Friday, November 14, 2008

Surprised by joy

A striking and pleasant sight on this morning's rush hour train: two high school boys, not more than 16 years old, very obviously more than friends. Nothing particular really one might say and surely even today they were braving something (though certainly not with an air of proving any point, just engaging in private happiness quite unselfconsciously). But I was suddenly struck by the thought of how much more they would have been braving mere 20 years ago (actually the whole scene would have been pretty much unimaginable) - there truly is a strong, forceful wave of tolerance and reason spreading through the younger generations all over the industrialized world. And in that moment I felt - perhaps a non sequitur - that there still is vitality and selfconfidence in the old enlightenment West. The tide of emancipation still is advancing, still alive.

4 comments:

Topi said...

The old enlightenment West is one thing. Is California the new West, then? I've been thinking a lot about Proposition 8. It doesn't make any sense to me that they voted to prohibit gay marriage in California because that's exactly the place where there are an incredible amount of gay couples actually wishing to marry, indeed many having done so during the time that it was possible. In some way the US system of defining marriage one way in one state and another way in another works as long as they prohibit gay marriage in the states where they hate Hollywood, Silicon Valley etc. and allow it in states that wish to embrace diversity.

Now if the California Supreme Court doesn't do anything about it, California will lose much of its dynamism, making states like New York (doesn't marry gays but recognizes gay marriages from other states), Rhode Island (the same as NY), Connecticut (marries gays) and Massachusetts (marries gays) more attractive to the entertainment and technology industries. States that prohibit gay marriage are in their turn more conducive to the industry concentrated around religion which is also an important sector of the US economy.

stockholm slender said...

Well, I believe that California is even so ahead of most of the West - the fight in the US is about marriage, not civil union which is getting to be quite widely accepted. There are a couple of generations left which will resist pro forma but after that there will be no meaningful objections. Such a good feeling to witness true and quite obviously non-reversible progress...

Kristopher said...

I like what George Clooney has said: 50 years from now we will wonder what the fuss is about, it will seem ridiculous that we had such barriers.

I don't begrudge anyone a minute of freedom of emotion. I would probably have exactly the same feelings as you in this case.

But being more of a child of the 1960s (thus maybe not part of the "younger generation"?!), I just can't get it through my head that gays should marry, that they should want this old-fashioned, repressive institution? More to the point, I don't see how being allowed to form a legal matrimonial union would advance the cause of tolerance or make certain behaviours more accepted to people. Those who are squeamish for whatever reason to, say, public displays of affection, or love scenes in Hollywood, would not be more likely to greet them if gay marriage were legal. Or would they?

Maybe decades down the road, I will think my views were hopelessly outdated, but right now the whole gay marriage thing doesn't seem like a battle that needs to be picked...

stockholm slender said...

I'm quite the same (ancient) age and maybe from that perspective comes a certain understanding of having marriage as the goal. Though I guess I would be more inclined to think of it as a religious and theological question - and not as something overtly political. I don't really care what the assorted individual churches will do as long as there is a full practical equality in the society in general (this of course means full civil marriage rights) - though of course I would absolutely expect from my own church (the Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran Church) a full acceptance of gay and lesbian couples. (I realize that this separation isn't very fruitful in this context but for me civil marriage is a different thing from the religious rite.)

In any case I'm not hugely enthusiastic about much of modern gay&lesbian activism which sometimes seems to be like a mirror image of the mainstream intolerance and chauvinism. I don't think that the various and shifting impulses that constitute our sexual identity are very central in defining us as persons.