My mother’s family was actively American. Example: a few of us kept an Underground Railroad safe house for escaping slaves in the Civil War. I say a few because my then-teenaged great-grandmother helped her father hide escapees in the barn while her mother stayed in the house and refused. Heritage is tricky. This is a skimpy list, suffice it to say that red, white and blue ran in my veins.
I grew older, along came Vietnam, Watergate, and my criminalization for using a substance no worse than alcohol or cigarettes — both of these legal and subsidized by the nation of my birth.
(To clarify, never caught but well imprinted with the zeitgeist paranoia.)
For years the red-white-blue in my veins alternated with a murky low-chroma mix. George W. wrote the book on murk. But my mother was alive long enough to see Obama win. My gratitude for that happenstance beats strong to this day.
Yesterday I caught up with Obama’s Charleston eulogy. Although my mother was agnostic, her favorite song was Amazing Grace. President Obama’s eulogy was a speech for the ages, nuanced and blunt — it would have filled her, as it did me, with Yes. As recent days have done, a growing wave of national open-heartedness pushes back against the haters.
Gay marriage rights. Like most Americans I didn’t get there at first, but the more LGBT people came out, damn there they were. Funny, fickle, politically committed, shy and retiring, smart, dirt stupid — they were remarkably human like me. Why should I get excited about which portions of skin they chose for intimacy? That smeary veil fell from my eyes like like pond scum flushed with spring water. I deeply love my friends and some of them are LGBT. (Big hugs of glee to you, my a-little-bit-different friends.)
The New York Times has quickly posted these articles: As Left Wins Culture Battles, G.O.P. Gains Opportunity to Pivot for 2016 and Next Fight for Gay Rights: Bias in Jobs and Housing. Is this news or is churning up readers? Wait a decent interval, a respectful interval, and give human hearts space to celebrate.
Yet the NYT also carried this:
John Waters, the film director and patron saint of the American marginal, warned graduates to heed the shift in a recent commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers,” he said, adding, “Gay is not enough anymore.”
If Waters were to talk about the Confederate flag he might likewise point out, “The Confederacy is not enough anymore.” The Civil War is so yesterday. This is the 21st century and Americans — yea, all global humanity — face huge challenges. We need all brains on deck, we need to focus on Now. “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers.”
And the Charlestown terrorist attack has maybe opened a door to gun sense. Oh please, my country, let the majority rule. Most of us don’t need semi-automatic guns in our grocery stores. Or carried around in children’s parks. Or paraded through zoos full of animals with sense enough to play down their weapons until they face a threat.
And wonderfully, Pope Francis — that strong and big-hearted man — released his Climate Change Encyclical also in this month of June, 2015. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.
Great post, Sloan. I love “filled with YES” which sums up how I felt as well.