, the nation has changed for the better. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Let’s keep fighting.
I stood with the people in this last photo in a kind of mutually respectful standoff with the police at Santa Monica Blvd and La Cienega. There was a sense of defiance and desperation in the air. An officer on a megaphone told us to get out of the road and back onto the sidewalk. I stayed where I was, along with almost everyone else. The officers were discussing something and pointing toward our section of the crowd. I had positioned myself in the front of the group to get some good photos, and was rethinking that decision. I thought about how much trouble I would be in with my very conservative, white, Republican boss if I didn’t show up for work the next day because I had been arrested at a protest for marriage equality. There was a very real chance I might be fired, which worried me (the job market was gut-wrenchingly bad: I had put in 50 job applications, gotten two interviews, and one job offer in order to land that job, which I hated). I took a breath and elongated my perspective; I saw my future self reflecting on this moment when I would quietly comply, or be escorted to a police car. I stood very still. As the officer approached us I felt a hand on my arm, and was gently pulled backwards into the crowd by a woman who seemed to be accustomed to attending protests like this. “They’re going to arrest someone,” she said calmly. “Back up.”
They took the guy on the far left in the blue striped shirt. The crowd yelled and cheered as he was slowly led away toward a waiting police car. No one harassed or boo’d the police. We had effectively stopped traffic on two (now three) of the busiest streets in Los Angeles, and we recognized they were just doing their job, regardless of moral standing.
My Facebook feed is lit up today with support for the end of DOMA, the renewal of weddings for gay and lesbian couples in California as early as next month, and the federal legitimation of already existing gay and lesbian marriages. But it was a victory for women of all sexual orientations today, too: Texas Senator Wendy Davis (D) successfully filibustered an anti-abortion bill that would have threatened to shut down “all but 5 of the 42 abortion clinics in the state.” Thank you, Senator Davis.
As an English-speaking, American, white, employed, middle class graduate student, it’s easy for me to say: I dread not future, for I am its architect. My goal as a teacher of English as a foreign language (and a supporter of marriage equality) is to share this sense of empowerment with others, every day, one word at a time, and watch as the arc of American history bends toward justice.