Saturday, March 29, 2014

In Support of Gay Marriage

On November 9, 2013 for his Bar Mitzvah Torah Portion presentation, this young man spoke of his support for gay marriage. His reasoning and sincerity were so moving and in light of the long awaited legalization of gay marriage in this country, I think it is appropriate to share his thoughts with you.

I would also like to share with you the words of American journalist Keith Olbermann that he wrote in 2008 when the State of California voted to outlaw same sex marriage:
I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.
The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.
More from Countdown
Get the Countdown podcastYou know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.
And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.
How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?
What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.
It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.
And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling.  With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?
With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.
You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Pastor of Innocence

I took the phone into my study. A lady's voice on the other end sounded relieved when I interrupted her explanation, to tell her that Sam had explained to me what happened. She was, she told me, in charge of pastoral care at the school and had been asked by the Deputy Head to inform us of the Lad's transgression.

I told her that Sam had been afraid to come home and come in quite late -- after walking around the block several times and hiding in the car in the cellar. I described his distress and shame and that I was quite sure he had learned valuable lessons. In addition, I told her that I had raised three sons and that at one time or another all of them had ventured into obtaining indiscreet erotic material.

Much to my amusement, she said, "That's why I never want to have boys. I only want girls!"

It was at this point I realized that this woman was very  young and inexperienced in what boys, if not girls, get up to. Which made me wonder if giving her the assignment to call us was a bit of a joke and 'baptism of fire' with the Deputy Head! "Poor woman," I thought to myself. And then I had to laugh at the awkwardness of her initial conversation with The Man. 

She wanted to know if I wanted her to return the picture that she had, which I had no desire to have, and which I expect has now been destroyed! She assured me that Sam was a lovely boy and that they had never had any problems with him and that she was sure there would be no more. (I wish I could be as sure!!)

So I've been thinking about this need for boys around this age to look at erotica. There is no mystery about their own gender -- it all hangs out -- so to speak. But women, it's all a mystery that they can't see and boys being boys, they want to get to the 'bottom of it' -- so to speak!

As for The Man: he was horrified when I told him and was not at all amused. I felt like such a strumpet! He would have been less appalled if Sam had been caught fighting than as the carrier of smut! Thankfully though, by the next day he was willing to accept that it really was quite normal -- even if not to him -- and was at least amused by the predicament faced by the innocent pastor explaining it all to him. He then retrieved the remaining cards from Sam and burned them in the Garden!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sam's Recipe for 'Disaster'

Finally, the story came out.

"When you and Grandpa were out shopping, I went into Uncle Andrew's room to look for my I-pad," he began. His I-pad is off limits except during school holidays and then only for two hours a day. Unless we hide it, he goes to wherever it was and takes it and hides it behind or under his bed. At the moment I've found a very good hiding place that he has yet to find. We always know when he has found it because he mysteriously spends hours in his room and is notoriously difficult to get up in the morning.

Back to Sam. "I opened one of his cupboards and I found like, ummm, errrr, a deck of cards..."

"Do you mean to say you were gambling at school?" I asked, a bit taken aback by that possibility.

"No..." he said hesitantly.

All the while tears intermittently streaming down his face and hands continually wiping them away.

"They had pictures of naked women on them..."

And apparently very lewd pictures they were, too!

"I took them and put them in my school bag and took them to school."

"So what were you showing them around and the teacher caught you?" I asked, wondering why considering his age and gender, I hadn't suspected it was something like this...

"No, I told this 'friend' and when I wouldn't show him, he grabbed my bag and went into it and took a bunch of them and wouldn't give them back." He explained. "He started showing and giving them to all
these kids and the Deputy Head found one of them."

So of course when the picture was found and the boy was questioned it all came back to Sam and Sam got called into the Headmaster's office to explain himself! Total humiliation. He was told that his grandparents would have to be told... He was terrified and afraid to come home.

Sam got to the house and walked around the block several times. He then went into the cellar, where the garage is, and hid in the Volvo which The Man insists on keeping. The garage is small and dirty and he hid for a while behind the car -- this getting rather dirty -- and then crept into the car itself. After quite a good while he decided he'd better get it over with and 'face the music'.

When he finished, I told him that he had been wrong in several ways, but that it was not the worst thing I'd ever heard. This seemed to calm him down a little.  I told him I was also glad he was not in a fight, that that would have been worse to me.

"However, one," I admonished him,  you should not have been  looking for the I-pad, when told you couldn't have it; two, you should not have been invading his uncle's privacy and going through his things;  three you should not have 'stolen' your uncle's property; and  four you should not have been so stupid as to take them to school! You have," I continued, "created your own recipe for disaster." Then I took his blazer for the wash and sent him upstairs to change his clothes.

Seconds later he was back and quite agitated. "I can hear Grandpa talking to the school," he said quaking.

"How is that, I didn't hear the phone ring?" I told him to go change and listened to the conversation. It went something like this...

"Cards, do you mean playing cards?" "I don't understand. They have pictures..." "What kind of pictures?" Then in his most indignant English military officer's voice "I beg your pardon, I certainly do not have any pictures like that in  my house!"

The school had called him on his cell phone -- which was totally surprising considering he almost never uses it, almost never has it turned on, and it is almost never in the same room as he is! It was time for me to intercede. "I know what it is all about" I yelled. "You'd better let me take it." Which he did...

(More anon ...)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Oh, Sam! Whatever Next?

About a week ago on Wednesday, Sam was late home from school. On Wednesday the school day ends an hour early, at 2.10 p.m. Not always convenient, but he should be home by 3.00. At 4.15 The Man said to me, "Isn't Sam a bit late?" I had been so absorbed catching up with my blog reading I hadn't noticed. And to be honest, I had forgotten it was Wednesday.  Also it is now lighter so much later that I often lose complete track of the time.

As he often drops by a friend's house on the way home, I assumed that he had done this and forgotten to call. So about 15  minutes later I called the friend, but Sam was not there. I was a bit worried, but didn't want to panic. About five minutes later I got my coat on and was about to see if I could find him, when much to my relief the doorbell rang.

I opened the door to find a rather serious, slightly disheveled Sam, with a very dirty school blazer. "What happened? I was just about to go looking for you...?"

"I got into a fight," and then, "Did the school call?"

"No," I replied, slightly taken aback. "Did you get in a fight with one of your friends?" I asked.

"Nooo...", he rather hesitated. "Just a boy."

When I asked him "Who", Sam claimed he did not know.

Getting more information out of him was getting more and more difficult. Finally, exasperated, I said, "OK, Sam I am going to call the school," and I turned around to get the number from my desk.

Then he said, "Grandma, I didn't get into a fight."

I sat down again and told him that he had better tell me what happened.

I can still see him sitting on the couch, his face pale with fear and with something else... Sam was extremely uncomfortable. "I don't know how to tell you," he almost whispered and it looked as if his eyes were tearing up. In fact, they were. And the more I urged him to tell me what was wrong, the more upset and tearful he became.

Fortunately, as his distress grew, I became very calm -- but I couldn't imagine what had happened that would have upset  him so very much.

"Did you cheat on a test?" I guessed...


"We you doing something you shouldn't in the boys lavatory?" Thinking of certain urinary competitions boys are rumoured to sometimes have...


"Were you caught having sex with one of the girls?"

"NO! How could you think I would do anything like that, Grandma!" Well, at least he hadn't lost his sense of indignation, went through my mind...

"Sam," I explained, "You are going to have to tell me what happened, because if you don't I am going to have to call the school."

"It's a long story," he said, tears welling up again.

"Well, begin at the beginning..." I prompted him.

And so the explanation of his predicament began...

(To be continued...)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ongoing Reflections and Ruminations

The last month has been a solemn reminder that time waits for no one.

For many years I have been very friendly with an elderly couple. With two of my friends, we would visit them for tea several times a year. About a year ago it was no longer possible for them to come to church as their health and physical fitness began to deteriorate. Eric had severe emphysema and  needed oxygen most of the time and Joy had a severely handicapped hip which required her to wear a brace that gave her a lot of pain. This past January they left the home where they had brought up two lovely sons and went into a very nice retirement home. Within weeks Joy health and well-being had deteriorated to the extent that it was necessary to move her into an intensive care nursing home. She died less than a week later. Her funeral was scheduled for last Friday.

The Wednesday after Joy died a very close friend and I visited Eric. He was very realistic, but sad -- and spoke about how much he dreaded the funeral that was to come. On Saturday Eric had a massive heart attack and died in the same hospital as his beloved Joy. They were born 8 days apart 90 years ago and died 10 days apart. Last Friday there was a double memorial service to celebrate their lives. And a beautiful service it was, too.

While all this was happening I was trying to find an affordable flight for me to go to the States once again to help my mother celebrate her 95th birthday. I have a favourite flight that takes me from Manchester to Hartford, Connecticut in a reasonable number of hours both to-ing and fro-ing but it takes patience and nerves of steel waiting and hoping that the price will go down -- which it did when the calendar went from February to March! While there I will be making another trip to Raleigh with my sister to see my ailing brother, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's dementia and who is now living in a nursing home near to his son. Two days ago he turned 64, which from my point of view is 'young'! He has, however, aged considerably since last August when his life turned upside down... (see here)

Until I got older I did not appreciate how death and illness would gradually become more and more part and parcel of daily life. I have become aware that the world has been taken over by the 'young' and 'young' is now defined for me as anyone under 60... Today one of my favourite public characters, Tony Benn, died. I didn't agree with his political views exactly, but I appreciated his integrity and niceness. And I so liked the fact that he 'was' and that his beliefs were so incorruptible.

This excerpt from Choruses from the Rock, 1934 by TS Eliot was read at Eric and Joy's service and it seems very appropriate:

In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light
We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends;
     and ecstasy is too much pain.
We are children quickly tired:
     children who are up in the night
     and fall asleep as the rocket is fired;
     and the day is long for work or play.
We tire of distraction or concentration,
     we sleep and are glad to sleep,
Controlled by the rhythm of blood and the day
     and the  night and the seasons.
And we must extinguish the candle,
     put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame.
Therefore we thank Thee for our little light,
     that is dappled with shadow.
We thank Thee who has moved us to building, to finding,
     to forming at the ends of our fingers
          and beams of our eyes.
And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light,
     we may set thereon the little lights
          for which our bodily vision is made.
And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light.
O Light Invisible, we give The thanks for Thy great glory!