Many people my age (over 50) seem to enjoy pointing out the many ways in which society has decayed. From breaking up with your boyfriend by text message to posting videos of a rape on facebook, let’s face it, the ammunition is there. So maybe a little perspective is in order.
As I child I watched a movie called “Advise and Consent” with my parents. The only thing I remember at all about the plot was that some member of congress was blackmailed. When I pressed for information, both of my parents were too embarrassed to answer and later my mother made an attempt to explain homosexuality to me. This was still a world in which blacks could not eat in white restaurants, women with career ambitions were regularly denounced as ugly, and I met protestant children who were not suppose to socialize with me because I was catholic. By the way, I attended daily mass back then with a lace doily pinned to my head because it was sinful for women to be in church without their head covered. When I lost my doily (which I often did) I had to use a kleenex instead, because looking silly was far better than offending God with my bare head. Sigh….
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Today and tomorrow the supreme court hears two cases concerning gay marriage. I hope that those rights are upheld, first and foremost because I am a strong believer in the right of every human to pursue happiness. I believe that individual rights trump arbitrary rules that protect no one but rather have been put in place for the convenience or comfort of part of the population. (I’m just not comfortable with gays, with African Americans in the same restaurant as me, with women who work outside the home or who are in church with bare heads). I don’t believe that we get to limit each other merely to make ourselves comfortable.
Tonight, I am taking a few minutes just to be amazed. Yes, there are things in this world that are worse that they were fifty years ago. (Fast food.) And there are things that are better. (Produce aisles in any grocery store.) And then there are things that are just plain amazing. Tomorrow, the Supreme court considers a case concerning gay marriage. People are lined up outside to show support and 58% of the population agrees with them.
Allow a sort-of old person to point out just how incredible this turn of events really is, no matter what the court decides. A society that moves towards more love and tolerance is NOT going to hell. And I have absolutely no idea what a hand-basket is.
At the crux of the novel y1 is the importance of personal freedom. The right to be who you are, and to enjoy your own life in the ways that you choose, form the very backbone of the story.
And yet when I search the news for articles on personal freedom (I like to search on themes that interest me) I inevitably end up at sites with a socially conservative slant (and some with a very conservative slant). “Freedom” seems to be the operative word here. It is a word that is owned more by the right, along with concepts like patriotism and hard work. Yet arguably much of the agenda of the left has less to do with funding public radio and taxing the rich then it does with securing the rights of all individuals, including those who have been traditionally denied those freedoms that we all cherish.
I was interested to read the table below, printed on the Forbes website here, and from the Fraser Institute’s new book “Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom” produced in partnership with the Liberales Institut in Germany and the Cato Institute in the United States, and edited by the Fraser Institute’s Fred McMahon. You may be surprised at how low the US ranks (we all thought we’d be number one, right?), and by who else is in the top ten. Denmark, by the way, also shows up as one of the happiest countries in the world (see my post on world happiness here). These folks are clearly doing something correct over there.
Can we agree across the political spectrum that life in Zimbabwe must be bleak indeed? I think that we can. How about agreeing that the right to pursue individual happiness is a valued treasure and we hope that our nation remains committed to this ideal? Yes, we can probably all agree on that as well. Do we all always agree on the best ways to maximize individual freedom? No, we don’t. But agreeing about what we do value strikes me as an excellent beginning for cooperation.
And, by the way …… us moderate liberals also tend to have a fair amount of patriotism ourselves and to be willing and able to work hard to keep our society strong. After all, these are our liberties we are talking about here too.
Every time I do a write up about y1, I have to decide whether I should mention to potential readers that main character Zane is a young gay male. Every time, I decide it’s not that relevant to the plot. It is a part of who he is, sure, and there is a mild romance in the novel (actually two romances, the other involves a hetero couple) but I’d rather use my limited words to entice readers with other things. Plus, while I have nothing against steamy sex scenes in other people’s books, it’s not what I write. Both love affairs are told so tamely that I felt to mention them would risk disappointing those who might want more.
So I’ve been a little surprised. y1 has been out since last September and I’ve received 8 reviews so far from people who I have no idea who they are. (And a few more from friends and online writing buddies and thank you guys for that!) The book has been mostly well received, averaging 4.3/5 over all and 3.9/5 from total strangers. But, a quarter of my strangers have felt the need to “warn” other potential readers that the book contains references to a homosexual relationship. Oh dear.
Things like this tend to put me in a funk, not just about my writing but about humanity in general. It was in the middle of this dour frame of mind that my youngest daughter sent me a link to the video below.
Please watch this staged scene of a waitress criticizing gay and lesbian couples, as over and over the citizens of Texas tell her to stop being rude and to mind her own business. Mind you, in this state one still occasionally sees marquees in front of churches proclaiming anti-gay rhetoric. So I was pound and delighted to watch so many of the fine citizens of my home state, what-ever their beliefs, put courtesy and respect for the rights of others ahead of their own political feelings.
That’s right. If it can happen that consistently here, you have just got to feel better about the world.
Fire dancer Afi has more reason for concern about global warming than most in the novel y1. His home nation of Kiribati is composed of a series of atolls that rise only a few meters above sea level in the very middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. Sea level rise that is too rapid to allow coral to respond naturally means that Kiribati, Tuvalu and several other countries face becoming totally submerged over the next several dozen years. This is in real life, you understand, not fiction from the book
However, word today is that there will be new places to sail. According to a study conducted at UCLA, by 2050 the Arctic ice sheet will be thin enough for icebreakers to carve a path between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and to possibly allow commercial craft to travel right over the north pole.
According to the USA Today the new research is being published online in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The earliest that sea routes would go directly over the North Pole would be in the 2040s, according to Laurence Smith, a geography professor at UCLA who headed the study, and who notes that this scenario is likely to occur at this point whether global warming is curbed soon or allowed to continue to increase.
Of course, the earth has and will continue to undergo radical changes in the shape of its continents and oceans. About 200 million years ago all the continents got together for awhile and had a party that we refer to as Pangaea. However, the earth does have its own pace. It took tens of millions of years for that that party to end.
The UCLA study notes that this unexpected effect of global warming would make for significantly shorter shipping routes but would also obviously raise a host of political and ecological issues. Not to mention the fact that we will need to find a new remote location for Santa Claus.