Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Question of Love

I have to admit that I haven't been a regular viewer of MSNBC... until Election Night. I was flipping from one news channel to the next, hooked on all the coverage.

 I'd heard of Keith Olbermann and my husband explained the Ben Affleck on SNL skit to me... I'd never seen the guy so what did I know?

And then someone sent me this link to MSNBC. Olbermann gave a statement about Prop 8 and gay marriage. And it is powerful and poetic and I couldn't agree more with all he has to say. I know I don't have huge readership... but I do hope you will read the transcript (either at the link, where you can also watch his statement, or below where I have copied and pasted it). Maybe this will say something to you to show you a different side of the issue. Maybe you will be inspired to pass this along to friends and family and message boards. Or maybe you will still harden your heart to love. All I ask is that you read or watch with as open a mind as you can give.

***

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love."

***

4 comments:

llawson said...

As you know, my writing skills are not up to par.
I just want to tell you that I agree with your every word. I, too, don't understand 'closed-minded' people. I don't think that people should be told who they can and cannot marry, no matter their preference. You can be any race, gay, or straight; It shouldn't matter as long as you're happy.

Alix said...

Sorry to be the antagonist here, but I disagree. Love you Liz, but we clearly are divided when it comes to politics. Don't get me wrong... I too wish we could live in a world where everything is all Kumbayah, but there are some things which are and always will be mutually exclusive - the gay movement and marriage being one. It's not personal, it's principal. Marriage was given by God, sanctioned by the church and protected by the state. It's origin is for one man and one woman, period. I would never argue against gays and lesbians deserving rights - this IS America, afterall - but some rights are not available to all people. Just like a gay or lesbian couple cannot have a biological child together, some arrangements are just mutually exclusive. Similarly, you can't be White and decide to transform to Chinese. You can learn the language, practice the customs, but ultimatly, you cannot be Chinese. Is it possible for our government to eventually approve same sex marriages? Absolutely, and maybe even inevitably. But even if the perfect legislation meets the perfect timing and electorate - same sex marriage will always be a pale immitation of the true institution. I am not a hater - I'm anything but. I have gay friends and I am tolerant and sympathetic to their issues and dreams. I know if I were gay, I would want the same options as all Americans. Unfortunately, gay marriage is an oxy moron. It just can never be. Gays and Lesbians can and should have civil rights, but not marriage. I'm not a Bible beater, but I am a Christian and I know what the Bible says about homosexuality. That doesn't mean that I don't have compassion for them or understand their desire for equality. I also don't profess to understand everything about the gay and lesbian lifestyle, but it nags at me that if homosexuality were a biological condition, it would have been provided for long before now. I think the gay movement has truly become victorious in my lifetime - boldy stepping out of the closet and ejoying a tolerance and acceptance once thought absurd to even suggest. But asking for the world to stop turning on it's axis to change the definition of marriage to appease the gay population is not only wrong, it's immoral. I do hope a compromise is on the horizon. I know lots of good people of the homosexual persuasion who deseve better rights. Maybe it comes down to simple semantics, Liz. I don't know. But if we could just find a solution to using the moniker "marriage," I think the fight would be a lot less hostile. Just my opinion.

Liz said...

I would expect nothing less from If anyone was going to voice dissent, I had a feeling it would be you. :)

First I want to point out that I am also a Christian. And my faith leads me to very much support gay marriage.

Second. Curious if you believe that being gay is biological or a choice? I ask because of your comparison to race in the opening of your post.

Third. As far as I am concerned, all marriages should be civil unions for the state and marriages can happen in the churches. Churches can marry as they see fit. There are churches that support gay marriage. I think there are far too many straight "marriages" that don't fulfill this grand idea of marriage that the "other side" wants to protect.

It is too early for me to formulate much more of an answer right now...

Alix said...

Oh Liz, you have really confused me. How can you be Christian and ignore what the Bible says about homosexuality? You either believe and support what the Bible says, or you don't.

As Christians, we have always been taught to "love the sinner but hate the sin." And since we're all sinners, that's an easy ideology to understand and embrace because it can be applied to us all. We are called to spread the love of God to and through one another in the name of Christ - not to hate and not to judge. Even Jesus hung out with a pretty rough crowd, but he won souls and promoted the will of God. So this isn't about hating homosexuals or not being compassionate toward their issues. This is about protecting the holy sanctity of marriage as given by God - and no, there is no middle ground. I think the Bible is pretty clear about homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah ring a bell?

Because I am equally curious, what in the Bible substantiates your support of homosexuality?

Anyway, I don't want to debate something with you that you have strong feelings about. And I'm certainly not trying to convince you to believe me - I am just telling you what I believe. I love that you are such a compassionate and lovely person who cares so much for others. And the whole concept of equality is a worthy one. We don't disagree there, but some things are just not so simple to achieve - especially when they go against God and the natural order of the universe.

PS: I don't have an answer for you about whether or not homosexuality is an inbred biological orientation or a chosen behavior. I don't know. I DO believe it is learned, whether it is chosen or not.