By The Progressive on January 31, 2004
Unplugged | Kate Clinton

Marriage Mishegas

FYI: The Summer of Gay has been extended into the Year of the Queer. Another heads up: Mad Vow Disease, once limited to wholesome, unimpeachable gay couples earnestly seeking to take on the rights and responsibilities of marriage, has jumped the pen and crossed into the general population. There the unfortunate symptoms are frothing apocalypticism, fractured reasoning, knee jerking, and involuntary eye rolling. It ain't pretty.

After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution did not ban gay marriage, it was likened to moral chaos, nuclear war, partial birth abortion, and the extinction of the human race by Bill Bennett, Gary Bauer, the Focus on Other People's Family, the Frowning Concerned Women, and others. Only the Red Sox "Curse of the Bambino" was not mentioned. They all seemed to be doing variations on the talking points memo circulated by Wedgemaster Rove.

Columnist David Brooks opined in his New York Times column that marriage makes "us better than we deserve to be." I was with him until he said that marriage at its best allows couples to say to each other: "Love you? I AM you." Is it just me, or is that really creepy? He said that gays should not be denied this "opportunity," and that "we should insist on gay marriage." Holy co-dependent crisis, Brooksman! Thanks, but no thanks on the forced nuptialization.

The media, when they weren't giving the O. J. treatment to Michael Jackson, were parroting more Rove power points. They announced that the issue of gay marriage was going to be a big problem for the Democratic Presidential candidates. Following their script, many Dems acted as if it were and did nothing to clear up the murk. Their campaigns announced that, and I'm conflating wildly here, they were not in favor of gay marriage, despite having gay relatives, but they were in favor of civil unions and they hated that little upstart Confederate flag-waving front-running Vermont governor for bringing the whole thing up in the first place. Don't ask, don't tell. Want to see my prescription drug plan?

There were some bright spots. When Jerry "onemanonewoman.com" Falwell faced off against Barney Frank on CNN, he conceded, "I'm not in favor of putting people in jail for what they do in their bedrooms." He had been just a few months ago, but Lawrence v. Texas must have converted him. Polls found that while people generally were more favorable toward gays, gay marriage gave them the heebie-jeebies. Hold that first thought. People are more favorable to gays?! Progress has been made!

The problem with all the convoluted, trying to have it both ways, hair-splitting arguments against gay marriage is that it involves people. How inconvenient.

In the midst of all this marriage mishegas, one of my best friends was dealing with the sad-beyond-sad details of the death of her partner of twenty-seven years, a woman who thought marriage was an abomination and who often joked that "married" is "marred" with an I.

The day my in-box overflowed with messages about the Massachusetts decision, I received two e-mails from my friend. In her morning note, she told me she had just gotten a call from Human Resources at the university where they both taught. They were holding her partner's last paycheck and needed an affidavit from a RECOGNIZED (her caps) next of kin to release it.

That afternoon, she e-mailed me that New York State laws say that even if someone has filed a will, you have to send a letter requesting a waiver of contest of will to next of kin. That meant, in this case, to her partner's mother, who had fought with my friend over care and do-not-resuscitate orders during her partner's year-long battle with a brain tumor.

Apparently, we do need a piece of paper from the City Hall. Not to keep us tried and true. But to claim our due.

-- Kate "Visit my 'Divorces R Us' kiosk in Provincetown!" Clinton is a humorist.

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I’m at my third American Exchange Legislative Council (ALEC) conference, this time in Dallas, and on my first day,...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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