Paradoxical Readings – June 28, 2015

This week I cried tears of grief and joy, as the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex couples, and as the funerals proceeded for the nine fallen in South Carolina. While the Confederate flag is being lowered, and the rainbow flag raised, I am acutely aware that there is much more work to do to.

Changing the Flags

President Obama summed it up beautifully in his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney:

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

It’s a terrible thing that nine beautiful lives had to be lost in order for the history lesson of the Confederate flag to sink in for many Americans. Finally, many are starting to understand that the flag, as Ken Burns said “is not about heritage, it’s about resistance to civil rights.” So perhaps some good can come of this. The momentum for the removal of the flags continues.

Why it still hasn’t happened in South Carolina (by the time I am writing this), I don’t understand. It is incomprehensible that something so offensive, so hurtful to so many continues to exist on state property. So, clad in tree climbing gear, Bree Newsome took matters into her own hands. Admirers and supporters abound, myself included. Just take the bleeping thing down!

Bree Newsome, our new super hero. Ava Duvernay tweeted that she wants to direct the film about her.*

Gillian and I took in the week’s events, observing the memorials for the fallen nine, and celebrating the Supreme Court marriage equality victory on Friday night with a bottle of bubbly and a beautiful meal (pan seared scallops with arugula, tomatoes, corn, avocado, and a gorgeous herbacious dressing – yes, my spouse is a genius in the kitchen, and that’s how we roll). We’ve been waiting a long time for this, trying to be married for the last eleven years, succeeding once and for all in 2013. Yesterday’s victory is just a sweet conclusion to our personal struggle, and our witness to the national struggle for marriage equality.

The week’s best Twitter hash tags were, hands down, #UrbanOutfittersbelike, mocking Urban Outfitters for ridiculous prices, and #AskTheNearestHippie, making fun of Antonin Scalia’s screed of a dissent of the marriage equality ruling. There was also this tweet from UHaul, who finally seems to get the classic lesbian joke. I can’t believe they haven’t cashed in on it before now.

Tears and laughter are both healing in their own ways. This week was certainly an opportunity to find the paradox of finding hope within sadness, and a realization of work left to do in the same moment we celebrate a significant success.

The wind is at our backs. Let’s not get complacent.

* Ava Duvernay Reportedly Directing Marvel’s Black Panther

Real Marriage

Intimacy is what makes a marriage, not a ceremony, not a piece of paper from the state. — Kathleen Norris

I came across this quote on Twitter the other day, and something resonated with me. It is not the first time I have heard this sentiment, and I think it’s absolutely right. The only thing required to make a marriage is a relationship between two people who know in their hearts that they are committed to each other as life partners. Their thoughts, words, and deeds are what enable intimacy, love, commitment, and family to flourish.

By this definition, my wife and I married to each other; in the eyes of the law and most of the world we are virtual strangers to each other. Despite that and the lack of a piece of paper that would make our marriage legal, my wife and I, and our loved ones know that we are married.

And while I believe this, my wedding day six years ago is an important moment in our past that has a presence in our daily lives now.  The ceremony and celebration of our relationship, and the certificate that all of our guests signed as witnesses, while symbolic, is a bonding moment for us. While long since past, being able to reach back to the moment of that day and the love and care of our family has helped us get through some very difficult moments.

Same sex couples everywhere know all too well that marriage doesn’t require legal documents or ceremony. However, the support and respect that these offer strengthens relationships, families, and communities.

Marriage Equality Is About Marriage. Period.

I want to be legally married to my wife. I don’t want special rights, just the same rights that are granted to all heterosexual Americans. I don’t want to redefine marriage, rather I want my relationship with my spouse to be recognized and respected as a committed relationship just as other legal spouses are, with the same rights and responsibilities.

Within any same-sex union, marriage is marriage. In terms of how married couples live in the world, being in love, being committed, being responsible to and for each other, some times raising children, certainly working and paying taxes, being there for one another through sickness and health, prosperity and poverty, same-sex couples are no different than opposite-sex couples.

Whether between a man and a woman, two women, or two men, Marriage isn’t straight or gay. Marriage is marriage.

The marriage equality movement is about civil rights, not special rights, as our opponents continue to bark. As long as the media and popular culture continue to frame the marriage equality movement using the term of “gay marriage,” there will be people who see it as an issue of special rights and redefining marriage. This is simply not the case.

The other day on Twitter, the LA Times tweeted a headline about “gay marriage. ” I tweeted back asking that they use the term “marriage equality” instead. I was pleasantly surprised that someone actually tweeted back at me that “gay marriage” is actually in their style guide. This would never have occurred to me!

It turns out that the Associated Press Style Guide recommends using the term “gay marriage” (scroll down to the section on “Debates Over Terminology”) in articles about same-sex marriage, sometimes simply to save headline space! To their credit, they also recommend simply using the term “marriage” in articles about marriage equality. But clearly some education still needs to occur.

Since it’s updated every year, I think that supporters of marriage equality should lobby the AP to update that recommendation. I’m not entirely sure how to go about doing this, so I’m open to suggestion. However, I’m going to start simply by emailing their general address.

We started a civil rights revolution five years ago. We can certainly continue to influence this positive cultural shift.

Mixed Metaphors and Glass Houses

Since I’m on a roll with my opinions, here is what I think about the recent revelations of John Edwards extramarital affair. Or more accurately, here are some metaphors that describe what I think about what the Dems’ and left-leaning political folks are doing to Edwards (and themselves) in reaction to the affair:

  • Throwing Edwards under the bus (or to the wolves or the lions)
  • Cutting of their nose to spite their face
  • Shooting themselves in the foot
  • Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

Like many people, I was disappointed to learn that John Edwards cheated on his wife. And yes, he shouldn’t have lied to the press when he was asked about it. But I’m willing to forgive him for both transgressions, because like many of us, Edwards is imperfect. And more importantly, he remains committed to his marriage and his wife. It’s equally important that Elizabeth Edwards also remains committed to her marriage and her husband, when most would agree that she would be well within her rights to walk out in heartbreak.

Love. Commitment. Forgiveness. Honesty. These are all the family values that we should aspire to embody in our daily lives and our relationships with our loved ones. If anything, John and Elizabeth Edwards should be regarded as role models; imperfect, able to forgive, committed to family, and able to own up to and learn from their mistakes.

Within the public discourse, it seems that the general public would rather see high-profile people (especially women) whose spouses cheat on them leave their adulterous partner than struggle through the pain to uphold the integrity of their families. When it comes to adultery in marriage, there is no paradigm for forgiveness and reconciliation in the public eye. This exposure and pressure in the media (and the public consumption thereof) reveals a wider public sentiment of judgment, stubbornness and self-righteousness. It is no wonder the divorce rate is so high.

I’m disappointed in Edwards because of the affair. I’m equally disappointed to see that fellow Democrats are so quick to condemn him. They are saying that Edwards political career is virtually over since the revelations of his affair. I’ve seen within the so-called “progressive” blogosphere comparisons with Edwards and Newt Gingrich’s indiscretions, which make me scoff.

Gingrich’s moral compass points to heterosexuality and the “traditional” family. Meanwhile, he has been divorced twice and married thrice. Both of his first two marriages ended because he began relationships with other women. And it is worth articulating clearly that he left his first wife for another woman while his wife was recovering from cancer. All of this while simultaneously condemning committed same-sex partnerships as “immoral.”

Edwards is the only high-profile politician, Republican or Democrat, whose moral compass consistently points to finding a solution to the enormous tragedy and injustice of poverty. He had an affair with a woman that he doesn’t love, and in the end admitted to his bad judgment.  The bottom line is that he is staying with his wife and family, and taking full responsibility for the betrayal. He may have cheated on his wife in the midst of a health crisis, but he did not abandon her the way that Gingrich abandoned his wife.

Edwards done wrong, he admits it and he’s trying to do the right thing. Let’s all make peace with it and move on.

While I believe that any public figure has a right to work out their marital difficulties in private, I also recognize that the choices that a politician makes in private are a reflection on decisions they make in public office. Indeed, I am disappointed in Edwards, but he is not the hypocrite that Gingrich is, and even making the comparison is ridiculous.

I am taking the long view on this, and I hope that Edwards will be able to again take his place with his important voice for social and economic justice within American politics. And maybe even John and Elizabeth Edwards will stand as an example of marriage and family values, honoring commitment in spite of their trials and tribulations, and the cruel attention of the media and judgmental public.

Throw stones if you will, but be prepared to replace some broken windows.