8/03/2012

Overcoming hatred

The national appreciation day for Chik-Fil-A's stance on gay marriage has prompted me to do something I do not do as a journalist.

I'm going to tell you what I think. 

This is a matter that I'm personally affected by, and a matter that has been on my mind very much for the past three and a half years. I may have alluded to it in my writing here, but I've never directly addressed it until now. 

My second marriage ended in part because my ex-wife finally had the courage and support of a community to become who she really is -- a woman who loves another woman.

I watched them falling in love in slow motion. This is not a post where I will talk about that in detail.

But, when the end came, I felt a tremendous sense of loss and pain. At times, the sorrow pushed me in a negative direction. I felt waves and waves of anger. Sometimes I rode these waves of anger. At times, I approached hatred. 

I don't think I ever fully went to hatred, but I could see what it looked like. It was dark and awful.

Some of the things I've seen posted about same-sex marriage definitely look like hatred to me. 

In the first few months after our break-up, I tried to educate myself on compassion and overcoming anger. I read works by the Dalai Lama that introduced me to concepts that get me through and to understand how I had no right to tell her how to live her life. My personal pain could not be used to justify anything. 

This experience was a struggle for me. But underlying the struggle was the knowledge that I loved her, and that she is the mother of my two American children. I wanted the children to be happy, and that meant their mother had to be happy. She was miserable living a lie and it was quite an unhappy life for both of us. 

But, enough of that. Let's focus on where we are now. Let's focus on why I feel it's necessary for me to say a few words about the Chik-Fil-A appreciation, and how this entire incident alarms me. 

I believe that all of us are created equal, and that we must respect other's beliefs. None of us can ever fully know what's going on in the minds of others, but we have evolved as a species and as a nation to have a system of secular beliefs that draw upon all that has come before. We trust each other to do the right thing. We cannot lose that.

I believe in human progress and the notion that we can solve our society's problems. I am proud to have been born in a country that has consistently sought to live up to the values. Those values are good. I believe in this country. We can do great things here. 

So then we come back to why I'm concerned about the Chik-Fil-A civil war. What should be a rational discussion among adults has become yet another over-simplified narrative that is being fought through Facebook status updates and mass gatherings at fast food restaurants. 

And it's not that simple. We're talking about people who have made brave choices, brave choices that have caused heartbreak. 


If you click through, notice the beautiful picture that is listed there. Look at how the author of the post has two pictures, 18 years apart, and tell me that they are not in love. 

If we believe in the notion that "all men are created equal" shouldn't we respect their right to be with each other? I look at that picture, and I think of pictures I've seen of my ex and her fiancee. You cannot deny love. 

I'm still recovering. I won't lie. But, the majority of me knows that they are in love, and I believe they have the right to be together, and to enshrine that love through marriage. I want my society to accept that as a true union that reflects the love they have for each other. 

So, back to the post that compelled me to write this. The author of the post writes this:
There are times in your life when you have the opportunity to stand up for your friends. When you let that opportunity pass, your friends notice. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, but it diminishes you, and it diminishes the friendship. That’s how it is, no matter what the issue or what the venue.
My ex-wife is my friend. Her fiancee will be my friend at some point in the future.

So, I am saying right now that I am proud of both of them for taking a massive risk in order to be who they are. I am proud of them for having the courage to do what they are doing.

We're all individuals. Some of us are gay. Some of us are straight. Some of us are damaged. Some of us are not. Some of us know how to rise above. Some of us do not.

The end of my marriage has been the hardest thing that has happened to my life to date. But, I rose above. I became a runner. I learned to play guitar. I dedicated myself to work. I tried to be the best father I can to my children. I have made the best of a situation. I reacted. I adapted.

I am more whole now than I ever have been. I am prepared to be awesome.

Life is successfully navigated when you can avoid being trapped in simple narratives. I have no doubt that the people who feel so outraged about gay marriage sincerely believe it's an abomination. Maybe some of them have personal reasons to do so.

Maybe I did once, but I chose not to take that path.

I believe that people 50 years ago sincerely believed that black and white people shouldn't marry, or even spend together.

I believe that 160 years ago, there were people who died defending what they felt was a right to own other human beings.

I cannot demonize or hate the people who helped Chick-Fil-A set a new sales record. I can be sad that there's no way of talking with the people one-on-one.  But, I am hopeful many of them can take a step back and reconsider their stance.


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