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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

lay off the court!

A few years after I graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco, student activists organized a campaign against the school mascot - the Lowell Indian. They argued that the mascot and its papier maché squaw costume (above) which was trotted out at rallies and games was a racist piece of shit, and a student-body vote was organized. My majority-minority alma mater (whites made up something like a fifth to a quarter of 2700 students) elected to keep its racist piece of shit. At this point the superintendent stepped in and said it's very nice that you had your vote, but your mascot and your squaw are history anyway. Thanks for voting. 

I had mixed feelings about this, as I do about yesterday's decision by the California Supreme Court upholding Prop. 8. The Lowell Indian was a nasty embarrassment and I was glad to see it go. On the other hand, what kind of democracy - or even student exercise in democracy - was this? Elections, as they say, have consequences, or ought to, and if they don't it winds up smacking of a inelegantly dressed up exercise in Soviet democracy. There's a separate question of whether California - where you need a two-thirds vote to raise a tax but can revoke state-constitutional rights by 50-plus-one - ought to be voting on people's rights at all, but once the court allowed the initiative to go on the ballot I really can't see how they could invalidate the results. 

So I'm not happy with all the abuse that's being hurled at the court right now; it's the same court whose praises we were singing last year. We handed them six pounds of homophobic shit in a five-pound bag and this is the result. 

The disaster came in November. When James and I received what he is now calling our "limited-edition marriage" in June 2008 (i.e. it's still valid though no more same-sex marriages can be performed), we did not accept gifts except checks made out to fight Prop. 8. Many people gave and gave generously, but the following response (by someone who gave) captured a feeling that was widespread on the left after a promising Field poll showed us way ahead and it's in large part responsible for our current situation: Prop 8 "won't pass, so don't worry.  I think people have grown up."

Fifty-two percent of the California electorate had not, by November, grown up. The President of the United States has not grown up! We have the hard work of education and persuasion ahead of us, and railing against the court isn't going to do a whole lot toward getting it done. 


Anthony said...

great post! short comment b/c baby crying.

Anthony said...

saved by the boob. where was i? oh yes, why California's all screwed up. as everyone knows, the ballot initiatives have been instrumental in getting us here. yes, Prop 13, i'm talking about you.

the supermajority rule is also a major problem. LATimes editorial here:

Anthony said...

phil ting!

harold meyerson!

Icarus said...

i agree paul. As uncomfortable as it is, the court made pretty much the best possible ruling.

This is a fight we need to win @ the ballot box.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des Récollets.