The evening after Prop. 8 was upheld, I went out to dinner with my family at China Panda. The food there is pretty good, but the TVs that are mounted on the wall are a distraction, even with the sound off. The last time I’d been there, Dick Cheney’s snarling mug was befouling the ambience. (I can haz undisclosed location, pleez?) This evening, the headlines were all about Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment and Prop. 8.
The Bear, who’s now nine and a half, wanted to know about Sotomayor. Why was this such a big deal? Why were the Republicans already so riled up?
“Well, she stands for fairness and equality for all people, sweetie, including women and minorities.”
“But isn’t that a good thing? Why would they be against that?” The Bear has no mercy when it comes to illogic and unfairness. If he hadn’t gotten stuck on the Republicans, he might have noticed how the subtitle on CNN was behaving no better than the Repubs. “Sotomayor: negotiator or liberal activist?” Um, as even the Tiger knows at age five, one of these things is not like the other. I think my boys need to school Lou Dobbs.
Then the Bear wanted to know what was going on in California. He’d been paying just enough attention to be confused. “Didn’t they just say boys could marry boys in California?” So I explained the original California Supreme Court decision and how Prop. 8 reversed it. “But that’s not fair, Mama! What’s going to happen to the people who are already married?” This, with a wrinkle of his freckled nose and a withering glare at the decision’s obvious unfairness.
I’d like to stop and brag now about our wonderfully progressive parenting. But actually, that would be an exaggeration. All we’ve done is explain matter-of-factly that in the past, some groups of people haven’t had full rights, and lately that’s starting to change. My husband and I let our kids know that we believe in fairness, kindness, and generosity. But I’m skeptical that those values can be indoctrinated. They can only be modeled. Most days, we do our imperfect best.
In the end, I don’t want two little clones of me. That would be awful! I just want kids who see the world with a wealth of empathy. If they do that, we’ll still squabble about details, I’m sure, but we’ll agree on the important stuff.
Perhaps more crucially, our kids are growing up in a changing society where it’s just normal to know same-sex couples. They have a lesbian aunt. In the Bear’s grade level at his school, there are two families each headed by two women. It seems bizarre to kids that some of their friends’ parents aren’t allowed to get married. My kids aren’t oddities; I think they’re part of a growing norm that’ll embrace all sexualities and all family forms.
This is why the right wing can bloviate all it likes. And the days ahead promise to be ugly indeed, as the SCOTUS confirmation hearings heat up. It can marshal racism and sexism against a nominee who has more experience than any of the current justices had upon their nomination. It can try to scare people with homophobic TV ads crying “what about the children?”
Yeah, what about those children? It’s already too late. They’re growing up into a world – they’re helping make a world – where only fringe groups will openly espouse inequality and hate. Where anything other than equal protection will just seem weird and mean.