Friday, March 06, 2009

From Russia With Love Hate!

As some of you know, my office overlooks Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, which gives me a straight-on view of the courthouse steps in front of the California Supreme Court. Consequently, I couldn’t help but notice the raucous protest going on below me yesterday as the Court heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

Political junkie and gay rights advocate that I am, I decided to spend my lunch hour mingling with the crowd and checking out the scene, while listening to some of the speeches on the steps outside the courthouse.

As you might expect, there was a large, very spirited, contingent of Prop 8 opponents, and it was gratifying to see the diverse group that included all ages, races, and socioeconomic categories, as well as many straight supporters among the crowd.

However, there were also a surprisingly large number of highly organized Prop 8 supporters, with huge signs and matching shirts with the slogan: “Marriage = One Man & One Woman.” While smaller in number, they were very loud and confrontational (though seemingly not violent). Also odd was the fact that as I walked through the crowd, it seemed that a very large percentage of them were speaking Russian to each other. I mean almost all of them!

I tried to talk to a few of them, as I was curious about what organization they belonged to, but had little success. Several of them couldn’t really communicate with me in English, and the others were reluctant to tell me anything. All I could get was one guy who told me they were from “the Jewish God,” and that they had “just met each other.”

Well, I did a little research and it turns out that there is a very large population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union (Russia, Latvia, Ukraine, etc.) that have settled in the Sacramento area, and that most in this community are affiliated with one of over 50 to 60 evangelical Christian churches led by rabidly anti-gay pastors. Several of them are known to be involved with international organizations currently being tracked as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many of the members have become fixtures in vocal opposition to gay pride events in California.

Talk about hypocrisy! Most of these people came to this country in part to gain the right to freely practice their religion, and yet they are now using their religion to mobilize efforts to deny basic rights to another oppressed minority. It’s difficult to know how to process these undeniable facts without developing some negative ethnic stereotypes.

Ultimately, I guess I must simply take it as evidence that one all too prevalent component of human nature – the desire to feel powerful and important by finding someone inferior to demonize – suggests that either man can’t possibly have been created “in God’s image,” or that God is actually a somewhat cruel being who created man for his own sadistic entertainment! Either way, the actions of these people is proof that their own belief system is completely bankrupt!

All images were taken, quite discretely, with my Treo.

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