November 2012


A lot of pundits are talking about “the youth vote” and how it is part of “the coalition” that is responsible for President Obama’s recent election. Their big question is whether “the youth vote” will remain part of the Democratic coalition, and whether or how it might be swayed to vote Republican in the future.

Young people are not a constituency in the same way that, say, White women are. So when you note that the “youth vote” for Obama was up 1% from four years ago, that means something significantly different than noting that White women voted for Obama 4% less than four years ago.

The “youth vote” in 2012 is actually a group of individuals who are constantly getting older. The easy mistake to make (and I’ve written more about it here) is to sample young people and think that we know what “young people” are like. What the Democrats have at the moment are the votes of 60% of voters who are currently 18-29 years old. That group has a turnover rate of about 1/3 per election cycle, a completely new group of people every four cycles. The current “youth vote” group who voted decisively for Obama will be with us for a much longer time–another 50+ years, as middle aged adults, then older adults.

If I were an election strategist, I would be thinking of the “youth vote” as very up for grabs, and worth paying a lot of attention to. If I were a Republican election strategist, I would be thinking about how to  gain the affections of the next “youth vote,” our current crop of high school kids.


Reanna, my wife and best friend. That I got to see her wake up so groggy and mild this morning in our cute little trailer home, and that she liked my curry stir fry for dinner last night.

Joshua Tree and its sunny, warm late Novembers.

That so much of my family live so close to me, so when Maya takes a walk with Ollie, they will probably come by and see the solar water heater I’m building and borrow some eggs.

That Ollie is starting to say my name, which comes out completely different every time, but you can tell he’s saying “Nathen” because he sticks his tongue way out to make a “th” sound.

That I have so many amazing friends and family to miss on a day like this. I’m thinking about the Alders, Pikes & Plowmans, and all my Not Back to School Camp staffers and campers.

That I have the capacity to be so moved, by all this, by my morning media (Radiolab “Fact of the Matter,” Ashly Miller’s Radicool EP), and to anticipate the company of Lesters and Rizzos this afternoon in Pasadena.

Thank you.

The most interesting question for me about how Washington and Colorado’s new marijuana laws will interact with contradictory federal laws is what conservatives will say about it. I’d love to hear a Fox News pundit say, “This is a states’ rights issue. If people in these states want legal marijuana, we can’t have our bloated federal government telling them what to do or, God forbid, stepping in to police them.”

On September 15th I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my second cousin Megan to her partner of nine years and fiance of two years, Mali. I am an egalitarian man and consider the legalization of same-sex marriage a no-brainer, but I was taken completely by surprise by how profound it was for me to see, for the first time, two women get married.

The wedding was wonderful and poignant in the same ways that all really great weddings are wonderful and poignant: The site and decor were both beautiful and quirky in a way that reflected the beauty and quirkiness of Megan, Mali, and their relationship. They are such a solid couple, so clearly in love after all this time, so happy and sure about their commitment to each other. I loved seeing everyone from both families there, getting along so well, excited and supportive, catching up with each other, and forming the bonds of one, big family. And we were all so sad that Megan’s father, Ev, did not live to be there, to cry tenderly at the ceremony, to give a hilarious and heartfelt toast at the reception, and just to be his generous, wise self with us.

The wedding was also moving to me in a way that I’d never experienced before, in a way that I’ve been trying to put into words ever since.

First it hit me how different this looked and felt from the hetero weddings I’ve attended. It illuminated how, like most humans, I am effortlessly and undeniably aware of gender and gender expression in the people around me, and how I fixate and perseverate when what I see does not match what I am used to seeing. It had become completely ordinary for me to see and support same-sex couples, but I had still seen very few images of same-sex weddings.

And at the same time, it looked and felt so obviously right. Of course these two people are standing in front of their adoring families, committing their lives to one another. I’ve thought for a long time that if a couple–any couple, regardless of sexual orientation–can have a happy, stable commitment, especially with the support of their families and community, the world is a better place for it. Witnessing this wedding felt like a shift of that thought into much deeper, experiential knowledge. And why had it taken me 41 years? Simply because I had not been exposed to this moment. I feel certain that I would have been accepting, maybe even excited, as a child, by the symmetry of reality: Some men marry women, some marry men. Some women marry men, and some marry women. It’s about who you love, and who you love is different for different people. We just need access to the schema, the models, the moments.

Second, it hit me how it was Megan and Mali’s bravery that was giving me and the other 120 guests access to this moment. There is real danger as well as the certainty of judgement from a lot of people in being out like they are, and having a wedding is being all the way out. But what a gift: I got to grow into a stronger ally. I imagine we all did.

Third, I had a huge feeling of relief and excitement. Having recently been married myself, I was keenly aware of the cultural baggage that marriage and weddings carry, the history and reality of gender oppression represented by fathers giving their daughters away to husbands, the history and reality of prescriptive gender roles that have felt like prison to so many women. Would participating in these ceremonies and institutions influence my wife and I to behave against our egalitarian principles? How could we possibly know?

Suddenly, here was a wedding and a marriage that was clearly not about gender oppression. Here was proof that it can be done. Here was the possibility of the philosophical redemption of heterosexual marriage from its ugly history.

I have never met an undecided voter that I know of, but I know plenty of uninspired non-voters. This is for you.

I get it and it’s true. Political campaigns are mildly entertaining at best and a grinding, discouraging farce at worst. Any bluntly honest politician who actually talks about important issues is so far from viable they are immediately disqualified. On top of that, your individual vote almost certainly won’t make a difference. If you are paying attention, it is very difficult not to become bitter. If you aren’t paying attention, it is more pleasant to continue to ignore.

I’m asking you to vote anyway. Consider it a study in cross-cultural anthropology: How are the other humans in your region behaving as their ideas of democracy and citizenship interface and the larger system they exist in? Consider it a study in phenomenological psychology: What is it like to consider the various people and ballot measures that so imperfectly aim to represent you in our culture? What is it like to make choices about them that are so much more murky and compromising than your principles?

Or consider it a personal favor to me. Please vote tomorrow.

I’m writing a post that uses the word “egalitarian.” I looked it up to make sure I was using it right. Here it is, below, copy-pasted from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/egalitarian. I saw the Google ad for Mitt Romney at the bottom and wondered if the Romney campaign was targeting voters who were wondering what egalitarian meant. Maybe they figured if you don’t know what it means, you’re more likely to support Romney?

It’s more likely a coincidence. I looked up “democracy” and “republic” and the ads were for “Dominican Real Estate” and “Hottest Dominican Girls!”

e·gal·i·tar·i·an  (-gl-târn)

adj.

Affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people.

[From French égalitaire, from égalité, equality, from Latin aequlits, from aequlis, equal; seeequal.]

e·gali·tari·an n.
e·gali·tari·an·ism n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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