Measured Extravagance

22 January 2003 - 12:06 a.m.

Random notes from tonight's counter-demonstration and the council meeting :

  • Long tapers don't do so well staying lit when there's wind. Alternatives seen: tea-lights in clear plastic cocktail cups; punching the taper through a styrofoam coffee cup, such tha the cup acted as a shade for the flame. The latter sort of looked like an alien breed of popsicle, but they worked.
  • The security guard told me that I could not take my candle up to the council chamber. When I returned downstairs and tried to retrieve my lovely lavender taper, I was told it had been thrown out. However, I'd pocketed four white tapers left behind in the chamber by other demonstrators who hadn't felt like taking them home. So, an unexpected net gain of three candles. Which I will place in our downstairs candleholders the next time we host gay guests, which will be - oh, tomorrow. (There's a story of a designer who insisted on using fine material to line the costumes of his dancers even though the results would not be visible to the audience, because it was enough that the dancers knew. That's how I feel about the candles.)
  • I walked up to the courthouse at about 5:45 p.m., at which point there were a handful of anti-gay protesters to the right of the doors, a swarm (more than a hundred, I think) of ordinance supporters opposite. It turned out there were many anti-ordinance citizens already seated inside, identifiable by the red-and-white "NO" stickers their organizers were handing out. Some of the pro-ordinance demonstrators wore blue rectangles with a yellow "=" on it.
  • Overheard: "I'm surprised at how many churches are here [in support of the ordinance]." Saw various members of my church (including the minister) and St. Ann's Episcopal, as well as a former co-worker bearing a sign that declared "God Loves Everyone - Even Rev. Phelps". During the meeting, I sat next to another Unitarian Universalist minister and her husband, a Vanderbilit Div School student affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. There were other pro-ordinance clergy around me: every time a council member purported to speak on the behalf of all Christians and religious individuals, I could feel flinching and bristling and the occasional "Not this Christian" mutter.
  • The crowd self-regulation was impressive: anytime someone succumbed to the temptation to shout back at the anti-gay demonstrators, they were quickly shushed. The same thing happened inside when someone appeared on the verge of erupting after a particularly negative statement by a member of the council.
  • During the Pledge of Allegiance, a man behind me placed special emphasis on "with liberty and justice for all."
  • The meeting was begun, as apparently is customary, with an invocation in the name of Christ. Which, as is customary, had me grinding my teeth - it may be permitted by the Constitution, but I still find it a terribly presumptuous and potentially coercive tradition (and the people behind me were audibly upset. That said, the anti-church sentiments I'd overheard from them before the meeting had had me strongly tempted to turn around and give them a talking-to. I suppose the upshot is that I ought to sympathize with the persecution complexes I've heard voiced by both the anti- and pro-religion factions tonight, but frankly, right now I just want to lock them all in the same room and bury the key somewhere in the Middle East. I'd also like to see opening prayers for public assemblies precede the calls to order, such that they are an option for those so moved but not part of the formal agenda and in no way endorsed by the state (but I'm not holding my breath and there's more pressing battles to fight. IMNSHO).
  • A neighbor running for council came into the chamber around 8:45 p.m. and sat down next to me, grimacing: "I've been on my feet for four hours straight. . ." (Most of the crowd had departed around 8:15 p.m., after the motion to defer passed. Incidentally, the Tennessean report is incorrect - the council did not receive the commission's report until tonight, so its members had had no time to peruse its contents. A number of members voted against deferral, stating their minds were already made up and/or that anyone paying attention to their constituents should have made up their minds by now . . .of all these, my respect increased the most for the councilwoman who said, while she had arrived with her mind made up, she still wanted to read the commission's report before casting the vote, to be absolutely sure in her heart that she was making the right decision.

    There were also several council members whose speech I found so disrespectful of their fellow representatives that I found myself wishing yet again it were possible to cast anti-votes: there's so many people running for council each round (just like there are for Detroit judgeships) that it would be far easier just to indicate who I want to keep out instead of who I'm okay with letting in. There were also several council members whose rhetorical strategies and logical processes could have been shot down and minced by any competent high school debater without breaking a sweat. (This probably went without saying - the BYM's reaction was "I could have told you that" - but I'm still recovering from beholding it live.) This applied to the discussion not only of the ordinance but of the resolutions also on the agenda. I think I will have to make a point of attending some Metro meetings this summer, before the election, in order to get a better read on some of the folks who might be running for at-large seats or for other city/county positions: it was an eye-opener (or should that be ear-opener?) for me tonight. In particular, someone to whom I was inclined to give the benefit of the doubt as merely conservative (based on what I'd been able to find in online archives) turned out to be aggressively closed-minded and prone to over-generalization (based on her pronouncements at tonight's meeting).

  • Gentry does a good job keeping order.

  • In other news, my copy of the Lord Peter Wimsey Companion has arrived (maps! charts! translations! quotations! whee!) and I finally mailed out the last Christmas package on my list (at the window next to me, a young man was already sending a Valentine's Day gift, and the branch didn't have Lunar New Year stamps yet).

    It's just turned midnight. The Beautiful Young Man and the dog have come upstairs. The cat is already on the bed. And so, to the cat.

    One year ago: "Just stuff that, since it needs to get done, I do it. Some weeks are just like that."

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