We moved the runner over

When I was a kid, I was pretty fast sprinter. I remember participating in only one track meet, held at the athletic fields behind our local high school on a raw, windy spring day. I was a skinny nine-year-old kid with gangly arms and legs. As I was shivering, my bony arms and legs felt like clattering wind chimes.

My parents were in the bleachers, and I guess they couldn’t bear watching me shiver, so my dad came down to the fence between the track and the bleachers and called me over. He had a bulky, corduroy coat in his hand, a hand-me-down from my older brothers. It had a big hood that zipped onto the back. Dad told me that he and my mom wanted me to wear it.

I happily put the coat on and waited for the heat of my race to be called. Seeing the other kids shivering made me even more glad for the coat. Then our heat was called. I looked for my dad, to give him the coat back, but I had no idea where my parents were sitting. I assessed the other shivering kids in the race, and knew I was much faster than all but one of them. That one kid was a stranger, so in my magical nine-year-old thinking, I figured he’d be eating my dust even with the coat on.

We got in our starting crouches. Five freezing nine-year-olds, and one perfectly warm one wearing an enormous coat. It must have looked ridiculous.

The gun went off and I hurled myself down the track, legs churning. The coat restricted my arm movements, so it was hard to find a good rhythm. And then there was that zip-on hood.

As I labored down the track, I apparently compensated for my inability to move my arms freely by turning my torso in an exaggerated manner. The result was that the hood slapped me in the face with every other stride.

I came in last. I couldn’t hold the tears back, as I saw my parents approach me. “Why did you MAKE me wear THAT COAT?!?!?” I asked incredulously. My dad smiled and said, “Well, honey, I didn’t think you’d wear it while you were running.” I blurted, barely coherently, “BUTYOU [sob] TOLDME [sob] IHADTO [sob] WEARTHECOATAAAAAAUUUUHGH….”

This was the story that was running in my head like a movie this morning as I sat on the bus and read my Facebook news feed of people reacting to the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One.

What I want to say is enough. Enough with the shame. Shame is like that heavy corduroy coat. It restricts our movement, weighs us down, and slaps us in the face with the regularity of a metronome. Stop casting “Shame on North Carolina.” Stop wearing shame like that coat. It is shame that enables short-sighted people to win small, temporary victories like the passage of Amendment One. But shame will not overturn Amendment One. Only Love will do that.

The last time North Carolina’s constitution was amended with regard to marriage was in 1875. That lasted 96 years which, while a mighty long time, is nowhere near the forever that those amendment authors were hoping for. 

At Heretic School yesterday, one of our band of scripture strugglers referred to the passage from John’s depiction of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” as being written with a key signature of farewell. In the passage we read, the most repeated words were “you” and “love.” My friend’s lovely musical metaphor enabled me to wonder whether the “Farewell Discourse” is Jesus as musical conductor, teaching us how to sing in the key of Love.

The opportunities of shucking off the coat of shame and singing in the key of Love in the face of Amendment One are enormous. In fact, by virtue of having Amendment One on the ballot, the work of Love has already begun. Disparate constituencies have found allies in each other, conversations about justice have erupted. People are talking, openly, at a NATIONAL level about marriage between same-sex couples. That, in and of itself, is victory. It is a sign that the shame that kept queer people and our allies silent for centuries is being cast aside, right now, right here, in our lifetime. We all know how toxic shame is, which is why it’s vital to not give into our desire to cast it on others as we remove it from our own shoulders.

Amendment One is the death rattle of a species on the verge of extinction. Or, if you prefer a baseball metaphor, how about this: In baseball, a player who gets a hit 30% of the time is considered a good hitter. That player is even better when s/he routinely does little things that don’t show up in the batting average, like moving runners over, or scoring runners while making an out.

In losing the battle over Amendment One, forces of justice and equality may have made an out, but we moved the runner into scoring position. So if you need a pick me up this morning as you read the stories about Amendment One, read some of the baseball box scores from last night, along with the little news descriptions of some of the games.

Then get back out there and sing in the key of Love. Find others to sing with, too.

And whatever you do, NEVER attempt to run the 100-yard dash while wearing a heavy coat with a zip-on hood. Unless, of course, you feel your track meet needs some comic relief.

23 responses to “We moved the runner over

  1. Hear, hear! Another baseball metaphor that I’ve been thinking about (filtered through fiction, natch) is from Bull Durham, where he goes out and hits his record-breaking home run and says “I hit my dinger and went home.” Sometimes it’s important for you to do what you can, without looking around to see if anyone notices.

  2. Mary Loulou :)

    wow WOW Joy! Such awsome blog post. Reading gives me goosebumps and tears in my eyes, What a wonderful way to look at the bigger picture. Thanks for this and I am going to share your page on mine on FB.
    Blessings to you..

  3. Smile! I love you Joy.

  4. OK you win – I feel hopeful again.

  5. I like the hope in here.

  6. When this kind of thing happened over the years (and we shouldn’t single out North Carolina, see http://bit.ly/inhxAd), I used to think that the clouds were getting bigger and darker. Now I know that, as you say, Joy, it’s a death rattle, the last gasp of a hateful, un-Christian doctrine. Poll after poll has shown that as we go through Gen X, Gen Y, and the Millenials, support for gay marriage (or at least the lack of antipathy toward it) is increasing by leaps and bounds across the political spectrum.

    I know that it will seem small comfort to those who want it now, but another 10-20 years will do it. And we will all be better for it.

    • Hugh, thank you for saying all that. I still can’t believe the progress that has happened in my lifetime. That’s where my hope comes from. The North Carolina amendment was a classic example of how fear makes people irrationally clutchy and grabby. I tend to believe that the extremeness of the amendment will give it a shorter shelf life, as more and more people end up being affected by the discrimination inherent in it.

  7. Joy,
    First of all, beautiful post cuz. Like I’ve said to you in the past, answering bigotry & hate with like response will never change anything, it only inflames many of those you’re trying to convert. Yes, there’s that temporary satisfaction in fighting back, but does it solve anything? If we are to alter the thought process of enough people to make the kind of change we believe in, it must be done with a reasonable tone & a thoughtful choice of words. Belittling someone just reinforces their beliefs, they dig in & will never really “hear” your side of the issue.

    No doubt there are true haters & uninformed people on both sides of most any argument that affects the masses. I doubt we can ever change many minds in those camps. It’s those who could be swayed by careful, respectful dialogue, who will create enough margin to defeat such laws as N.C. 1. You don’t need to win over everyone, just enough to get what is right, what you deserve. I for one have little tolerance for much of the ignorance that permeates issues like this one. I find it hard to hold my tongue when such ignorance is spoken in my presence. But I’ve found more people will listen to a reasoned conversation, like you’ve just written, than to loud, knee-jerk reactions or bludgeoning them with insults.

    I have been blessed with a loving & respectful marriage for 36 years. Why would I or anyone else want to deprive two people of the same joy I feel each & every day?

    I know this issue is particularly important to you, it should be important to every American, but sadly, fear or apathy often wins the day. There isn’t enough love in this world as is, do we really want to limit the opportunity to equally experience love legislatively? Is this the way we want to evolve as a society? I pray it is not.

    • Beautiful words from my beautiful cousin, who also happens to be one of the best people in the world with whom to watch a baseball game. Coincidence? I think not!

      Love you, Rich.

  8. Joy, The first thing I did was to read & love what you have written and oh how I ached for that 9 year old. I remember that feeling so well. The second is to forward your post to our daughter Carrie. Thanks so much.

  9. Sarah Simons

    Sheesh, you are amazing : )

  10. Heather Kohout

    Your call to love gave me a rolling case of what we call either “the gookies” or “the bwuffs” at our house–goose-bumps from head to toe. I’m struck again by the discipline of self-knowledge that compassion requires; the knowledge that our personal likes and dislikes have no necessary overlap with the power and beauty and flooding force of Love. Being able to unbraid with what we want to be true from what IS, and then training ourselves to run toward it–well, now. I’ve got a lot of training ahead of me, but this blog gives me hope that I can be as “bwuf” as you, my dear friend.

    • Heather, your comment gives me the bwuffs every time I read it. I’m so lucky to know you, and to have your companionship along the way of learning how “to unbraid with what we want to be true from what IS, and then training ourselves to run toward it.” xoxo

  11. I wonder when “The South” will shed their discriminatory ways and move forward to the future. Not in my lifetime I’m afraid. I know some good souls down there, I hope they keep their chin up.

    • Bill, let’s remember California couldn’t pass same-sex marriage in 2008, during a general election year. If you look at the map of where same-sex marriage has been outlawed, it’s all over the place. We are lucky to live in states where it’s been legalized. The progress on queer civil rights that’s happened in the past 20 years is nothing short of astonishing to me. It’s telling to me that the opponents of same-sex marriage now cast themselves as victims. That’s as good a sign as any, to me anyway, that we will win this thing sooner than later. In the meantime, I too hope people keep their chins up, and continue to work for justice.

  12. Pingback: You say Rolls, I say Royce « spynotes

  13. Thank god for a mother who thought that love, wherever you found it, was a good thing and to be celebrated. Now my nieces and nephews know same-sex marriage/union used to be an issue and wonder why; their children, the grands, may not realize there ever was an issue. Hugh’s got it right: we are and we will all be the better for it. XOX, JO

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