It was the end of boot camp: Ft. Dix New Jersey, 1990. Drill Sergeant Armstead stepped on to the bus that would take all of us off base for the last time, sending us on to our next step in being a new soldier. I don’t know if he did this for every class; I can’t imagine that he did. As he was saying goodbye, and in his short, bulldog-ish gruff way, began to sing a familiar song: “IF you-don’t-know me by now …” he barked as if in cadence. On the bus that day, with his drill hat tipped low across his face, I could swear I saw a tear roll down his face when he “sang” it to us that last time.
This past week I’ve had two facebook friends let me know that they will be voting YES on the proposed amendment that will read as follows on the ballot:
Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples.
“Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman.”
o YES o NO
I’ve aired my hurt feelings in the same place these people let me know their intentions, facebook. I’ve asked for wisdom and taken some time to really sit with the words offered. Here is what I want to say to them, to myself, and to you.
First, facebook for me IS real life. I spend a great deal of time checking in and seeing what my friends both far and near are up to. It has challenged and enhanced my friendships, it has kept me connected to some people who I have met only once, and some—like my beloved—I see nearly every day. The relationships I have on facebook are real and they hold value—the kind I can and have and will cash in on—in my life. My personal page is cluttered with quotes and pictures from things that interrupt my daily sight-lines. These bits and scraps are a real part of me and I share them with you all because I want you to know me, laugh with me, challenge and inspire me. If you are my facebook friend, you are so with my permission and because I hope for a mutual relationship with you.
Secondly, above any other tenant of belief that I hold, beyond any other thing I know to be real and true, I know that LOVE is at the center of my faith. Love God, love neighbor, love self. You know what happens if you believe this? Love manifests itself in the most unusual places: in broken families and republicans, smelly hippies, pussy riots and Fox news, in old ladies who lunch, closeted queers, and people who you can only understand through flailing body language and broken spanglish. Love is sneaky like that. And you know what else it is? It’s fierce. It can break a heart and rip a crack in your preconceived ideas faster than you can scream: “FUCK!”
Well, it can—that is—if you let it.
A dear friend and priest asked: do you want to be prophetic (to them) or pastoral (to yourself)? Good question. And you know what, I want both. I have been both; it’s not like I just realized I had these friends. No, I’ve known about some since the last election cycle, some since the Chick-fil-A debacle, and still some I am learning about with each day that passes. I have been salt and light. I have invited you to my wedding, been a part of your life celebrations and you have been at mine. I don’t know what else I can do—my life and love is an open book; come, sit with me, read and listen. But one thing that can’t change—that won’t change, is our gender. We are two women. [cue] If you don’t know me by now, you will never never know me, ooooooooo.
This was what someone said to me:
“Rachel, I think it’s pretty simple to sum up. [His] beliefs are that the term “marriage” is meant between a man and a woman, period. I don’t think he has any “issues” w/the term civil union. You won’t ever change that and it doesn’t make him right or wrong, nor does it make anyone who wants the amendment passed “right” or “wrong”. It is his belief, which he is entitled to, just as you and others are entitled to your belief. Just because he doesn’t feel the same way as you do does not mean that he doesn’t love or care for you (and I’m pretty sure you know that – I am sorry, but shame on you).”
[cue] All the things that we’ve been through, you should understand me, like I understand you…
If you want to hang your hat on a set of beliefs that exclude and draw lines, that dictate your superiority to mine, that is fine by me. But please do not expect for one single minute that you have the right to call me friend on facebook, not even for one more minute. If you would like to take this up face to face—even over email, I would welcome that conversation. I have thought long and hard on this. I have asked for counsel and prayed. My friend Shirley said it best, and so I say: “…bless and release them, for they know not what they do.”