Tuesday, July 1, 2008

does gay marriage debate hurt people?

I am super excited that gay people can marry in California. I think they should marry everywhere. I can't imagine anyone caring who gets married, who fucks whom, what any consenting adults do with themselves in private. Blah blah blah.

But my problem is this: the argument for gay marriage has focused, by necessity, on upholding the life-long monogomous couple ideal that is so limiting and deficient for so many people -- gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever. By emphasizing that gay couples, too, can sustain loving, life-long, monogomous relationships, the debate for marriage rests on a standard that straight people have failed to uphold and that is not the ideal for so many. What's missing is the "alternative lifestyle" argument, which allows for couples, singles, trios, whatever, in any arrangement, for people of any persuasion. Straight people need more models beyond the nuclear family, trans and bi people need any model. Gay people deserve equal rights, whether they choose to couple up and adopt kids and drive a Volvo, or whether they live in perpetual debauchery. It's interesting that a polygamy debate is going on at the same time. The problem with polygamy as practiced in this country is not that there is more than one spouse -- it's that the wives are often coerced and underage so that it is not truly consentual. But if 3 or 7 or 50 consenting adults want to mary each other, who cares??? I don't expect the super-sanitized, squeeky-clean gay rights movement to come out as pro-polygamy, because it would be political suicide at a tenuous time of shaky victories, but I hope that they do at some point, because the larger idea is that it's nobody's business who consenting adults marry.

I am really excited by the progress of gay marriage rights. And I wish that legislation would sweep all 50 states in a heartbeat so we can move on to a larger discussion about people having choices. Not "Will and Grace" snarky stereotypical kind of choices, but messy, challenging, re-inventing family or intimacy or companionship kind of choices.

On another point, I have been joking that if I were to run for political office, it would be on economic policy alone --- legalization of gay marriage, polygamy, marijuana, and prostitution. Taxes, regulation, cost-savings for law enforcement. Fiscal responsibility and smaller government. Sound familiar?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

a song called spaces

I am standing on the sidewalk cradling my cello and wondering why I'm wasting my time with Chaucer even though I was sure I hated my cello, but then why would I run into a burning building to get it back if I hate it. I love it. and I hate it. and I love it. in this obsessive abusive relationship kind of way, except that I don't know who's the abuser or the abused but I do know that I don't care if I ever finish Chaucer.

There was a casette, on the ledge above my kitchen sink, and on it was the one great recording of "spaces" which was the song that was going to change everything. except the tape melted and the lyrics burned and the timing was wrong and it was lost and is still lost and it's the thing I miss most of all.

Friday, January 18, 2008

reverse sexism

I don't want flight attendants and pilots to make jokes, I just want them to get us from A to B. Southwest Airlines flight attendants especially take pleasure in a captive audience to spread their own brand of toxic humor. Recent jokes I've heard:

"Those of you traveling with children, or people acting like children -- Ladies, they're called men..."

"Anyone traveling alone... men, I'm single, just pass your bank statements forward..."

and countless other jokes that are emasculating, tasteless, and smug... Why is it okay to talk about men this way? Why does everyone laugh at this?

Inevitably, I say something to the man sitting next to me, like "Looks like making fun of men still hasn't gone out of style" and he will just shrug as if he doesn't notice. Or occasionally he will even say "Oh, we deserve it." And if I say "No more than women do" he will glance at me like I have laid a trap he is too tired to step into.

Of course it speaks more to the character of the joke-teller than it does to the target of her jokes. But what does it say about us as a people that this doesn't seem to phase anybody? Or that women who have men in their lives that they adore, laugh anyway in that oh-don't-I-know-it way?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

tired of shakespeare, pt. 2

So I asked the 12-year-old girl Chairman Gioia's question: How many living artists can you name? She thought for about 3 seconds and said: "There's too many to count!" Her friends, singers and songwriters she likes, teachers who are creative. "When it comes down to it, pretty much everybody I know is an artist in some way." Chairman Gioia: zero. 7th grader: everybody. Awesome.

Monday, November 12, 2007

tired of shakespeare

The Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts recently said that if you polled college students asking them how many of today's artists they could name, the answer would be zero. I think this statement actually says more about the limitations of our artistic inclusivity than it does about the limits of college students' knowledge. While such a poll may not turn up the names of Robert Pinsky or Robert Rauchenberg, it will likely include a long list of songwriters, performance artists, filmakers, graphic novelists, designers, hip-hop choreographers, etc. And even more exciting is that many of young people's favorite artists will be their friends --- photographers, printmakers, musicians and poets in their community, whether a local or a virtual community. And thanks to iTunes and MySpace, there are entire new marketplaces and opportunities for audience-building available to artists today that are broad-reaching and accessible. Rather than assuming that college students' lack of knowledge or interest in Thornton Wilder and Aaron Copland is an indicator that the arts are not visible in their lives, I think there is great evidence that the arts are often so integrated into their lives as to be invisible.

When a collector goes to a galley and buys a $1000 painting to support one artist, we call them a patron of the arts. When a college student spends $1000 on iTunes to buy 1000 songs by 1000 artists, we call them a consumer. Is the difference really in an understanding of art, or is the difference in language and perception?

If we continue to insist that the traditional canon of artists and art forms is the foundation of enlightenment, we will lose young people and miss the opportunity to share the value of creative expression, not to mention the chance to learn from them what it is they value in the multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural, informal art forms they support. The responsibility lies with educators and institutions to expand our definition of artists and the arts, and provide ways for young people to find relevance and resonance through the artistic expressions they are already accessing. Like Cake's album art? You'll love Andy Warhol. PJ Harvey fan? Try Anne Sexton. The distance is closer than we think...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

i pledge allegiance to the...

Dear NPR,

Thanks for another episode of "guess who has more money!" I have been troubling myself with the pesky questions of who has a viable strategy to get us out of Iraq and start mending all the fences we've burned, who will take universal healthcare seriously, who will hold corporate polluters accountable, who will restore our civil liberties, release the "enemy combatants" (or at least give them a trial), give our teachers back the ability to teach evolution and sex-ed... I have been worrying over all these choices, choices, choices and voila! It seems they've been narrowed down.

I was concerned that I still had 384 days to choose between Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Colbert, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Don J. Grundmann, Bryan Malatesta, Diane Beall Templin, Alan Keyes, Jim Gilchrist, Jerome Cors, Jared Ball, Elaine Brown, Jesse Johnson, Jerry Kann, Kent Mesplay, Kat Swift, Daniel Imperato, Bob Jackson, Mike Jingozian, Steve Kubby, Alden Link, George Phillies, Wayne Allyn Root, Christine Smith, Sam Brownback, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Alan Keyes, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, and Fred Thompson.

And wow, that's a lot of choices! When it comes to soy milk, I'm happy to have 39 options, but 39 presidential candidates? That's just crazy. Apparently all we need to know is who has more money. I've never actually given to a campaign myself, and I don't know anybody else who does either, but somewhere somebody is coughing up cash for their favorite and that's good enough for me.

I'm glad NPR doesn't bother with an analysis of where the money comes from -- corporations vs. individuals, drug companies and oil executives, tree-huggers and the ACLU. It's just too hard to try to stay informed, and I'd rather my news source do the hard thinking for me. Whew. Thanks, NPR!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

how easily we forget...

I watched this house move a few weeks ago, saw it severed from its foundation and raised on steel bars and connected to a truck and moved a few lots away. I saw it, I took pictures of it, I remarked on it. And today, walking by the lot where the house used to stand, I thought "what used to be here?" The basement has been filled with dirt, the top covered in sod, and even the lines of sod have wedded together so that it's almost impossible to say that anything was ever there.

I'm one of those people who remembers pretty much everything -- conversations from grade school, names, big experiental things, little detaily things... But this act of forgetting made me think of all the things we must insist on remembering, no matter how much dirt, grass, or time has filled in the hole. Not the house. I don't care about the house.

Revisionist history has damaged our collective memory. Remember when we were told there was a connection to Iraq and the 9/11 attacks? When U.N. weapons inspectors searched for months for "weapons of mass destruction" and found nothing? When we were told that all Americans would have access to affordable healthcare? That children weren't going to be left behind??

People want us to forget. Forget we were lied to, forget we ever had a choice. What good is it to insist that 2+2=4 if everyone else swears it is 5? Reality is collective mythology. Lay some sod and change the story.