Re-Pealing Bells

I always lose my ‘Bah, Humbug!’ view of Christmas just before the holiday, when I do a rush of buying, male that I am, rarely picking a present for an individual, but just buying things I like, deciding to whom they are going bent over the paper and tape.

I do insist on finding a wreath for the house and barn, and a long string of lights along the paddock fence, but these are less in celebration of anything particularly Christian, but more of a rage, rage against the dying of the light.  The sun comes up so late, dims after lunch, and leaves well before the working day is over.  It’ll be a while before that sine wave turns back in our favor, but winter darkness is like the recession – it seems to come quickly, despite all the signs of preparation, and then digs in for a long run.

Cold rain and mud is no fun in the dark, but snow is fine and blends well with moonlight. This storm swirls down on us northerners like bolts of lace to quiet the world just in time for Christmas.  The dark sours our mood, but the arrival of snow lifts it again.  We Mainers are used to it: the wood laid in, the snow tires on, the shovel ready by the door.  In the morning the world has changed – fresh and magical.

The cats are loving it, skidding and playing – for three of our cats this is their first winter.  I keep wondering if their brains think that this cold is the way it will be forever, or if some instinct  within their ancestral matrix knows that it will pass and spring come again.  The rabbits – we’re up over 80 again – hate the rain that floods their burrows, but love the snow that insulates them.  Quan puts plenty of hay out for them, which serves as bed, blanket and a midnight snack all in one.

I cannot let the 111th Congress (and so close to 1/1/11) die without noting this extraordinary week in politics.  When the history of Obama’s groundbreaking presidency gets written (and rewritten), I expect his craven capitulation to the opposition’s insistence on silly tax breaks for the super-rich to be a footnote, and even the new START treaty seen as a minor step in a long and steady progression of giving up the arms race for sanity.

Likewise, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – a shameful 20-year period in American history that bridged the gap between gayness being anathema in the military and gays openly serving, which is what will happen now – is but one step in a long process.  But it is thrilling that in these politically dark days when America’s experiment in democracy is threatened by the forces of feudalism and fascism, we can take this step toward biological democracy.

Race equality, gender equality, and sex equality are all biological in nature, and none of these were contemplated by the Founding Fathers, who held slaves, did not entertain the notion of their wives or daughters voting, and probably rarely thought of the love that dare not speak its name, except in terms of Greek antiquity.  In the modern world, one thinks of Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein paving a road that James Baldwin and others followed, leading to Stonewall which marked the initial turning of shame into pride, an essential moment early in every liberation movement.

Many gains have been made paralleling the black and women’s movement – elected officials, out of the closet stars and athletes, the national outrage at lynching and bullying – but opening up the military to allow the biological, chemical orientation to be a normal part of who you are, not a bar to service, is a definite mile-marker in this winding way.  But if we are big enough to admit that gays can heed the vocation to give their life for their country, then hopefully it is not too long a time before we’re big-hearted enough to allow them to marry, fully and openly, as a simple, personal statement of commitment, one to another.

(Lt. Dan Choi, discharged and disgraced, sent Senator Harry Reid his West Point graduation ring some months ago, saying, “This no longer means what it once did to me.”  Reid kept it, saying he would give it back when this law was repealed.  Yesterday he was able to fulfill his promise, with a hug for the Asian gay officer who will now, I expect, return to the military.  Choi, now a full-on activist, tweeted: ‘The next time I get a ring from a man, I expect it to be for full, equal, American marriage.”)

If you don’t believe that gay is biological – rather than diabolical, perverted, disgusting, or, as my liberal parents had it, maladjusted and sick, the ‘overburdened by your mother and in need of therapy’ condescending attitude – then try this simple question: Did you ‘choose’ the heterosexual lifestyle?  Did you try both and weigh the options?  Or were you just shunted by your biology into your relationships?

(Found on the wall in the lavatory: My mother made me a homosexual.  Underneath, someone else wrote: If I buy the wool, will she make me one too?)

I had a couple of affairs with men in college in the 60’s, when homophobia was still the rule, even among us hippies.  But the simple and incontrovertible fact was also biologically based: men just don’t smell right to me.  There is nothing so compelling in our sexual life as smell, pheromones, body odor, and the aroma just behind the ear.  You choose your physiological response to this no more than you choose your tastes in food or perfume.

Putting a sexual bite on someone else is a violation – gay or straight, whether you are a priest or Assange, no matter how we weigh the rest of your contribution, sexual pressure and rape of any kind must end all over the world.  But gays serving in the military – and yes, even showering in the same bath – doesn’t even come close to that.

Simply making you uncomfortable, o homophobe (perhaps because you have not explored to assure yourself of just who you are and are still frightened of what you are not), does not qualify as a crime or a bar to service.  Certainly the young man with whom I spoke a few weeks ago ( will care not a whit as to whether his fellow soldiers are gay or straight – it is a non-problem to the young, and the rest will have to deal with themselves.

The difference in Obama’s face told the story.  When he signed the tax deal, you could see his genuine disgust, forced not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  When he repealed DADT, his mouth was likewise turned down, but – like my father’s, I recognized it easily – he was simply clamping down on the lips that needed to stay serious but were itching for a broad smile.  “This is done” he said, slapping the signed bill on the table.

It is wonderful that in this season of the Tea Party and corporate bullies, of political cold rain and mud, that such a small but significant soprano voice, singing to our core values as Americans, as enlightened world citizens, could emerge through the political and media noise.  It’s like the snow: the same old world is made fresh and renewed.  Merry Christmas.


2 Responses to “Re-Pealing Bells”

  1. Kathleen Mary Says:

    That was so beautifully put…thanks for saying what I want so much to say.

  2. S.Smith - RealTaiji Says:

    Jingle Balls…you’ve got them. Merry Christmas to you too you rabble-rouser. Well said…and covering a gamut of politics.

    I’ve taught concepts from Anatomy Trains to scores of Taiji practitioners. It’s good to hear your inner-rebel voice 😉


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