Friday, April 22, 2011

Quite a plateful

I have always heard that a meal is the thing to bring people together, that sitting down and breaking bread with one another promotes community. We see this especially at times such as Thanksgiving and in this week’s Passover and Easter feasts. But it appears that, in Washington, D.C these days, even eating is a divisive issue.
Maybe the “tea party” is against organic food, like it doesn’t believe in global warming.
That would appear to be the case as, according to the Los Angeles Times recently, a literal food fight has broken out in the cafeteria where the nation’s lawmakers eat. Since gaining more seats in November, the Republicans have done away with many of the changes that Nancy Pelosi instituted in the dining hall when she was Speaker of the House. There are still organic options available - with the emphasis now surely on “option” - but gone are the biodegradable and recyclable plates and utensils. There was supposedly too much griping that the cardboard dishes and corn-based spoons melted or fell apart.
So, it’s back to plastic and styrofoam. Yes, good old American plastic. “The future,” as Dustin Hoffman was famously once told.
Who knew that dining would be such a partisian matter? Not Dan Lundgren, a Republican representative who claims to be surprised by all the fuss and is quoted as saying, “I never thought I’d be known as ‘Styrofoam Dan.’”
There is talk of experimenting with washable mugs, perhaps leading to real plates and silverware, but one Republican warned, “You’re going to have lost silverware or you’re going to have drawers full of dirty silverware.” He went on to say, again not unlike a father who knows best, “Either way, that’s not going to save you money.”
And Heaven forbid we ask our esteemed congresspersons to have their own mugs and cloth napkins.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by this dining divisiveness. Not only is there chronic gridlock among our lawmakers these days, with them not agreeing on almost anything, but I was once in a market’s produce department and heard one woman say to another, “That’s organic. You don’t want that.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making it hurt more - or not

Derence Kerneck and Ed Watson’s story is a pretty sad one.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times a couple weeks ago, Derence and Ed are a gay couple in California who have lived together for 40 years, and they would like to get married. As sad as it is that there can’t marry now because of the passage of Proposition 8 two years ago, what makes their story all the sadder is that they don’t know if they’ll be around when the law banning same-sex marriage will be repealed, as most say will happen.

See, Derence is 80, and Ed is 78 and is in rapidly failing health, afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Derence is concerned that if they don’t marry soon, it won’t mean anything to Ed (or he won’t remember it), and says that traveling to a state that sanctions gay marriage would be too hard on Ed. “Besides,” he says, “we wanted to do it in California, where our friends are, where we live.”

Meanwhile, it looks now like the Proposition 8 will be in the court for another year, since the California Supreme Court has been asked to decide if the backers of the proposition have the “standing” to fight the appeal in court when the appropriate officials wouldn’t. Recently, after hearing an argument on behalf of those like Derence and Ed, a federal appeals court ruled that the ban will stay in place during this process, not allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in the meantime.

I am sick of reading stories like this. I am sick of people arguing that gay marriage will hurt the institution of marriage - what about adultery, divorce, etc.? - and I am sick of this argument being used to degrade and hurt gay people. Every time there is a story like this, it increases the pain, like a twist of the knife, like salt rubbed in the wound. As Derence says, “I just don’t see how who I love hurt anyone else’s marriage.”

But there is a part of me that doesn’t let this bother me so much. It’s the part of me that says, “Fuck it! Fuck them!” and doesn’t really care, doesn’t give a damn about what goes down in the larger society.

It’s the part of me that says that, when I find a mate, I will get married, whether the State recognizes it or not. It’s the part of me that, when, as a severely disabled person, it was nearly impossible for me to get a “real job,” I created my own job. It’s the part of me that doesn’t get caught up in the fight over same-sex marriage and other such gay rights - a fight likely to go on for some time, with appeal after appeal and counter-initiatives after initiatives.

It’s the queer part of me.

I was reminded of this last week when, at Pomona College here in Claremont, I saw D’Lo, a gay, transgender performance artist and comic born to parents from Sri Lanka. One of the things that he said that really struck me was that the difference between gay people and queer people is that gay people want to be like everyone else, and queer people want everyone else to be like them.