The South Is Young in Terms of Tolerant Progress
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The South Is Young in Terms of Tolerant Progress

May, 22, 2012 , by Marc Lewis

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Occasionally The South is reminded the distinctions that made it a capitalized region are not all beautiful. The South is seersucker and pretty girls and white sand and quiet corners of kudzu choked trees, but it is also a cultural child. And while the recent passage of Amendment One is not the face-marring scar of a beastly racial history, it is a blemish, an ode to The South’s adolescence. This is a place that holds yesterday’s views by the hand as if tradition were a blind child needing help across a busy road.

Amendment One chiseled into our constitution a definition of marriage that leaves little room for interpretation. Eventually the state will have a chance to try once more but for now the buttoned-up men who drafted the legislation, the ones who revel in the crushing clap of their loafers on legislative floors, have won. They have won because there are no answers for the unemployed or our veterans. They have won because we need something to divide us, something to do, so we separate the voting public with issues like Amendment One. Women and black people once grew tired of being the line on either side of which we fought, so a different minority takes its turn.

One of the sadder things about the passage of the Amendment is that the passage of the Amendment One no longer matters. Facebook forgot twelve hours later. Facebook, the forum where the next generation of leaders talk, was never much for momentum, but the fire and vigor that raged on status pages last week was quickly replaced by pictures of pets and dinners before the votes were counted. Facebook is but an empty well into which the Boomers' kids yell when the Boomers frustrate them. The kids just yell because the kids are not yet ready to lead.

Gay people will get married everywhere one day, just as today’s bus seats are open to all and bathrooms now corral the stench of various creeds. It will happen. A vote for or against Amendment One was simply a chance to accept what is coming and to stand on the right side of history. Not the right side of history in the sense of what is morally true or legally correct, because cases can be argued in every direction, but rather right in the sense of the side that will win. A vote against Amendment One was a chance for our generation, the furious Facebookers, to sit with our kids when they begin to study the formative issues our time and tell them we stood on the right side, even when we didn’t understand the issue or it made us uncomfortable.

The champions of Amendment One say a gay marriage will cheapen a straight marriage. If this is the case let them marry. We can then hire all our unemployed neighbors to lick envelopes when the notices of devaluation are mailed.

The South is still young in terms of progress—progress in the sense that what my neighbor does behind his wall does not matter unless the banging of his headboard keeps me up. The South is still young. With its seersucker pants cinched at the waist it sits on a porch and watches the green trees move in the hot air, waiting to grow up.

photo from Wikipedia








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  • Jim
    05/22 12:20 PM

    Well, some people in the South are “young” re: this. Majorities in 30+ states are, too, including California. At some point, it’s not about Southerness, and it’s more about the fact that acceptance of alt lifestyles is a fairly new trend everywhere. (At least on a statewide level everywhere).

  • Sharon Cox
    05/22 12:41 PM

    bathrooms now corral the stench of various creeds

  • Andrea
    05/22 01:58 PM

    Such a beautifully written piece Marc. You’re right about people “forgetting” about this issue too soon. One day everyone will catch up and realize that love is meant to be equal and not divvied up based on what the political suits decide.

  • Andrea
    05/22 01:58 PM

    Such a beautifully written piece Marc. You’re right about people forgetting about this issue too soon. One day everyone will catch up and realize that love is meant to be equal and not divvied up based on what the political suits decide.

  • Alice
    05/22 03:28 PM

    well done, mister lewis.

  • Andrew
    05/22 05:30 PM

    This all needs to be placed in context, and the context is this: NC is not much different not just from the rest of the South, but the rest of the country. A ballot initiative affirming marriage equality hasn’t passed anywhere, and no ballot initiative in favor of straight-only marriage has passed, either. If we’re 12, California is, what, 13? 14? Otherwise, this comes off either as self-loathing or cosmopolitan elitism by young, hip kids over dumb rednecks, and neither is helpful.

  • Javier
    05/22 11:11 PM

    The tone is correct, but the focus on the South is wrong. Over 31 states have anti-gay amendments, and about 40 states have voted against gay marriage in total when you include statutory prohibitions and the people’s veto of Maine’s unfulfilled same-sex marriage law. It has never won a statewide vote.  So, obviously viewing this as a Southern thing is erroneous.

  • Javier
    05/23 07:43 AM

    The tone and sentiment is correct, but the focus on the South is wrong. Over 31 states have anti-gay amendments, and about 40 states have voted against gay marriage in total when you include statutory prohibitions and the people’s veto of Maine’s unfulfilled same-sex marriage law. It has never won a statewide vote.  So, obviously viewing this as a Southern thing is erroneous.

  • RaleighRob
    05/23 10:59 AM

    ^Yes it is true 31 other states have banned same-sex marriage in their constitutions.  However, it’s worth noting that NC’s is one of the worst, because it banned civil unions & domestic partners as well.

    Yeah, California passed Prop 8, but in comparison it is mild.  Prop 8 banned marriage only, and California still has a (relatively) decent Domestic Partnership recognition.  Sure, it’s not great compared to full marriage, but it still makes NC look pretty backward in comparison.

  • gpd
    05/23 11:42 AM

    RaleighRob gets it.

  • Jay
    05/24 11:39 PM

    Gotta say this article is every bit as immature and obnoxious as the amendment itself is. It’s a clear example of why we do not have meaningful dialogue on such issues.

  • Jay
    05/24 11:42 PM

    Gotta say this article comes acroos as every bit equally immature and obnoxious as the amendment itself is. It’s a clear example of why we do not have meaningful dialogue on such issues. I really mean that. We’ll never get dialogue until we quit calling names and belittling others.

  • Jay
    05/24 11:45 PM

    This comes across as intentionally belittling to others, to me…oddly in much the same manner that the amendment itself does. Wish we’d stopp pointing fingers like this and work on having meaningful dialogue. Mr. Lewis, you could do better than this.

  • Jay
    05/24 11:47 PM

    This comes across to me as intentionally condescending toward others, oddly in much the same manner that the amendment itself does. Wish we’d stop pointing fingers like this and work on having meaningful dialogue. Mr. Lewis, you could do better than this.

  • CityBeautiful21
    05/25 10:42 AM

    This issue is broader than the South, but those suggesting there is not a particular Southern resistance to universal human rights that is different from the rest of the USA—are ignoring recent public policy developments in the rest of the USA that highlight that Southern state governments are particularly susceptible to trampling on the rights of our gay friends and neighbors.  The Guardian did the best visual homework on this.

    I tried to post a link but the site won’t let me.  Visit the Guardian website (UK paper) and look at the “Gay Rights in the US, by State” graphic.

    Click on the “Scale States by Population” to see how stark the contrast is between the South and virtually everywhere else.

    The broader point worth noting is that the South is not monolithic, and that as an analysis of the Amendment One vote at the Census Tract level shows, there is a considerable urban/rural divide on this issue in NC, and probably most other places in the US.  States (and counties) are fundamentally anachronisms that have little relevance to the way people live today, and they generally reflect the priorities of the rural view over the urban. NC is increasingly an urbanized state, and within 10-20 years, that will filter into the legislature and the types of laws promoted by state level legislators will change as well.

  • Esteban Colberto
    05/29 12:26 AM

    I like that I can go take a shit on Jesse Helm’s grave without having to get out of my Suburban.

  • Esteban Colberto
    05/29 12:27 AM

    I like that I can relieve myself on Jesse Helm’s grave without having to get out of my Suburban.

  • Gay Rapist
    05/29 12:29 AM

    I like that I can relieve myself on Jesse Helm’s resting place without having to get out of my Suburban.

  • Bob
    05/29 12:30 AM

    Hello, i am a web user

  • John Hampton
    06/20 10:38 PM

    “A vote for or against Amendment One was simply a chance to accept what is coming and to stand on the right side of history. Not the right side of history in the sense of what is morally true or legally correct, because cases can be argued in every direction, but rather right in the sense of the side that will win.”

    Thank you for writing this piece, Marc.  But moral relativism shouldn’t be asserted because uncovering the truth of ethical matters is difficult.  Doing so only undermine the intent of your piece: that Amendment 1 violates progress, which I assume means progress toward a more just society.

    Best,
    John

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