Does Being Married Make Me A Bad Activist?

Or, why I won’t get arrested just to prove a point.

Feb 1, 2012 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

image

My awesome dudeface knew I was revolution-inclined when we met. I warned him up front that I don’t shave, which I’m still pretty sure counts as a political marker and not just a sign of laziness (my tendency is linked to both).

And sometime shortly after we met, I gave him a copy of Herbert Marcuse’s "One-Dimensional Man."

Ugh, I know. Media theorist activists in love. Cliché upon cliché.

Really, it was a sweet gesture that helped Andreas understand a bit about the woman he would quickly profess his love for and subsequently move across the ocean to be with. Also, he loves the Frankfurt School, so I was spot on. New girlfriend gift-giving success!

Anyway. My man, as perhaps evidenced by his name, is not an American citizen. And our immigration battles -- which have been so incredibly insignificant compared with many couples’ struggles -- keep me from being the radical I always believed I was.

It’s not because I got married and gave up my personality or interests or whatever. I don’t actually know why people would assume my relationship significantly alters my political and social consciousness. (If it did, wouldn’t I be doing it wrong? Also, it’s worth saying that while I was not my best self in some of my past relationships -- is anyone ever their best self in an ultimately doomed union? -- I’ve paid for way too much therapy in which I unlearned unhealthy habits.)

I’m not a lesser activist because I sold out my values to the institution of marriage. I’m a lesser activist because my sweetie isn’t a U.S. citizen. His ability to be in the States hinges on his job and on me. When being together depends on things like not getting arrested or having any sort of criminal record, it can make you reassess how you want to spend your social and political capital.

Let’s be clear. I was never the get-arrested type. I’m as obnoxious as any leftist who, at some point in their socially conscious journey, romanticizes getting locked up or beaten up by the fuzz. I know there’s nothing glamorous about jail or billy clubs, but a lot of us think that way at one time or another. Let me own it publicly so everyone else doesn’t have to.

But along the way, I realized that I don’t think time in the slammer should be a goal. Moreover, I realized that having a record could jam up a spousal visa application, or hell, even my own ability to travel for work or awesome fun.

When it comes to international partnership and marriage, you have to know that if I get stopped at the border, so does he. They can’t keep me out, but they can sure as hell make it hard on him.

This is primarily an issue because I’m a bit of an environmentalist. More specifically, I’m down with animal rights folk. That isn’t inherently tricky territory, depending on the framework, but read a little bit about the “green scare” (if you haven’t already) and you’ll quickly understand why I fear having my vegan potlucks infiltrated.

So, I don’t get myself into trouble. I avoid specific activities and meetings. I keep a low profile -- or rather, I just write about this stuff instead of actively participating.

image

Do I have the luxury of opting out? Yeah, I do. My well-being doesn’t depend on my ability to camp out with now-diminished Occupy SF crowd or be part of a tenant’s coalition.

I might be a better person for choosing to be a part of those things, but I also feel like my life is enriched by actively choosing, on a regular basis, to be with a supportive, loving partner.

Am I letting The Man win? Yeah, probably. But none of this means that I can’t participate in my own small if meaningful everyday protests again social norms and things that bother me.

I keep a vegan home as best I can, something that’s really important to me. I volunteer my time at a farmed animal sanctuary. I’ve started writing letters to a political prisoner. When I get take-out, I (offer to and when taken up on it) buy dinner for some of the folks who live on the streets in my neighborhood.

I don’t pretend that any of this stuff changes the world, nor do I typically talk about it at all. If someone sees me feeding the guy in the stairwell that leads to my hilltop, cool. If a friend asks about the food I choose to eat, fine.

My everyday revolution might actually be my most effective tool for change given that small, personalized actions can seem the most profound. Either way, I just try to keep a level head about distinguishing what I do because I think it’s important and the social guilt of not doing more.

Being married doesn’t automatically make someone a sellout. It all depends on your relationship. But you knew that, right?

Oh, also? In this slacktivist household, we have two copies of "One-Dimensional Man." Do you really think I gave him my copy?