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Ham, Eggs, Milkshakes, and Revolution

2004-07-05 - 10:06 p.m.

My mother, brilliant woman that she is, has a little saying about the struggle for civil rights.

"Son," she would say to me, "the struggle for civil rights is like a plate of ham and eggs. People of color, women, gay people, the poor--whoever the struggle is really about--is like the pig. Allies of the struggle, be they white, or male, or straight, or rich, whatever the context, are like the chicken. The chicken is involved. The pig is committed!"

Too true, Mom. Too true.

I just got back from dinner with some friends. These were good, crunchy liberal friends. Actually, it would be far more accurate to call them radical friends. We were feasting on spinach artichoke dip and chips and salsa and were waiting patiently for our entrees when someone asked me what I did for Fourth of July.

Had I been something of a together person, I would have spent it watching fireworks while listening to the Ani DiFranco song "Independence Day" like I had wanted to. Instead, Shkbob and I found ourselves at H.E.B. (the supermarket for you non-Texans) on the verge of tears.

Because there was no ice cream.

Yeah, I still shudder every time I think about that.

We had gone in hopes of making our own milkshakes. We had kahlua and vanilla vodka and a blender at home, but we needed milk and ice cream. We found some yummy chocolate milk, but when we turned the corner into frozen foods we saw only a barren waste, empty white shelves where once stood row upon row of Phish Food and Half-Baked and Edy's Tiramisu. We gazed mournfully into the freezers until a kind man comforted us with the promise that there was ice cream waiting in the back. We had only to go to the checkout counter and ask them to bring out our desperately needed pints of Nuts About Malt!

This was a LIE.

After waiting for ten minutes with checkout counter people who were appeased only when we swore that we were going to be making alcoholic shakes with our ice cream, we learned the horrible truth: they were OUT of Nuts About Malt. We had to buy generic vanilla.

Fortunately, generic vanilla combined with kahlua, vanilla vodka, chocolate milk, and fresh coffee makes for a little glass of heaven, with a bit of Hell thrown in for fun.

We spent the rest of the evening bitching about the state of the nation.

My radical friends greatly appreciated this. One remarked that we should all spend Independence Day airing our greivances about America and trying to figure out what we wanted to do about them. How appropriate to turn the anniversary of a revolution into an impetus for further revolutionary action!

Then I mentioned that what I was specifically bitching about was the Federal Marriage Amendment.

As you can imagine, the FMA has been in my head lately. I discussed it with Ginger and the gang after a rousing game of Taboo (where it turns out that one of the best ways to get people to guess the word "pole" is to say, "A stripper rides the . . ."). I complained about it over those heavenly shakes with Shkbob. I sent out e-mails about it to many of my friends, with pointers as to what they can do to help.

What I didn't do, up until tonight, was debate it, or rather, debate what should be done about it.

See, one of my friends decided to talk about how he felt like same-sex marriage shouldn't be a priority, that it was a lot more important to fight gay bashings and other forms of discrimination, and how the HRC is well funded enough not to need the help of radical communities.

Now, this is a guy whom I absolutely love, and for the first time I really wanted to punch him in the nose. Not hard. I didn't want to knock him out. Just let him know that I wasn't about to stand for that shit.

I didn't, though. I would have if I were Margaret Cho, and for that I respect her. Her latest concert film, Revolution, premiered on Sundance recently. In it, she talks about how she is always willing to "go there." Her middle initials are TMI. She has no problem bitching out someone who's being racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or sizeist, or just plain stupid, or whatever, because she doesn't care about being the better person.

I respect that, and I am envious in many ways. I was brought up to be the better person, the one who takes a moment and tries to argue rationally about things, who tries his best to respect the other person's opinion. Sometimes I really don't want to do that. Sometimes I just want to say, "Fuck! You!" and then leave without even paying the check.

I did get off one little bit of snark. After my friend said these things, I kept on silently eating my black beans, but the other two people with me took the opportunity to start telling him why he was wrong to say such things. Finally, he looked over at me and said, with a somewhat obnoxious twinkle in his eye, "Rudy, do you want to weigh in on this?"

I just smiled and said, "Oh, I don't know, you're already doing such a good job of telling me what it's like to be a gay man."

That's about as far as I went.

I spent some time reminding him that, among other things, it isn't sexual minorities who are making this a priority, it's Republicans, and regardless of where the right to marriage falls on my own prioirites list, it's this issue that they are bringing to my door, so it's this battle I have to fight. He'd already agreed that my having the freedom to marry was important, but I don't know if he'd ever quite realized that sexual minorities are not the ones who decide when and where the battles are fought. We just aren't strong enough to do that yet.

I could see that he felt bad, and so I decided to tell stories of dealing with friends who voted Republican or who were Christian fundamentalists in order to make him realize that this was far from the most difficult conversation I'd ever had. I even let my need to be the better person force me to pick up the check. In retrospect, I wish I'd let him simmer a little more, because it wasn't until after I was on my way home that I realized the most direct consequence of our conversation.

I was hurt.

I was really hurt that someone I know wouldn't be ready and willing and able to fight for this. No, not "this"--me. Fight for me. Because this is my fight, whether I want it to be or not.

This is my fight. I can't back down. I can't give quarter. Others might be able to hand over a few eggs and go on their merry way, but when the farmer comes walking down my way with the ax in his hand, it is my bacon on the line.

I know I'm not alone. There are a lot of other people in here with me. I've even slept with some of them. Some don't want to get married. Some don't think they'll find someone they want to marry. Some already see themselves as married in the eyes of their deity of choice. None of that changes the fact that we're the pigs, and that plate of ham and eggs has our name on it.

Margaret Cho said in Revolution that, "Being a minority in America is like dying of a thousand papercuts, and I ain't goin' out like that!" Now, I didn't want to play that card with this guy, because he's probably been spit on by more than one person in his various radical crusades, and faced far worse than spitting plenty of times, but I wonder if he has really gone through something comparable to being gay, or black, or Latino, or a woman, or anything other than a white heterosexual male. If he had, then maybe he would have been more careful, because when you have to watch what you say and who you talk to and who you flirt with and what you wear every day because there are millions of people in your own country who think you are evil enough to burn in Hell or be beaten to death because of something inside of you that you can't change, when the President of your country calls upon the government to rewrite the document that is your first, last, ONLY protection to make you into a second class citizen, the last thing you want to hear from the people whom you love and trust is, "I'm not sure if I can get behind that."

It hurts so fucking much. It's like I'm one of those old soldiers in Lord of the Rings looking out at the endless hordes of orcs and goblins and what-have-yous and firing arrow after arrow into their ranks until I feel a sharp pain in my back, and I turn around and find out I got shot by an elf with shaky hands. Really, when I call up a visual for this emotion, that's what I get. I know he didn't mean to make me feel this way. It's just hard to hear that someone you love thinks the battle isn't worth fighting when you have to live with the war every friggin' day.

Lord knows I'm sick of fighting it. I'm so sick of fighting conservatives, and I'm only 24. I'm certainly sick of writing about it in my diary.

Then I think of Ani DiFranco again, and how she herself says that so much of her music isn't about what she said or did, but what she wishes she said or did, and if her music inspires someone to do what she wishes she had done, then it all works out in the end. I figure I can talk about this here, and hope that someone else won't stand for this shit, and that eventually I, too, will be able to call out my friends and loved ones when they say they don't know if my battles are worth their time.

Because to quote Ani DiFranco's "Independence Day," "You can't leave me here. I've got your back, so you better have mine."

And to paraphrase Margaret Cho, if all of us who fight on the side of good got together and had ourselves a big oversharing TMI go-there session, then we might just have ourselves the beginning of a revolution.

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