Saturday, November 06, 2004

Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven

I was starting to feel straight guilt until I remembered that the anti-gay marriage referendum goes hand-in-hand with the ambition to conscript my womb — and after abortion is illegal, what about contraceptives? If society isn’t ready to ban contraception a la Catholic doctrine, we could certainly see health plans dropping it from their coverage. And as someone who has paid $30-40 a month for the pill when I was making $7/hour as a bookstore clerk, I recognize it as a tax on women.

Anyway, I got a physical reaction to the election—my eyes flared with conjunctivitis on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s going away now. But it felt like stigmata.

I wish I could do justice to my anger and your despair, Maggie, without sounding like a condescending liberal. But I am a condescending liberal. I think religion closes down the mind. I think reading the Bible when you could be reading Melville, Whitman, Stevens, et al., is just nonsensical. I think arguing for Creationism when science is full of fascinating facts and theories, is retarded. Didn’t the Greeks have a word to describe the pleasure of intellectual discovery or reason? (Homework question.)

For the record, my evangelical in-laws feel just as persecuted and oppressed as we do. That’s the irony. Remember all those rightwingnuts who actually object to the Patriot Act on the grounds that “the Christians are next”? I’m sure I do my part to foment these fears when I visit with the only grandchild that won’t grow up some kind of Christian. And we’re the only ones who live in NYC and the only ones who went to the Ivy League ... well, color me a demographic cliche! But I’m not making nice. I’m a poet; the future of my art depends on there being people who get intellectual pleasure from words and ideas that aren’t God-centered. I need to feel that there will be a future constituency for Melville and Dickinson, the difficult ones, the outsiders and the ones railing at God with their fists shaking at Heaven, or alternately, “this dividing and indifferent blue.” You know. The sky, repository of all ineffable ideals.

So, I repeat: I’m not making nice.


kristen said...

Dear Ange & Maggie
Discovered "minor american" just recently by following a link to another link and i am. And thank you. I've been inspired to get my hands on "Desires of Mothers..." & hope for a slice of time, soon, to read it.
As for the post-election blues: got them big time. And what depresses me even more is that out of my several relatives in Ohio who voted, only two of them voted for Kerry. And the others bought into the "moral values" crap. Having lived my whole life in California (O.K., 2 years in Iowa City while my husband was in grad school...but that's a pretty liberal island w/in Iowa) i think sometimes i forget that there are vast portions of the country who hate/fear anyone or anything outside of their narrow white-christian universe. I was so excited when my friends Jess & Gwen got married at City Hall in SF in February, I really thought maybe this is a turning point in the culture, that it could spark something larger...and as we know now, it did. A backlash of epic proportion.
I have to admit i am a bit annoyed by a lot of the "well i'm leaving the country now" talk... gee, that would be nice but those of us w/low paying jobs/children/no trust fund, really, that isn't an option. So now what? Shall all us liberals move to swing states by 2008 to sway the next election? Would it even be enough??
Feeling like an endangered species,

Minor American said...

I have to say I think Creationism and all the other Christian stuff is pernicious. I don't think I could openly respect a fundamentalist view even for the sake of peace. But what the numbers show is that there is a very large minority in the red states that have more sense than that. And there's an interesting op-ed piece in The Times today that says the numbers show that the moral issues didn't have that much to do with the victory. Sometimes I think that this administration's popularity amounts to nothing but the fact that so many people think that W is just like them.

-- Maggie

very said...

why are reading melville and dickinson and stevens et al and reading the bible mutually exclusive?

i think the future of the art of poetry is dependent not only on people who can read whitman but on people who can hold in their minds the possibility of more than one point of view, to hold in their minds two opposing views at the same time, and see what space that opens, to the interior of the mind, to the exterior of the body and relation; poetry is of course that which makes its place inside the space between contradiction.

for the record, i do not read the bible, but i certainly respect those who find their solace there. the bible is literature, and poetry is gospel.


Ange M said...

Kristen: I too am slightly annoyed by the "I'm moving to Canada/Ireland/Mexico" rhetoric. I'm interested in what moral claim such people think they are making?

Maggie: I don't think I ever made any reference to red/blue or geographical status. I've isolated religiosity, specifically fundamentalism, as the culprit here.

Suzanne: You're right that reading literature and the Bible aren't mutually exclusive (and I was anticipating that someone would call me out on the fact that all the above-mentioned actually read the Bible themselves, which is reason enough for us to read it ... but that's different than reading it as God's word revealed, right?). As I've stated before, I believe we should read *everything*, but that's a p.o.v. brought to you by liberalism, not by Christianity, Islam, or any other orthodoxy (including, I should say for the sake of fairness, Leftism).

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