Last night I volunteered at a phone bank for Equality For All, the campaign to defeat the evil proposition on the California ballot this November to ban marriage between same-sex couples. We were trying to raise money and recruit volunteers.

The organizers cleverly suggested that we begin by calling people we know before moving on to lists culled from "contact me" sign-up sheets. I would not have thought of that, but I used personal contacts to raise $300 (my totals were the group's highest overall; I think I am good at fundraising) and obtain one volunteer, and the guy next to me called his college buddies and assembled a team of volunteers.

Before we began, we introduced ourselves and our reasons for being there. One woman said that as a black woman, she would have been legally denied civil rights in earlier times, and this struck her as a similar battle. A bunch of the men said they hoped to get married some day, either to a particular man or just in general. One of the people I spoke to on the phone said that her church had organized a campaign to raise awareness against the amendment in local farmer's markets! Others mentioned being strongly affected by this pro-marriage equality commercial.

As I drove home, I thought about how causes seem to choose us as much as we choose them. I don't like weddings. I don't like how you really have to fight to make them not commercialist, frou-frou and frilly, about enforced creepy gender roles, insanely expensive, incredibly depressing to single attendees, and long and boring. I don't like attending them, and the thought of ever having one myself does not exactly fill me with glee. As for marriage itself, I don't abhor the institution, but neither does it thrill me. So what is the single cause that has engaged me the most in the last five years or so? Marriage equality!

If I were to choose which cause I intellectually think is most important, it would probably be global warming and other potentially catastrophic environmental issues. Followed by world poverty, global inequality, famine, disease, war, and other issues that kill people in large numbers every day.

Out of all of those, the only ones that I've ever actually hit the streets for are AIDS-related issues and anti-war activism over specific wars. (And suspect that I am becoming even more of a peacenik than I was before due to now having a particular person whom I would like to keep out of the war zone.) The other causes that I've been seriously involved in over a span of years are GLBT rights, mentoring children, and emergency preparedness.

Though people can and do die as a direct or indirect result of being deprived of their civil rights, marriage equality, like mentoring children, seems a bit like small potatoes in the grand global "so many preventable deaths per minute" scheme of things. But every individual life is small potatoes on that scale.

Having grown up among people who were devoting themselves to grand ideals (union with God) while not noticing or caring about the very small-scale, but very real human suffering going on right in front of them, I think that even if the ideal is to tackle the biggest issues first, there's also value in fixing the things that you actually have the capability of fixing.

And passion lends capability. While swimming might be the ideal exercise for me, I don't enjoy swimming, so I never get around to actually doing any. Whereas I am willing to go do less ideal exercise if I actually enjoy it. Likewise, my passion, rather inexplicably, is leaping up and shouting, "Hit the streets to promote more marriages! Yeah brides!" and passing out on the sofa at the thought of global warming or malaria. Marriage equality it is!

What causes personally engage you guys? Is it clear why, or is it slightly inexplicable to you too? Are they different from what you would consider ideal or primarily important, or are they the same?

From: [identity profile]

I haven't actually stirred my ass to do anything about it, but the cause that most appeals to me is the mosquito nets drive. It's a good combination of a simple, practical application that can have an immediate effect, with a personal appeal: I've had malaria. :D

From: [identity profile]

The cause I actually *do* something about is transportation. Most of the time, it's just get out there and ride my bike. But it's also about showing *up* to political meetings... not the transportation focused ones, the ones about housing and business and the arts. Because a lot of people who treat business or housing as their major goals don't *see* how good transportation (mass transit that works, good pedestrian facilities, bike parking etc) directly affects them. Get them on my side, and life gets better.

I can't fix global warming or racism or any of the really big issues. But I can show up and fight for safe streets.

From: [identity profile]

For me, it's education - no, not schools, but real education. Lifelong learning. Self-study. Improving the mind. Whatever you call it, it's about realizing that there's a great big world out there, and not only is it really interesting, you can make it more so. Whether it's by writing a book, designing a new game, creating art or knitting booties for your grandbabies and all your friends' grandbabies.

Most people are so caught up in the daily grind that they barely realize what it is that's missing in their lives - the feeling that you can make something, create something, develop yourself and improve your world, if only a little. And if you don't learn, you don't grow, and if you don't grow you stagnate. But if someone learns more about the world around them, it gives them new ideas, and new views on old ideas. So learning is at the core, to my mind. It lays the foundation that you can build on, and my passion is giving people what they need to lay it.

Lucky me, I even get paid to do it. ^___^

From: [identity profile]

My cause is a lost cause: Mitigating the deleterious effects of humans on the environment, usually through preservation and regulation.

From: [identity profile]

Women's safety and boundary setting. I am lamentably apathetic about most good causes, but seeing or hearing about someone being harassed/assaulted, even in fiction, hits my buttons every time.

From: [identity profile]

I think that even if the ideal is to tackle the biggest issues first, there's also value in fixing the things that you actually have the capability of fixing.

And passion lends capability.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, absolute agreement.

And that's why I'm a therapist.

(And frankly, while other political causes are important to me, I haven't been nearly as focused on them since I became a therapist. But I'm kinda okay with that.)

From: [identity profile]

After a lot of flailing around in the seventies, I learned that so much of one's energy ends up being a mutual effort among the choir, while everyone outside the building goes on exactly as usual.

If I can see a way my efforts will make a difference, I'm much more likely to participate--or if the method is something I can manage.

From: [identity profile]

I think I am good at fundraising

$50,000 would tend to suggest that, yes *g*.

I definitely end up working on whatever issues fall into my lap, rather than ones that I think are important a priori. A lot of it has to do with whether there are people around me who are energized and working on it, too.

From: [identity profile]

My earliest (like, grade school) and longest lasting cause has been public education and education in general. I'm sure I picked it up from my mom, who rarely rants about anything, but public education will get her going. I have to laugh about it actually, because her early instillation of the idea that people should be treated fairly is probably what made me into the most liberal person in my family. A lot more liberal than she'd like, but there you go.

From: [identity profile]

My husband always asks me why 'the gay thing' ends up taking a lot of my energy, and I have no good answer and no real inclination to answer, at this point. Self-examination becomes navel-gazing at a point, and I'm well past that. I tend to be involved in local community issues, and things that relate to my friends.

From: [identity profile]

What a fascinating post (and comments, too!)

I often find myself passionate about more causes than I can fit into day. I have hit the streets, gone to meetings, fundraised, done PR, worked for, donated to, or otherwise had some sort of strong involvement with groups involving the following:

- GLBT rights
- Remembering the "T" in GLBT rights
- feminism, women's rights, sexual assault prevention and aid to survivors
- world poverty and the UN Millenial Goals (not all of which I'm in love with, but the ones aimed at poverty I have no problem heralding)
- the war in Uganda and cessation of the use of child soldiers
- the conflict in Darfur
- emergency preparedness
- rebuilding New Orleans
- Habitat for Humanity

And I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.

The interesting thing is that even after running/co-running a queer-straight alliance group for two years, I've become much less vocal about GLBT issues because I feel like we've reached the point where the ones most in charge of our destiny are, well, the heterosexuals. No civil rights movement ever passes without the tacit resignation - or support - of the majority.

Heterosexual allies are today's white abolitionists; of course blacks are against slavery, but it means something different coming from someone who doesn't "have" to say it. Like hearing "I love you" from someone other than a parent or immediate family member, the latter may be no less true but the perceived compulsion strips it of its meaning.

I feel like I, as a gay man, am the voice people are least interested in hearing on GLBT rights. I've also begun to shift into environments where I don't want to be out right away, all the time, to everyone. (Or environments, such as my job this past summer, where I can't.) And I'm okay with that... but the trade-off is being out, which is one valuable weapon, or even just being outspoken.

And this is, uh, probably a longer comment than you really needed to deal with, heh.

From: [identity profile]

The "cause" I miss the most was my day job as a public high school teacher. By the time they reach high school, it's too late for a lot of them...but you do what you can, and pray it's enough for a few here and there.

Although there are a number of causes I am theoretically for, I am hampered by the fact that I have social phobia and really hate dealing with unfamiliar people or situations. So now that I'm no longer teaching (or tutoring), I end up doing things on a tiny scale, like things for fandom charity auctions. It's kind of pathetic, but it's better than nothing.

From: [identity profile]

Wow, what a lovely essay. It would be a good op-ed piece.

From: [identity profile]

Feminism is what has got me raising my voice, on the streets in protest, in letters to politicians, and every day in conversation. I became aware of my identity as a woman and as a member of an ethnic minority at the same time, but while both issues interested me I recognised that the big reasons I used to say I hated my country were down to gender inequality, while I felt like a fraud pretending my experiences of racial inequality had more than a slight impact on my life.

From: [identity profile]

And, because I forgot to mention, I regularly feel guilty for not focusing on causes such as global warming or third world debt. I buy Fairtrade goods and recycle, but that's about as far as it goes.

From: [identity profile]

Having grown up among people who were devoting themselves to grand ideals (union with God) while not noticing or caring about the very small-scale, but very real human suffering going on right in front of them,

Thank you for finally articulating that in a way I haven't been able to. I left the church a few years ago, in part due to personal questioning and spiritual questing, and in part due to the fact that I could no longer cope with the exact thing you mentioned there.

And may I just say, thank you for fighting for equality. It means a lot to me.

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