2004-07-15 - 5:22 p.m.
Of all the lessons my mother has tried to teach me, this one was, in many ways, one of the hardest to sink in. This is how battles are won:
You compromise. You look for that secret way in. You allow the enemy to think that they're going to win, so that they rush headlong and fearless into the trap that you've set for them. You tease them. You hit'n'run. You draw their forces out until you can cut their lines and cut them off, and suddenly they're the ones under siege, not you.
You remind them that the US Constitution is a sacred document. You take advantage of the knowledge that, before the religious right spread their cancer across America, Republicans were the party of smaller government, and you remind them of who they once were, and they look back at their roots and decide that this is one battle that shouldn't be fought. You remind them that they are winning the war, and they don't have to salt the earth as they go.
In your own head, you say to yourself that they will only win for so long, and that, whenever they salt the earth, they raise a new generation of enemies.
You concede ground. You offer concessions, and remind the enemy that they will be able to enjoy the fruits of their conquest only when the fight is over. You remind them that gay people have money the same as anyone else, and that they tend to have disposable income, and you show the reports that say that yes, conservatism is on the rise even among youth, but that homophobia is still on the decline. You tempt with the possibility of affluent gay people switching sides, and you can argue with conviction because you know, in the dark, bitter, cynical corners of your heart, that you're probably telling the truth.
You fight humbly. You know that it is arrogance that cost you battles in the past, because of the stories your mother and father told you about losing good fights. You remember that just because you know you are fighting for what is good and right, it doesn't mean that there aren't people on the other side just as convinced. There are no absolutes when you're in the battlefield. There are just sides. You come to your allies on your knees, and you swear your fealty like a knight. No one will win this unless everyone fights together.
This is not the realm for heroes. Heroes can do more to screw up a battle than any enemy. This is not a place for glamour, and it is certainly not the place for anyone who is willing to lose the war to win a great moral victory, or for anyone willing to sacrifice people for principles. Those people need to be taken aside to have things explained to them, with a slap on the face when necessary.
It's hard, because you know that those heroes and martyrs have the best hearts, and that they will fight for all that is noble and worth fighting for. But sometimes, the sword isn't going to get the job done. Sometimes it's the state dinner, and the trade agreement, and the handshake with the devil.
All of this, of course, feels all the worse when you're on the defensive. When you are the one doing the crusading, you come to the end with the pride of the winner. When the fight has been brought to your door, all you can do is fight not to lose.
Because of all of this, victory doesn't come with a marching band and dancing in the streets. There is no euphoria involved. Instead, you feel a sense of completion, a feeling that, just for tonight, you can go to bed, and just for tomorrow, you can sleep in. There will be new fights waiting for you in the morning, just as there are fights in the House of Representatives and in at least 13 states where the forces of evil are still trying to pass laws that will keep people in love from being able to unite in the eyes of their country.
But just for the moment, you can put down the sword, and clean up the plates from the state dinner. You can take off the shoes and put on your slippers. You can step outside for a breath of fresh summer air. You can let a smile creep slowly over your face and let your shoulders relax. You don't want to go out dancing, or get drunk, or go home and have great sex with your partner of choice.
All you want to do is go see the US Constitution. You wish you could have it opened up for you. You wish you could smell it, and lay your cheek down on it for a minute, and give it a little kiss. You wish you could tell it, "Today, we kept you safe. We fought long and hard and against many enemies, and there were many who did nothing because they were scared or lazy or didn't think the fight was worth it, but today we made sure that others did not stain you with their intolerance." You hope that it can hear your thoughts.
You try to ignore the latest headlines about what the enemy is up to. You delete the e-mails from the black sheep in the family who love to talk about how liberals are destroying America, forgetting that if it weren't for liberals, they wouldn't have had a fraction of the opportunities they had. You let it all pass through, because today, against all your fears, you won.
The Federal Marriage Amendment was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 50-48. A vote of at least 60 was required to pass it. Let freedom ring.
I would like to thank everyone out there who sent an e-mail or signed a petition or phoned their Senator. I hope you know that you are fighting to make America all that she dreams of becoming.
I would like to thank the HRC and all the queer rights activist groups for never backing down, with a special little shout out to Margaret Cho, for keeping us laughing. I will always stand by your side.
I would like to thank every US Senator who voted against this marriage, whether they are the long standing supporters of gay rights, or the Republicans who felt that such an amendment was a waste of paper and time.
I would like to thank God, because I know damn what side she's on.
And finally, a message to my Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, a supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment since its inception:
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