Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Practicing Progressive

I just returned from the frontlines of the family values war and discovered peace has broken out.

A wedding of heterosexuals this past weekend in Iowa brought me to the state that as of April 27, 2009 made marriage between homosexuals legal. From the conversations I had with folk from this bastion of bacon and corn, no one seemed particularly put-out by the recent legislation. Indeed, I sensed a certain civic pride in the expansion of civil rights among residents of the Hawkeye state.

This is in clear contrast, of course, with what has been going on in states that we have long considered anything but conservative. Take California, for instance. There a constitutional amendment squeaked by last November that took a different course. It was called “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act” which is pretty self-explanatory. And although there was deep disappointment from 48% of Californians, the majority of Californians decided that despite some pretty convincing evidence to the contrary the only good marriage is between one man and one woman.

Here in Colorado, back in 2006, we managed to do California one better, or worse, with 55% of us deeming holy matrimony in similarly confining restraints.

I know this will come as a shock to some but apparently marriage, both hetero and homo, seem to be doing fairly well in America’s heartland. Granted my observation time was brief but I didn’t encounter a single example of family values crumbling before my eyes. No healthy heterosexuals being lured into nefarious homosexual liaisons, no gay desperados roping innocents into their carnal corrals, no sheep giving me a seductive smile, none of it. Just average American marriages with, I suspect, the average amount of pluses and minuses most all of us have had to face.

It is difficult to understand the hysteria surrounding this issue in some quarters especially when one considers the track record of many of those seeking sanctions. The famous Barna Survey of a few years back showed evangelical Christians having a much higher divorce rate than the general populations and almost double that of agnostics and atheists. One would think such sobering statistics would give these guardians of family values pause but when you think of the behavior of some of their leaders, well… In recent months we’ve had more than a few stalwart defenders of traditional marriage behaving in some traditionally adulterous ways.

The first gay marriage I officiated took place on the shores of Lake Dillon with two beautiful brides making their way down the tree lined aisle to our makeshift altar on the shore. Just as now in Colorado, back then there was no legal marriage for lovers like those two blushing beauties but we didn’t let that stop us. For years I heard from the couple on their anniversary but that stopped a while ago. Who knows? Maybe they didn’t make it or maybe they just moved away but none of that should matter anyway.

I learned long ago that I could never guess the success or failure of the couples who came to me to be married. Some of the ones I thought didn’t have a chance have already celebrated their silver anniversaries and some I thought were sure-fire certainties have long ago gone their separate ways. It certainly wasn’t for me to decide who should benefit from the marital laws of Colorado and who should not. If they were willing to spend time in pre-marital counseling and put up with a cranky Lutheran cleric that was good enough for me.

In any case, the good people of Iowa…well, the good people of Iowa’s Civil Rights Commission if the truth be told… have deemed it appropriate and good that anyone wishing to pay for a marriage license can take their chances with both the best and the worst of matrimony, holy or otherwise and the next Californian or Coloradan who speaks of those magnanimous Midwesterners in a less than magnanimous way might give thought to the hearts beating so generously in America’s heartland.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Practicing Progressive

I think I understand that getting your space and showing your face are now important tools of the internet age but I’m still incomplete with the need to tweet.

What, I wonder, is the lure of communicating in a 140 character limited medium when sending an e-mail or even talking on the phone seems to provide a more satisfying and, one would think, more effective alternative? Recently, I read of tweets (an endearing name, I’ll admit) now being used to review movies, books and restaurants. One can’t help identifying with an author, director or restaurateur concerned that several years spent in developing a book, movie or menu could be enthusiastically praised or dismissively dumped in a sentence or two. It is hard to imagine how a tweeter could presume to mine the depths of a director like Coppola or even an author like Grisham, for goodness sake, without expanding his or her underpowered vehicle of verbosity by a few thousand words or more.

Nevertheless, I do believe I have found a most suitable arena for the enthusiastic tweeter: Health Care Forums. Judging from what I’ve read and seen regarding the conduct of some of the attendees at these demonstrations of democracy at work, I should think restricting the participants to pounding their PDAs might introduce a certain civility to the proceedings.

Off on a bit of a tangent here but what do you make of the outbursts of way over the top outrage that is on display at these meetings? Surely it can’t be just because a few million poor folk might get a little piece of the American dream? Something else seems to be going on here and I suspect it has less to do with the red menace of health care reform and more to do with a black man living in a white house. I can’t help but muse on such a possibility when I witness old white men going ballistic and babbling on about America becoming a Soviet satellite. My guess is these guys’ gripes are really the grief-induced result of discovering that America has dramatically changed in the course of their lifetimes. Just think what we old fogies have had to face over the past 60 years or so: feminism, multi-culturalism, Regis Philbin…

And then there are the guns. Some of these fellows are actually packing heat to these already incendiary governmental gatherings. I know its legal now to carry your six-shooter into the church or synagogue of your choice but surely taking a Smith and Wesson into the foment being stirred up in these forums seems imprudent at best, downright dangerous at worst and maybe even a little silly when you think about it.

But back to the tweets that seem to be taking up a goodly share of what once passed for conversation. I suppose it is only the natural out-growth of a couple of generations worth of “Whatevers” and “Wuzups”. When human discourse devolves into something akin to the communication between cavemen, surely tweeting is the natural result.

Speaking of primitive activities (and heading off on another tangent), one of the most primal is when we decide to abandon all discourse entirely in favor of weapons of mass and minor destruction. Violence has always been the refuge of those who choose to put an end to conversations, cordial or otherwise. Last week, the lone survivor of the horrors of World War I, Harry Patch, died at the age of 111. He had become better known in his final years as an outspoken critic of war and a strong advocate for the commonality of humankind. His tales of life in the trenches captivated his English audience and his funeral at Wells Cathedral was attended by several thousand while millions watched on TV. Although he was entitled to a military funeral with all the attendant honors, Patch requested that no guns be allowed at the service, ceremonial or otherwise. I know that such a demand from a military hero must come as sobering surprise to the hordes of holstered fanatics here in America but it was Mr. Patch’s expressed belief, after witnessing the carnage of combat, that “war isn’t worth one life.”

Come to think of it, such a sentiment would fit nicely into your next tweet.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Practicing Progressive

“We are the Comets!
Mighty, mighty Comets!
Everywhere we go,
People want to know who we are,
So we tell them…”

At my age, invitations to high school reunions always contain the implied threat that this may be the last one you’ll be around for. Nevertheless, I haven’t attended one yet and hadn’t considered doing so anytime in the near future. This morning, reading the paper, I came across a little news item that further convinced me to decline the next time another invitation arrives in the mail.

On page 106 of my 1964 Westchester High School annual there is a tiny picture of a tiny girl named Lynette Fromm, or “Squeaky” to her friends. The fact that most of her friends were members of the infamous Manson Family, some of whom were convicted of the brutal murders of actress Sharon Tate, Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, made her friendship more than a little questionable.

Fromme, you may remember, was convicted of trying to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975 and is currently serving a 25 year to life sentence in a Texas prison. Currently, however, only until this next weekend when she is scheduled to be released after being incarcerated for the past 34 years. Reading the report in the New York Times concerning her release, I couldn’t help but wonder if our next high school reunion might be somewhat better attended than in the past.

Still, I’m not that tempted although admittedly I might be more enticed by the appearance of Sherry Alberoni, listed on page 22 along with a litany of accomplishments under her very pretty picture (Senator; Commercants; Thespians; GAA; Girls League Rep.). Sherry was an official Mouseketeer with Walt Disney Productions who drove a pink Corvette and never in the three years we were in high school together ever even acknowledged my existence.

I certainly would be inclined to attend the next reunion if three of my classmates and their band promised to play. Howard Kaplan, (page 30: Valedictorian; UCLA Charter Day Rep.;A Cappella Choir: Section Leader; CSF; Squires; Senator; Boy’s League Rep.; Bank of America Trophy Award in Fine Arts), Al Nichol, (page 33: Varsity Cross Country and Track; Basketball; LMC; Senator), and Mark Volman, (I can’t find him listed. He must have ditched that day.) formed the hit band, The Turtles, shortly after graduation and, presumably, made more money than the rest of their classmates combined including Alan Eisenstadt (page 28) whose impressive list of high school accomplishments was only missing Savior of the Free World to be complete.

While perusing the annual, I couldn’t help but notice that there are none of those punch-in-the-arm clever annotations filling up my autograph page. Indeed, there are no autographs at all. Perhaps this is another reason why I am less than enthusiastic about returning to those (painfully anonymous) days of yesteryear.

My wife recently attended her 45th high school reunion and by all accounts had a great time. In fact, she may have had too good of time. She’s already planning on attending the 50th and has volunteered to serve on the refreshment committee with a guy named Bob.

I was looking through her album from John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minnesota and it is filled with clever remarks and cutesy observations from a thousand of her closest friends. I couldn’t help but notice how messy it made her margins.

Once a Comet always a Comet, I suppose but when you reach my age the thought of renewing old acquaintances and lying about past accomplishments is really just too daunting to contemplate. So maybe I’ll just wait until the 60th anniversary. Who knows? I may still be around…which would allow me to list at least one accomplishment under my picture (page 32).