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By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Election Day Blues

Posted By on June 30, 2009

Election Day Blues
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev
I have had a terrible time writing my column this month. I was emotionally frozen before the election, deer-in-the-headlights type of thing. I have been completely immobilized since the election, wearing black and trying to figure out how to sustain a family on the windy edge of a cliff.

Can it be true that there are so many right-wing Republicans who think that our families, our very existence, represents Armageddon? Do that many people really believe that we stand in the way of Jesus returning to earth? How do we fight this level of ignorance, of political zeal reminiscent of the Crusades? And most importantly, how do we explain this to our children?

Children live in a simple world where the better man always wins. Good, always, naturally, triumphs over evil. It is, after all, only FAIR. A lesbian friend of mine emails me a story. Her four-year old son was playing with his Lego’s while the news was showing Kerry’s car making its way through the streets of Boston so Kerry could announce his concession of the election. As it neared Faneuil Hall, her son yelled, "Mom! Come here, quick. The guy on TV just said John Kerry is reaching the finish line of the election! That means he won!" A simple world, where the better man always wins; after all we are the good guys, right?

My children were engaged in this election too. They notice who has the same bumper stickers we do, and the same lawn signs. "Look, mom, they are voting for Margaret and David, too!" "Hey, mom, Deb and Judy are Democrats also!" I gently tell them that we have no close friends who are not Democrats. My younger son, eyes moving quickly back and forth from speaker to speaker during the impassioned political discussions in our home, is very clear. He hits the picture of Bush on the cover of a magazine and says, "Bad man. He makes war, and needs to be spanked." Not bad for a child who has never been spanked himself.

For my older son the issues are more complex. His homework included watching the debates on television ("Is it over yet? Another HOUR?!"), and following the polls in the swing states, recording the statistics on a daily basis. We discussed topics, abstract for a nine-year old, and sometimes for this nearly 47 year old: taxes, war for oil, political promises, and how come there are no women running for President. He was confused at how Nader could be both a good guy (some great political ideas) and a bad guy (in the way, move over fool!). When I pondered out loud about my concerns about the voting booths, he assured me that "Bush’s cousin built them so of course he could fiddle with them." "Where did you hear that?" I asked. He looked at me, eyebrows raised, and said, "I get around." (Since he really doesn’t get around that much, I mentally appreciate that his wonderful independent school reinforces many of the values he learns at home.) He proudly told me his whole class was voting for Kerry (why can’t we count those votes too?) although some of his friends parents were voting for Bush. I asked if the kids had told their parents that they were voting differently than them and he shyly shook his head "no." I silently wonder what my children don’t share with me.

I have spoken with many people who are considering moving to Canada. But as sad and brokenhearted as I am, I realize that there is really no place to go. The United States of America is a huge and powerful country, with a long and lethal reach. There is no place safe from its grasp. Pre-Nazi Germany was a liberal democracy, a safe home for Jews, a safe home for the first organized gay movement in history just a few years before Hitler was goose-stepping across Europe. Some of you I’m sure find that statement extreme, paranoid, but history teaches us that political leadership can quickly change the tide of a nation, change the tide of history, with lightening speed. How do we make sense of a country that elects officials who think that physicians who perform abortions should get the death penalty? How can I, as a Jew, reconcile statements from political leaders that emphatically state: This is a Christian country. Excuse me, I thought there was a separation of Church and State, but I am reminded of how fragile this separation is when my local video store carries a newly released video of George Bush extolling the virtues of Christian prayer from his pulpit at the White House. I read websites that said, "A vote for Bush is a vote for Jesus." Who was it who said, "Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life"? Oh right, Adolf Hitler.

There is no where to run. We have to plant our feet solidly in the ground and claim our equal rights not just to marry and have families, but to pray to the God/s of our own choosing. I must confess <smile>: I am a deeply religious woman. I have a fervent belief in God, in a Higher Power, in a Universal Power bigger than me, and bigger than all of us. I understand what Christians mean when they say they are "born-again," because I have myself experienced the grace and power of the Spirit that breathes new life into weary souls. I have never, however, had this power tell me who to vote for, or tell me that I knew how other people should live their lives. I have never believed that I have a right to use my personal connection with this power on my resume to prove that my actions are endorsed by, and the will of, a higher authority. I thought this was a democracy, not a theocracy. I do not believe that right-wing Republicans own God, even if they own the voting booths.

America is at a crossroads. We are faced with an ideological civil war and our families, LGBT families, are on the front lines. You all watched the map turn red on Election Day; a bloody reminder of what it is we face, as state after decided that marriage needed defending from us queers. In an effort to fight terrorism, our country wages wars in the name of a loving God. In an effort to build morality into family life, our country outlaws marriage for some of its citizens and makes it impossible for children without homes to be adopted into not only same-sex homes, but single parent homes. 1984 was twenty years late, but the twisted language that has confused Godly life with war-mongering, and loving family life with perverted immortality, has come home to roost in this Orwellian Animal Farm called American politics. How dare they question the right of my family to exist! How dare they create laws that leave us so vulnerable in the name of God and morality!

LGBT communities have grown into a powerful force in the past few decades, bigger then they, or we, ever thought we could become. They were scared of how large we’ve become and they have pursued an aggressive well-financed agenda (the anti-homosexual agenda) to send us scampering back to the closet. They have no idea how unlikely that is; they have no idea what forces they have unleashed in their ungodly war. There is no turning back. Now that we have known the sweet taste of civil rights and the beauty of religious and legal public marriages, we are not willing to return to a more complacent acceptance of second class citizenship. Although we may feel unprepared, beaten down, weakened, the reality is that we have never been so strong. We were born for this fight, and the history books will remember how queer people and our allies stood up and fought for our place in the American dream.

We always knew, of course, that the fight would have ups and downs, gains and losses. But there is one thing that no one really anticipated before this devastating loss, which is the look in our children’s eyes.  How do I look my children in the eye and explain how democracy works, when it passes laws against our family? How do I explain to my children how devastating this loss is, without providing fodder for their nightmares? How do I assure my children that we are safe, when the world has become such a dangerous place? George Bush, you sit with my children, and explain to them why their moms can’t get married and why we are not "really" a family. Maybe you can invite Mary Cheney and her long time partner and have them explain how America needs to "defend" itself from families like ours. No child will be left behind, Mr. President, and my children can read right through you and your lies.

The religious right won this round. But there is precious little time for them to gloat because there is one thing they haven’t counted on: the fierce protectiveness of momma and poppa lions. This election proved one thing: when the safety of our cubs is threatened, LGBT parents will fight back; an organized community of queer parents protecting our children is an awesome and powerful sight. Watch out, my fellow Americans, this lion pride is not moving to the back of the bus.  We ain’t getting up from this lunch counter and we’ve got lots of friends who will sit with us, as long as it takes.