Friday, June 24, 2011

On Symbolism


[The Brooklyn Bridge]


I took this picture while I, Mother of the Year candidate that I am, let my daughter play in the East River (she's fine). I like the picture so much, a few months back I made it my computer wallpaper.

This morning, I was staring at my monitor, thinking about Albany, and it struck me. If the New York State Senate approves gay marriage, same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in New York. I'm slow on the uptake, sometimes.

Now, not to overlook the fact that millions of folks live Upstate or on Long Island, but New York City is pretty special. CENTER OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE special.

I grew up hating New York, because as every child of the Midwest knows, everybody in New York City is the villain from a 1980s movie. Also: Yankees suuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Having actually spent time in The City at this point in my life, I now know that exactly one of those two assertions is incorrect.

I've now met tons of ex-New Yorkers. I've learned from their [TW for ableist language. video opens at link] culture, or more to the point, cultures. It's definitely made me a better person.

I've learned to accept that the dominant culture in the US doesn't seem to fully appreciate fly-over land. Whatever, assholes. That just leaves more corn for us. (And if you think the Midwest is all corn, permit me to remind you: Yankees suuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.)

Having lived abroad, I'm pretty aware that the United States is actually comprised of two states: New York and San Angeles. It's struck me that most folks seem to have very strong feelings, one way or another, about those states.

And honestly, New York (which as far as most of the planet is concerned is a city attached to some vestigial wilderness) is the most American part of America. I don't mean that in a good way, or a bad way. It's just that New York is legendary as this Triangle Shirtwaist-Bodega-Coney Island-Gordon Gecko-Harlem Renaissance kinda place.

When I think of the original thirteen colonies, I recall New England as being run by Jesus types-- not the fun Jesus-types, mind you, but the boring-ass Stephen King kind. Virginia talked a good game, but I'm not so sure they ever wanted to be American in the first place. And as much as I love Pennsylvania, it's precisely the sort of cheap knockoff that you'd buy from some guy on Canal Street.

In other words, in the eyes of the world, New York is the United States. Sure, that's a colossal misconception, but when you consider the number of US residents whose ancestors called New York home at some point, I can think of more outlandish statements.

Sooner or later, gay couples in New York City, the densely populated expanse the world so often conflates with a state and a nation, will be allowed to marry.

As important as marriage equality is, it also has its own symbolic qualities. It is not the endgame in the struggle for universal human rights.

Marriage equality in New York, is, however, a big step in the right direction. Consider the alternative. What does the lack of equality in New York OF ALL PLACES say to the world about the US as a country?


UPDATE: Hells. Yeah.