Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Reading

“I am married” — Via Faithful Reader Athena, John Scalzi wrote a defense of marriage equality in 2004, but it is just as powerful now as it was then.

I keep hearing how allowing gays to marry threatens marriage. Fine. Someone tell me how my marriage is directly threatened by two men marrying or two women marrying. Does their marriage make my marriage less legal? Does their love somehow compromise the love I feel for my wife, or she for me? Is the direct consequence of their marriage that my marriage and the commitment therein is manifestly lessened, compromised or broken? And if the answer to these questions is “no,” as it is, exactly how is marriage threatened?

I am part of a normal married couple. My wife and I have been married almost nine years. We have a child. We own a home. We pay our taxes and we live our lives in the midst of friends and family. Every day we tell each other that we love each other before we go to work. Every day we come home (well, she comes home, I work here) and spend our evening together as a family. Over the mantel hangs the picture you see with this entry. We are immersed in the fact that we are married to each other; it’s unavoidable. But that’s the wrong word to use because we don’t avoid it, and wouldn’t wish to. We embrace it. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where I don’t have cause to be reminded how much better my life is for being married. This is what being married is.

[…]

I support gay marriage because I support marriage. I support gay marriage because I support equal rights under the law. I support gay marriage because I want to deny those who would wall off people I know and love as second-class citizens. I support gay marriage because I like for people to be happy, and happy with each other. I support gay marriage because I love to go to weddings, and this means more of them. I support gay marriage because my marriage is strengthened rather than lessened by it — in the knowledge that marriage is given to all those who ask for its blessings and obligations, large and small, until death do they part. I support gay marriage because I should. I support gay marriage because I am married.

I am married. I would not be anything else. I wish nothing less for anyone who wishes the same.

More below the fold.

Zero Grounds — Hendrick Hertzberg on the Park51 center.

Ah, the “Ground Zero mosque.” Well, for a start, it won’t be at Ground Zero. It’ll be on Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center site (from which it will not be visible), in a neighborhood ajumble with restaurants, shops (electronics, porn, you name it), churches, office cubes, and the rest of the New York mishmash. Park51, as it is to be called, will have a large Islamic “prayer room,” which presumably qualifies as a mosque. But the rest of the building will be devoted to classrooms, an auditorium, galleries, a restaurant, a memorial to the victims of September 11, 2001, and a swimming pool and gym. Its sponsors envision something like the 92nd Street Y—a Y.M.I.A., you might say, open to all, including persons of the C. and H. persuasions.

Like many New Yorkers, the people in charge of Park51, a married couple, are from somewhere else—he from Kuwait, she from Kashmir. Feisal Abdul Rauf is a Columbia grad. He has been the imam of a mosque in Tribeca for close to thirty years. He is the author of a book called “What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America.” He is a vice-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York. “My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists,” he wrote recently—in the Daily News, no less. He denounces terrorism in general and the 9/11 attacks in particular, often and at length. The F.B.I. tapped him to conduct “sensitivity training” for agents and cops. His wife, Daisy Khan, runs the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which she co-founded with him. It promotes “cultural and religious harmony through interfaith collaboration, youth and women’s empowerment, and arts and cultural exchange.”

Pretty scary. Leading the pack of scaredy-cats, along with Palin, was her fellow Presidential mentionee Newt Gingrich, a leading intellectual light of the Republican Party. According to Gingrich, Park51 is “an assertion of Islamist triumphalism,” part of “an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” Those who think it’s O.K. are “apologists for radical Islamist hypocrisy” who “argue that we have to allow the construction of this mosque in order to prove America’s commitment to religious liberty.” Gingrich argues for proving our devotion to religious liberty by taking it hostage: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”

[…]

In a famous letter—the one that holds that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens”—George Washington offered a benediction:

May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

Lower Manhattan is a little short on vines and fig trees nowadays, though there are some excellent wine bars. Washington’s point remains. His letter was addressed to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island. But, as he knew, Muslims are Abraham’s children, too. By the McCain standard, George Washington was a three-time loser: as President, he lived in New York City; the nation’s capital bears his name; and, even by the standards of his time, he was an élitist. Nevertheless: he was right.

Be Polite, Dammit — Leonard Pitts, Jr. goes all JetBlue.

Can we be candid here? Can we just say this plainly?

The public is a bunch of rude, obnoxious jerks.

OK, so I overstate. A little. Yes, there are exceptions. I’m not such a bad guy and you, of course, are a paragon of civility. But the rest of them? A cavalcade of boors, boobs, bums, bozos, and troglodytes.

So it is small wonder the tale of Steven Slater has hit a nerve. The precise sequence of events is still being sorted out at this writing. The initial story was that Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue, got into it with a woman who cursed him when he asked her not to stand up to retrieve her bags while the plane was still taxiing. At some point, Slater was apparently hit in the head; his attorney says the woman slammed the storage bin on him.

This much is certain: Slater went on the plane’s public address system and, as quoted by one witness, declared, “To the passenger who just called me a motherf———-, f—— you. I’ve been in this business 28 years and I’ve had it.” He then grabbed himself a beer from a service cart, deployed the plane’s evacuation slide, slid down to the tarmac and drove home. He was arrested shortly after.

To concede the obvious: Yes, it was a dumb stunt. He’s lucky no one on the ground was injured by the slide.

But still … it resonates, doesn’t it?

Some people are framing what happened as a cautionary tale of workplace stress. It seems to me, though, that the episode speaks more pointedly to something larger: the growing incivility of all our daily lives.

If the initial account stands up, we’re talking about the incivility of the passenger. If an alternate account turns out to be true — some passengers say Slater ignited the confrontation with his own brusque behavior — we might find guilt on both sides.

Doonesbury — the real non-maverick.