Like so many people all over the world,
my heart has been deeply touched that Americans have elected Barack Obama.
What inspires me:
- By carrying the genes of the two races so long divided by the legacy of slavery, he both symbolizes and embodies the quickening healing of that deep wound in the national soul.
- The younger generation coming of age in this era of global connectivity understands more than any earlier people that racial differences are superficial. They have embraced him as a leader truly representative of this multi-ethnic culture.
Yet it is not just Barack’s racial mix that has stirred me, and given hope to millions.
- He carries from his early life in multi-ethnic Hawaii and Indonesia a global perspective.
- He is a citizen of the world, and the world is looking up to him as a trans-national leader.
- He integrates the feminine and masculine energies in a special way from the influence of his globally aware, compassionate, single mom.
- Colin Powell calls him a “transformational figure,” — others describe him as a visionary leader.
I am deeply hopeful that he will uplift and inspire people all over the world to come together in a spirit of kindred caring and cooperation.
- In 1955 riding the school bus to summer day camp near Coney Island at age 11, I sat next to another boy I immediately liked. Each day he’d save a seat for me; we became friends. When I wanted to invite him home, or visit his home a few miles from mine, my mother said no…because he was Black. I did not understand.
- Our block in Brooklyn was a White enclave. Across the street was all Black. Back then, polite Whites called them “Colored,” or “Negroes.” More often I heard “niggers,” and was taught to be afraid to go there; yet I did not understand.
- I remember my dear mother saying how much she liked our cleaning lady, Mrs. Hines. Yet she worried about shaking hands with her…as though her Black hands were somehow always dirty, or her Blackness would rub off.
- I remember in university in 1963 when the civil right movement was underway, feeling such hope that “the times they are a-changin’.” That summer, a century after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King’s “Dream” rang out across the land. Barack had just turned 2.
- Just 3 months later, on a cold November night, standing in line for seven hours to view the casket of our slain young President who embodied such promise of a new generation, hundreds of us sang, tearfully yet hopefully, “We Shall Overcome.”
- Five years later, the brutal slaying of King and Bobby Kennedy devastated and disillusioned me deeply.
- I was ashamed to participate in the senseless warfare in Vietnam, which also seemed tinged with racism.
- After Vietnam, I made my home in Berkeley because it seemed such a progressive place. I was saddened to see, even there, the great divide between the mostly White, affluent hills and the mostly Black, lower class “flats.” I chose to live in “the flats”, and to be an out, sexual minority among a visible racial minority. Looking back, I realize maybe it was because I felt different, a social outcast, that I could empathize with the plight of my Black neighours.
- So I am moved to tears of joy and gratitude to see at last that America is overcoming the deep wound left by slavery.
- I am astonished that we have come so far in the 45 years since MLK cried out from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “Let freedom ring!”
Even as I whole-heartedly celebrate this milestone in healing the racial divide,
I am saddened that three more states have enshrined sexual bigotry into their constitutions
during this election, diminishing same-sex love as somehow less than straight love.
Just as I have kept the faith that time would heal our racial wounds, I also am confident that time will bring a more enlightened view of human loving. As the mostly Republican California Supreme Court so eloquently pointed out this year, up until a few decades ago, interracial marriage was illegal in many states.
Barack’s own parents would have been outlaws.
I truly trust that within another generation, people will look back in disbelief that love between two women or two men was ever considered to be any less than love between a woman and man.
we SHALL overcome…someday.”
On this celebratory weekend, when both Canadians and Americans observe the birth of our nations, I am feeling quite celebratory myself.
It was nearly as momentous an occasion of us as it was for the bride and groom. Since Chris is newly out as of March a year ago, our appearance as a couple felt a bit like a debut. We were both deeply touched by the warm welcome we received from his rather large family. I felt immediately embraced as a part of the family. This was a huge relief for Chris: perhaps one of the biggest hurdles in his journey of coming out. For me, who have no siblings, and have lost my parents over 25 years ago, it was very heart-warming to feeling instantly a part of such a large and generous family.
Two days later, during our leisurely return drive, the Canadian Parliament finally approved a re-definition of marriage to refer to ‘two persons’ of whatever gender. Thus, the love that a hundred years ago ‘dare not speak its name’ has finally been recognized as fully equal. For me, who grew up in the era when being gay was severely castigated, it feels deeply validating to have such full legal recognition. Chris and I proudly held hands in as we walked in archly conservative Alberta, even as we do in the gay neighbourhood in Vancouver. I believe that in another couple of generations, people will wonder why there was ever such a fuss: of course people love each other, regardless of their gender, and wish to form lasting partnerships based on that loving bond.
I realize that there are still some Canadians, and even more Americans, who are troubled by the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage. They see it as an unwholesome change in an institution which is the bedrock of society: the family. But the idea of family and marriage has been evolving, and will continue to do so, to meet the needs of a changing world. A hundred years ago, families were large, and ‘extended,’ with three or four generations living in close connection; now families are small, ‘nuclear’ and more intentional. Couples often choose to have few if any children. At a deep level, many realize the planet no longer needs more people. It is more common, and acceptable, to form relationships for mutual support and love, without the expectation of raising a family. So the gender of the pairing is no longer important.
Some are resistant to change, because they see the “tradition” of marriage as having a long, and even God-commanded history. Yet as we humans evolve into more conscious beings, many marriage “traditions” have changed. Wife-selling, which was commonly acceptable until the mid-19th century, is now abhorrent, as is wife-beating. Until 1965, Canada‘s Criminal Code made a distinction between beating your wife and common assault. Only in 1929 were married women in Canada declared to be persons in the eyes of the law, rather than chattels belonging to their husbands. Until relatively recently, it was not a crime for a husband to have sex with his wife without her consent; today marital rape is quite properly a criminal offense. Marriage is constantly being redefined as social enlightenment progresses.
Today, same-sex marriage is recognized in four countries: Belgium, Holland, Canada, as of a couple of days ago, Spain. In addition, civil unions for same-sex couples are legal in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, parts of Switzerland, and in all of Great Britain effective this coming December. This is clearly a trend. Humanity is evolving to higher consciousness. It is increasingly recognized that stable, love relationships deserve to be acknowledged and supported by society, because they benefit all of society, and the entire human family.
On this longest day of 2003, I send cool breezes from Vancouver and warm greetings from my very happy heart! I am thrilled that Canada is poised to declare that love between women and love between men is as worthy of public honour as love between women and men.
Never in my wildest dreams as a young gay man could I have hoped for such a profound social shift in my lifetime. Then, I was deeply conflicted: I felt exhilaration and fulfilment when I was able to share love with another man; in my soul it felt completely natural and right. Yet there was an equally deep shame and guilt at what was still viewed as sick and even criminal, as well as socially repugnant and morally condemed. The confusion between my inner and outer realiteis caused almost unbearable pain.
Now, in less than two generations, our society is entering a new era of interpersonal loving. Young people just coming of age are beginning to take it almost for granted that it’s natural to love either gender or both ( or “all genders” — the rigid distinction between male and female is also blurring into a continuum). It’s as obviously right to them as, at their age, it seemed obvious to me that women deserved to vote—a very contentious issue just 40 years earlier. I happily predict that in another 40 years, the very labels “straight” and “gay” will seem quaintly dated. Kids will shrug, “What was the Big Deal?” as they freely love whomever they find attractive, regardless of where on the gender spectrum their beloved dwells.
May the fullness of this Solstice light illumine every heart.
I wish you a de-light-full summer — dare I say, “a summer of love?”