Prop. 8 Reignites Our Political Fire

    Kim Cyprian/Guardian

    STUDENT LIFE — UCSD’s infamous apathy is not only proofed by the tumbleweeds that replace Triton-sculpture admirers; more disappointingly, we have long felt a widening void in the rebellious collegiate spirit that once characterized our campus. Loud and physical political statement has died to a breeze — either for disinterest in current events or, perhaps, the sentiment that we can’t be heard in the country’s legislative offices from way down here in the trenches — though theoretically, a spotlit position on such a renowned campus could easily push us up toward the front lines.

    Reminiscent nostalgia for the first major protests in the 1960s is a key weight to this downward spiral, putting a pessimistic drag on the pursuit of modern ways to air our grumbles. Instead of utilizing the infinite spider web of communication lines now available to us, we often slump into longing for the days when — in a fresh defiance of the university’s special mob-proof structural design — UCSD served as a stage for the angry baby-boomer youth to tackle national injustices. Student-made documentary “Herbert’s Hippopotamus” (available in Geisel for some informative, good-times procrastination) remembers a day when socialist activists roamed the campus, holding registrar’s-office sit-ins and listening to the occasional battle cry from resident celebrity Angela Davis. Most devastatingly — and, by consequence, awesomely — a UCSD student actually set himself on fire in opposition to the Vietnam War, making headlines across the country and beyond.

    Half a century later, in a somewhat unregulated transition period from a flame-retardant free-speech policy that prohibited the assembly of 10 or more students without prior permission, the closest we come to controversy is the occasional underattended Iraq war protest — several hundred sat in for talks at Price Center in 2004, and about 100 took part in a 2006 rally held just off campus. A beacon of light in more local awareness of equal rights, this year’s student and employee protests to increase wages for UC workers under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were some of the largest in recent UCSD history.

    As devastating as the acceptance of Proposition 8’s passage — defining marriage as strictly between a man and a woman — has been for such a liberal community, it appears we needed an especially stinging slap to get us off our asses once and for all. Last Friday’s march to repeal the amendment on grounds of being an illegitimate incentive — and win university officials’ endorsement of that endeavor — was the largest and most well-presented demonstration of political voice on campus in years, drawing an army of over 400 through every major UCSD walkway, equipped with banners, armbands and communal calls for justice.

    Though the “No on Proposition 8” campaign was strong and heavily manned, it just wasn’t enough; we all just assumed nothing so blatantly infringing on equal human rights could possibly get past the popular vote of our beloved bright-blue California. As the demonstration’s sprinkling of “No on Prop. 8” signs so clearly pointed out, massive opposition to such a backwards-thinking measure would have been much more effective back when it was first proposed, with a protest-driven case for its misplacement on the state constitution.

    Still — there was no better way to pick up after the disaster. Though the romanticized radical approach is largely left to the video reserves, the protest’s call for a mature, logical rethinking of Proposition 8 is well served by its more conservative conduct. Rally organizers gained administrative permission beforehand (and for that, were met with what seemed to be the county’s entire police force), lined the sidewalks instead of the streets and prepared Chancellor Marye Anne Fox with their demands by e-mail so that she could think hard on the university’s response. And though there is little to no chance that officials will endorse Proposition 8’s repeal — unsurprisingly, as the university is not a political entity — barking up the wrong tree provides the movement a much-needed direction and reason to shout that much louder, heard far beyond the UC regents’ board room. It may not have been the balls-out, flower-power war cry we were crossing our fingers for, and lord knows it would have done a hell of a lot more good back in May, but the last major infringement on constitutional equality has given us that last push to dust off the picket signs and start complaining about something other than our own apathy.

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