Gay 'n Gray
|by John D. Siegfried|
"Thank God my partner is male."
That was my immediate response when I read about Sarah Palin using a tote bag with the logo of a moose head and the caption "Real Women Hunt Moose." I'm not sure I want to sleep with a moose hunter.
Many women must be incensed to find their claim on femininity defined by their interest or ability to hunt moose. How many states even have moose to hunt? Alaska, Maine, and maybe Montana and Wyoming. I don't know. But I do know that enjoying moose tracks or moose turds, whatever the popular Ben and Jerry's flavor of the season is, doesn't count as a claim for being a woman.
But males haven't escaped the arrogance of defining "real" in terms of other people's prejudice. A decade or so ago an evangelical organization of men popularized bumper stickers with the phrase, "Real Men Love Jesus." I was appalled at the implication that men who didn't love Jesus, or more accurately who didn't love Jesus in the same way the purveyors of the bumper sticker loved him, were unreal. In truth it wasn't that non-Jesus loving males were unreal, it was the implication they were less manly, therefore inferior, to the Jesus loving males. My personal solution was to immediately start looking for a hunky Latin named Jesus so that I could claim true virility.
The definition of what's "real" as a tool of prejudice and put-down angers me. During the recent political campaigns there were numerous references by candidates indicating that the "real America" was in the small towns and hamlets uncorrupted by the urban sprawl of the big city. There was never any definition of how small or large a community had to be to qualify for the "real America," but it was quite clear that Detroit, Atlanta, Miami and L.A. weren't part of the mix. Ironically, the very candidates touting the value of the "real America," the small town paradise, were at the same time spending millions of campaign dollars in the hope that they would eventually reside within the Beltwaythe most unreal enclave in the country if not the world.
In years gone by, when I traveled overseas for business or for pleasure I was always proud to identify myself as an American. It gave me status. It gave me safety. In the eighties and nineties young people I met in Egypt, China or Thailand would gladly give their right arm (maybe their right testicleI never asked) for a visa to the United States. Traveling in recent years I try to pass myself off as Canadian or British when I'm questioned about my nationality. It's safer. That's my reality. That's the reality I see in America's post 9/11 decline.
Recently, however, I was heartened. I endured the agonies of early voting in my home town of Fort Lauderdale. The Saturday before the election I went to the closest polling place at 9 a.m. knowing that the polls would not open until ten. The line was long and after an hour and a half of waiting my two artificial knees and my titanium hip began to protest. I went home. I got a folding chair and a book and returned. The line had gotten longer and I was grateful for the bottles of non-partisan water being distributed by poll workers. After another three hours I voted.
My experience of early voting was well captured in a letter to the editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel by a Lake Worth woman who wrote:
A strange thing happened as my husband and I waited in line for two and a half hours to vote at the Boynton Beach Library. I looked around and saw young people, old people and middle-aged people. I saw black, white, brown and yellow faces. Talk about a melting pot.I saw people accepting a challenging situation with humor and respect for their fellow citizens, people helping strangers who weren't physically capable of standing for extended periods by holding their place in line while they sat in the library or quickly took cranky toddlers home.
Once inside the voting room, a poll worker informed the group of about thirty people that the young lady she was working with was a first-time voter. To the cheers and applause of the entire group, this young lady stood up and took a well-deserved bow.
I confess, when we first got in line, I was annoyed by the delay. But as time went by, I realized I had seen first hand why we are all so passionate about this particular election. And at that moment, I was as proud of my country as I ever have been. Not a bad afternoon after all.
It wasn't a bad afternoon. I realized, as did the Lake Worth writer, that if weblack, white, brown and yellow, young, old and in-betweenare willing to endure personal discomfort and hardship in order to vote, then maybejust maybewe can work together to begin the process of recreating our country as the land with "liberty and justice for all."
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident who now lives in Ft. Lauderdale, maintains strong ties to our community and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 15 November 21, 2008