Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stumbling Toward Truth

The events of this week surrounding same-sex marriage will be pounced on by pundits, acclaimed by supporters, decried by critics, and seared by comics. I hope there will also be time and place for it to be savored for the extraordinary slice of life it is.

Yes, it is something to be celebrated by advocates of social justice. It will be analyzed by historians and political scientists and students of American culture. But there is something else here, something serendipitous, perhaps even bewitching.

Over a few days two of the most powerful men in the world came to a nexus of decision on one of the most conflicted issues of our time. It occurred in the home of a family hosting the Vice President of the United States. And, according to the leader of the free world, it occurred at his own dinner table talking to his kids.

Cynics, stand back. Do not deny the country this moment, whatever your own sense of justice may be. There is an eternal truth here, one even more powerful than the issue of marriage, if we allow ourselves to seek it.

On Sunday I listened to Vice President Biden's interview on Meet the Press. I was charmed by his response to David Gregory's very direct questioning. Biden, often described as a "loose cannon" for his sometimes blunt or politically incorrect locution, framed the issue in an entirely new and remarkable way. The question, Biden said, is "Who do you love?" He illustrated the point by describing his reception by two children at the residence of a family in which the parents were of the same gender. Biden seemed to be truly taken by the love he saw in that home. The experience may not rise to the level of epiphany, but it sounds like it came pretty close.

Some media reports described Biden's comments as another "gaffe" and the initial response of the White House minions was to minimize the statement as wholly consistent with current policy. Well, they're wrong. By defining the issue as being about love, Biden changed the landscape and the policy wonks were suddenly out of their element.

You've got to love this guy Biden. He's smart and tough and experienced, but he also has one heck of a big heart and he can't seem to disconnect that heart from his mouth. Good for him. And good for us.

A few days after Biden's comments President Barack Obama had a stunning interview with ABC News in which he declared his support for same-sex marriage, the first American president in history to do so. He had long been criticized by his liberal base for a position that supported civil unions but stopped short of marriage. For some time he described his position as "evolving."

But change was on the way, and he explained it to Robin Roberts thusly, just as he said it before the copy editors cleaned it up:
You know, Malia and Sasha, they've got friends whose parents are same-sex couples. And I-- you know, there have been times where Michelle and I have been sittin' around the dinner table. And we've been talkin' and-- about their friends and their parents. And Malia and Sasha would-- it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them. And-- and frankly-- that's the kind of thing that prompts-- a change of perspective. You know, not wanting to somehow explain to your child why somebody should be treated-- differently, when it comes to-- the eyes of the law.
When the story of this week is told by media critics, historians, and politicians it will undoubtedly be referred to from a policy making perspective as bumbling and undisciplined. As of now, no one knows what the political consequences will be. From the ABC interview it appears that the president wasn't thrilled with the timing of Biden's statement. As for Obama, some find his admission of an evolving point of view to be a sign of weakness or lack of conviction.

As for me, I rejoice in a week in which powerful men come to life-changing decisions because they looked at two people and saw love, or sat around their kitchen table wondering how they could explain to their children that they supported something that even they knew was unfair. If Joe Biden disrupted a political timeline because his heart overflowed with love, so be it. If Barack Obama is willing to admit that he's evolving, that he's not sure about something, then we're all better off. Even those of us who don't ride around in stretch limos understand all too well that certitude is difficult to catch and usually wrong once we've caught it.

I love this stumbling, bumbling week. Somehow a convergence of gaffes and uncertainties, seasoned with a dash of love, got us a little closer to truth.

All it needed was my granddaughter's magic wand--I can only imagine what a sprinkling of Ashley's angel dust might have added to this already mystical week in May.