November 3rd, 2008


null on eight

You'd think with the "Yes on 8" people screaming outside my window all day (and well into the evening), I'd be "Numb on 8".

I've come to have a distinct loathing for California's idea of direct democracy. All elections are popularity contests: but when you're talking about a faceless bill, where the content would seem to have a chance against the gilded smile, yet still it's less about what is right and more about how well you want to define your peer group.

Both sides of prop 8 see themselves as doing something which is unequivocally right- not an arguable position, no room for reason or thought. (If you confront either side with such a fact, they will become offended at the suggestion their position is not the pinnacle of reason and right.) Most people are completely incapable of arguing convincingly the opposite position of any of these bills without resorting to their favorite straw man, or revealing their complete unfamiliarity with either position. And even fewer, I fear, are able to reasonably project what the world will look like weeks, months, or years from now if each of these bills pass.

So, what's with all the yelling? Who is convinced? No one, in reality- it's an opportunity to blow off steam, to feel like you're counted, to feel like you matter. This is what happens when we move away from being fat and happy consumers. The yelling? Well, it's understandable in that light. But only the quiet act of voting is all that matters, all that makes you actually counted, actually matter. In order to matter, too, you need to understand what you're voting for. You need to see what the world will look like in the future, contingent on that yes. And the reality is that few people, as always, actually do.

The supposed beauty of hiring/voting for a representative is that that person is supposed to speak for you, to do the work you couldn't hope to have time to act upon. You bring a lawyer before the law when at risk. This is why we have representative democracy, rather than just turning every bill, every trial, into a similar, expensive screaming match.

Think, too, about how many homeless could be fed on what has been spent on Prop 8. Think how many struggling church programs could be funded. Is this how we want to use our time? Is this a good use of the cudgel of constitutional amendment?

Well, tomorrow, it's all over for a short while, until we have to endure the next round. And, you'll all have to find the next impassioned cause to scream mindlessly about, convincing no one, signifying naught more that a few quiet moments at the ballot machine could easily have accomplished. And perhaps, eventually, more people will begin to think twice about making every matter a popular referendum, and take more time instead to hire and elect effective, genuine representation.