This piece was originally posted on Righteous Anger.
The old feminist adage that the personal is political has always been dear to my heart. Our everyday relations are reflections of the wider world around us. How much does gasoline cost? Are our jobs and livelihoods at risk because of who sits in the state house? How are our children being educated? Can we marry the people we love? One day this past May, I witnessed how the personal and political can intersect in the most hideous way.
Late on a Friday evening, my daughter, her boyfriend, and I sat on our front porch. The house is just a block from the University of Arizona, so university students–drunken or otherwise–wander the streets at all hours. This was one of those nights with drunken students stumbling down our street.
As we sat on the porch, we heard a male voice scream, “You said you loved me and you loved the dog. You don’t love me or the dog!” We giggled, since it sounded so ridiculous. Typical overwrought, drunken-college-kid hysteria. The partner did not reply, but he did eventually catch up to his boyfriend. The boyfriend kept screaming out his complaints for all to hear, whether we wanted to or not.
Eventually, they met in the intersection and began hitting each other. Yes, we probably should have said something, and we would have if it was an opposite-sex couple. With same-sex couples, though, I know many people are even less likely to get involved. In general, the reason I’m more likely to say something or call the police with opposite-sex couples is the disparity in size and strength. We’re also more accustomed to seeing fights between same-sex combatants who have no romantic relationship, so it’s more “acceptable.” I’m not ignoring the problem of my hypocrisy here, just explaining why many of us behave that way.
If it had stayed on the level of a personal spat–even with the slapping of each other–I wouldn’t have thought much about it. However, it began to take on the ugly tone of bigotry that is so common in Arizona. It turns out that one of the partners was Anglo, while the other was of Mexican decent and nationality. The Anglo partner began screaming that he was going to call the police and have his lover deported. Really? That’s where you’re going to go with someone you claim to love? That’s a shitty thing to say to someone you don’t have ties to; to say it to someone you supposedly love is atrocious.
The two wandered up in front of our house, with the white kid taking the lead. He stormed up to us and demanded that we call the police. His Mexican boyfriend followed more slowly, giving us an embarrassed smile. The Anglo kid demanded over and over that we have the police come and deport the Mexican kid. He really came to the wrong fucking house. Little did he realize that the older Anglo woman and the mixed-ethnicity girl were related to many people who came to this country from Mexico. He saw the white skin and thought he could be as disgustingly bigoted as he wanted to be. Wrong again, asshole.
My daughter’s boyfriend confronted the white kid: “We don’t hear him making a scene. The only person we hear is you. Why would we call the cops on him?” The Anglo kid had no reply. After my son-in-law verbally smacked him down, the kid started off on his journey up the street. His boyfriend again looked at us, smiled with a look of embarrassed resignation, and followed his partner.
It may have been a different time and a different issue, but I was once again shown the truth in that old adage: the personal really is political.