So Arizona, in addition to making it more or less impossible for Latino non-citizens to live in the state (and I imagine pretty difficult for Latino citizens to do so), has now banned a high school Latino studies program.
I recently read an excellent book called Wrestling With God and Men, an examination of homosexuality in the Jewish tradition, by Rabbi Steven Greenberg.
Lots of people talk nowadays about the idea that the sin of Sodom wasn’t homosexuality but inhospitability—that when God, in Genesis 18:21, said, “I will go down and see whether they have acted altogether according to the cry that has reached me,” He was talking not about homosexuality or sexual excess in general but about arrogance, greed, and scorn for the poor.
I always assumed that this was to some extent a modern reinterpretation, but it turns out that this has been the Jewish view of Sodom for literally thousands of years. Rabbi Greenberg has this to say:
“Rabbinic legends about Sodom describe an area of unusual natural resources, precious stones, silver, and gold. Every path in Sodom, say the sages, was lined with seven rows of fruit trees. Jealous of their great wealth and suspicious of outsiders’ desire to share in it, the city’s inhabitants agreed to overturn the ancient law of hospitality to wayfarers. The legislation later included a prohibition to give charity to anyone. One legend claims that when a beggar would wander into Sodom, the people would mark their names on their coins and give him a dinar. However, no one would sell him bread. When he perished of hunger, everyone would come and claim his coin. A maiden once secretly carried bread concealed in her water pitcher to a poor person in the street. After three days passed and the man didn’t die, the maiden was discovered. They covered the girl with honey and put her atop the city walls. The bees came and ate her. Hers was the cry that came up to God, the cry that inaugurated the angelic visit and its consequences.”
All I can say is that I’m very glad I don’t live in Arizona right now and that, if I did, I would make sure, as I got the hell out of there, not to look back.
Why is it that superheroes never get the real villains?
Like, why hasn’t Superman grabbed Karl Rove, taken him up to the highest crag of the loneliest reach of the farthest mountain and left him there naked?
Why doesn’t Batman beat John Boehner to a bloody pulp and throw him off a roof?
Really, Spider-Man? Mary Jane? How about wrapping all the Blue Dog Democrats in a web instead so that they have to be replaced by actual people with actual souls who actually care about their constituencies?
Fucking Mary Jane.
Or what if Wonder Woman just threw her magic lasso around every single politician in Washington and then real journalists, not the fake journalists in the White House briefing room but real journalists, asked them questions and they had to tell the truth?
Enough with this Lex Luthor jive. Go after the real bad guys.
Yesterday Mike and I went to New Jersey to spend Christmas Day with his mother, sister, and brother-in-law. Mike’s sister cooked delicious, delicious, delicious food–she really outdid herself–and we made and iced sugar cookies. It had been literally decades since I’d made and iced sugar cookies, and I’d forgotten how bad I am at it. Eventually I gave up trying to be artistic and just went with words, the medium in which I work best.
Something seemed not quite right, however, but I couldn’t figure it out. Eventually, after some meditation upon the historical meaning of the day, I realized what it was, turned the cookie over, and completed it.
I was delighted with my handiwork, and asked Mike whether we could shellac it for future use as an ornament on our own Christmas tree, a request to which he assented readily. I spent the rest of the day pleased as punch, my good mood undefeated even by the ridiculous traffic jam we hit on our way home.
This morning I realized we left the cookie in New Jersey.
I am giving myself a Christmas present.
Or perhaps Faustus, M.D., my persona for this blog, is giving himself a Christmas present.
He is setting down his pen.
Now that I’m so much better medicated than I was when I created him I no longer have enough in common with him to be able to write him well. Our interests have diverged, our problems have diverged, our hopes have diverged. We’ve grown apart.
We still have a great deal in common, mind you, and we hold each other in the highest regard and affection. But what we share is now less than what each of us has on his own, and I can’t serve him well in this arrangement.
I’ve actually been feeling this way for a couple years, but I’ve forced Faustus to keep at the task he was appointed because I couldn’t for the life of me find a suitable replacement. I thought about John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I; I thought about going by the moniker K.N.I. Dos, which is a play on the ancient Greek word for “sissy faggot” (or possibly “bottom”); I thought about Chris Columbus. But none of these conveyed the sense I was looking for of a character who had found what he wanted and now had to figure out what the fuck to do with it.
But what’s pushed me over the edge is Facebook. Since Faustus writes here and I write at Facebook, it became clear pretty quickly that I couldn’t import this blog into Facebook Notes, because people kept being like, “Faustus? Who the fuck is that?” and, there being no storied structure on top of which to put him, I couldn’t find a good explanation. This meant that every time I made a blog post I had to do it here, copy, paste into Word, making sure to stupefy the quotation marks, globally replace “Faustus” with “Joel,” replace the higher-order html with lower-order versions, paste into Facebook Notes, publish, realize I’d missed something that meant the Note was an orthographic mess, go back, fix it, realize I’d missed something else, go back again, fix it again, realize I’d missed something in the original post on joelderfner.com, go back, fix that, go back to the Facebook Note, fix that again, and sit in the corner crying for twenty minutes.
Something felt inefficient about this.
So for now I, Joel Derfner, am your host here at the Search for Love in Manhattan (and let’s not even get into the idea of changing that title, because it may turn out to be necessary before long as well, but thinking about it makes me want to barf). This doesn’t mean I won’t be superseded at some later date by another, but my inability to find his equal can no longer be cause to keep Faustus at a job that has grown unsuitable for him. And who knows? After all this time, Mephistophilis may have forgotten about our friend and he can go his merry way untroubled by thoughts of damnation.
Which is better, I suppose, than we can say for ourselves.
Hate Mail With Richard Dawkins.
I think this needs to become a weekly series. Hate Mail With Christopher Hitchens, Hate Mail With Kathy Griffin, Hate Mail With Barack Obama. Hate Mail With Jon Stewart.
That’s my new aspiration: Hate Mail With Faustus, M.D.
Gay marriage is bad for America.
I mean it; I think gay marriage is a terrible idea, and I want nothing to do with it.
Evan Wolfson, founder and director of the marriage-equality organization Freedom to Marry, argues that the term “gay marriage” suggests we’re asking for special privileges—privileges that straight married people don’t have. Me, I take the opposite view. As I see it, any adjectival or nominal qualification can only limit the idea of marriage, can only make it less than just plain marriage and all it encompasses. A menu is a menu, but a kids menu is a very particular kind of menu, sharing some but not all of the qualities of other menus. Soup can be refreshing in any clime on any day of the year; chicken soup can’t. “Marriage” is marriage, and offers a host of possibilities. “Gay marriage,” I think, offers fewer.
(If we need a noun, I offer “marriage equality.”)
If you had told me on May 4, 1993, that in a decade and a half I would be desperately researching waiting periods for marriage licenses in Connecticut and Massachusetts because otherwise my boyfriend was going to drag me to his home state of Iowa to get married (“But corn is fun!”), I would have laughed in your face. Then, if you are a boy, I would most likely have asked you out, since that’s what I spent most of my sophomore year of college doing, and you would have said no, since that’s what the boys I asked out spent most of my sophomore year of college doing, and I would have gone back to my dorm room to cry.
But the next day, the Hawai’i Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry probably violated the state constitution, and everything changed. I mean, the boys I asked out still said no, but the possibilities of what they were saying no to had been cracked wide open, so I cried much, much harder.
Seventeen years later (though, extraordinarily, I seem to have aged only five), I have at last found a boy I was able to trick into proposing to me. After getting engaged two and a half years ago, we’ve made a few attempts at planning a wedding, but none of them have come to fruition, mostly because the damn rules keep changing. “Honey, let’s go to Massachusetts and get married! Oh, wait, now we can only get married in Massachusetts if we live there. Okay, well, let’s go to California and get marri— whoops, we weren’t fast enough. Never mind California. Wait, maybe we can still go to California! Nope. Um . . . oh, crap.”
Since May 17, 2004, when a Cambridge city clerk pronounced Tanya McCloskey and Marcia Kadish married under the laws of Massachusetts, same-sex couples have followed their lead in the United States — over 150,000 all told in Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Washington, D.C., and the Coquille Indian Tribe (within the boundaries of Oregon).
And that’s the thing: McCloskey and Kadish, and the multitude of other married same-sex couples—theirs wasn’t a gay marriage. It was a marriage.
When Roman soldiers, forbidden in the first and second centuries A.D. to take wives, were finally allowed to wed, they weren’t military marrying; they were marrying.
When former slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation stood before clergymen and spoke their vows, they weren’t getting black married or freedmen and -women married; they were getting married.
When Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter said “I do”—they were the interracial couple whose victory in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia made it illegal in America to prevent mixed-race couples from wedding—they didn’t get interracial married; they got married.
Same-sex couples today are in no different position. I don’t want to get gay married.
I want to get married.