Memorial Day

Please take three minutes and click here: look at these two remarkable photos; read this thoughtful essay; give a thought to those of our fellow Americans who were lost while picking up the tab for the lives we enjoy.

It is impossible to be unmoved by the juxtaposition of the eternal stone-faced warrior and the disheveled modern military wife-turned-widow, him rigid in his dress uniform, her on the floor in her blanket nest, wearing glasses and a baggy T-shirt, him nearly concealed by shadow while the pale blue light from the computer screen illuminates her like God’s own grace.


I believe that the civilian-military gap isn’t always born of indifference, but rather, at times, a sense of helplessness on the civilian side. What can I do? If you do nothing else, you can remember those who have given their lives for their country. Our country. Remembrance, which may seem a modest contribution in the moment, is a sacred act with long-term payoff — a singularly human gift that keeps on giving, year after, year after, war-fatigued year. I don’t need to remind you that America’s sons and daughters are still dying in combat. I don’t want to browbeat you into feeling guilty for not doing more. Instead, I want to tell you that as the wife of a veteran, it is tremendously meaningful to know that on this Memorial Day, civilians will be bearing witness and remembering in their own way — that those who are gone are not forgotten. I also want to say that as you remember them, we remember you.

The Gospel According to Calvin and Hobbes

Lots of last-minute unavoidable changes made for an especially hectic day at work; I grow more and more fatigued of reading about the political impasse without any real promise of light at the end of the tunnel; they say this is the hottest start to a year since they started keeping records here 120 years ago; and then Bill Watterson reaches out from the past to hit the nail on the head.  Thanks, I needed that.



Bravo, Mr. President

Let’s see now: I asked President Obama to take a stand…it was all the way back to, well, yesterday (see just below) that I asked if “anybody is ready to really show some leadership” on the issue of same-sex marriage by just having “the courage to publicly do the right thing.”  Today, the president publicly affirmed that he believes same-sex couples should be permitted to get married.  Thank you, sir.

To deny some Americans the right to marry under civil law due to their gender is discriminatory.  The fact that a majority of the states have constitutional or statutory prohibitions of same-sex marriage doesn’t change that fact, but even those barriers are likely to fade away as more people come around to the understanding that the prohibition is wrong.  Fact is, most Americans are live-and-let-live sorts who wish the anti-gay extremists would just shut the hell up and stop always trying to make everybody else live according to the rules of their religion.  Just yesterday the latest Gallup poll showed that half of all Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legal, and the numbers in favor have steadily grown over the years.

Was Obama’s announcement today politically brave?  Maybe.  Taking this stand isn’t going to change the minds of the religious extremists who make up so much of the conservative fringe that’s taking (taken?) control of the Republican Party: they hate him and are never going to vote for him no matter what he says, on this subject or any other.  From a political standpoint, those people are a lost cause.  This may hurt him among some less strident traditionalists who can’t go along with his stand on this issue, and now are lost from the group of independent voters who were still undecided; those numbers are pretty hard to calculate, though.

On the other hand, it has to help him among the gay rights supporters who voted for him four years ago and are disappointed that he hasn’t been stronger on the issue, despite his administration getting rid of don’t ask don’t tell and stopping any government support of the Defense of Marriage Act.  And it should help him among some independents who feel that taking a stand on a controversial issue deserves to be rewarded; the numbers there, too, are tough to add up.  Maybe his campaign numbers-crunchers have already done that, and maybe they think that this will be a net gain for Obama in November; we’ll see.

(One lesson here: despite the characterizations his enemies use, Barack Obama really is a very moderate and middle of the road politician. If he was the big liberal the conservatives claim he is he’d have started pushing gay marriage years ago.)

In either case, Obama has shown us that he can be a leader: he’s taken a stand that he knows is not universally popular and run the risk of political harm…time will show whether or not he can persuade America to the rightness of his position on this issue.  Now, he did take his sweet time about doing it—he was very cautious, and put his toe in the water with all that “evolving” crap to see what would happen.  He could have kept his mouth shut and waited for the issue to settle down and disappear again in a week or two, as it surely would have done.  But he didn’t.  Good for him.  Good for us.

OK, let’s make gay rights an issue in the presidential election—why not?!

I mean, it’s not like there’s already a bunch of issues in this year’s election on which the candidates (and presumptive candidates) have staked out well-reasoned and philosophically-consistent positions as they make a rational case to the people of America asking for the responsibility of managing one of the major branches of our national government, right?  So I’d like to see if anybody is ready to really show some leadership, and gay rights and gay marriage are perfect issues: all that’s required is the courage to publicly do the right thing.

The latest engagement was in North Carolina where the voters took to the polls Tuesday to say no to gay marriage, in great big, red letters.  In Slate William Saletan summarized the vote-no-’cause-God-says-so arguments, and other scare tactics, those people heard in the campaign: Gay marriage will destroy religious freedom, and weaken the economy, and be treason against God, and we’ll lose God’s protection from racial disasters, and it will lead to man-on-dog marriage.  (Seriously.)

(Interesting perspective, though, from the speaker of the North Carolina state house, who is convinced that any ban on gay marriage in his state will only be temporary.  “State House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican from a Charlotte suburb, said even if the amendment is passed, it will be reversed as today’s young adults age.  ‘It’s a generational issue,’ Mr. Tillis told a student group at North Carolina State University in March about the amendment he supports.  ‘If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.’”)

This comes just a week after a Mitt Romney campaign foreign policy spokesman resigned after anti-gay conservatives “made an issue” out of his support for gay marriage.  Yes, it was Richard Grenell’s “unhinged” support for gay marriage that upset these folks, surely; the religious extremists wouldn’t have used that to cover their opposition to Grenell because the man himself is gay…no no, surely not.  Romney didn’t cover himself in glory, caving to the intolerance from the religious rightand sacrificing Grenell on the altar of getting elected.

Joe Biden’s got something to say here—what a surprise!  But I’m inclined to agree with those who think that putting the loose-lipped vice president on “Meet the Press” and having him say he is comfortable with gay marriage as a civil right is part of a political plan by the Obama campaign, which wants to reassure gay and lesbian voters, and other voters who support gay rights, that the president really is on their side but doesn’t want to take the chance of reigniting this culture wars issue and inflaming anti-gay voters into supporting Romney.  Adding the secretary of education to the mix was a nice touch.  From the standpoint of election politics, I understand that reasoning.  (There are Democratic spin doctors who insist there’s no subterfuge involved, that the campaign wishes this issue had stayed down in the weeds.)

But I also agree with J. Bryan Lowder in Slate, and probably many others in other places, when they argue that there has to come a time when the political calculations take a back seat to doing the right thing.

However, at some point this kind of political prevarication is going to have to give way to principle. Though the cultural mood in this country regarding homosexuality has been morphing in the right direction for a number of years now, waiting for the zeitgeist or generational turn-over to solve everything isn’t going to help those citizens affected in the meantime by dangerously reactionary legislation.

(They’re talking about you, Mr. President, if you’re up to it.)

Lowder goes on to explain, and links to a FiveThirtyEight blog post in the New York Times that further explains, that the North Carolina constitutional amendment doesn’t just prohibit same sex marriage, it outlaws all civil unions and domestic partnerships in the state regardless of gender.  Now, God’s position on heterosexual civil unions is not entirely clear, but there is a new Gallup poll showing half of Americans today believe same-sex marriages should be recognized as valid by lawwith the same rights as heterosexual marriages.  That’s a dramatic change from 15 years ago when it was only 27% favoring and 68% opposing.

The tide is turning: last week Funky Winkerbean started a new series, and I have a feeling the good people of Westview, Ohio will end up on the side of the angels.

gay prom at westview