Thursday, March 15, 2007

Stating the Obvious

The above is the title of an essay in Salon magazine. Here is a quote:

Nature is about continuation of the species -- in other words, children. Nature does not care about the emotional well-being of older people.

Under the old monogamous system, we didn't have the problem of apportioning Thanksgiving and Christmas among your mother and stepdad, your dad and his third wife, your mother-in-law and her boyfriend Hal, and your father-in-law and his boyfriend Chuck. Today, serial monogamy has stretched the extended family to the breaking point. A child can now grow up with eight or nine or 10 grandparents -- Gampa, Gammy, Goopa, Gumby, Papa, Poopsy, Goofy, Gaga and Chuck


What makes the piece so remarkable is the author: Garrison Keillor. That's right, the host of the public radio variety show Prairie Home Companion, who can barely resist the urge to go on some binge of political correctness when the microphone is on, may have discovered his inner Midwestern provincialism -- if only for a moment.

Once I was at a party at a neighbor's house, a gay couple with a house full of mostly other gay couples. (It can happen.) I was talking to a kid who was playing by the garden pond in the back yard. A man came to pick him up. The way the kid responded made me ask, "So, is this your father?" The man and his companion looked at me with some surprise, and told me their son had never heard that word before. It was as if I should have understood as much.

There's a message there somewhere.

Keillor's getting the message too. Mark Shea reports that "Dan Savage replies by raving like a flaming drama queen and Andrew Sullivan's One Man Magisterium declares Keillor a homophobe. All because the old liberal who has made it clear he supports gay marriage has also dared to observe that, you know, it's not all about you."

No, it isn't. That's what having a family means, by any definition. It's hard enough when you're divorced against your wishes, and your son has to split holiday visits from an early age. You learn how little sense it makes. So you have to remind yourself that this isn't how it should be, so it is, so you make the best of it. Because once you forget the way things ought to be, you end up thinking it ought to be something else. You lower the bar for yourself, you lower it for your progeny. Then it's no longer about the children. And the children become who you are.

And you don't want that to be too chilling a thought, when you youself become one of those "older people." Because if nature doesn't care, at least your children will know to care. Don't you think?

Or don't you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kieller makes a lot of sense. Maybe that's why he's either loved or hated.