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Spilled Milk: Evolving Door

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This post is the eighth in a series of Spilled Milk columns by Emmy Award-winning writer and producer William Lucas Walker that chronicle his journey through parenthood. Spilled Milk, which originates in The Huffington Post, appears on these pages every Saturday.
This post was originally published on June 15, 2012.

 

Sunday is Father’s Day, which this year happens to fall (delightfully) on my fourth wedding anniversary. Which got me thinking:

You know how you can watch a movie, then forget everything about it except for one scene that somehow sticks in your head for decades after? There’s a special archive in my brain for scenes like that, wedged between Favorite Smells and Humiliations at Costco.

One movie scene that’s lodged permanently in my “Best Of” archive is from a forgotten black-and-white picture shot in the forties. All I remember is a glamorous couple (like Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, but not) celebrating some huge piece of good news by tossing back their heads in laughter and toasting each other with martinis. Then digging into a couple of juicy, thick, perfectly-lit ribeye steaks.

I remember thinking, “One day, when I have something monumental to celebrate, that’s how I’m going to do it.” Which is why, about a month ago, I felt the compelling urge to take my young children out for martinis.

I found myself experiencing the kind of spontaneous, up-from-your-toes need to celebrate that follows giddy, unexpected, life-changing news: You’re pregnant. You’ve beat cancer. You’ve won the Super Bowl or a Tony Award for best orchestrations.

President Obama had just appeared on television, unexpectedly and in the middle of the day. Oh Lord, I thought, bracing myself for a bad-news lockdown. What’s going on? Are we declaring war again? Then a bleaker thought crossed my mind and I braced myself for the worst: he’s divorcing Michelle.

But it was good news, huge news, completely unexpected and deeply personal: After years of hedging (Obama called it evolving), he was finally coming out and saying that he believes my family has a legal right to exist. That Kelly and I have a right to be married, like every other parent in America who hasn’t already divorced. Most astonishingly, our president said this in the middle of a contentious election year.

Brave? Undeniably. Foolish? Possibly. Leadership? Yes.

Obama’s long, circular journey to endorsing gay marriage (or as I like to call it, marriage) reminded me of another classic movie moment, the familiar scene that seems mandatory for half the films set in New York City: a character gets stuck in a revolving door, spinning dizzily around and around until he’s finally spat out onto the sidewalk, gasping for air.

Like the hapless hero of those movies, our president had been stuck for nearly four years in his own evolving door, politically trapped in its endless spin. Until the fine, sunny day last month when his conscience finally spat him out onto the sidewalk of the 21st century.

In explaining his decision to Robin Roberts of ABC News, Obama cited dinner conversations with his young daughters:

You know, Malia and Sasha, they’ve got friends whose parents are same-sex couples. And I — you know, there have been times where Michelle and I have been sittin’ around the dinner table. And we’ve been talkin’ and — about their friends and their parents. And Malia and Sasha would — it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them. And — and frankly — that’s the kind of thing that prompts — a change of perspective. You know, not wanting to somehow explain to your child why somebody should be treated — differently, when it comes to — the eyes of the law.

As I watched, my neck began to throb from emotional whiplash. As Obama was making his announcement on my TV, still sitting on the coffee table in front of me was that morning’s paper, its headline blaring that North Carolinians had overwhelmingly voted that my husband and I would forever be marital outlaws in their state, despite being legally married in our own.

It wasn’t just same-sex marriage they were outlawing. No, the Tar Heels went to great lengths on election day to erase families like mine from any sort of legal recognition or protection in North Carolina by adding these words to their state constitution: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized,” banning in one fell swoop not only marriage, but civil unions and domestic partnerships too. They might as well have posted a sign outside the official North Carolina State Treehouse: No Homos Allowed. We. Don’t. Like. You.

On the Sunday after Obama made his historic announcement, a North Carolina minister named Charles Worley decried it, preaching this in his Sunday sermon:

I figured a way out. A way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers. Build a great big large fence. Fifty or a hundred miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and homosexuals. And have that fence electrified ’til they can’t get out. Feed ’em. And you know what? In a few years, they’ll die out….

There were lots of amens and hallelujahs.

As a parent, I wondered: When I’m saying prayers with my kids before they go to bed tonight, how am I going to explain that a minister of God who lives just a couple of hours from their grandparents’ house thinks we should all be dropped into a concentration camp and trapped behind an electric fence until we “die out”?

Answer: I’m not. I’m giving them ice cream instead. Three scoops each.

“You must feel awful about this,” friends had called to say. “You’re from North Carolina, right?”

South Carolina,” I corrected them. Emphatically. “I’m from South Carolina. My home state would neverenshrine that sort of discrimination into its constitution. Not in 2012.” Then I remembered, Oh yeah, South Carolina already did it. Six years ago.

Which, in a way, made the North Carolina news sort of nostalgic, in a queasy way. That sick sort of way you feel nostalgic when you run into someone you used to have feelings for, then remember the night they threw up on you.

Kelly and I travel to South Carolina with the kids to visit my family two or three times a year. I’m close to my family and love going home. Legally, though, it can be a mindbender. We fly out of Los Angeles as a legally married couple with two children and land at Columbia Airport as two unrelated strangers toting a couple of illegitimate who-knows-what-the-hell-they-are. Or as I prefer to call them, Elizabeth and James.

It can be genuinely nerve-wracking. When you’re a parent, in the back of your mind you’re forever planning contingencies for how you might handle emergencies that arise unexpectedly. It’s part of the job. For families like mine, it’s more complicated, especially in states that don’t recognize either our marriages or parental rights.

Say we happen to be in South Carolina (or North Carolina or any other state that proudly bans recognition of our family unit). And say the children and I are injured in a bad car accident. Will Kelly be recognized as my spouse? Or as our children’s parent? Would he be able to make medical or legal decisions for us? Or only the child he’s biologically related to? No way to know. It hasn’t been tested in the courts.

Outside the nine states that legally recognize our marriage, how our family might be treated in a crisis could easily come down to the luck of the draw. In other words, totally random. When laws are random or nonexistent, bad things can happen. In an emergency your fate can be determined by whatever law enforcement or medical authorities happened to show up that day. With whatever political and/or religious beliefs they happen to carry with them.

You’d like to believe their humanity would kick in, that they’d see your plight and be compassionate and helpful. That’s not always the case.

In 2007, Kelly’s college friends Jan and Lisa flew with their adopted children from Seattle to Miami to embark on a family vacation cruise. While Jan was below deck unpacking, Lisa suffered a brain aneurysm on the ship’s basketball court as their kids watched helplessly. Lisa was rushed to a hospital, a hospital that decided not to let Jan or the kids in to see her, because the women weren’t legally married and no federal or Florida law said they had to.

Lisa died that day, with the woman she loved and the kids they’d spent years raising together sitting helplessly not fifty feet away – for eight hours — on the other side of a wall. I remember standing in my living room in California a few days later, getting the call from Jan, still in shock, not just from Lisa’s sudden death, but the way she and their children had been treated in its aftermath.

I was stunned that such a thing could happen in America.

When Kelly and I return to South Carolina with the kids, I can’t help feeling iffy. These should be joyful trips to visit my parents and brothers for birthdays, graduations and holidays. But with no legal protections in place for the likes of us, anything could happen.

When we visited for Christmas a few years back, my brothers were also visiting with their wives and kids. We’re a big family and it was a very full house. Too full, so Kelly and I had made reservations to stay at a hotel near I-26. When my father heard this, he hesitated, then told us not to worry about that, saying we’d find a way to sleep everyone under his roof. But there aren’t enough beds, we pointed out. I assured him that we’d be fine sleeping, showering and changing clothes at a hotel.

“That’s not the problem,” he said after a moment, growing visibly uncomfortable. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll have George and his family stay at the hotel.”

“What difference does it make?” I persisted, thick as a board. It was a few seconds before he took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and finally answered: “Bill, I can’t help being your dad. You’ll see when you’re my age. It never ends. I know you’re grown and you’ve got a family of your own. But you’re still my son and no matter how old I get it’s still my job to protect you. And I’m not willing to chance the wrong person in this town seeing you and Kelly check into a hotel room with your kids.” He paused. “This isn’t California.”

I started to protest, then stopped myself. When my dad talks I usually try to listen, especially when it comes to people. He’s a retired doctor who practiced in my hometown for over fifty years. He treated everyone from the president of the cotton mill to the janitor at the gas station. Rich, poor, black, white, he’s known them all. And delivered many of their babies, probably a quarter of the town’s adult population. More than anyone else I can imagine I’d say my dad knows the hearts and minds of the locals. And if he thinks something bad could happen to us if we ran into the wrong person, it probably could. Luck of the draw.

My brother’s family ended up in the hotel.

On the night of Obama’s announcement, I heeded my gut’s call that it was a night to celebrate. We phoned our friends Andrew and Jonathan and their two kids and agreed to meet for martinis and a fancy steak dinner. In the end, I opted not to poison my children with alcohol. They had Sprite. And chicken tenders off the kids’ menu. And I remembered I hate martinis. I ordered the drink I always order, because it’s a favorite of my dad’s, bourbon and ginger-ale. And a plate of ribs. You can take the boy out of the South….

Two dads means Father’s Day is always a double-header at our house. But as I mentioned, this year it’s an even bigger deal because it falls on June 17, the anniversary of our wedding four years ago. Gay couples were only allowed to marry in California for five months, until Prop 8 took that right away. But we married the first day it was possible, because Kelly had a feeling something like that might happen. So we have an official license, signed by a priest, real witnesses and emblazoned with the California state seal. A license the state Supreme Court, after a challenge from the Prop 8 folks, ruled that no majority vote can ever take way from us.

Which makes Kelly and me feel happy and the kids feel safe.

Married. It’s a good word. It rolls off the tongue, two easy syllables, much less cumbersome than the words some would have define us. Like civil-unioned, or domestic-partnered, or Sodomites-the-Bible-says-should-be-taken-to-the-edge-of-town-and-stoned-to-death.

For most of this Sunday, Kelly and I will spend Father’s Day with our kids, celebrating our own fathers and the many ways they shaped us. Hopefully, our own children, the ones we struggle daily not to screw up, will proudly slip us handmade cards and art made out of toilet paper rolls and elbow macaroni that keeps coming unglued.

But that night I’m stealing my husband away. In honor of our marriage and the President’s historic, public support of it, I’m taking Kelly out for steaks, which he won’t eat because he doesn’t like beef. And martinis, which I won’t drink because they taste like gasoline.

Just like in the movies.

 

* * * * *

 

* * * * *

William Lucas Walker is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer whose television credits include Frasier, Will & Grace and Roseanne. He co-created the critically-acclaimed Showtime comedy The Chris Isaak Show. Bill and his husband Kelly are the parents of Elizabeth and James, born in 2001 and 2005. The children were gratified by the legal marriage of their parents in 2008, an event that rescued them from a life of ruinous bastardry.

Spilled Milk chronicles Bill’s misadventures in Daddyland. The first recurring humor column by a gay parent to appear in a mainstream American publication, Spilled Milk has regularly landed on the front page of The Huffington Post.

Follow William Lucas Walker on Twitter: @WmLucasWalker, @SpilledMilkWLW or Facebook: “Spilled Milk” by William Lucas Walker.       

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OPINION

‘Stop Bringing Up Nazis and Hitler’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Smacked Down by Democrats

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was strongly criticized by two Democratic Congressmen after the Georgia Republican’s remarks about “Ukrainian Nazis” and her attempts to paint Ukrainians as Nazis.

“Stop bringing up Nazis and Hitler,” U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) urged, after Greene’s remarks suggesting there is a large Nazi problem in Ukraine, during a House Oversight Committee hearing. “The only people who know about Nazis and Hitler are the 10 million people and their families who lost their loved ones, generations of people who were wiped out. It is enough of this disgusting behavior, using Nazis as propaganda. You want to talk about Nazis, get yourself over to the Holocaust Museum. You go see what Nazis did. It’s despicable that we use that and we allow it and we sit here like somehow it’s regular.”

Moskowitz began by telling the Committee his “grandparents escaped the Holocaust.”

“So my grandmother was part of the Kindertransport out of Germany. Her parents were killed in Auschwitz. My grandfather, her husband escaped Poland, from the pogroms,” he continued.

READ MORE: ‘Used by the Russians’: Moskowitz Mocks Comer’s Biden Impeachment Failure

“There are no concentration camps in Ukraine. They’re not taking babies and shooting them in the air ’cause they’re Jewish. There’s no gas chambers. There’s no ovens. They’re not railing people in, they’re not ripping gold out of people’s mouth. They’re not taking stuff out of their home. They’re not trying to erase a people. They’re Ukrainians.”

Greene’s remarks over the weekend had caused anger.

“It’s antisemitic to make Israeli aid contingent on funding Ukrainian Nazis,” Congresswoman Greene declared Sunday from her official government social media account, as legislation to support Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan moved to the top of Speaker Mike Johnson’s priority list in the wake of Iran’s attack on Israel. Her implication appeared to be Ukrainians are Nazis – a Putin talking point.

Greene on Wednesday spent several minutes again implying there are many Nazis in Ukraine, as she was refuted by a top scholar, Yale professor of history Timothy Snyder. Dr. Snyder is the author of a dozen books, including two on Nazis and the Holocaust, and is an expert on the Holocaust, Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and serves on the Council on Foreign Relations.

Responding to Greene’s remarks, Snyder told the lawmakers, “no far-right party has ever crossed three percent” in a Ukrainian election.

READ MORE: ‘Scared to Death’: GOP Ex-Congressman Brings Hammer Down on ‘Weak’ Trump

Greene was also criticized by U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL), who called her out for her “hypocrisy” and reminded her that in 2022 she “spoke at event led by white supremacists.”

That event was hosted by white supremacist Nick Fuentes:

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Big Journalism Fail’: Mainstream Media Blasted Over Coverage of Historic Trump Trial

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News

‘Used by the Russians’: Moskowitz Mocks Comer’s Biden Impeachment Failure

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After Democratic House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin blasted Republican Chairman Jim Comer, declaring “somebody needs therapy here” during a heated verbal brawl Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) mockingly urged committee members to come together to “begin Comer’s therapy session.”

In a viral three-minute walkthrough of the discredited far-right wing chairman’s efforts, including making false claims and use, as Moskowitz noted, Russian disinformation to try to build a case against President Joe Biden, the Florida Democrat appeared to put the final nail in the impeachment coffin.

Moskowitz told the committee members Chairman Comer has to “face the fact that he was taken by the Russians,” and “was used by the Russians.” He also noted the committee has “already lost” Comer “to Russian propaganda.”

“I mean, we got to build a forcefield around the Chairman to make sure we don’t lose him to Chinese propaganda as well.”

READ MORE: ‘Big Journalism Fail’: Mainstream Media Blasted Over Coverage of Historic Trump Trial

Moskowitz made clear, through his well-known wit, that Comer “no longer has impeachment” as an option to use against President Biden.

The video has gone viral, with over 175,000 views in just over one hour.

Read the transcript of Moskowitz’s remarks and watch the video below or at this link.

“Let me start by saying, obviously Chairman Comer’s not here, but I think in light of what we witnessed earlier, I think it’s important that together as a committee that we begin, Chairman Comer’s therapy session, right. You know, a member of the other side wanted to confirm what the title of the hearing was, right, Chinese propaganda. Well, we know the title of the hearing certainly isn’t about impeachment anymore. And Chairman Comer has suffered tremendous loss, and we all know in our life, what it’s like to suffer tremendous loss. There’s all sorts of different stages of grief and that’s the loss obviously, of his of his impeachment hearing. And everyone deals with that in different ways and sometimes it takes time to grieve and struggle and and fill that hole that void that now exists now that he no longer has impeachment.”

“The only way we as a committee are going to help Chairman Comer get better is we have to get to the root cause. Right? So for today’s therapy session, okay, I want to talk about denial. Right? The denial that the impeachment hearings are over, and the denial, obviously, that he started with the 1023 form, which was Russian disinformation. And so, you know, Chairman Comer’s psychology teaches us that, you know, someone might be like him, using denial as a defense mechanism. And signs include that you refuse to talk about the problem. You find ways to justify your behavior, you blame other people or outside forces for causing the problem. You persist in your behavior by consequences. You promise to address the problem, maybe in the future, or you avoid thinking about the problem. And so in addition to these signs that Chairman comer has been displaying, as we saw at the beginning, he also might be feeling hopeless or helpless.”

READ MORE: ‘Scared to Death’: GOP Ex-Congressman Brings Hammer Down on ‘Weak’ Trump

“I just want the chairman to know that we’re pulling for him. We really we really are. I know, I know. It’s been hard to become someone who was used by the Russians. But the good news is, is that he’s this hearing today on Chinese propaganda, because we’ve already lost him to Russian propaganda. I mean, we got to build a forcefield around the chairman to make sure we don’t lose him to Chinese propaganda, as well.”

“In fact, you can see behind me, these are quotes from the chairman, Chairman Comer. Every single solitary time and there are hundreds more that he went on TV in interviews and talked about this 1023 form, which was all Russian disinformation. But we gotta make the Chairman understand that it’s going to be okay. We will get him through this, but he’s got to recognize, gotta recognize that denial is not just a river in Egypt. He’s gonna have to face the fact that he was taken by the Russians.”

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OPINION

‘Big Journalism Fail’: Mainstream Media Blasted Over Coverage of Historic Trump Trial

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The media’s ability to shape public opinion is well-documented, and by the end of the second day of the first criminal trial in history of a former U.S. president critics are slamming the content, framing, and focus of mainstream media organizations. The biggest concerns: refusing to cover the former president’s apparent inability to stay awake in court, too much identifying information of potential and chosen jurors, and even subtle descriptions that can be used to feed into false perceptions the trial is “unfair” or, as the ex-president likes to say, a “scam.”

Overnight, CNN’s Oliver Darcy’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter blasted mainstream media outlets that “strangely show little interest in reporting on Donald Trump’s courtroom naps.”

“Imagine, for a moment, if President Joe Biden were to be caught openly sleeping at an important hearing,” Darcy posits. Trump was caught “nodding” off repeatedly several times over the first two days of trial (there is not trial Wednesdays). “Then imagine it were to occur at another important hearing the next day. Not only would right-wing media outlets like Fox News run wild with coverage questioning his fitness for office, mainstream news organizations would no doubt also treat the snooze fest as a serious news story. But, for some unknown reason, Donald Trump falling asleep at his historic criminal trial in New York (as he apparently did, again, on Tuesday) has been met with a rather muted response.”

READ MORE: SCOTUS Justices Appear to Want to Toss Obstruction Charges Against Some J6 Defendants: Experts

Noting, “It’s important,” Darcy asks, “why has much of the press fallen asleep at the wheel?” and serves up some examples – or lack thereof.

“ABC News and NBC News didn’t even bother mentioning it on their evening newscasts and many major outlets haven’t even filed straight stories on it. To be frank, if not for The NYT’s Maggie Haberman reporting on the matter Tuesday, it’s unclear whether the public — which is relying on news organizations to be its eyes and ears in the courtroom, given cameras are barred — would know about it.”

“It’s all the more bizarre given that Trump has made attacking ‘sleepy Joe’ a central tenet of his campaign, framing the president as lacking the stamina to serve in the nation’s highest office. Which is to say, the fact that Trump is the one apparently unable to stay awake in his own criminal trial isn’t a trivial story.”

Jennifer Schulze, a media critic who was a Chicago Sun-Times executive producer, WGN news director, and adjunct college professor of journalism, pointing to Darcy’s criticism, calls it “a big journalism fail.”

READ MORE: ‘Scared to Death’: GOP Ex-Congressman Brings Hammer Down on ‘Weak’ Trump

The ex-president is facing 34 felony counts for falsification of business records when he paid hush money to an adult film actress then allegedly tried to cover it up, which some say is election interference.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan is overseeing the Trump trial, and ordered the identities of all jurors and prospective jurors to remain anonymous. Trump has a proven track record of alleged attempts to intimidate witnesses, judges, prosecutors, and others involved in his trials.

Some are concerned the media went too far in posting and publishing some possibly identifying information internet sleuths could use to piece together their names.

“There is seriously far, far too much identifying information about prospective jurors, several of whom are now empaneled, coming out in the press,” warned attorney and author Luppe B. Luppen.

Here’s how Fox News host Jesse Watters used that information to target one empaneled juror, while attempting to discredit the trial.

Fox News’ Sean Hannity went after “Juror Number One,” who is the foreperson.

It is not just Fox News targeting jurors.

Even The New York Times’ coverage of jurors drew the ire of critics.

READ MORE: ‘Your Client Is a Criminal Defendant’: Judge Denies Trump Request to Skip Trial for SCOTUS

Here’s how The Times’ Jonah Bromwich reported on the jury foreperson:

“The foreperson who was just selected — that’s juror one, the de facto leader of the group who will likely help steer deliberations — works in sales and enjoys the outdoors. He is originally from Ireland, but will help decide the former American president’s fate.”

University of Wisconsin—Madison professor of political science, who has a Ph.D. in Government, criticized the Times’ reporting.

“100% certain if the foreperson were native born, they would not have written this sentence and used the formulation of ‘former president’ subtly implying the foreperson from Ireland is somehow not a real American.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

 

 

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