GETTING MARRIED — AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

By Paul

I have to say, I never thought it would happen.  After more than thirty-three years of living together, my partner – well, now my husband — and I have gotten married.  For a long time, while the Supreme Court deliberated about DOMA and Prop. 8, we too were thinking things over.  Neither of us has ever been all that enamored with the idea of traditional marriage.  We’ve both seen enough marriages fail over the years.  Still, when it finally came down to our making an actual decision, the outcome was clear enough:  the federal benefits outweighed any other reservations we may have had.

Once that decision was made, then came the particulars of it all.  We knew from the get-go that we didn’t want a fuss made.  Our friends and relatives were hinting that they might maybe want to make an occasion out of this.   But that’s not how we saw things.  Keep it simple, we thought, just the two of us; after all, we had for decades already considered ourselves married, at least in essence.

And so we made the trek over to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office, located some twenty miles away from us in the city of Norwalk.  Now, I have nothing at all against Norwalk.  It was in fact the first time either of us had ever set foot in the city.  But we wondered what kind of a reception a middle-aged, Anglo same-sex couple might expect when they presented themselves to get married there.

We weren’t actually nervous. It was probably more what might best be described as a state of heightened awareness. The first thing we noticed upon finding out where to go in the county complex was how few people there were in line.  Somehow, I’d imagined dozens of fidgeting couples.  As it turned out, there were exactly four people ahead of us, two middle-aged lesbians, and a very young, straight Asian couple.  The latter were so young looking to me, in fact, that in a moment of only half-conscious, avuncular concern I almost asked them if they’d really thought through this momentous decision.  Fortunately, in the end, I kept my unasked for advice to myself.

I offered a friendly hello to all of them.  The Asian couple, or at least the groom-to-be, gave a shy greeting in return.  One of the lesbians smiled at us and said a quick “Congrats!”  I bowed slightly, smiling, and replied: “And to you, too.”  Several other couples, all heterosexual, soon took their place behind us. No one seemed even to notice us.  Appropriately enough, I thought, each person in each couple seemed intent on his or her partner.  And when we got up to the window, a very friendly Asian woman took us through our paces, clicking boxes on her computer with flair.  Not only was she efficient, she was friendly and jocular:  “Dress up, dress down, rings, no rings, doesn’t matter!”

So, that was that:  no problems, no dirty looks, no questioning glances, no nothing, if I can use the double negative positively.  We walked away, marriage license application in hand, with an appointment for the following week to do the deed itself.

When we returned a week later, we were first in line for a wedding ceremony.  It’s a question of sliding the proper paperwork under the correct window, getting checked in, and then waiting until we were called into the chapel.  Now, I was the one fidgeting.  I could not believe how much all this was affecting me.  All along, I’d thought of it as perfunctory, but now sitting there waiting, I realized it somehow actually meant something to me.  Stupidly, the words from that old song about going to the chapel and going to get married kept running through my head.

A distinguished looking Latino gentleman in a black robe, a retired judge, I think, called us in.  The chapel was decorated with a kind of faux arbor, an arch covered in artificial flowers, where we were asked to stand.  The County of Los Angeles graciously provided a witness ($18 please), and the judge told us to face each other and hold hands.  I was near tears all through the brief ceremony, wherein we were admonished “to covet one another to the exclusion of all others.”

Afterwards, on the way to the car, I actually did start crying, to the amazement, I think, of my new husband.  But, knowing like no one else my sentimental side, he smiled indulgently.  I kept thinking, why am I crying?  Could it be because, by rights, we ought to have been able to marry more than thirty years ago and by now be celebrating our thirty-something-eth wedding anniversary, instead of walking out as newlyweds?  Or was it due to the simple notion that we were just now, finally, recognized by the state as a married couple?

I dried my tears as we got into the car, and we kissed.  I do, in fact, covet him above all others.  The judge needn’t have told me.  But in the end I was glad that he did, and I was proud and moved to reply, quickly and without hesitation, “Yes, I do.”  Anyway, it’s over and done with, and I will say I’ve gotten used to it rather quickly.  Even so, when I suddenly think of myself as “a married man,” it does still strike me as really something.

 

 

A GREAT DAY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

By Paul

It became official yesterday.  The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down by the Supreme Court, and the federal government must now recognize same-sex marriages in states and jurisdictions where they are legal.  This means that all same-sex couples married in those states become eligible for the full panoply of federal rights accorded to any other married couple.  Additionally, California’s Proposition 8 has not been upheld.  In this case, the ruling was on a narrower basis and stated that the plaintiffs did not have standing, or the right to appeal, the lower court’s ruling invalidating Prop. 8.  Although the DOMA ruling was much broader, both cases are great victories for gay rights, which are also human rights.   It will take a while still, however, before same-sex couples in California are allowed to marry, as the Attorney General has instructed that the injunction issued by the Ninth Circuit as part of the appeal process is still in force, and no marriages can be performed until that order has been rescinded.  In all likelihood, it appears as though this could take as much as a month to accomplish.

These are, in essence, the legal facts of the rulings.  More detail will undoubtedly be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead, but the essence of each ruling is that millions of people who have had their civil rights abridged, or denied outright, now have them upheld.

Aside from the legalities involved, however, what does this mean on a more personal, a more human level?  My partner and I, for example, have been together for over 33 years, and we feel as “married” as any other couple who has lived together for that long under the approbation of the law.  We have had a Domestic Partnership for more than 13 years, specifically since Feb. 16th, 2000, which guarantees legal rights within California, as much as it is also clear that such a document has never had the same moral or cultural impact as does marriage.

But as enormous as these rulings undoubtedly are, neither does this mean that the debate over same-sex marriage is over in this country.  All we have to do is to glance even fleetingly at Justice Scalia’s blistering dissent on the DOMA ruling to see some of the language still being used.  He referred to that ruling, for example, as “legal argle-bargle” (a new term to me, I have to admit, but apparently a Cockney expression referring to energetic, but worthless comments).  He further goes on to claim that Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, that the effect of DOMA was “to demean those persons who are in lawful same-sex marriages,” amounts to “an accusation which demeans this institution” (i.e. the Supreme Court).  He continues by going on to say that Wednesday’s decision was, in fact, inevitable once the court had earlier sanctioned “homosexual sodomy.”

Homosexual sodomy:  do we not have here an example par excellence of super-charged moralizing?  But this is fairly typical of the superior, self-righteous, moralistic language used by many conservatives in regard to gay marriage and to gay people generally.  It is, as I see it, a way of both demeaning and minimizing loving relationships between two women, or two men, and at the same time attempting to reduce them to nothing more than sexual activity, and despised sexual activity at that.  How many straight marriages, to take the opposite point of view, have we heard so reduced to mere “legalized sex”?   If we do not do so with regard to men and women in marriages, and if instead we accord to them the full range of human emotion, to include love and mutual dedication and commitment, as well as sex (let us not forget), then why would a sitting justice of the Supreme Court of the United States think it legitimate to do so in regard to two women, or two men?

In one sense, this seems to me to be as much at the heart of today’s decisions as do all of the also critical legal and economic issues at stake.  What I mean is that we are now entering into the realm of the deeply personal, the emotional, the world of caring, of warmth, of closeness, of mutual respect and profound, enduring, even magical togetherness.  Not that marriage is always easy or even fun!  Anyone who has ever lived with another human being for a considerable length of time knows that each can get on the other’s nerves, that there will be inevitable disagreements and misunderstandings.  As with anything truly worth its salt, though, marriage takes work, it takes persistence, and determination, and dedication, and, well, yes, it takes love.  Love is, in fact, the glue that holds it, that binds two people together, the fact that they love each other and that they are willing to put up with each others oddities and quirks and faults, as well as enjoy all of the wonderful qualities which, we assume, drew them together in the first place.

This is what gay marriage is all about, just as it is with regard to heterosexual marriage.  Sex, while an important and even a delightful part of any marriage, is not its sole definition.  Gay marriages, therefore, are not about “homosexual sodomy,” anymore than straight marriages are about heterosexual vaginal sex.  And to so reduce either to its mere sexual component truly does demean the deeper, and frankly sometimes more satisfying other meanings that come with the lifetime commitment of two human beings to each other.

So, will my partner and I become husband and husband, spouses under the law, once California finally allows us to do so?  That is a decision which we will talk about in the days to come.  As I have already alluded to, each of as has repeatedly said that we already “feel married.”  So, whether or not we deem it necessary to formalize those feelings in a legal ceremony will be something we will decide, as much as it looks as though there will be benefits to doing so, not least of which would be that we would no longer have to pay extra federal taxes.

I would be less than honest, too, if I did not admit that each of us has felt that traditional marriage isn’t necessarily all that grand of a thing to strive for.  How many marriages have we all seen, for example, that barely work, where the couple in question seem merely to  tolerate each other, or who stay together out of simple inertia, or some imagined fear of loneliness or of going-it-alone?  That is not our relationship, but then of course neither is it necessarily the description of every traditional marriage.  Indeed, marriages, like all things human, come in both the good and the not-so-good variety.

Personally, I don’t even like the term “same-sex marriage.”  Again, the emphasis there seems to me to be only on the sex, rather than on the huge gamut of human feelings and emotions and needs and hopes and aspirations, all of which intertwine and intermingle into the mystery of two individuals living together and cherishing each other.

I would rather call it love, as simple and as corny as that may sound.  Because love is what draws two people together in the first place, of whatever gender, and it is what keeps them together through all of the difficulties and tests and challenges life may throw at them.  Justice Scalia, and some of his supporters, may not get that, but this is what marriage is all about.  This is why two people ought to live together.  And this, in the end, is why they should marry.

Ten Steps to Republican Rebranding and Conservative Redemption

by Kevin

Dear Republican Party and Conservative Friends,
 
I sincerely hope you are beginning to feel a little better. A week ago today you received quite a shock when President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election by a very decisive Electoral College margin and a comfortable popular vote lead. To add insult to your injury, four pro-gay-marriage initiatives passed, pro-labor candidates won in Wisconsin and elsewhere, The “Rust Belt” voted solidly for Obama, and liberal women won lots of seats in Congress. We have all heard that Governor Romney and his campaign team are still shell-shocked and trying to understand what happened, because they had been in denial about a potential defeat. Their wake up call was sudden and brutal. Mr. Romney had not even written a concession speech, making his extremely gracious and noble final statement even more remarkable for its genuine dignity and apparent intentionality.
 
The GOP can have a bright future and win again if you will implement ten steps to Republican rebranding and conservative redemption. I have thought carefully over the past week about whether or not to publish these ten steps. As a liberal Democrat, I’m afraid you might actually read my advice, take it seriously and succeed. I have been a consultant to Fortune 500 companies (conservative Republican institutions largely) for 22 years, facilitating market research, new product development, branding, positioning, and strategic planning projects. The ten steps listed here do not come from nowhere. They are my professional assessment regarding the GOP path to future success, based on decades of analysis of disasters similar to the 2012 election in corporate settings. After thinking twice, I realized that it is healthier for the American democracy to have a thriving but reasonable conservative wing in politics. I consulted with Paul, my very dear friend and fellow blogger for Two Old Liberals, and he urged me to publish these ten steps. I have to agree with his reasoning: “One party rule is very seldom a good idea. People get cocky and arrogant; and they get lazy without an opponent to keep them fit.”  
 
Ten Steps to Republican Rebranding and Conservative Redemption
 
1. Embrace Hispanics wholeheartedly and become their partners in immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The Bush brothers (Jeb and G. W.) have known for a long time that the Republican Party must embrace Hispanics to survive the rapid demographic evolution of the American electorate toward a minority majority. The wages of ignoring this development became painfully evident for you in last Tuesday’s election. Unfortunately, when President G. W. Bush tried to move the GOP in this direction with friendlier immigration legislation, you rejected it. When the Tea Party extremists and Rush Limbaugh were allowed to hijack the GOP, your message to Hispanics became very hostile: “We don’t want you here. Get out or we will throw you out.”
 
A lot of Hispanic voters are conservative and would make natural Republicans if you would embrace them and become their advocates. Many Hispanics are devout Catholics who certainly do not believe in abortion or even birth control! Many are hard-working fiscal conservatives who hold very strong family values and would not be supporters of gay marriage. Does that portrait look like Democrats? No, it looks like Republicans, but you have forced them to vote Democratic in self-defense with your hostile rhetoric.

Oh, I know, I know… You believe that you ARE welcoming toward Hispanics and that it is just Democrats who make you look bigoted toward them. Well, Hispanics PERCEIVE hostility from you, and perception is everything in politics and in business. How can you change that perception? You could start by never nominating another candidate who talks about “self-deportation,” and by marginalizing the extreme voices in your party who describe Hispanics as lazy moochers. Support pro-immigration legislation with a path toward citizenship, and then move on to Step 2.
 
2. Nominate Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as your 2016 presidential ticket. Or find another set of candidates who would be equally attractive to Hispanics. I recommend Jeb and Marco, because Jeb’s wife is Hispanic and they have a son, George Bush III, who is movie star handsome, charismatic, articulate, and Hispanic! Jeb is a center-right Republican who understands the imperative to adopt pro-immigration policies and befriend the exploding Hispanic demographic segment. Marco Rubio is young, good-looking, conservative, articulate, magnetic, and has a storybook gorgeous wife and family… and he is Hispanic. Unless you are ready and willing to become a minor regional party of grumpy old white men and crazy right-wing extremists, you will seriously consider nominating a pro-Hispanic ticket for the 2016 election.
 
3. Become enthusiastic supporters of women and empower them in society and politics. Stop the “war on women” now! I know, I know… You do not believe there ever was a GOP war on women. You feel that Democrats and a few right-wing wackos pinned that undeserved reputation on you. Okay… maybe so. But women PERCEIVE that you are hostile toward them, and perception is everything. How could you have let this happen, Republicans? Women make up the majority of the electorate, for God’s sake! You simply cannot allow this continuing perception that you want government to be able to intrude into women’s private lives and take control of their bodies. Issue a commandment to all old men in the GOP forbidding them from mentioning rape ever again. They lost that right with “legitimate rape” and rape that is “God’s will.” And any hint of trespassing into a woman’s control over her own body with ideas like “forced trans-vaginal probes” (speaking of rape…) is strictly forbidden, forever, period.
 
The Republican Party must enthusiastically support women and their right to earn equal pay for equal work and hold positions of power and authority in American society and politics. In this connection, it is time to aggressively seek and cultivate female candidates for office. The age of women in politics is thundering toward America like a tsunami along with the Hispanic and minority majority. You don’t believe me? Take a look at New Hampshire’s 2013 delegation to Congress — all women. Also in 2013, on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House of Representatives, women and minorities will comprise the majority for the first time in history, and it won’t be the last time.
 
When you look for female GOP candidates, run as fast as you can away from anyone who says she can see Russia from her house, or who urges citizens to exercise 2nd amendment remedies, or who thinks she might have been a witch at one time. Walk away from all these nut cases who have taken over your party and its messaging. Start looking for women candidates formed in the mold of hard-working, sane, professionals like Kay Bailey Hutchison, Olympia Snow, and Condoleezza Rice. You know they are among you. Bring them forward.
 
4. Exercise control over your nominating process to avoid extremists and run candidates who can win.  Republicans had a chance to take back the Senate in the 2012 election but you blew it again with extreme right-wing candidates who insulted and verbally abused the electorate. You cannot win elections when you attack the people you need to vote for you — women, Hispanics, gays, and other minorities. Stop it!

And your slate of presidential candidates in the Republican primaries this year looked like a clown car — Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, etc… Give us a break! Do you really expect the American electorate to take you seriously when you present a list of crazy candidates like those for the presidency? Weren’t you embarrassed? It was very amusing and entertaining for the rest of us, but also pretty scary, when we considered that you were actually proposing that one of these nut cases should hold the most powerful job on earth.

There were four reasonable candidates — Tim Pawlenty, John Huntsman, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Pawlenty was apparently too moderate and ran out of money and steam early and dropped out. Huntsman was too liberal for you. Ron Paul was too libertarian and uncontrollable. And that left only Romney who was pushed so far to the right by the endless primary debates with clown candidates that he ultimately did not have a chance in the general election, despite his desperate last-minute attempt to disavow everything he had said during the primaries and turn hard toward the center. Get a grip on your nomination and primary processes, GOP, or your clown car will be replaced by a new and more reasonable party of serious, classic conservatives. You cannot win with your current slate of Tea Party extremists and dogmatic right-wing ideologues.
 
5. Befriend the LGBT segment and support gay rights and marriage. I’ll never understand it, but apparently there are lots of us gay people who would like to be conservative Republicans. A “gay Republican” has always seemed to me, as someone once described it, to be “like a 12-point buck at an NRA convention.” But, be that as it may, there are lots of LGBT people who want to get into your club, and can’t do it, because you constantly tell us you don’t want us or like us and we are an abomination against God and nature. You didn’t want to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and you don’t want to let us marry each other. Now, I ask you, what American institutions are more conservative than the military and marriage? We are asking for the right to serve our country in the armed forces and enter into the commitment, stability and responsibility of the institution of legal marriage. As conservatives YOU should be applauding these impulses and helping us to realize them. Then you’d get lots of gay votes, which if I’m not mistaken, still count as much as straight votes.
 
Barry Goldwater understood this. Remember him?… your 1964 Republican nominee for the presidency? I’ll never forget him: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He also famously said, “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.” In 1993 on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Senator Goldwater said, “I see no harm at all with having gays in the military… I think that if you left it up to the American people, the attitude would be, ‘What the hell, there’s nothing wrong with a gay as long as he doesn’t misbehave himself.”  True classic conservatives want to get government out of people’s bedrooms and private lives and grant everyone fundamental civil rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Return to your classic conservative roots and the fundamental principles of freedom to win elections again, Republicans. 
 
6. Support clean renewable energy sources and the effort to stop and reverse climate change. My Nov 4, 2012 post at http://TwoOldLiberals.com entitled “Mother Nature Sends Sandy to Make Climate Change a Conservative Issue,” defines five compelling reasons why climate change is a conservative issue: A.) Loss of property;  B.) Extinction is bad for profits;  C.) Cost of preparedness and disaster response;  D.) Public and political pressure mounts;  E.) Everyone cares about the survival and happiness of their kids and grandkids.  Beyond that, what could be a more natural conservative value than leaving our children and grandchildren an environment that is at least as healthy and able to sustain life as the one we inherited? Conservatives are careful to maintain their home as an investment in the future stability and security of their families. The earth is our only home. It is time for conservatives to demand that we stop destroying this habitat for the sake of our children.
 
7. Work openly to reverse voter suppression and support the Voter Empowerment Act. You may have heard earlier in the campaign that there was an “enthusiasm gap” among Democrats. There probably actually was a disturbing degree of apathy among Democrats at that stage. But you took care of that by doing everything in your power to suppress the traditionally Democratic vote. You worked hard to make voting impossible for seniors, students, poor people, and anyone without a photo ID. You tried to shut down early voting and same-day registration wherever possible. You sent out disinformation about the date and location for voting. You did not provide enough voting sites, machines or ballots so that many people had to wait 2 or 4 or 6 hours in line, jeopardizing their jobs and their children’s safety. The net result was rage on the part of the people whose vote you tried to suppress. That anger more than filled the “enthusiasm gap,” and those folks came out like never before to vote. Your tactics backfired. Oh, I know, I know… You think that you did not do this at all… that it was some other nefarious force sabotaging voter rights to make you look bad. But these people PERCEIVE that you tried to stop them from voting, and perception is everything. How can you correct this perception? Work openly to reverse voter suppression, and support the Voter Empowerment Act. Become known as every voter’s advocate and friend.
 
8. Define fiscal conservatism as more than just eliminating taxes and regulations for business and banking. I know it is near and dear to your hearts, Republicans, but this continuing crusade to reduce taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans just isn’t going to fly anymore. At least 60% of Americans want the wealthy to pay their fair share. And since we have all been suffering through the Great Recession for over four years, we certainly do not buy the line that simply removing regulations from business and banking and allowing the free market to have its way will work at all. We know too much now. We know that greed is part of human nature and will take over if unchecked. We are also smart enough to know that the math for balancing the budget and paying down the national debt will not work if you refuse to add more tax revenues into the equation and insist on increasing military spending, as did Mitt Romney in his ill-fated campaign. 
 
A lot of people are naturally fiscally conservative — even some moderates and some liberals. But you are going to have to say more than just “no taxes or regulation,” to get more of the fiscally conservative vote. You will need to outline detailed plans and programs that define fiscal conservatism, in a way that makes intuitive sense to strapped middle class householders who are desperately trying to balance their own budgets, pay down their debts, and stay afloat financially in the midst of a recession. You will also want to explain to voters how your fiscal policies will help them to do that in their personal lives.
 
9. Revive the moderate wing of the Republican Party. After last Tuesday, isn’t it time to give the electorate a moderate option within the GOP again? I’m old enough to recall when there was a liberal wing of the Republican Party — George Romney was one of them, ironically, and, of course, Nelson Rockefeller. Today American politics has moved so far to the right that I sometimes feel I cannot find any moderates in either party, let alone liberals. But, of course, you do have moderates — very highly respected individuals within the GOP — Gen. Colin Powell, Ambassador John Huntsman, Gov. Chris Christie, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and others. If it is true that elections are won in the center, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to offer the electorate some centrist candidates? And while you are at it, stop holding so many debates in your primaries. They only force everyone to the extreme right.
 
10. Stop obstructionism and make an effort at bipartisan collegiality and communication. Ever since Sen. Mitch McConnell vowed that his only job was to insure that Barack Obama would be a one-term president, and the Tea Party substituted hostile obstructionism in place of governing, every last vestige of simple civility, let alone comity and collegiality has vanished from Capitol Hill. Serious professional legislators like Republican Senator Olympia Snow are leaving public service, citing the loss of a civil climate essential for governing as their reason. The entire electorate is sick to death of this obstructionism and lack of civility in public life. We miss the days when Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy used to hurl barbed, amusing comments and insults at each other on the floor of the Senate by day and then go out with a bipartisan group for a convivial evening of banter and laughter over drinks and dinner in the evenings. That was healthy for the Republic. The hatred and despair that we see now on Capitol Hill are poisonous and ruinous to the future of governance. It must stop now.
 
Oh, I know, I know… You feel that this is all the fault of the Democrats, not the Republicans, and it has been pinned on the GOP by the biased liberal press. Okay fine. Let’s say you are right. But the electorate PERCEIVES the obstructionism and lack of civility as coming primarily from the Republican side of the aisle, and perception is everything. So how can you reverse that perception? YOU be the bigger people. YOU take the high road. YOU, Republican Senators and Congress people, should agree that starting today you will invite a bipartisan group of colleagues for drinks and dinner every evening when in Washington D.C. and make every effort to have a good time and maintain a civil tone in everything that is said and done. This is what the American people want. If you restore civility in public discourse and governance, you will begin to win again.
 
What will be left of conservatism if Republicans adopt these ten steps? Classic conservatism — the high-minded thinking conservatism of decades past — would have adopted all of these ideas without difficulty and considered them a natural part of conservative philosophy. Here’s just a partial list of what’s left: Strict constructionist constitutional interpretation; fiscal conservatism that seeks to balance the budget and pay down the debt; overwhelming military might seems to be popular across the political spectrum (I’m sad to observe;) permissive gun ownership rights (God help us;) capital punishment (God forgive us;) strong law and order programs; smaller centralized government; more power to local and state governments; pro-business policies; superpower policing of international law and order (ill-advised, in my opinion;) expansion of democracy on the planet; support for moral and ethical decency; religious liberty; and the maintenance of an unbiased, objective judiciary.
 
And… my apologies. I must end this long list of criticisms withone final insult that I hope my Republican friends will consider: Did I mention that it’s all about perception? Today the increasingly brown and young, modern electorate perceives the Republican Party as an outmoded group of very white, much too old, overly male, mean-spirited and grumpy, obstructionist bigots, who care only about preserving power and wealth for the white privileged upper class, and have no clue about what is really happening and changing in America today. I’m very sorry, but that is how you are perceived.

If you want to win again, listen to the young people within your own ranks. They see that America is quickly becoming a minority majority. They know that same-sex marriage is no skin off their own noses and inevitable. If you don’t believe me, listen to Megan McCain and her mom. Your own young people know that the planet is warming so rapidly and dangerously that the very existence of future generations is threatened. Republican youth understand intuitively that power is shifting to women and it is time to get on that band wagon. They know that civil discourse and promoting the right of all Americans to vote is the proper and honorable way to go. 
 
If you want to win the midterm and 2016 elections, you will need to adopt at least steps 1, 2, and 3. Please do, for your own survival. We liberal Democrats need you. We miss the debates and discussions we used to have with you. Those arguments helped both of us define ourselves. We all need the contrast with one another to know what we believe. The dialogue is healthy for democracy and essential for a vibrant America. So, come back to life and sanity, Republicans! Find your way out of the corner into which you have painted yourselves, conservatives! We all need you and we miss you. You are part of our great American family!
 
Love, – Kevin

Eggheads, Elections, Marriage Equality, Etc. (Exchange of Letters)

Dear Kevin,

I do think that there are lots of subliminal lines running underground, as it were, between humor and art, and spirituality, too, no doubt.  I suppose you’re also right that to a certain extent we’re both hopeless eggheads when it comes to what and how we write.   Case in point: I also just posted something on the blog this morning, mine being about the recent European elections in France and Greece, and how they are both similar to and dissimilar from US politics.  Could you get much more “eggheady?”

Anyway, as you say, I guess the blog will be what it will be, and we leopards appear to be more or less unable to change our spots.  Nor do I think it’s even desirable to try, do you?  Once you start attempting to be somebody other than who you are (for better or for worse), you come off sounding inauthentic and, well, just a little silly.  So, if people want to read us, I suppose they’ll have to read us as we are.  In fact, maybe we ought to change our blog name from TwoOldLiberals, to TwoOldEggheads, what do you think?

This all makes me think about poor old Adlai Stevenson, too, back in the fifties, when he was running for the presidency against Eisenhower, a Republican.  My parents — and everybody I knew at the time — were staunch Democrats, to say the very least, but even so they were very leery of Stevenson.  People called him an “egghead,” and I remember thinking at the time: “What in the world is an egghead?”  I guess Americans have always mistrusted anybody who comes off as an intellectual.  I don’t have to remind you, of course, that Stevenson lost, and when reporters talked to him afterwards and mentioned the whole egghead controversy, his comment — perfectly apropos — was: “Via ovicipitum dura est!”   I assume that some of the reporters listening didn’t understand what he was saying in Latin, which was: “The way of the egghead is a hard one.”  But it certainly was perfectly in keeping with who he was.

I noted this morning, too, that the good Christians of North Carolina voted overwhelmingly to shut gay people up when it comes to their annoying demand for equality and constitutional rights.  In fact, what they seemed to be saying was, let’s actually change the constitution in order to make absolutely sure that “these people” don’t get too uppity!  Of course, voters did the same thing here in California, so I shouldn’t be too surprised about the Carolinians, should I?  It is curious, though, that every poll you see indicates that a majority of Americans are now in favor of allowing gay people to marry, at least by a slim majority, and yet time after time initiatives to allow that are defeated in one state after another.  I do think that eventually this will change, once the demographics change and — I hate to say it — once some older conservatives die off.  But nobody seems to know how long that will take. – Paul

Dear Paul,

I absolutely LOVED your blog article about the European elections. I found it so informative and balanced. I think you ought to submit it to “The Economist” or some other publications that explore global economic trends. As you know, I am a Francophile as well, having lived and studied in Aix-en-Provence for six months as a very young man, and spending a month-long Christmas holiday in Paris, where I painted a mural on the kitchen wall of my hostesses in exchange for lodging and meals. I certainly wish Francois Hollande the best. And I agree with you that the economic answer lies in a combination of stimulus and belt-tightening, even though almost nobody seems to be in the mood to strike such balanced and inclusive compromises. We must do the same thing here. If we don’t, we will be in very big trouble rather quickly, I should think.
 
Regarding our eggheadedness, I think we can only wear it as a badge of honor. I remember Adlai Stevenson very clearly and with great affection, because he was a hero in our household, when I was a child in the 50s. My parents were very disappointed by his second loss to Eisenhower, who now looks like a raving liberal, by the way, when compared with today’s mainstream Republicans. Eisenhower wouldn’t have a prayer of surviving today’s Republican primaries. Dick Lugar proved that yesterday in Indiana. Anyway, I have to tell my very favorite story about Adlai Stevenson — one that demonstrates his wit and intellect: A reporter asked Stevenson to comment on the fact that Norman Vincent Peale was preaching his conservative right wing politics from the pulpit, in light of the fact that Saint Paul had also talked about politics in his sermons. Adlai Stevenson shot back, “In Paul, it’s appealing. In Peale it’s appalling!” Smart man, that Adlai Stevenson. He would have been a great president.

Where the NC vote to amend their state constitution to ban gay marriage is concerned, I don’t think anybody is surprised, even though it is certainly disappointing. Similar ballot initiatives will soon be considered in three more states – MD, MN, and WA. So far gay marriage has lost every contest even though the majority of Americans support it in polls. One commentator said yesterday that it appears that the subject of gay rights motivates the right wing to come out to vote in greater numbers than progressives. Also yesterday, President Obama surprised me and many others by making a strong statement in favor of gay marriage, just a few days after Vice President Biden had paved the way, whether by design or by default. In either case, the Obama campaign seems to have calculated that it was a worthwhile risk for the president to reveal his true colors on this matter, since the majority of Americans are with him. We’ll see come November. I personally think that President Obama may also simply be the kind of man who doesn’t want to win another term if he has to do it by falsifying his true positions and beliefs. Yes, I am suggesting that he is, in fact, a man of real integrity, unlike his adversary, Mr. Romney, an opportunist who will say and “believe” whatever he thinks will thrust him into power, regardless of whatever beliefs he may actually hold. For Romney the ends justify the means. So, he’s a flip-flopper. Such people are dangerous and not to be trusted in my opinion.

It looks to me like it is going to be a very close election on all fronts this season. The recall election of Gov Walker and many of his lieutenants in WI is coming up in a little over three weeks. Even though Walker is funded by out-of-state right wing sources at a level 20 times the campaign accounts of his challenger, Tom Barrett, the Democratic Mayor of Milwaukee is currently one point ahead of Walker in the polls. I suspect that the results in WI will be interpreted by many as a harbinger of things to come in November, no matter how it turns out. It is hard for me to imagine how the contest between Obama and Romney could possibly be close, but apparently it is going to be a squeaker. Robert and I were certainly planning to vote enthusiastically for a second term for President Obama, whether or not he had come out in favor of marriage equality. As it is, we will just pull that lever with a bit more vigor.

Our fervent wish is that he would wake up and get with the environmental program to reverse Global Climate Change and stop the Keystone Pipeline. I would trade those positions for his support of gay marriage any day, because if we don’t make the tough decisions required to reverse Global Climate Change very soon, we won’t have the luxury of resolving any other issues confronting humanity, including gay marriage. First things first. We have to save the planet as a habitat that will support life. Then we can argue about who may marry whom. Okay, okay… I guess it isn’t a matter of doing one or the other. We can probably do both things at the same time. But my point is that in the face of the potential extinction of all life on Planet Earth, every other issue looks miniscule and insignificant to me. Global Climate Change is by far the most fundamental challenge that humanity has ever had to face, because it is about the survival of our species, as well as all the other life forms on the planet. We have to go into warp speed in reverse on Global Climate Change, and I want President Obama to “evolve” all the way to full enlightenment on this issue as well as gay marriage, and the sooner the better. – Kevin

PAPAL BULLY PULPIT

By Paul

Thanks to Pope Benedict XVI we may well have a new definition for the term “bully pulpit.” Last week, just to make it more clear in case anyone hadn’t gotten the message already, the Pope reiterated his unyielding opposition to gay marriage, and his absolute support of Catholic bishops in the United States who oppose gay unions. In the Pope’s words, traditional families and marriage must be “defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature.” He went on to say that whatever injured the institution of marriage also injured society.  He added that he hoped that the US Midwestern bishops, who were paying him a friendly little visit, would continue their “defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation.”  Note this relatively new term, by the way, “oriented to procreation.”  I imagine this has emerged out of a series of workshop meetings, wherein the bishops discussed the argument made by pro-gay marriage advocates that not every traditional marriage ends in procreation.  What if, for example, one of the spouses is sterile, or the woman is beyond the child-bearing years, or the couple just decides they don’t want to have children?   So, I’m guessing they figured that “oriented to procreation” was an attempt to ward off this very plausible argument.  I’ll let you be the judge if they succeeded.  Personally, I don’t think they did. 

Bur let’s get back to what we started off with, the term “bully pulpit.”  The original meaning comes from Teddy Roosevelt, who used it in reference to the presidency, and to his ability to use that prestigious post to rally people in support of his point of view.  In those days, bully meant “great” or “wonderful,” as in the expression “bully for you!”  Today, of course, the word has a very different meaning, and has migrated to indicate a person who attempts to harass and harm people whom he perceives to be weaker than he. 

Much has been said recently, and rightly so, about childhood bullying in school yards and on playgrounds,  But what we have here in this case is an example of an eighty-four year old man bullying – or attempting to bully – a whole class of people.  Instead of using the enormous power and prestige of his office for good and to talk about the Divine Spirit, or about the love and acceptance that human beings as reflections of that Spirit ought to have for one another, the Pope squanders the opportunity and gravely misuses his office to berate those who have never done him harm in any way. 

Or does the Pope in fact believe that gay people actually are harmful to him and to his church, merely by existing?   Just a few years ago, for example, he stated (in typical language) that being gay was evidence of a “strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as objectively disordered.”  His advice to gay people was to lead a life of “chastity.”  In essence, this was his way of saying, zip up, shut up, and never have a love relationship that will be fulfilling to you as a human being. 

Let us examine a little more closely some of these words that the Pope uses.  He calls being gay an intrinsic evil.  What could be clearer than that?  Intrinsic means essential to or containing wholly within.  Thus, gay people, in his definition, are evil and corrupted through and through, simply by the fact of their being gay.  What follows from this is that they are “objectively disordered.”  In philosophy (which the Pope has studied deeply) the term “objectivity” relates to something having an inherent reality or truth all its own, independent of anyone’s view of it. And “disordered,” of course, refers to a dysfunction in a normal pattern or system; in medical terms, it means diseased.  Thus, my reading of the otherwise obscure term “objectively disordered” is that the Pope believes gay people to be, by their very nature, dysfunctional and disturbed, in a word sick, no matter who says anything else about them. 

Now it should be noted, I suppose, that he does go on in his kinder, more avuncular persona to sweetly remind us all that, oh by the way, we ought not to harm gay people, since they apparently can’t do much about the way they are.  So, in other words, let’s not kill them!  How nice of him, don’t you think?  This is a lesson, by the way, that could well be taken to heart by the current government of Uganda.  But why, it can be asked, would Ugandans, or anyone else for that matter, not wish to “protect themselves” against people whom the Pope is on record as saying that he believes are disturbed and evil, and whose relationships injure society?  

If Benedict XVI thinks that his words do not have grave consequences, he is not reading the newspaper every day, nor does he see how many gay people are discriminated against, attacked, or even murdered.  His words do have a marked effect.  They give comfort and solace to those who take it upon themselves to harm to gay people.   Is this the behavior that we expect from a “man of peace,” which the Pope declared himself to be upon ascending to the papacy?  Just the opposite, in fact.  His words are words of violence, not peace, and they give cover to violent action against gay people.  They tell those who are bigoted or frightened or merely ignorant that it is OK to discriminate against gay people in their hearts, as well as in their behavior and in their laws.

So, this has now become the new meaning of “bully pulpit”:  a place from which a prelate can attack innocent people, and from where his words can go out to cause grievous harm in the world.  If Benedict XVI meant to be a “man of peace,” he’d better try again.   From what I can see, so far at least, neither has he succeeded in word nor in deed.

 

GAY MARRIAGE: PUTTING PREJUDICE ON TRIAL

By Paul

It’s well worth your time to spend the hour and a half or so it takes to view the online broadcast of the dramatic reading of a distillation of the transcript of the trial that ultimately found California’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.  The reading of the documentary play, put together by Dustin Lance Black, took place on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 here in Los Angeles, and featured a host of Hollywood celebrities.  You can see it by going to www.afer.org.

There you will witness prejudice put on trial.  And it isn’t pretty, at least not for the prejudiced.  All of the usual tired nostrums are trotted out by the defenders of Prop. 8, though to no avail.  Indeed, their main arguments, that marriage between two individuals of the same sex is somehow corrosive and harmful to traditional marriage, and that children will in some way be harmed, are not only laid to rest, but a stake is driven through the very heart of these arguments.  No wonder the backers of Prop. 8 did not want you to see this trial.

The defense of Proposition 8 is, in fact, so weak, so flimsy, so unsubstantial, so lacking in rational basis, in a word so prejudiced, that you almost – almost – wind up feeling sorry for Charles Cooper, the defending attorney.  He comes across in Kevin Bacon’s reading as a man on the edge.  It is clear that he fervently believes what he is saying, namely, that allowing gay people to marry will in some way be harmful to society and to the rearing of children.  Unfortunately, for him at least, and for his cause, he cannot say why.  All he can do is assert that this is what he believes.  And by the end, it is clear enough that the mere assertion of a belief is not reason enough for the government to deny basic legal rights to gay citizens of the United States. 

The defendants of the proposition were able to bring very few expert witnesses to the trial, and those who did show, David Blankenhorn in particular, the founder of the Institute for American Values, give testimony which it would be almost kind to call bumbling and maladroit.  On the other hand, the words of the defendants, the two couples themselves who brought suit in the first place (Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo, and Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir and their children) are moving and eloquent testimonials to the power of love and to the enduring desire on the part of human beings to be able to share their lives with a partner in marriage.   

The legal team of David Boies and Theodore Olson, played movingly by George Clooney and Martin Sheen respectively, are eminent attorneys who are clearly at the top of their field.  They cross-examine and they disclaim, they argue and question, and they speak with the force not just of the law, but of truth and justice. 

I will admit that when the trial was originally announced, I wondered if it was wise to risk so great a prize by bringing it to a courtroom, where prejudice might win out.  Better perhaps, I thought, to wait and try again at the ballot box some time in the future, once public opinion had evolved.  But I was wrong.  This trial brings out the weakness, the rank animus, and the ignorance of those who are against gay marriage in a way that I never could have dreamed.  And this play – this dramatic reading called simply “8” – refines and condenses those arguments, which took place over the course of weeks, into a riveting ninety minutes. 

But again, don’t just take my word for it.  Go to the website of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), and see for yourself.  You won’t regret the time you spent, and you will come away feeling heartened and uplifted that, in the end, truth and justice will win out. 

And who knows?  Maybe someday, after 32 wonderful years of living together, when equity and equality will have won out over bigotry and ignorance, my partner and I may even decide to someday get married.  We’ll keep you posted.  But for now, and despite all that has been said and demonstrated, it seems as though the debate still rages on.