Joseph O'Brien 4:30 p.m., Aug. 24
- Community Blog
In 2008, when Californians were getting ready to cast their ballots in favor or against prop 8, my neighborhood began a passive aggressive feud. The neighbors across the way placed a Yes on Prop 8 sign in their garden. The next day their neighbors, with whom they share a fence, placed a no on prop 8 sign in their yard. By the end of the week three more anti and pro signs appeared in my little alleyway of 12 houses. And so my neighbors were divided.
We waged a war against one another that consisted of dirty looks and forced hellos. The friendly waves we greeted each other with while rolling out the trash or from out our car windows ceased. All of sudden, the neighborly sharing of lemons and oranges from our various fruit trees came to a stunning halt. We were at odds.
Around that time my brother came to visit from San Francisco. “No one in San Francisco would ever have a vote yes on prop 8 sign. I didn't even know those kind of signs exisited” He said disgusted upon seeing the madness of my alley. I was embarrassed.
We didn’t have a sign. Not because my husband and I didn’t have an opinion but more out of laziness. Where do you even get such a sign? Mostly, and I hate to admit this, above all, I wanted to avoid the uncomfort that had taken over our normally peaceful neighborhood. I wanted to stay out of it.
A month before the prop 8 signs appeared a couple of us had a barbeque complete with bon fire and craft beer. The topic turned to politics and quickly went downhill. It was the McCain supporters against the Obama fans with both sides poking fun at my husband, the lone Ron Paul enthusiast.
“I don’t know if I can drink with an Obama fan.” I was mockingly told. I laughed politely but underneath the joke I could feel an underlying anger.
Looking back, I think the division between our neighbors started long before the appearance of the prop 8 signs.
The neighbors directly across from us are Mormon. They are nice Family, always friendly, and go out of their way to help everyone in our alley. Every Christmas the wife drops off a Tupperware full of homemade toffee. They watched our dog while we were on vacation and once helped me with a pretty serious plumbing problem. They were the first to don a prop 8 sign. Their church insisted that every member make waves in regards to Prop 8. They were told that every single one of them needed to have a sign displayed encouraging what they called “protecting marriage.” I’m pretty sure that despite what they were told by their church they would have proudly displayed the sign anyway.
While all of this was going on I had to ask myself: is it okay to be civil to people with whom you share completely different views? Could I in good conscious accept people whose views I found offensive? I had a hard time drawing the line with my neighbors. I see them every day. Living so close to other people you really get a sense of who they are. All of them are good people. In the end I realized that I could love them without having to accept their ideas and beliefs. It's a simple concept, one I learned as a child, yet still I have a hard time with it. It's hard to respectfully disagree with people.
I’d like to think that we all learned something from our feud, although it's hard to tell. A few months after Prop 8 passed, new neighbors moved in. They had two dogs. Ones in which were constantly barking. Day and night you could hear their desperate yaks. That’s when we were really able to put the prop 8 business behind us because we had something new to wage war against: those obnoxious dogs. However frivolous it seemed, freedom from the barks was something that brought the neighborhood back together again.
Now, almost two years later, things have cooled down. We have all gone about our business and have resumed being neighborly to one another.
On Wednesday, when I heard the news that Prop 8 had been declared unconstitutional I celebrated and then quickly wondered if once again our alley would wage a cold war.