California bans gay marriage
Our biggest surprise is that Proposition 8 banning gay marriage seems to have been successful. I say ‘seems’, because the large number of absentee and ‘provisional’ votes still needs to be counted. I wore my button protesting (against) this initiative – though not without a certain wry bemusement. In my day, radicals wanted to abolish marriage, as well the oppression of women and the state regulation of personal life. The last thing we would have thought of doing is extending its grip to those groups who had remained free of it. So quickly does the radical agenda change.
Even worse, in my view, was the passing of Proposition 9, a Victims Rights initiative (paradoxically bank-rolled by a rich Californian currently indicted on fraud and drugs charges). It reduces the possibilities for prisoners’ parole, adds to the vast Californian prison population and give victims of crime a greater voice in the judicial and punitive process. There’s something truly dreadful about this. Sure, we should support the victims. But one of the whole purposes of a state legal system is to break the link the link between culprit and victim – to stop punishment being vendetta.
But there was some better news on other fronts. Proposition KK, aiming to stop the development of a better system of public transport, has been defeated. So has the Proposition to insist that parents be informed of their ‘under age’ children’s abortions. And the Proposition to name a San Francisco sewage works after George W Bush didn’t make it. The sewage works was thought far too useful for that.
My plan had been to ‘stay up’ for the presidential results. I needn’t have planned a late night. As my companion for the evening put it, in California we enjoyed the election results over what in England we used to call a high tea.
I became slightly nostalgic for the customary bottle of whisky, the BBC droning on in the early hours, and all those returning officers saying “the total number of votes cast for each candidate was as follows: Brown, Gordon James (New Labour). . . “and so on.
Here, everything seems to be done on good estimates.‘ Calling’ the state seems to mean being confident about who you think has won, and not much to do with actual counting. California was ‘called’ only shortly after polling closed. And McCain left only the tiniest gap of propriety between the end of voting in this state and gracefully throwing in the towel.
By 10.00 I was in bed. And I had so much forgotten the whole proceedings that when a jubilant text came saying “Change”, I replied “Change what?”
Anyway tomorrow is my last Sather Lecture, plus reception. I feel a bit like you do at the end of finals: too knackered to celebrate, though it’s sort of what I’d like to do. I shall hoof it back to England for a few days. Partly to do a discussion on Pompeii at the British Museum, partly to say bon voyage to the daughter, who’s off to Sudan for nine months. Do I feel proud of her? Yes I do? And maternally anxious? Well yes a bit. Who wouldn’t?