Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Do! I Do! Not You. Yet.

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for May 10, 2012
            On the same day President Obama went on TV to affirm that he has finally “evolved” to believe that gays have the right to marry, just like straight couples, 61% of North Carolina voters went to the polls and voted to not only outlaw same-sex marriage but to outlaw previously legal “common-law” civil unions and domestic partnerships, even for straight couples. It takes a powerful fear for people to want to take away rights already granted to fellow straight citizens.  No “common law marriage,” no domestic partnerships for them, because those forms of making a legal family unit might be used by gay people and that cannot be tolerated.  So everything must be cut out, sterilized, cleansed, sanitized, protected. If it isn’t, those gays might get a toehold and infect the whole “married” community, which would be intolerable.
            As I said, it takes a powerful fear to do something like that. Fear of change, fear of the dreaded “other,” the false conviction that the Golden Rule is a zero-sum game and if you gain, I lose.  And good old-fashioned bigotry, too.  Can’t ever forget that because it’s always sadly present in so many hearts as We the People struggle to perfect our more perfect union and ourselves.
            And it’s all so sadly deja vu. Same fears, same hatreds.  That dreadful darkness was there during the long, terrible struggles to gain civil rights for all black Americans. It seems that human nature decrees that so many people will always fight so fiercely and for so long to keep rights for themselves they would deny to their neighbors.  Which is why I keep wondering how North Carolina voters can square this circle?  What does it feel like to be on the wrong side of history?  Again?  Because that, too, is deja vu.  
            The whole direction of our history has been one of inclusion, of expanding rights, of transforming the “other” into “one of us,” all guided by an extraordinary document: A Constitution that translates a religious Golden Rule into a secular Equal Justice Under Law.
            It was the power of that document that transformed a slave into 3/5ths of a person into the N-word into a Negro into a Black into an African-American into an American into an American President.
            It was the same document that transformed women from chattel into voters into CEO’s into Secretaries of State.  And changed gay soldiers into soldier soldiers.  And struck down segregated schools and housing and all manner of discriminatory laws of all kinds that diminished and demeaned our fellow citizens. It was that document that held that in America, there are no second-class citizens. Not under law in a nation of laws, the primacy of which is “equal rights.”  
            Plus, the blood, tears and strength of good men and women who held the golden rule in their hearts instead of fear and were willing to do battle to see that our union, our shining city on the hill, kept its promise to all its citizens.
            And thus it will be for gay citizens.  It’s simply a matter of time.  The clock is ticking, the legal cases are making their way to the courts for what can either be one final ruling from the Supremes or a series of rulings that will make the logically obvious the legally obvious. In the meantime, the legal patchwork tangle that fear hath wrought in so many states will have to be untangled by the courts.  The law of unintended consequences will claim its share of victims until the inexorable push of history straightens out the road ahead. For the old and the fearful, this world is passing away. Their grasping effort to keep gay people excluded by neo-Jim Crow laws is futile. After all, the future now belongs to the young.  And for the young, the issue is interestingly moot. To the majority of them, gay people and black people aren’t the scary other – they’re classmates and friends.  And the idea that friends and classmates should be treated as second class citizens can’t be so easily squared away. 
            Which is why I keep thinking about the North Carolina voters.  And all the other voters in other states that have enacted similarly fearful bans.  In ten years, how will they square that circle to themselves? How do they do it now? 


Anonymous said...

your ending paragraph was very uplifting. you, as i, as most people, see the inevitability of civil rights spreading to us all. the genie is out of the bottle. the horse is out of the barn. the gay is out of the closet.

the world is a brighter, sweeter, kinder place.


Anne R. Allen said...

Beautifully put. Time is not on the side of hate, no matter how often it pops up--in whatever pseudo-religious guise. There's a lot more stuff in the Bible condemning people who eat pork than people who have gay sex. When North Carolina denies civil rights to people who eat barbecue is when I'll believe this is a "religious" issue. Now it's just about hate. And Jesus didn't preach a lot of hate. In fact, isn't that the province of that other guy?

Churadogs said...

It's always intriguing -- how do you square away, inside your own head, the fear or bigotry or hate or negative stereotypes, all the negative crap we all carry around in our heads, put there by our families, our immediate community's mores and values, etc. And that paradigm is always changing. Always. So our definition of "reality" is always falling away. The more fiercely we cling, the odder it all becomes, the harder our attempts to square those circles become. Mental gymnastics that always end up looking foolish. Sigh. Human nature, human processing of information. It's always certainly complicated, isn't it? And most often usually ends up eventually with a slap upside the head and a muttering of, "Jeeze, what was I thinking??"

Sandra Gore said...

Used to live in the beautiful state of North Carolina. Lovely there. Wonderful climate if you like 4 seasons. It's lush and green and full of small-minded people. Not being a place I wanted to raise my children - some of that mentality has GOT to rub off - we left. This only reconfirms what a great decision we made.

Churadogs said...

Seems like it's always a trade-off: The story-book communities with their traditional "small town verities" too often include some very ugly traditiional "verities" as well. Sad.

TCG said...

The President's action was a calculated political move, not a supportive declaration of gay rights, which disgusts me.

Churadogs said...

Re TCG's comment. I wonder if any president can make any declaration about anything without having at least one finger to the wind for calculated political benefit/loss. Seems to me it always comes with the territory. And, in the long run, in the real world, does it much matter? How much of LBJ's public support the civil rights was truly genuine, how much calculated? Ditto George Bush's Medicare Part D prescription benefit for Medicare? And so forth. If a real benefit" accrues to real people in real time from a cold, cynical "politically calculated" decision, does it matter much in the long run? I would argue, for the people benefited, the answer would be. . . no.

Alon Perlman said...

Nicely (as in a two cannon frame set piece) wrote. And nice follow up comment. What does it matter which side of his neck the politician speaks from as long as there are consequently at least two chickens in every garage. (Or maybe two slow roasts thirsty for vinegar sauce).
Seriously stupid consequences to the abolition of the common law marriage act. Think of the children?
Passed through NC a few times. Nice people on the whole.
Passed through Virginny recently, stopped by an antique clock shop, in the exact middle of no-where, proprietor was an old fashioned small shop proprietor, knew the value of his wares, didn't particularly like the idea of rubes coming into his shop. After I let him know that I wasn't about to invest in a clock, perhaps an old straight razor, we set to talking. Straight off he tested me to see my reaction to the "N" word, not seeing any, he revealed a world view based on an internally consistent teachings and lore strictly by "The" word, and “The” book. Not a stupid man, a unique character, but of a type.
I dare say this vote was driven by a large single issue minority motivated and manipulated by marketing techniques, and an edge of the wedge political strategy. Of the 61%, 60 of those driven to the poles-sheeple at their worst mindless frothed up bleatings. Big TV's, small churches. Though not in my mind a functional democratic process, yet truly a shameful reflection of the state.

Churadogs said...

Alon; I also think that a lot of people either won't or possibly can't think the issue through to it's inescapable logical conclusion. For example, we have "marriage" that contains X # of rights, benefits and responsibilties for "a man and a woman." Then, in a wish to be "fair" and "equal" you pass a law that grants gays something called a "Civil Union," and it contains EXACTLY the same stuff that is granted to "a man and a woman," aren't you now smack dab in "Separate but Equal" territory, which is a major no-no? And if you grant X # of stuff to "a man and a woman" and you grant Y # to a gay couple, aren't you now smack dab in the middle of second-class citizenship territory?

The slippery slope of equal under law is always . . . slippery and keeps ending up in . . . equal. Especially in a secular democracy, as opposed to a theocracy.

Alon Perlman said...

I “substantially” agree. But we are in a theocracy, it simply manifests currently through the democratic process. The fallacy of “separate but equal” is that it fails to account for the nature of differences. Skin color is not a functional difference, with exceptions such as in the case of severe albinism. So there is no valid reason for “segregation”.
Oddly there are more differences in XY+XX versus (XX+XX or XY+XY) non of which relate much to the adoption of children into a state recognized family unit. Fairness comes from substantially equivalent rights (such as equal pay for equal work), not necessarily by semantically identical “equal rights”, “one size fits all”. Supposedly the courts exist to fit these circular arguments into a square constitution.
Even if I were granted, by legislated caveat, the right to participate and receive honors on mother’s day, it is meaningless to provide for me, as an example, the right to bear children, in sorrow or otherwise. Not even a supreme court ruling can amend that “injustice”.
Cohabiting individuals, by the mere passage of time, create a level of dependency on one another. And that comment does expand beyond the far reaches of the current slope. But I bring that up, because on the other end of the broad slope, most major religions have some level of complication in the defined process by which a marriage contract can be broken. It behooves a civilized (Orderly) state, even those that do not cherish “Individual” rights as such, to make some laws by which the interactions of individuals at the smallest unit (Nuclear family) bring about a stability, benefiting society as a whole.
The law of unintended consequences. Had the law been retroactive (reversing common law unions-it may be, I haven’t checked), how many of 61% would had made themselves bastards. What of inheritance rights?

As for squaring the circle, in ten years they will have forgotten, but if reminded they will be sure they did the right thing. And the circle is a hexagon if a Pi value of 3.0 is legislated onto it. More neat stuff on squaring the circle here-
You may like this; for a full second I thought it was real-