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Friday, July 15, 2011

"Those who deny freedom for others deserve it not for themselves."

Abraham Lincoln


As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I have a nephew named Thad (the kayaker). Thad is the eldest of my two nephews, and as he was the first born to my only sister I was delighted at his arrival.

Thad was a great kid…creative, smart, chatty. In fact, when he was in early grade school one of his teachers reported: “He has so much to share with the class!” code for “Thad talks too much.” To this I remember thinking “Terrific!” In my view, talking is great. The results of talking are intellectual stimulation, close friendships, and strong bonds with family, all of which Thad now enjoys as a creative, smart, and chatty 34-year-old man.

My nephew was a good high school student, and went on to graduate from a fine college with a degree in studio arts. After graduation he moved to Long Island and lived with me…and was employed at my company…for six years. He was an outstanding (if sloppy) roommate and an excellent, successful meeting planner. Our clients admired his work ethic, and in fact came to request that he attend all our international meetings. He dated, of course, but never found “The One.” A few years ago he returned upstate and met the love of his life, truly. We were all so happy for him because honestly, doesn’t everybody want that for their kids? To find the one person who fills their heart with joy?

The relatives have embraced Thad’s fiancĂ©…yes! there is talk of marriage. My sister, myself, Thad and his fiancĂ©, my nephew Nick, our cousins and friends and shirttail kin spend holidays together, linger in the dining room after all-hands-on-deck dinners, eat too much ice cream, play cards and board games, and have long visits in front of warm fires. I have always considered myself fortunate to have such closeness with my relations, and soon we will officially add another loved one as whispers of a 2012 wedding circulate. We are An American Family.

Thad is one of the lucky few, to have found someone kind and gentle, attractive, smart, funny, sensitive, accomplished, honest, hard-working, and a superb cook. A new chapter in our family’s book has begun. Our little boy has grown up, will marry, will buy a house, and will go forward in his life to become the fine man we always knew he would be. By his side will be his true love.

The true love’s name is Duke.

Just as I was thrilled when Thad was born, I am equally thrilled that New York State has passed a law saying my nephew can legally stand before a judge or clergy and proclaim to the world that he is in love and intends to spend the rest of his life with Duke. Their relationship is one of trust and commitment, mutual affection, devotion, and family. Frankly, what they have is more than what I’ve seen in hundreds of so-called “normal” marriages over the years. Never in my wildest dreams would I tell Thad he has no right to legally marry the person he cherishes, just as I would expect no one to say that to me. If there is a God, I am convinced he will bless this union. Unlike the conservative right these days, God isn’t about judgment or shame. God, if he exists, is about tolerance and love.

I have many gay friends, all of whom – bar none – have added meaning and pleasure to my little corner of the world. I couldn’t care less about their sex lives just as I’m sure they couldn’t care less about mine. Intimate life is one’s own business, not the business of shouting religious fanatics and certainly not the business of obtuse and/or manipulative politicians who sign pledges and use buzz words like “family values” and rail against “immorality” as a way to garner votes. No one is telling Michele Bachmann, for example, who she should or should not love and marry, and I’d just as soon she and her cronies keep their big beaks out the churches and temples and bedrooms of my gay friends. Michele seems to think that a legal union between people of the same sex will somehow send a message to children that “being gay is normal.” She fears for our children, in fact said in 2004 that the “normalization” of homosexuality would lead to “desensitization.” She added: “Very effective way to do this with a bunch of second graders is take a picture of The Lion King for instance, and a teacher might say ‘Do you know that the music for this movie was written by a gay man?’ The message is: I’m better at what I do because I’m gay.” If I’m reading her right, the Minnesota congresswoman predicts the ghastly result of such teaching is second graders, en mass, rushing off to experiment with their same sex sand box buddies.

I’m not sure what went on in MB’s childhood, but people talking about heterosexuality didn’t make me straight. As Lady Gaga is fond of saying, I was born that way, just like I was born with blue eyes and light skin. My genetic make-up caused me to prefer men, not a teacher talking about a Broadway show. The biggest point Bachmann seems to miss is that there isn’t anything wrong with being gay. It’s not like second graders are going to become axe murderers. In fact, if the guy who wrote the music for Lion King was a serial killer, does she think all the kids are going to dash to the hardware store and buy a hatchet?

We have gigantic problems to solve in this country. Bad news, Michele, but my nephew and his boyfriend walking down the aisle isn’t one of them. I find myself wondering who might be next on your short list of the “immoral?” Heterosexuals who have had more than twenty sexual partners in their life? More than ten? More than one? People who drink? Or eat too much? Directors who put racy scenes in their films? People who curse? Or wear bikinis? Or swat the cat when it jumps on the dinner table? Will your sanctimonious finger-wagging end only when you have enough votes? Or, more frightening, do you really believe you have the right to invade and dictate the personal lives of your constituents?

We Americans are adrift in a surge against alleged immorality brought on by unscrupulous politicians, talking heads, and religious masses who claim to speak for God and who are intolerant of anything “different.” The problem: immoral and different by whose definition? Personally, I think it’s immoral to target a group of people who have brought so much art and music and literature and beauty and entrepreneurial spirit into the world, and who only want to be left alone to love and marry a person of their choosing. I’m sure you’re not reading my little blog, Ms. Bachmann, but on the off chance you are, know this: you are the immoral one in this picture, not my nephew and not those in the gay community. As you claim to be a politician, stick to politics and leave the institution of marriage alone. It’s none of your business. And as you fear for our children, I fear for our country if you, heaven forbid, get anywhere near the White House.

I could go on (and on), but I’ll resist. Instead I’ll end with another thought-provoking quote:

“Parallel to the training of the body a struggle against the poisoning of the soul must begin. Our whole public life today is like a hothouse for sexual ideas and simulations. Just look at the bill of fare served up in our movies and theaters, and you will hardly be able to deny that this is not the right kind of food, particularly for the youth... Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea.”

No, the charming and self-proclaimed moral champion Michele Bachmann didn’t say this.

Adolf Hitler did.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum