Weditorial Successfully Delivered! Lizbet and Louise en route to Bora Bora!! 
Monday, October 9, 2006, 12:27 AM - Sex, Politics, Dancing, Friends

By all accounts it was quite well-received. I managed to make at least 3 straight (or at least married) men cry, as well as all the NC Republicans laugh (twice, and only once at my own expense). Even the guys in the band liked it! (Yes, we did second line up from the garden after the ceremony, parasols in hand, dancing behind the brass band and the beautiful brides.) The wedding was amazing, I feel so lucky to have been part of it. Rosie (the minister) who has officiated at >30 weddings, thinks I may have contributed "weditorial" to the lexicon, so I thought I should get it up on the blog. A couple of people asked me to post the text, and although I spoke from an outline, I think I've written out more or less what I said. I wish more straight couples had weditorials, but then I guess we'd be closer to not needing them... In case you missed it:

Thank you for participating in Lizbet and Louise’s wedding. I want to talk to you briefly about four aspects of marriage:
- Legal and political
- Linguistic
- Emotional
- Celebratory

Although it’s tempting to want to ignore the political context in which this ceremony occurs, it’s important to acknowledge the legal realities for Lizbet and Louise. When we were discussing their plans for the wedding, Lizbet said she was happiest when she could forget that their marriage was any different from any other. Last night, at dinner, surrounded by so much love and support from friends and family, we were all wonderfully able to forget that there were any obstacles to Lizbet and Louise as a couple. Today, though, we must acknowledge that they cannot legally marry in California. We are in the middle of a profound social change – we’ve had legal setbacks this week, but we are moving in the right direction. It may take a while for us to reach a condition of full equality, but I wanted to remind you of what is possible.

I’m going to read an edited excerpt from Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the decision allowing people of the same sex to legally marry.

“Marriage is a vital social institution. It nurtures love and mutual support, and brings stability to our society. The benefits accessible by way of marriage are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. The Massachusetts constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. A person who enters into an intimate, exclusive relationship with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions. That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under the law.”

I saw one of the greatest concentrations of happy people in one place on February 14, 2004, at San Francisco City Hall - the city had begun issuing marriage licenses regardless of the gender of applicants. I heard people call their families, and I remember one woman in particular, and the wonder and joy in her voice telling people “we got married.”

We’re about to witness a transformative linguistic event – through the words they’ll pronounce, Lizbet and Louise will bring themselves into a new state. The importance of language to this marriage is paramount – and not just because the brides are such accomplished academics. Because Lizbet and Louise don’t yet have the legal underpinnings of marriage, the language we use as we participate in and describe this ceremony is incredibly important. Through referring to them as wife and wife, we help make their marriage real. Please think carefully about this when you’re home, and describe this experience as what it is – a wedding. A marriage.

In our culture, marriage has evolved to celebrate profound emotional connection. One of the reasons I support marriage rights for everyone is that I can’t imagine a better couple to be married than Lizbet and Louise (of course, that might just be because I’m single and still profoundly idealistic about marriage). They’re the couple whose relationship I admire the most. They have an amazing level of mutual respect; they’re intellectually well matched; they provide each other with unquestioning support, but have fundamental autonomy. They are full of love, joy, sensuality, desire and integrity. They are with each other through the saddest and happiest of times.

This is one of the happiest of times! We’re all lucky to share in this beautiful afternoon. Marriage functions because our community supports and acknowledges the union between two people. Especially in the absence of legal recognition, Lizbet and Louise’s marriage is brought into being by our participation in it, as much as by their love and commitment. I want to thank all of the family and friends who are here to be part of the wedding, and who are showing the brides so much support. Through the physicality of our participation, we’re bearing witness to their marriage. We’re privileged to be part of these women’s lives – but just like with marriage, this benefit comes with responsibilities and obligations.

I think we have two responsibilities - first, to work to make marriage possible for everyone. That involves not only the way you talk about this weekend when you go home, and how you refer to Lizbet and Louise from here on out, but also in the way you vote and who you give money to. (Remember, there’s a very competitive House race in North Carolina this year).

Our second responsibility is to celebrate their marriage as fully as possible. Just as Lizbet and Louise are engaged with each other through intellect, heart, and body, we should celebrate their union with our emotions and participation. If people don’t dance at your wedding, you’re not really married. Soon we’ll have the opportunity to dance Lizbet and Louise into their new life, and I encourage you to do that as fully and joyously as they will....

(Yes, I really did start with an outline, and although it was kind of an inside joke, it made it feel formal and deliberate, just like I wanted it to be. And I think everyone could tell what a huge fan I am of their relationship, which was the thing I most wanted to come through. I'm not quite sure why a perenially unboyfriended person like me should be speaking publicly about marriage and relationships, but I'm claiming the title of best strapless-dress weditorialist in Boonville...)

Monday, October 2, 2006, 03:52 AM
(early 1885)
Mrs. James S. Cooper

Dear friend -

Nothing inclusive of a human Heart could be "trivial." That appalling Boon makes all things paltry but itself -
To thank you would profane you - There are moments when Gratitude is a desecration -

Go thy great way!
The Stars thou meetst
Are even as Thyself -
For what are Stars but Asterisks
To point a human Life?

E - Dickinson,
with love -

Bite Me 
Friday, September 29, 2006, 04:36 PM - Travels, Food

Or, if one has braces, it's more like "cut me up in small pieces and eat me with granola and yoghurt in the morning." One of the best parts of my incessant east coast trips this fall has been returning home with a carry-on full of macouns and macs and even a couple of early northern spies. Good thing I'm well-provisioned since I've been working so much I've barely left the house since I got back the last time. I had wanted to go get arrested yesterday at LAX but there was no room for that in campaign world, especially since I've unexpectedly been drafted back into the data mines....

Like Pesticides? 
Friday, September 22, 2006, 06:40 PM - Food
Here is how one of our staff described my tenacious efficiency today:
- I know Catherine is on it like pesticides on unorganic fruit. -
Should I be proud of this?

We must be doing something right... 
Tuesday, September 19, 2006, 01:17 AM

I'm not adding a link since I don't want them to have more visibility, but there's a new online campaign - - of course full of inaccurate information...but it's nice to know we're making people nervous.

Friday White Lights 
Saturday, September 16, 2006, 03:36 PM - Art, Los Angeles
I think I've found my new local bar - it's called the Hyperion Tavern and it has pretty chandeliers, rough wood partitions, part of a law library, and beer in bottles. It's not open all the time, but I'm pretty excited about it.

Before that there was the Bubbles opening at Materials and Applications which had beer in cans and undulating inflated orbs. Kind of 'Prisoner goes to Burning Man'. I liked it.

Secretary of State Project 
Saturday, September 16, 2006, 03:30 PM - Politics
Michael and Becky from Working Assets along with James Rucker (MoveOn '04 and Color of Change) have set up a new fundraising/ information project for Secretary of State candidates across the country - Secretary of State Project. It's designed to funnel contributions to people who will work to make sure state elections are accurate and unbiased - who will support voting rights and resist technologies and legislative strategies that limit the precious franchise. (I'm not holding my breath for HAVA or anything else federal to make things right without responsible leadership at the state level.) Send in some cash, and you too can get a sweet little thank you note from Michael Mauro in Iowa. I've set up an Act Blue Fundraising Page here, so all you shadowy readers can have a chance to step up. Thank you!!

Betch Birthday 
Saturday, September 16, 2006, 03:11 PM - Los Angeles
OK, there have been far too many serious entries on this fundamentally fluffy outpouring recently. Perhaps you've seen the Shoes video? My Thursday night coup, at darling Chad's 27th birthday, was that I presciently arrived just in time to see Kelly perform 'Shoes' live. And my Silver Lake fact of the week is that El Cid was originally the studio where Birth of a Nation was filmed...

Peaks Island 
Thursday, September 14, 2006, 11:56 PM - Travels, George

Last weekend (after training new staff in Boston) I took my dad up to Maine to see his navy friend Mike (yes, from WWII). The Friedmans are some of Dad's oldest and closest friends - he was in their wedding in '48, and we would trek up to Maine periodically when I was growing up. My first seder was in their rambling old farmhouse in Bridgeton. It was an emotional weekend for everyone - Dad reacting to the undeniable change in his friend and himself and the realities of being in his mid-80s- Mickey dealing with the demands of an older partner, family drama, and a kitchen remodel - Dad and I appreciating being together on the anniversary of Mom's death, but that not meaning we were less affected by it. We had the best parts of Maine weather (summer Saturday, early fall Sunday). Both nights before dinner I circumnavigated the whole rocky perimeter on my sunset run... I can't tell if it's because I savor the isolation or the community of islands that I like them so much, but ferry rides and places you can't drive to always appeal to me.
BTW I turned off comments for a bit since I was tired of erasing spam - will put them back at some point - feel free to send me anything you'd like posted for now.

Activism, Inc. 
Friday, September 8, 2006, 11:50 PM - Politics
So, am I part of the canvass-driven octopus that is 'strangling' the lifeblood of progressive politics, or do I work for organizations that are the best hope for reinvigorating the Democratic party and creating a national network of engaged progressives? GCI (and more pointedly the Fund for Public Interest Research - whence all of the senior GCI staff other than myself have sprung) are called out in a new book - Activism, Inc. - it argues that paid canvass operations undermine true civic participation, chew relentlessly through young idealists, and result in a dearth of employment opportunities for young progressives. The book (which I read a couple of nights ago - read a review from the Chronicle of Higher Education here) ) has accurate descriptions of how canvass offices run, including the high turnover, 'sink or swim' attitude, and demanding hours of the positions, and raises some concerning points about labor practices and compensation structure. I've certainly seen some negative consequences (both organizationally and on the individual level) of the management principles that have built these organizations, but the policies and legislation enacted and the amount of money funnelled into progressive causes through the canvass programs is phenomenal (and not acknowledged in the book). GCI's work in 2004 for the DNC added hundreds of thousands of new small donors to the party base, allowing Howard Dean to implement his 50-state strategy- which would have been impossible in a DNC built around large donors' priorities. The lack of the '04 canvass' coordination with local and state party efforts (in my opinion, since I didn't work on that project at all) was as much a reflection of the internal disorganization of the party as it was the single-minded fundraising focus of the canvasses. The regimented, rote nature of PIRG-driven canvasses is not for everyone, and definitely does not gibe with many leftists' ideals of bottom-up shared decision-making - but the goal-oriented, outcome-driven, rigorous implementation of a model is something other parts of the progressive movement would do well to emulate (even if they'd prefer to implement something entirely different than a canvass).
Our work with MoveOn in '04 (which the author loves and apparently doesn't realize was also done by GCI) was the kind of citizen participation, volunteer-based electoral work she argues for - she doesn't get that a program on that scale and timeline would be challenging to run without a seasoned organizer staff to recruit, train, and manage volunteers. Our current "Call for Change" program is a more infrastructure-driven evolution of our 2004 project - involving a broader set of MoveOn members and developing a core of progressive leadership in communities across the country.
Many of the points made about the movement's failings are a stretch to pin on canvass operations - the alienation of the progressive base can be attributed as much to over-reliance on judicial strategies (in feminist and environmental movements), the move toward checkbook-based 'membership' organizations, and the fractures between single-issue organizations, labor, and other supposed allies. Canvasses that emphasized civic engagement over fundraising would be amazing tools for citizen outreach, but it seems highly unlikley that they'd be self-sustaining financially... and while reaching like-minded progressives through electronic communications is efficient, we're a ways off from technology that allows for the kind of intensity and engagement that in-person contact affords.
I canvassed for ConnPIRG one summer in college, and while I thought that the people running the office then (and some of the canvass directors I know now) were too blindly invested in canvassing as a model, I also know we did a significant amount of public education on critical environmental issues. I fully agree that Democratic field operations are pathetic and badly organized, and still am fuming about the lack of infrastructure that remained in the wake of all the money spend on paid GOTV workers by ACT. I think MoveOn and GCI together are learning and perfecting ways to motivate and develop leadership among a group of committed electoral volunteers - necessary conditions for an effective civic engagement strategy.
The researcher in me sees many holes in the logical structure of the book - she did a reasonable job at an ethnography of the canvass, and recontacted a decent percentage of her 115 interview subjects - but the conclusions she draws about the long-term impact of canvassing on individuals and on the progressive movement are just not well-substantiated. Without a larger survey or a longer follow-up timeframe, it seems impossible to conclude much about the impact on canvassers. Her strongest points are those drawn directly from participant-observation and from readily available facts. While she raises valid criticisms of the progressive movement, it's not the kind of deep evaluation we need to create positive and sustainable change and grow our institutions, nor are they correctly attributable to the canvass activities of the Fund or GCI.