It’s up to us

I’m sure everyone has been waiting desperately for my next post. You can breathe now.

Actually, I wasn’t planning on writing anything today that didn’t have to do with grad school or job applications, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity given recent events. I write this from my aunt’s house, whose life partner is pacing up and down, getting reading to give birth to a baby boy.

I didn’t know my aunt was a lesbian until she called me last summer while I was working in Dallas. Of course, I had suspected it all along, sometimes with awe, sometimes in denial. It was sort of an attempt to distance myself, to instruct my imagination that, “No, that sort of thing doesn’t happen in my family.” But it does and it did, and not just mine. And you know what? There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

My aunt and her partner are truly amazing people who are about to embark on a journey that every person should have a right to experience: having a family. Yet, the word family as defined by you, by me, by your next-door neighbor and by some stranger in a different state is not the same. A heterosexual couple. A single mother. Grandparents. Two men or two women.

I was not able to watch President Obama give his speech at the memorial in Tucson for the victims of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ assassination attempt, though I was able to look at the speech as it was planned. His eloquence was expected. What really struck me though was his honesty and how he implores us to look at ourselves and evaluate whether we have contributed to the disunity and dysfunction in this nation.

How does this have anything to do with my aunt’s sexuality? It has everything to do with it.

As we were driving up to see her, my mom wondered (out loud) whether her sister, in choosing to have this baby, realized that the child might have the added difficulty of not coming from a ‘typical’ family (as established by social norms). She said she hated when I was made fun of (for reasons such as height, naturally) when I was younger, so she didn’t even want to imagine what this unborn child would face. I, hoping to quell her fears, told her everything would be all right. The child would be born to a more understanding society, one that despite its imperfections, has overcome ideological obstacles.

And then we have a man who decided to alter a most simple form of democracy in action. As if killing a particular person or group of people will obliterate whatever they stand for. How many times have we heard this story of intolerance play itself out in a different setting and with a different set of characters? Have we forgotten the recent spate of teen suicides due to bullying? Have we forgotten genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Russia and Germany, to mention a few? While some feel that they don’t belong, some are forced to believe that they never did.

Interestingly, in The Washington Post’s biographical article on Loughner, the topic of not feeling welcome surfaces.

“He was desperately trying to escape from all the chaos and suffering in his world,” said George Osler, his friend’s dad. I am by no means trying to garner sympathy for a murderer, but by not even attempting to understand the reason behind his apparent instability, we unconsciously and unintentionally allow this to happen again, through a different actor.

This baby that’s about to be born will undergo a series of obstacles, no doubt. In order to overcome them, though, he can only do so much. We do the rest. “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible,” wrote Voltaire.

Whatever I end up doing in life, whether I become a journalist or a teacher or a soccer mom or whatever, I will do my part to make this volatile world a place of understanding. I think of my cousin and I think of Christina Green, the 9-year-old whose life was cut short as her life was just starting. Is this the future of this country?

No.  It doesn’t have to be. It’s up to us.



One thought on “It’s up to us

  1. This is really well done, and I’m sharing it like everywhere.

    One thing that strikes me, and it caught my eye because I love Voltaire: the measure of your education is that you can take things you absorb in literature, theory, and philosophy and make them your own when real life strikes. When I see that quote in your writing, it tells me how much you’ve owned your education. So proud of you, but more proud that you’re using that to make a difference.

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