Thursday, May 10, 2012

Noah's Arc of Life

I am not an emotional person.  I can only recall experiencing any ocular moistness twice in the past decade: At the end of Toy Story 3 and when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.

So it is not entirely insignificant that something our President said recently caused me to have what I can only describe as a pre-weep twinge. And I have to give kudos to our Vice President for greasing the emotional wheels.

Although my official academic field of inquiry is Psychology, there are several topics that spark my interest more than the one which is my professional bread and butter. Well, actually only two: Politics and Sports.

Come to think of it, it really isn't much of a stretch for a psychologist to be compelled to follow these. Both are replete with characters that would make even an undergrad psych student chuckle.

But because of the clinically diagnosable narcissism, grandiosity, and histrionics displayed by many (dare I say most?) athletes and politicians, it is rare indeed for a product of either world to exhibit the one thing that purported role models should: Integrity.

President Obama--doubly cursed as an athletic politician!--has, in a sense, reversed the curse. While I have always suspected him to be a person with a keen sense of fairness, I will admit I was a little disappointed when, by January 23, 2009, he hadn't rolled back decades of inequity by issuing Executive Orders willy-nilly, and punishing the narcissistic, grandiose, and histrionic so-called leaders who preceded him. No one said integrity can't come with a dose of vindictiveness.

So while I have had moments of appreciation for President Obama's actions regarding stem-cell research and ridiculously discriminatory military policy, as my "Got Hope?" bumper sticker slowly peels from my car, a vaguely dissatisfied feeling had continued to linger. My gnawing disappointment stemmed from the feeling that he has so much potential. There was little doubt that he was on the right (as in correct, of course, not right-leaning) side of many of the "social" issues that government really has no business dictating. And maybe it was this sort of squeamishness that gave him pause when teachable moments presented themselves on these issues.

But President Obama erased years of frustration by stating the obvious: "Same sex couples should be able to get married." Such a no-brainer, but score one for integrity anyway. 

However, not to take away from this almost-tear-inducing moment in history, but to me, there are two elements to the whole "Who should get married?" debate that are even more fundamental: 1) There is really nothing inherent in the act of getting married that necessarily implies that partners will become parents; and 2) The only people who have any idea what goes on in a couple's life ("married" or not) are the two people themselves, no matter what sexes they are.

President Obama prefaced his aforementioned support of same-sex marriage with the rationale that he knows of many people in "committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together." While this, again, is stating the obvious, it really has nothing to do with whether two people should be allowed to marry.

While in many senses, a committed couple--married or not--constitutes a "family," at least by IRS standards, the debate about same-sex marriage has been erroneously (in my view) focused on a couple's ability to parent. Conservatives spout off abut how a "family" has a mom and a dad, while more progressive believers timidly point out that off-spring of same-sex couples can fare just as well.

The commitment and responsibilities of being married and being a parent often overlap, but they are not necessarily embarked on by the same people. Is there anyone who has never met a couple (same-sex or otherwise) who has no children? Is there anyone who has never met a single parent or non-biological parent raising a child? 

What has been missing from the utterly pointless debate about same-sex marriage is the fact that people--coupled or not--of all ilks go through life, sometimes raising children and sometimes not, through reasons both within and out of their control. Adults (and sometimes children) who want children often do not rear them, for reasons both within and out of their control. Adults (and sometimes children) who did not plan on being parents often become a caregiver through reasons both within and out of their control.

The "traditional" assumption seems to be that a man and woman who don a tuxedo and white dress are an ongoing benefit to society. If anyone didn't already suspect that there was something appallingly dangerous in ascribing virtue to people based on their ability to participate in a wedding celebration, all they need to do is consult news reports, many of our dear Sports and Political figures, of couples who are "married" in the "traditional" sense. Cheating, violence, humiliation, irresponsibility, murder--all of these despicable acts occur behind closed doors of officially married and non-married people alike. Every day. 

So why legislate dysfunction to only couples of the opposite sex?

1 comment:

  1. Karen your logic is undeniably sound, and you take the horsecrap right out of this debate and clarify the important points. No wonder I love your are a kindred spirit. (I shared this everywhere.)
    cath xx