by: Timothy Villareal on June 26th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
In early May, Angela Davis found herself in a minor contretemps with some Chicago gay people after a lecture in which the famed former Black Panther made what some construed as disparaging remarks about the struggle for marriage equality. As reported by Yasmin Nair of the Windy City Times:
Davis also spoke of her faith in younger generations of scholars and activists, saying that they are informed by feminism, and operate from pro-trans and -Islam frameworks. But she also cautioned that as important as it was to support social movements, “we also have to struggle against the assimilationist agenda,” and pointed to the fight for marriage equality as one about attaining “bourgeois respectability.”
Andy Thayer, of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network responded in print to Davis’s charge:
Finally, for those who know her political history, it’s a little bit rich for Davis to lecture us about the marriage rights movement being aimed at “bourgeois respectability.” While she certainly has made valuable contributions to the movement for human freedom in other ways, when it comes to LGBT rights, for more than two decades she managed to be at peace – during Stonewall, during the height of the women’s and gay liberation movements – in a political organization which described homosexuality itself as “a bourgeois deviation.” Self-hatred indeed.
As strongly as I support marriage equality, I confess I’ve had my share of Angela Davis-ish nightmares (daymares, actually) about receiving annual Christmas letters from Ozzie and Ozzie, or Harriet and Harriet, bragging about how normal and successful their little darlings are — the kind of Christmas letter that turns the intimacy of family life into an externalized showcase. The kind of Christmas letter that not only takes the Christ out of Christmas, but supplants Jesus with the stagecraft of wholesomeness. The kind of stagecrafted wholesomeness that enables families to move up, notch upon notch, the suburban zip code totem pole.
Indeed, if mainstream gay social and political consciousness over the last decade aspired to virtually nothing more than to be accepted, validated, and embraced by a mercenary military system that devours the lives of foreign civilians, all as it devours the minds and limbs of its already spiritually-broken mercenaries, how much easier it will be for mainstream gay social and political consciousness to meld even deeper into the suburban wastelands of America: those vast landscapes where every thing and every person, even God, must be tethered to upward social mobility if any sense is to be made out of human existence at all.
On this day when the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and paved the way for same-sex marriage equality in the nation’s largest state — a state, like many others, brimming with undocumented immigrants from NAFTA-ravaged Mexico — I can’t help but wonder if we might really begin the process of redefining marriage, and well beyond the right-wing definition of redefinition: namely, turning the age-old institution that has its roots in patriarchy and proto-rapism, and has never fully unshackled the chains, into a spring of human freedom grounded into universal brotherly and sisterly love.
For instance, under the immigration reform bill now before the U.S. Senate, undocumented immigrants in this country will have to wait thirteen years to become citizens, and will only be able to do so after paying fines and back taxes and learning English. That’s right, though U.S. economic policy is largely responsible for decimating the economies of Mexico and other countries, these undocumented immigrant workers who crossed the border looking for work will have to pay fines and back taxes, if and when they meet the other requirements of the immigration bill, including being forced to learn a language not their own. (As an aside, I was recently at a Latin food counter here in Miami where the young lady behind the counter spoke Spanish. With my limited Spanish and her limited English, I ended up with the wrong kind of soup. As is so often the case here in Miami, we used hand motions and head-nodding to clear things up, and I got two things in return: a great cup of soup and a kind, warm smile from the young lady. Evidently, the drafters of the Senate bill have no use for kind, warm smiles of good people, just servants who can take proper direction in a prompt fashion.)
Under the immigration Senate bill, the proposed “path to citizenship” for the Dreamers – those who were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were under the age of 16 – is about half as onerous, with a five year waiting period. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has offered an amendment that would shorten that five year waiting period to one year, should a Dreamer decide to enlist in the military. Needless to say, Blumenthal’s “path to citizenship” is entirely contingent upon the Dreamer not getting killed by an IED, or otherwise have their American Dream killed by the psychological trauma of military sexual predators who would rape them, vaginally and/or anally. Indeed, given that Senator Blumenthal himself has already admitted to embellishing his military battlefield experience, one would think that a more appropos amendment from the Connecticut senator would be one allowing Dreamers to simply verbally declare themselves enlisted servicemembers-irrespective of the reality — and have that suffice for a citizenship qualification. It would certainly spare the Dreamers who want faster citizenship the exposure to IEDs from the enemies George W. Bush and U.S. military leaders have created in the post-9/11 era, as well as spare them from rape by some of the same military leaders.
It is precisely in this poisoned stew of early twenty-first century American politics, where the precision stagecraft of valor and wholesomeness governs the lives of so many public and private citizens alike, that a radical permutation of our civil marriage construct could, and I would argue should, find its seedbed.
Same-sex platonic marriage — just as legal and federally-recognized as the romance-based gay marriages in states where same-sex marriage is legal — could provide the real paths to citizenship that politicians in Washington have held hostage for decades, and which, under their English-only bigoted mentalities, would be drawn out for more years to come, indeed 13 years for most undocumented people.
As we have heard many times over from advocates and supporters of same-sex marriage — the folks that Angela Davis charges with craving bourgeois respectablity — same-sex marriage really is about love. It is that reality of love-centeredness that begs a crucial question: Does the state really have a compelling interest in showing preference for sexually consummated love between two men, for example, over two men who may not be sexual partners, but who love each other just the same?
In other words, if 50-year-old Bill from Fresno, a single, straight male who has made the personal decision not to marry a woman, happens to build a deep, spiritually meaningful friendship with Carlos from Mexico, an undocumented immigrant who works as a day laborer in the San Joaquin Valley to support his children back in Mexico, what rational reason would there be for Bill and Carlos not to get hitched so that Carlos could have citizenship, and therefore not have the dignity of his work, or his love and devotion to his family, subjected to the prejudices, calculations, and manipulations of the very politicians who have contributed to our hemispheric inequality?
A Bill and Carlos marriage would be true brotherly love. I defy any gay rights activist, or straight supporter of marriage equality, to assert that a puppy love marriage between two gay male eighteen-year-olds who elope after knowing each other for a week, which the laws in thirteen states plus the District of Columbia now allow them to do, has more spiritual meaning and depth than the brotherly love and friendship between two grown men who have decided to navigate the complexities of this violent, explotive, avaricious world by uniting their hearts and lives together, even if sexual expression is not part of their relationship.
I am thrilled for all same-sex couples in romantic relationships, be they for twenty years or two weeks, who will now enjoy rights and responsibilities of marriage where same-sex marriage is legal, and who will now be eligible for federal marriage benefits. I count myself as a same-sex romantic marriage aspirant.
And yet, on this day, I am thinking about all the men and women in our country, native-born and undocumented, whose lives could be immeasurably enhanced by the Supreme Court’s ruling, and whose witness to the human capacity for love and devotion could change our social and economic patterns in ways that reflect the true reign of God. The lyrics from The Carpenters classic We’ve Only Just Begun perfectly captures my own hopeful sentiments about the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on same-sex marriage; sentiments that I hope many men and women of our nation, citizen and citizen-aspiring alike, and regardless of sexuality, will come to share:
We’ve only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
We’ve only begun
Before the risin’ sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run
And yes, we’ve just begun
Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day, together
And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun
Timothy Villareal is a Miami-based writer. His website is http://timothyvillareal.wordpress.com