Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak, RIP. How he roared, how he didn't--
and why the NC marriage amendment is a sham

I came to Maurice Sendak's work late in life, having never seen it as a child.  (Children's books were never around.  I cut my reading teeth on Sherlock Holmes and Tom Swift, Jr.)  When I did discover it, however, I reacted as most do and instantly fell for his best-known work, Where the Wild Things Are. I did not fall so deeply, though, that I was motivated to seek out his other work.

That all changed a few years ago when I saw in San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum an exhibit of his work. Sure, it contained images from Wild Things, and they were amazing, but what moved me more were the many, many drawings from his other works and the wonder, passion, and, most of all, pain that they conveyed. As much as magic ruled his worlds, so, too, was darkness also always there, if not right in front of us then lurking just out of view.  The world was much with Maurice Sendak, and had been since his childhood.  In a comic in a 1993 issue of The New Yorker, Sendak comments of his youth, "I knew terrible things...but I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew...It would scare them."

How right he was, how perfectly in tune with childhood.

As it turns out, one of the things he knew that would scare at least some adults was that he was gay. He lived for 50 years with his partner, Dr. Eugene Glynn, but never told his parents.  A New York Times piece on him quotes him as saying, "All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy."

How sad that is.  How sad that he could not roar to the heavens his wild love, the love that kept him with the same partner for 50 years, a remarkable achievement for any relationship.

How common that is, that we deny this basic right--and so many others--to so many people.

Which brings me, in roundabout fashion, to today, here in North Carolina, a state with people so afraid that in addition to having a law against gay marriage it is voting on a state constitutional amendment. That amendment would add to Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution this section:

Sec. 6. Marriage.
Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.
How sad and unnecessary this is.

How fearful so many are.

So on the day a great illustrator passes away, on the death of a man who had to hide his sexuality from his parents for his entire life, my state votes on this amendment.

I am sad for the loss of Sendak, and I am sad for my state.

I'm not going to debate the amendment or even bother going into its many failings; you can find that material easily.

Instead, I want to say simply this to those who would fear homosexuality:

You cannot win.  You cannot.

The reason, at the risk of sounding too much like the aging child of the sixties that I am, is that you are not fighting merely sex, a powerful enough force to defeat you on its own.  No, you are fighting love, the love of the millions of people in our country who are wired to fall in love with people of their own gender.

In the end, that love will triumph.


Eric said...

Here's what I just posted on my Facebook page:

"There's no reason to pass an amendment against something that's already illegal, except to steal from our children the right to pass the laws they see fit. I took my 16 year old son into the voting booth, handed him my ballot and Evan voted against Amendment 1"

That overstates the case a bit, since I can think of a number of simpering political reasons why this is being pushed, but of all the many reasons why this law is offensive, that's one of the worst.

Michelle said...

The fact that the North Carolina legislative body even let this amendment get this far, saddens me. Too many holy rollers in this country are terrified that "gays may take over". I actually read that phrase online. Like being gay was a disease you could catch. Denying anyone basic rights is wrong, no matter what your sexual preference may be. Like you have said, love is a powerful thing and no matter if this amendment passes, the love will still be there, waiting for it's chance.

Kyle said...

I prefer to spend my limited fretting energy worrying about things that are getting worse, like nuclear proliferation or the entitlement spending time bomb. Gay marriage is one of those happy debates that you get to win just by waiting for the other side to die.

Pity the opposition. Being on the wrong side of history is a good way to look like a real asshole. Cf. slave owners, segregationists, anti-suffragists, etc.

Mark said...

I seem to have a vast store of fretting energy, so I do worry about all of those as well.

I do share your other conclusions.


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