It’s been a while since I’ve checked in. I arrived back in California on May 26 and it’s taken a while to adjust to the transition. First of all, I can’t say enough about my time in a rural Midwestern Trump-won county. Despite any political differences I sensed, the people I encountered were exceedingly kind. I also met with the type of lifestyle that might appeal to conservatives or fundamentalists. It is a lifestyle that doesn’t change. Some individuals do not want change. They cherish their quiet white-only enclaves where things are as they have always been. Neighbors help neighbors. Men marry women. And unlike in big cities, crime is kept to a low murmur.
I have to admit that I did savor some of this peace myself, including my own white privilege. The older I get, places that are quiet and unchanging hold a special appeal. When I was young, these places bored me out of my mind and I couldn’t wait to escape. And perhaps if I’d stayed longer and I might have had a different view of the place of my birth. As it was, I cherished the friendliness I found there, as well as the silence. And much of the joy I experienced came from several kayaking trips I took into the surrounding wilderness.
Now I’m back in California experiencing another kind of joy. I helped register voters at the Sonoma County Pride Festival on Saturday. This was the first such festival following a two-year Covid hiatus. I had been to this festival before and I was amazed by how much things had changed. I first visited the festival in 2018. After living in San Francisco and seeing their pride celebration, I was highly disappointed in the piddliness of Sonoma Pride. This wasn’t the case on Saturday. Courthouse Square was packed with people and the spirit was jubilant. People seemed so happy to come out of their Covid isolation and celebrate.
Sonoma County is a special place and this was reflected in the creative costumes of the crowd. There were plenty of straight people present – as wise heterosexuals realize that the acceptance of diversity benefits everyone. We all become okay with who we are, no matter what our orientation.
I also sensed in a crowd, a renewed strength and maturity brought on by the trials of the previous years. We had survived Trump and Covid and this survival made us stronger and more aware. We’d become more aware of the fragility of life and we’ve come to truly treasure our relationships with one another.
I also sensed in people an awareness of the fragility of democracy. We all knew that Sonoma County was not like the rest of the country. We were aware of so many impending threats – such as the threats to abortion rights, and of the anti-gay and transgender bills popping up in places like Florida and Texas. I have been amazed in fact with the sophistication of the anti-trans ads I’m seeing on YouTube. Much of these ads are riddled with misinformation. For example, Samantha Schmidt writes in the
New York Times: “In recent debates over transgender medical care, politicians have made claims that transgender children are undergoing genital surgeries at young ages. Current medical guidelines say children should not undergo gender-affirming genital surgery before they turn 18.”
Of course none of this probably matters to those who are using transgender children for political gain. It’s a tried old trick – stir up a wedge issue by attaching a vulnerable population.
I’m sure people at the Pride festival were also aware of the recent scourge of gun violence. I couldn’t help but wonder whether such a large crowd might be the target of a mass shooting. This thought was amplified when I witnessed a between visiting “Christians” and festival attendees. The so-called Christians blasted us with a bullhorn – warning that LGBTQs were destined for hell. Some festival attendees shouted back, but in terms of volume, the bullhorn won.