Friday, June 26th — the day the Supreme Court established marriage equality for same-sex couples — was an exciting, historical day. The meme that made me smile most was the rainbow shooting out of the computer screen onto a happy cartoon face. That’s exactly what Friday felt like to me.
Why was I so happy? Because I believe in equality. I believe in human rights. I love that as a woman, I can vote. I am grateful that slavery has been abolished. I am happy that my mixed race friends and relatives can marry and create beautiful lives and families together. I’m thrilled my same-sex loves now can as well.
And I will never, ever subscribe to the notion that extending rights to our fellow human beings somehow diminishes us in any way.
Love begets love.
Kindness begets kindness.
When you open your hand to give, you are also open to receive.
When you close your fist so tightly that no light can enter, a sort of death occurs.
Sadly, I felt that fist-tightening begin on Saturday, June 27th when the tide (at least in my own social backyard) began to turn.
Over the course of a mere 24 hours, I was told I was “lost” and “unsaved” and was accused of falling away from my Catholic upbringing… all because I put a rainbow filter on my Facebook profile picture in support of my friends and relatives who now have the same legal rights they should have always had because they’re… well, humans.
This country was very deliberately founded without a common religion because our forefathers did not want to establish a theocracy. That’s the beauty of our land: You can BELIEVE whatever you choose to believe. But BELIEVING a certain way never, ever gives you the right to deny another human being his or her basic human rights. It’s pretty simple, this church/state separation.
The circular religious debates, I must admit, make me a wee bit crazy. I had someone insist that he was RIGHT because HIS TRUTH was THE TRUTH and THAT WAS THAT.
Here’s the thing… each of us gets to decide on our own truth. I’m guessing that if many Americans were born during ancient Greek or Roman times or in modern India or Africa, our version of the truth might look decidedly different than it does today.
And truth in that context is such a loaded word, anyway. I would never in a million years claim to know The Truth. I’m a fairly well-educated girl, and I still feel the extent of my worldly knowledge could fit on the head of a pin. There is still so much — always so much — to learn, to discover, to consider.
Whatever works for you works for you. Whatever works for me works for me. Within reason, of course. My beliefs and my human rights are mine to enjoy as long as they’re not harming another.
And the whole how do you have a moral compass if you don’t have religion argument? Puh-lease. If you are a reasonable adult human being who cannot determine for him or herself how to make choices that allow you to live productively and harmoniously with other human beings, then there might be a bigger issue at hand. If you choose religion as your moral guide, I support that choice. As long as you’re not using it as a weapon. Because it’s your choice. It might be mine. It could be your great aunt’s. But that doesn’t mean it has to be my neighbor’s. Or my niece’s best friend’s. Or my babysitter’s. We each get to study, research, experience, and thoughtfully arrive at our own place of peace.
So let’s all stop making assumptions about each other.
Let’s stop pointing fingers.
Let’s stop name-calling.
That’s a good place to start.
When I get wrapped up in things beyond my control — whether it’s going to rain during our pool party, when a freelance check might arrive in the mail, how many gray hairs continue to grow out of my head — Chris calmly sits me down, draws a tiny imaginary circle with his finger and says, “This is your circle of influence. Whatever is inside here is what you’re able to control.” Then he gestures to the rest of the space around him. “Everything else — including the US Postal Service and the weather — is outside your circle of influence.”
It’s a good reminder.
Nothing is more exhausting than to imagine my job on this earth might be to convince everyone to think and feel and believe the same way I do. (Gah! What a burden!) It’s so much more freeing to accept that my job, instead, might just be to exist as the best human being I can possibly be, to raise the kindest human beings I know how to raise, to be my children’s fiercest advocate and their staunchest supporter, to love my friends and family with all my might, to kiss my lover long and slow, to respect and honor others’ differences and opinions, to listen more than I talk, to apologize when I’m wrong, to reach a hand to those in need, to share my experiences through story, to drink red wine and eat Oreos, to let my dogs up on the bed when Chris isn’t home, to live wholly and well and outwardly-focused within my circle of influence.
The yelling? The arguing? The my way or the highway conversations? I’m just not interested. They make me sad. They wear me down. They are just so heavy, so full of wet concrete and cloudy skies. They give me stomach aches. And when religious discourse causes bodily distress, I think, perhaps, the religious discourse is backfiring. I just don’t think it’s supposed to be so hard, so judgy, so angry.
When someone says, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” it makes me cringe. Because: Name-Calling. Because: Hate. It’s still there.
And it’s directed at an individual.
Of course I get angry, hate-filled thoughts. I’m human, too.
I even hate certain things:
The oppression of minorities…
The odor emanating from my teenage boys’ shoes…
When my local Meijer runs out of Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra Core…
But I try, as quickly as possible, to make a different choice, to look from a different perspective. Because we can always do better. We should always shoot for that. And I keep trying those damn oysters in the hope that maybe someday…
I just can’t direct my hate toward individuals — not those I disagree with, not those who have hurt me. And many have inflicted pain, in many ways — both physically and emotionally. I can’t bring myself to hate even the worst offenders, the ones who took what did not belong to them, the ones who abandoned what they should have claimed and protected and held tightly.
Because they’re human.
And please — don’t get me wrong — not choosing hate doesn’t mean I want to hang out with hurtful humans, or that I wouldn’t cross the road if I saw them coming my way, or that I wouldn’t do everything in my power to protect my children from their harm. Remaining in toxicity is a cancer. But so is the dark underbelly of anger and resentment.
At the end of the day, we’re all human beings swimming in a big human being sea. You might not always want to swim next to me. And that’s okay. I’m not a great swimmer. I flail around a lot, and I get cranky when I’m splashed. There are many I don’t want to swim with, either. Sharks scare me, and eels give me the creeps. And don’t even get me started on giant spider crabs…
But they still get to swim.
The sea is not just mine… it’s ours.
No matter what we do… or don’t… believe.