Good News That Wasn't

It’s all over the twitterverse right now: The California State Supreme Court just overturned the gay marriage ban. What we have learned more recently is that we are all basing these tweets on links to an article which is dated 2008 (a year ago). Thus, it is not, in fact, true.

Watching the elated exclamations followed shortly thereafter by dejected realization that Prop 8 remains in effect has been hard. The let down of that realization is hard. Again.

And again I find myself frustrated and bothered that people are so insecure in their own marriages that they feel those marriages will be threatened if gays and lesbians are allowed to marry. I perform weddings because I believe them to be a sacred act between people who love each other and are making a commitment to one another. When I do weddings, I like to include a mention of the lack of marriage equality as an issue. I would perform same-sex weddings, were I asked. And I remain astounded by the bigotry of the American people, and the willingness of the courts to allow that bigotry to stand.

There are constitutional amendments that are not constitutional. A ban on African-American drivers, for instance, even as a constitutional amendment, would not, I think , be constitutional. I would argue the same is inherently true of same-sex marriage. Marriage, as a legal institution, either exists for everyone or no one. As a legal institution, it is on a par with the formation of a corporation (indeed, it seems to be very similar to the formation of a corporation). As a spiritual issue, neither the voters, the court, nor any government body get a say. That’s what separation of church and state is about. It means that I, as the interpreter of Judaism, have the authority to make the decision about who may spiritually wed in a Jewish setting. It also means that other rabbis, ministers, etc., may choose to differently interpret who may wed, and may not be forced to celebrate same-sex weddings if they violate their understanding of their spiritual tradition.

Once again, I find myself worked up over this issue. Not because of a twitter meme that popped up mistakenly today. Not because little has changed on this issue today (though the governor of New Hampshire did announce today that he would sign a gay-marriage bill). I am worked up because I live in a country (and state) where the majority of the citizenry are bigots and the courts have not acted decisively on this issue. There will come a time when we look back on this era, not with amazement at how fast things are changing, but with disgust at our hypocrisy, as we now look back at the segregated south.

There are those who point out how far we’ve come, and how quickly. And it is true. Just a decade ago, when I talked about same-sex marriage, everyone else in the room thought we’d be lucky to see it within our lifetimes. Nonetheless, it is not acceptable to congratulate oneself on the pace of reform while in process of moving from moral bankruptcy to moral compliance until the change is complete.

We will get to a place of equality. We will overcome this legalized bigotry. But until then, our world is broken.


Electronic Community and Face-to-Face Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about virtual (or electronic) community recently. A few years back, there was a lot of talk about how internet communities weren’t “real” community. People of the older schools of thought were saying that they didn’t fulfill the same functions, and I’ve generally agreed with them. Until recently.

Increasingly, I’m changing my mind. While I still think an in-person component is useful, I do not see it as essential to true community. I’m seeing electronic means of communications forming a stronger and stronger basis of community.

The Portland Tech community is largely built around Twitter. Twitter allows people to communicate in short messsages of up to 140 characters. It is more like a bulletin board than an email. The Portland tech community tends to use it for everything from ongoing conversations about projects (“I need a Java programmer for a quick project” or “Anyone know how to make a Mac work in Swahili?”)  to quick statements that are more about connecting than conveying any information (“Can’t believe it’s still not Friday”; “Madness! Ahhhhhh!”). Our connections through Twitter mean that we know each other far better than we would if we just relied on meeting face to face. It means that by the time I meet someone face to face, I may well have had several “conversations” with them, and at the very least, I’ve heard what they have to say, and they’ve heard what I have to say.  We have an existing connection before we meet in person.

The traditionalists would say, “ah, but that’s not ‘real community.’ It doesn’t fulfill the social needs or create the tightness of bonds.” I now can disagree.

This week was my birthday. I think about three people wished me a happy birthday in person that day (it may have been slightly higher). What I remember about being wished a happy birthday are the 30 or so who wished me a happy birthday through Twitter and Facebook. Those greetings made me feel warm and fuzzy and loved. One of the true measures of community is its ability to create an emotional impact on you, and to celebrate life’s milestones in a meaningful way with you. This community did that.

I have moved off the fence. I am now firmly in the camp of those who feel like virtual communities can be as real as face-to-face communities. And I am reveling in how large and wonderful those communities can be.