Tomorrow’s the 4th of July. It used to be my favorite holiday. Just beer and friends and food and blowing shit up. A clear summer night in Virginia is a thing of wonder. Of course, I say that with some degree of homesickness. I don’t know if I appreciate fireworks anymore, now that they make me cringe in terror. Forest fires suck. Living in a place where summer is called “fire season” is bullshit. But I still like the idea of the 4th of July. I’m a patriot. I might bitch about politics and culture, but I’m glad I live in a country where I won’t get jailed or killed for it. Our great nation has some big, fat flaws, sure, obviously. I’m proud as hell that it’s my right and my duty to help fix some of them, to try to leave this place better than I found it in some small way.
It’s been a weird couple of weeks in America, folks. What a strange and exciting time to be alive. And yes, I know we all wish I would just stick to telling you which movies to watch or what books you might like, but I think I’ve earned taking a couple thousand words to talk about the heavy shit. It’s a holiday weekend. What else am I going to do? You don’t have to read it. It’s a free country, after all. So, good news or bad news first? Let’s go with the bad news first, and maybe try to end on a high note.
My last blog was written on a Tuesday and posted on a Thursday. It was, largely, about race and race relations in America. That Wednesday, nine black people were shot and killed by a racist inside their church in Charleston. Obviously, I could have added an addendum to that post, but I didn’t want talking about such a horrible thing to seem like just an afterthought. And while Rachel Dolezal’s actions are weird and the commentary about her confused, a terrorist trying to start a race war seems like it should be discussed in a completely different conversation. While they’re related, they shouldn’t be conflated.
And don’t jump up my ass for using the word “terrorist.” Somehow we seem to have relegated that word to a specific concomitant set of verbs like “bomb” or “hijack.” Just because we love our guns (and to be clear, I am quite fond of guns), that doesn’t make a mass shooting any less an act of terrorism. “Shooting” only adds specificity, it doesn’t diminish the intention to terrorize. This particular asshole also chose a location that stands as a symbol for the black community of Charleston. A historic church, a landmark for both Christians and civil rights activists for close to two centuries. History aside, this motherfucker shot up a church. A place where, outside of hearth and home, we should feel safest among our peers and cohorts who we’ve chosen as a family. I’m not religious, as you know, but I have much respect for churches that create that sort of safe, loving environment for people who need it and may not be able to find it elsewhere. A church should never feel dangerous, should always be an asylum, a safe haven. To try to take that away seems particularly vile and hateful. Also, as of my writing this, seven black churches have been burned down across the South. I have no idea why this hasn’t been the biggest news story of the past week. Clearly there’s some sort of very ugly movement going on and it needs to be stopped. I can’t imagine what sort of person actually thinks that lynchings and cross-burning and segregation were “the good old days.” Well, you know what? That’s a lie. I can imagine. In fact, I know. I grew up in a very small town with about ten black people in it. Racists aplenty. I knew people who would sling the n-word around and talked about how “they’re taking over” (which is a dumbshit thing to say in a town with only ten black people in it), while two sentences later they’d roll a blunt and say how much they love Snoop Dogg and would totally fuck Halle Berry. Those are 90s references. Those folks have probably moved on to hating Latinos by now. Keeping up with the times and all.
Now, in the wake of all this awful shit, much chatter has arisen about the Confederate flag. The South Carolina capital lowered their US and State flags to half-mast after the shooting but left the stars and bars at full-mast (although I should mention here that that particular flagpole was built without even the possibility of being lowered to half-mast, which shows either an incredible lack of foresight or a steadfast intention to always keep that flag a’flyin’). Personally, I don’t have strong feelings about the Confederate flag. Sure, I’m from the South with, always, a capital S. My great-great (or maybe great-great-great?) grandfather was a Confederate General. I appreciate my heritage and my ancestors, even if they were ignorant, slaveholding assholes and my appreciation is largely just that my family exists in its current incarnation. But honoring history is one thing. Keeping an obsolete and offensive symbol on top of a government building is another. That flag is the battle flag of a dissident army defending a traitorous nation. It’s fine if you want to fly it at your house or whatever, but it has no place officially representing anything governmental anymore. People in South Carolina are all “but that flag has flown there for a hundred years!”. No, dummies, it has not. It was reinstated in 1962 by a white governor in a very overt protest against civil rights measures being made in his state. He was a racist co-opting your history for his own agenda and now you’re pissed because you’re so blinded by buzzwords that you can’t even be bothered to read a fucking history book. Get over yourselves. We don’t need to go back and blur out the stars and bars in Gone With the Wind or get rid of the Dukes of Hazzard, but for fuck’s sake we can make an effort to move forward with some class and decorum befitting a more evolved national mindset. Don’t give me that “Roots, not Racism” shit if your roots are racist as hell. You can be proud of where you come from and still be flexible about maybe changing some stuff that deeply hurts other people in your community.
But just as hate and anger seem to be logical outcomes of having such a big, diverse population, so too is love. It’s inevitable. We saw that this week. In case you live under a rock (in which case you’ve got excellent wifi because you’re reading this and you should probably go catch up on the news first), the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Nationwide, no matter what, every marriage counts now. Fucking finally. I knew it was only a matter of time before that patchwork situation got too complicated. Even though states’ rights are important, human rights trump them in this case.
I’ve never understood the arguments against same-sex marriage. They all seem really flimsy to me. “Well, the Bible says…” Don’t even get me started on all the fucked up shit the Bible says about marriage. I’m playing the First Amendment card. What else have you got? “Well, they should use a different word. Have ‘civil unions’.” Hey, remember that piece of paper you had to sign at the courthouse when you got hetero-married? Every marriage in America is a civil union. You do all that churchy stuff on your own and if we’re being honest, it really doesn’t count. If you need an attorney to get out of it, it’s a civil contract. Continue. “Well, it invalidates my marriage if they get to have one.” Nope. Nope nope nope. Someone else being a vegan doesn’t diminish my love of juicy cheeseburgers, if you’ll pardon a sort of gross meat metaphor. And if your current marriage is threatened by this decision, one of you is gay. “Well, the voters in our state wanted to ban same-sex marriage and now SCOTUS is stepping on that.” Oh, so the voters in your state wanted to take away the basic rights and dignity of a percentage of other taxpayers in your state? But still take their money? Well, hmmm. What can I really say about that? How about: fuck that hypocritical shit. None of us should be allowed to legislate bigotry. Let’s just go ahead and cut to the chase, shall we? Say what you’re really thinking. “Butt sex is yucky.” I’m totally with you there, my friend. However, that has absolutely nothing to do with marriage. Nor exclusively with being gay. And as many jokes and comments as we put in movies and tv shows and comedy routines about dudes wanting anal sex, I really have to argue with the foundation of your assertion in the first place. You think that another guy having sex with your personal butt is yucky, and that’s fine. You’re a top. Own it and stop trying to use it as an excuse for all this other nonsense. Also, if you’re going to stand on these convictions, you should probably go ahead and quit watching lesbian porn. Just a thought. For consistency’s sake, yeah?
Here’s the bottom line, y’all: marriage equality is not about sex, but about love. Hearts, not parts. We should all have the right to have whatever kind of (consensual) sex we want and not have the other aspects of our marriages come into question. We should all have the right to have our mate hold our hand in the hospital. To pay our taxes as “married, filing jointly.” To ask for alimony and child support in a divorce. To not have to go to court just to get custody of our own biological children born through surrogacy. To not have to fight to get them on our health insurance. To leave our stuff and our death benefits to our family when we die. To, simply, be able to introduce the person we’ve built a life and a home with as “my wife” or “my husband.” You know that both of those words mean “caregiver”? That’s the whole fucking point here. A few years ago, my cousin’s kid asked her about gay people. She was little, so my cousin just told her that means that two people of the same sex are in love, like moms and dads, that it’s just another kind of couple and it’s okay as long as they’re happy and take care of each other. Being from the super churchy side of the family, I was a little bit surprised that she kept it so simple (because apparently I’m an asshole, expecting anything different – what the hell is wrong with me?). I told her that I was impressed and I thanked her for not filling her sweet baby’s head with hateful garbage. She laughed and said, “Do you know how many people have told me that I shouldn’t be in my relationship? I’ve got no right to tell anyone how to live their life.” Damn right. We should put that shit on a t-shirt.
More and more lately, as we make what I see as advances in culture and civil rights and acceptance, I’m hearing this “What happened to America?” crap. Well, we’re growing the fuck up, is what’s happening. Change is ongoing and ubiquitous and unavoidable. What exactly do you want? What delusion are you living in that you think America is a place where everyone thinks alike and gets along perfectly? Because that has never been the case. You want bold, ballsy, Revolutionary-era America? Where we died from an infected papercut at a stupidly young age or froze to death in the winter and nothing you had to say mattered if you couldn’t prove that you owned property, which might have included other humans? Or do you want Westward Expansion, cowboy-era America? Where we genocided the shit out of the native population and murdered each other over horses and tons of people had tuberculosis? Or do you want Industrial Boom-era America? Where we sent tiny kids down coal mines and we polluted the sky and the water for the sake of a few insanely rich white guys’ profit margins and women couldn’t vote? Or do you want post-WWII-era America? Where black people were murdered for using the front door rather than the back and folks hid their domestic violence and their alcoholism and their misery behind a new toaster and a white picket fence like a shield because it was supposed to be enough, supposed to fix everything? Or do you want Reagan-era America? Where all you needed to get respect was enough money and no one cared what fuckery you perpetrated to get it and we put the biggest burden of fixing our rampant drug problem on our children by telling them to “just say no” and our President wouldn’t even admit that AIDS existed until almost thirty thousand people were dead and then he blamed “the gays”? Which America would you like? Which America is the pretty, shiny one you have in your head that you want to “get back to”? They’re all real, but none of them was ever ideal. America has always been a beautiful mess. It probably always will be. It almost has to be. And I love it. I love that we’re all different, that we’re allowed to be, even expected to be, on a good day. If that means we have to bicker and quibble and sometimes scream, so be it. That’s what families do.