See, we were asked a couple of weeks ago to do a very specific thing in helping with the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign. I've already posted how we feel about Prop 8, and I feel like I've exhausted my brain power on it all, but there's one thing that I only mentioned once in a comment, and I wanted to say it again so that it's more clear. What Proposition 8 does is define marriage as being between a man and a woman in the state of California. That's all it does, and I understand that to some people that's a very big deal, and that those people will be voting yes or no, depending on what kind of a big deal they feel it is. What it does not do is take away any rights. As stated by the California Family Code, legal domestic partnerships have all the same rights that married couples do. You can read that part of the code here. (Although apparently it doesn't count for long-term care insurance plans, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense either way, and I don't think many people would vote against a proposition suggesting we change the long-term care thingie so that it does cover domestic partners.)
Anyway, like I said, we know that whether or not it's legally called marriage is a big deal, and depending on what kind of a big deal it is, people will vote one way or the other. Our beliefs are such that we think changing the definition of marriage would be a bad thing (or rather, allowing it to stay changed, since it kind of changed when the CA supreme court overturned prop 22), and so we're helping promote prop 8.
And since our helping with prop 8 has been an Experience, I wanted to blog about it.
What we were asked to do is help by calling voters to see what they were voting, ask people who were definitely voting yes if they'd be willing to help with the campaign, and give some points to think about to undecided voters so that hopefully they would vote yes. If people had already made up their minds to vote no, we were to respect their opinion and not pick a fight. I think the kind of things that happen to people making political phone calls is pretty much the same on any side of just about any issue, so I think this experience could describe the general experience of anyone making phone calls.
We have a computer program where we hook up to the internet, and the program makes the calls for us; we just wait for the person's name to pop up on the monitor and start reading our script. Actually, now that I've done this, I have a lot more sympathy for the telemarketers who keep calling with their same spiels. Of course, we're terrified of using the phone in general, even to call good friends, so that made things Even Scarier. We managed to make it less scary by dividing our time into half-hour increments. We only have one phone line, and our battery dies pretty quick, which is another reason we shortened it so much. Of course we took turns, and while one of us was on the phone, the other would be reading manga (in most cases VB Rose, but I also read through volume three of Hoshi wa Utau). It wasn't easy, though, because even when it wasn't my turn, I'd be freaked out for Athena, or if we knew we were next, well... So I'm not sure how much retention I got out of the manga-reading sessions, but oh well is about all I can say.
Sometimes, it took a long time between phone calls. These were times of mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was like, "Whew, I'm not talking to anybody." But on the other hand, it was boring, and filled with the suspense of waiting for the next call. On the second day, I managed to entertain myself by making the mouse dance to the music in my head. But then I got a bunch of calls with people who disagreed, and that was discouraging, so I didn't feel like dancing anymore.
As for the people, I can totally understand why we're finding that more and more people are also terrified of the phone (for the longest time, we thought it was only us). There were really really really nice people on both sides of the argument, and really mean and grumpy people on both sides of the argument. So even when we had people agreeing with us, it was still unpleasant. Of course the best calls were the ones where people agreed enthusiastically and friendlily, but there were some interesting calls that weren't too discouraging and/or traumatizing on the other side, too. Athena says she thinks she had someone wish her luck after disagreeing with her, but she doesn't remember exactly. Says it's all a blur.
And the other thing I learned is that it's impossible to tell what someone's opinion will be based on their voice. I knew it was silly to try to guess, but when your mind is working furiously to fend off the terror, it needs something to do, and so it happens automatically. Of course there were a few times where I guessed right, but most of the time not so much. I really liked the calls where the people wanted to talk about it rationally, and try to work everything out, even if they ended up saying they'd probably vote the other way. I think that might be because if they're willing to sit and talk about it, it means they definitely don't mind being called by yet another random stranger with a script about a political issue. Of course, you can't always use the script for stuff like that, but we've done plenty of research.
I think that about covers it, except for the sense of enormous relief whenever we ended up with an answering machine. Or better, a wrong number, because then it wouldn't be recycled into the list again. Not that we don't want to fight for our cause of course--just that we're really really scared. There were a few times we ended up calling and asking for husbands who had recently passed away. That was kind of awkward. Athena got one lady who said, "He passed away a few years ago, so you'll have to talk to him another time." I hope that means she's dealt with it well.
And that's the tale of last week's adventures. We're very glad that the election is tomorrow, and I'm pretty excited about voting, even if I am registered in Fresno (for those of you just joining us, we refused to register for a long time after moving to Fresno because we were annoyed that this is where we ended up; fortunately, this is only the first presidential election since then). Incidentally, Bill Kristol (I think that's how his name is spelled) was on The Daily Show on Thursday, and I decided that I really like it when he is, because even though he disagrees so strongly with Jon Stewart, he has a really good attitude about it, and he keeps coming back anyway. He said something this time that we thought was pretty awesome. I'm paraphrasing of course because I don't remember exactly, but it was something like how he doesn't think that Obama would turn the country over to terrorists or anything like that; he thinks both candidates would be fairly moderate presidents (I think that's the adjective he used), and if you're a liberal you should vote for Obama and if you're a conservative you should vote for McCain. Basically, it's not going to be the end of the world if one or the other candidate wins, so just vote for who you like.
Today I'm thankful for the right to vote, friendly people on the phone, handy websites where you can look up state law, getting back to a fairly normal schedule soon, and that everyone we've spoken with about politics (particularly about prop 8) has been so respectful (except for a few random strangers on the phone, but random strangers don't count).