Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The statute has run out ...

OK, I'm pretty sure the statute on tackiness and jingoistic nationalism has run out, so I'm posting this pic from St. Patrick's Day. Every year since St. Paul had a parade on St. Patrick's Day, my family has marched. My uncle's wife's family name is Conroy, so they had a banner done up and we all tromp through the streets, throwing candy to the crowd. Seems I don't have the knack (something about misplaced generosity, overhand vs underhand and the degree of force) so I wasn't allowed to continue the throwing of the candy. These people are my brothers, sister, spouses, nieces, nephews, cousins, children of cousins and their kids too. My Dad's parents immigrated in the early 20's. Now, three generations later, the family is about as diverse as the rest of America. African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, disabled, all parts of every religious and political spectrum - we pretty much have it all. And it's no big deal. In my Dad's generation, they were told, "stick with your own." It was a BIG DEAL when my Auntie married not an Irishman, but a German (second generation pro baseball, but it didn't matter to my grandfather who was a WWI disabled vet). Grandad tried to bribe her with a fur coat to wait to marry until her brother were home on leave from the Pacific WWII theater, but she wasn't interested. My Dad's neighbor hood housed the poorest of the poor. His family grew up in a re-purposed church. Unlike more affluent neighborhood where people of similar backgrounds clustered (Swede Hollow, for example) my Dad's neighborhood held blacks, Italians, Bohemians, Swedes, German, Irish and more. They all got along. But there was no question of anyone marrying outside their ethnic background. Until Auntie Mary. My Dad ended up marrying a woman of very diverse heritage, but by then my grandfather has resigned himself to dilution of the bloodlines and is smiling in photos of my Mom and Dad's wedding.

So I am amused by the memory of a conversation with my sibs several years after I came out to them as one of the estimated gay 10% of all people in the world, when I explained that I was just following granddad's admonition to stick with my own. Interesting that in my own "marriage," it is the urban/suburban divide that has been the source of much misunderstanding.

"Marriage" There it is. That word. If you assume, for the moment, that the State has any business at all in sanctioning or not sanctioning the most intimate of human relationships (responsibility for children can and is imposed in different ways), for the purpose of stabilizing society (presumably to keep our lustful urges at bay) why restrict access to marriage? People mix up the religious sacrament with the civil status. Maybe because in this country, unlike many others, religious representatives are empowered to perform both rituals simultaneously. In some countries you get married at church AND at the courthouse, or it isn't official - some of those are countries where the US helped set up the civil system - ironic.

But we are where we are, and if the State is going to establish this institution of marriage, everyone should be able to partake, regardless of protected personal characteristic. Regardless of what my dear granddad might say. What is hopeful and instructive to me is the rapidity with which social attitudes toward mixed race, mixed ethnicity marriages has changed. Maybe before I die, I won't have to worry about being separated from my life-long partner in a nursing home because some one doesn't approve, and I can no longer advocate for myself. Maybe before I die I won't have to puzzle every time I am given an assortment of choices for marital status that don't include a correct description of my family. Maybe before I die, I won't even have to think about this. And our society will be that much more stable, include that many more loving relationships and have a 10% bigger wedding industry.


MarkN said...

Very well stated, my friend. I actually have great faith in the generation "after us" to see these ideas through. So the both of you stay very much alive, I think you will be pleased. Or as my Swedish ancestors would say, "You'll say ya, by yumpin' yiminy!"

twinsetellen said...

I agree - separate the religious from the civil. And require everyone to review the terms of the civil contract before they sign!