Friday, May 21, 2010

Civil Rights

Happily said, with great enthusiasm after we exited a video store, "I would do Taylor Lautner!"

This is not my quote. Nor is it a quote of a teenage girl, the majority of which, have a favorite heartthrob, choosing in the Twilight series of movies between Robert Patterson and Taylor Lautner. These actors play respectively a vampire and a werewolf. No, the person who is a big fan of Taylor Lautner the werewolf, and thinks he is sexy, is my 50 year old husband.

I said, "Shh honey, we are in a public place."

Lust knows no bounds between the sexes for some people.

I recently read the book "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". It is an international sensation, and the movie based on the book is playing in our local theater. I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. This is always my creed; read the book first so that the movie does not ruin the suspense in the book. If I had a choice between reading a book,- the slow, imaginary telling of a story, with so many nuances, so many hundred thousands of words, and seeing a movie,- where the book is edited and you are a dummy sitting in a seat, with the plot exposed to all your senses, bypassing your imagination,- I would pick reading the book.

As I read the book I loathed it. I loathed the vision of the author, who has characters that are successful and sexy and very much in tune with the political currents of our time. The author had a mind that is so unlike my own. He wrote a thriller, a murder mystery, and I loathed that I was hooked and played with and could not get enough of the book. I had to read it, even to the exclusion of getting my own work done or going to sleep at a reasonable hour. The duties of the day were swept clean, there was nothing more in this world that I wished to do other than read this book. I was taken. I was seduced. It was like the addiction that I imagine a drug can cause. Once in your system you are a puppet on a string. And this was a mere book. But it had a hold on me.

I like admiring the author of a book. But most of the authors who I admire are dead. This cuts down on my internal need to compete. And most of the authors who I admire I wish to write like. But I cannot write like Stieg Larsson who wrote "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". He is too in the world, and he writes about the world, something I am helpless to do. I write about the interior of the mind. For goodness sake, I have not traveled one town over. I do not know what the center of town looks like one town over, and I have been living in this spot for five years now. I do not travel. I do not explore. And I am exposed, in minimal fashion to the current culture. I cannot tell you what the recent debate about Health care was about in Congress that concluded so recently - even though I read some internet articles about it. I barely understand the recent financial meltdown that caused us to dwell in a recession for so long even though I read internet articles about this as well and was monitoring it as it happened. There are abstract concepts that I do not understand, and most of these exist in terms of a cultural and economic and political phenomena. I understand that I am pro gay marriage, but this is based on my own experience.

I know what it is like to love a girl and wish you could marry her and live with her forever. I don't feel that that sort of love is perverse, it felt natural when it happened to me as a twenty-two year old. It is nice to be in a legal marriage, as I have experienced later in life, and to have that marriage be respected by others as a statement of commitment and emotional bonding. From my husband's co-workers to my own mother, the fact that I am married makes them all view me and my husband with a respect that would not be present if we weren't married. If I can have this respect, I would like gay couples to have the respect as well. So on this issue I am political. But it grows out of the experience of my own mind and my own emotions. I know what it is like to wish that you could hold hands with someone of the same sex, and yet be afraid to do so in public, because it is frowned on socially. I believe that the leading edge of civil rights in America is the rights for gays to marry - because this is treating them on equal terms, giving them equal rights, as heterosexuals. At one time it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry. The two were considered perverse in their affections, the races were supposed to stay separate. Separation of the races was considered natural and a social duty. Now civil rights faces discrimination based on sex, and the general population's notions of what is natural and the duty of society. But this I know, and so does my husband, that love of the same sex is natural and should not be condemned by society.

Who ever said, two hundred years ago, "I know the mind of a black man and it is in every way equal and as fine in its thoughts and sentiments as a white man." Not many could say this.

I can say now, as a woman, "I have known the love of a woman, and it is in every way as fine and equal as the love of a man." Still, not many can say this. Only a fraction of the population has had bisexual relations. Thoughts of attraction to the same sex, perhaps yes. But acting on it, not so much. But the condition two hundred years ago was that only a fraction of the population knew a black person that they had respect for. They might know a black person, but much of the value of this person was invisible to them, they saw blacks through a vale of society's misconceptions. Blacks were shunned the same way that gay people are shunned. What father wants for a son a homosexual? And two hundred years ago what person could say that their best friend was a black person? I know it would hurt my husband to be called a faggot. And I know it would hurt my best friend (a black woman) to be called a nigger. Civil rights is the answer to curb the tide of popular opinion. Popular opinion dies hard. But laws too contain iron and steel. When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation he not only freed the slaves, he started a trend to change people's perceptions of black people. Now we have a black president. We need to start laying the groundwork so that some day we can have a gay president. Giving gays the right to legally, and religiously marry, is the groundwork to putting this path of renewed perception in place.

There is something about my illness that limits me to exposure of the world around me. My brother is currently doing interviews with famous people. Some of these interviews are published on his website, He cannot approach these people directly. Usually there are layers of people to go through before he encounters the celebrity. They have handlers. But my brother can swim through the currents of society. I can't do this. I'm in retreat from society. I hide. I read my two hundred year old books. Modern books, even when they are good, pain me. And I am not active in civil rights. I have a political view but I don't press it. Do you know what society seems like in a two hundred year old book? It seems like a dream, it is so foreign to our own modern sensibilities. And yet, for the good writers, words coming out of their character's mouths sound fresh and clean. Human beings at their core do not change so much in two hundred years. If an author can unvale a soul he has done a task that will last for a thousand years or more.

I say to myself as I write my book; "I am writing a dream". That is my only objective. Some of my mentally ill characters are living through dreams of their own because they are so loosely attached to reality. So I am writing about dreamers and the dreams of the mind.

I cannot thrill like Steig Larsson's thriller. My seduction has to be different. I have a schizoaffective illness and this colors my work and my life.

May God grant me the breath, and the movement of my fingers so that the dreamers in my head are all given a voice. I must, as I live, finish my book.

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