While Love NOLA is about our beloved New Orleans, there are moments when we are reminded that our wonderful city is but one part of our great country. This is one of those moments.
Like millions of Americans, I am waking up to a brighter day this morning. The President of the United States supports gay marriage. Just the power of that combination of words gives me goose bumps. It bears repeating: The President of the United States supports gay marriage. Wow!
There are those who celebrate big moments like this by yelling from the rooftops (if they live in places where gay marriage is embraced) or, perhaps, screaming under the train tracks a la Sally Bowles (if they do not). Their shouts are as much an affirmation as a release.
For me, such moments are a quiet thing (captured perfectly by Kander and Ebb in Flora the Red Menace). They’re a time for quiet celebration, deep introspection. To ask, as my former boss, Gerry Studds, the first openly gay Member of Congress used to ask, “To what end?”
Sitting here this morning, with the sun shining just a bit more brightly, the answer is two-fold.
First, as a gay man who has been married, I am filled with gratitude for the President’s words. There are those who say it was a calculated move. No doubt the timing was calculated (brilliantly so, I might add). But the words were not. The words are genuine. And let me tell you something. When the President of the United States says you matter … well, it matters. Deeply.
But, like any gay man, I am so much more than a gay man. And when I look at the President’s words from that place of more than and I ask “to what end?”, I see a man on a journey. A very personal journey played out on the most public of stages. A journey that tries to balance what you were taught was right with what you sense is right. A journey where everyone is happy to tell you what to do, until that moment when you realize that the only thing to do is go inside. Where the truth lives. And then find the courage to complete the journey by bringing the truth forward. I see a man on a journey. Of compassion.
And I see that, ultimately, that is the end, the greatest promise, of the President’s words. To insert compassion into the American narrative. It’s been missing for a very long time. How wonderful it would be if all of us took the President’s own words and used them to turn the mirror to reflect on our own journeys. Of compassion. Not the easy journeys. Like compassion for a friend who’s lost her job or the father who is dying. No. The difficult journeys. The ones in which we confront that which makes us uncomfortable. The ones in which we look at what we think is “right” and “wrong” and consider that, perhaps, we have it backward. The ones in which we ask if we are treating others–even those we falsely label “opponents”– with the same love, the same compassion, that we seek for ourselves.
The President has just taken one such journey. And its ripples are more far-reaching and more powerful than the mighty river that holds this city.
Now. Imagine. Just imagine. If each and every person in this city that so embodies compassion used today to recommit to his or her own journey. Of compassion.
Imagine. Just imagine. If, through the alchemy of compassion, the most divisive issue of our times was the very thing that started to heal. Our times.
Imagine. To what end.
Today’s column is dedicated to Gerry Studds and Mary Bonauto, two people whose leadership, courage and compassion has enabled countless gay Americans to take the journey toward truth and illuminated a path by which our country can take yet another journey toward freedom.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net