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KNOW HOPE

As Gandhi never quite said,

First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.

I remember one of the first TV debates I had on the then-strange question of civil marriage for gay couples. It was Crossfire, as I recall, and Gary Bauer’s response to my rather earnest argument after my TNR cover-story on the matter was laughter. “This is the loopiest idea ever to come down the pike,” he joked. “Why are we even discussing it?”

Those were isolating days. A young fellow named Evan Wolfson who had written a dissertation on the subject in 1983 got in touch, and the world immediately felt less lonely. Then a breakthrough in Hawaii, where the state supreme court ruled for marriage equality on gender equality grounds. No gay group had agreed to support the case, which was regarded at best as hopeless and at worst, a recipe for a massive backlash. A local straight attorney from the ACLU, Dan Foley, took it up instead, one of many straight men and women who helped make this happen. And when we won, and got our first fact on the ground, we indeed faced exactly that backlash and all the major gay rights groups refused to spend a dime on protecting the breakthrough … and we lost.

In fact, we lost and lost and lost again. Much of the gay left was deeply suspicious of this conservative-sounding reform; two thirds of the country were opposed; the religious right saw in the issue a unique opportunity for political leverage – and over time, they put state constitutional amendments against marriage equality on the ballot in countless states, and won every time. Our allies deserted us. The Clintons embraced the Defense of Marriage Act, and their Justice Department declared that DOMA was in no way unconstitutional the morning some of us were testifying against it on Capitol Hill. For his part, president George W. Bush subsequently went even further and embraced the Federal Marriage Amendment to permanently ensure second-class citizenship for gay people in America. Those were dark, dark days.

I recall all this now simply to rebut the entire line of being “on the right side of history.” History does not have such straight lines. Movements do not move relentlessly forward; progress comes and, just as swiftly, goes. For many years, it felt like one step forward, two steps back. History is a miasma of contingency, and courage, and conviction, and chance.

But some things you know deep in your heart: that all human beings are made in the image of God; that their loves and lives are equally precious; that the pursuit of happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence has no meaning if it does not include the right to marry the person you love; and has no force if it denies that fundamental human freedom to a portion of its citizens. In the words of Hannah Arendt:

“The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs.”

This core truth is what Justice Kennedy affirmed today, for the majority: that gay people are human. I wrote the following in 1996:

Homosexuality, at its core, is about the emotional connection between two adult human beings. And what public institution is more central—more definitive—of that connection than marriage? The denial of marriage to gay people is therefore not a minor issue. It is the entire issue. It is the most profound statement our society can make that homosexual love is simply not as good as heterosexual love; that gay lives and commitments and hopes are simply worth less. It cuts gay people off not merely from civic respect, but from the rituals and history of their own families and friends. It erases them not merely as citizens, but as human beings.

We are not disordered or sick or defective or evil – at least no more than our fellow humans in this vale of tears. We are born into family; we love; we marry; we take care of our children; we die. No civil institution is related to these deep human experiences more than civil marriage and the exclusion of gay people from this institution was a statement of our core inferiority not just as citizens but as human beings. It took courage to embrace this fact the way the Supreme Court did today. In that 1996 essay, I analogized to the slow end to the state bans on inter-racial marriage:

The process of integration—like today’s process of “coming out”—introduced the minority to the majority, and humanized them. Slowly, white people came to look at interracial couples and see love rather than sex, stability rather than breakdown. And black people came to see interracial couples not as a threat to their identity, but as a symbol of their humanity behind the falsifying carapace of race.

It could happen again. But it is not inevitable; and it won’t happen by itself. And, maybe sooner rather than later, the people who insist upon the centrality of gay marriage to every American’s equality will come to seem less marginal, or troublemaking, or “cultural,” or bent on ghettoizing themselves. They will seem merely like people who have been allowed to see the possibility of a larger human dignity and who cannot wait to achieve it.

I think of the gay kids in the future who, when they figure out they are different, will never know the deep psychic wound my generation – and every one before mine – lived through: the pain of knowing they could never be fully part of their own family, never be fully a citizen of their own country. I think, more acutely, of the decades and centuries of human shame and darkness and waste and terror that defined gay people’s lives for so long. And I think of all those who supported this movement who never lived to see this day, who died in the ashes from which this phoenix of a movement emerged. This momentous achievement is their victory too – for marriage, as Kennedy argued, endures past death.

I never believed this would happen in my lifetime when I wrote my first several TNR essays and then my book, Virtually Normal, and then the anthology and the hundreds and hundreds of talks and lectures and talk-shows and call-ins and blog-posts and articles in the 1990s and 2000s. I thought the book, at least, would be something I would have to leave behind me – secure in the knowledge that its arguments were, in fact, logically irrefutable, and would endure past my own death, at least somewhere. I never for a millisecond thought I would live to be married myself. Or that it would be possible for everyone, everyone in America.

But it has come to pass. All of it. In one fell, final swoop.

Know hope.

by ANDREW SULLIVAN

by john legend

When I saw Kalief Browder’s 2013 television interview, I wanted to meet him. He was 20 and had just come home from a more-than-thousand-day stay on Rikers. Like a lot of people I know who are disappeared by the system, Kalief seemed like the same 16-year-old he was when he went in, but he had an inner strength, an ability to stand up for himself that I deeply admired. He explained why he wouldn’t cop a plea for a crime he hadn’t committed, even if it meant facing 15 years in prison. Offered immediate release from Rikers’s notoriously grimy RNDC, after more than ten months spent in the Bing (solitary confinement), Kalief turned the prosecutor down. He didn’t think it was right to admit to something he’d never done. This weekend we learned that Kalief, who reportedly had no mental illness when he was arrested, killed himself.

New York failed Kalief. The list of things that went wrong in his case begins with his first encounter with the NYPD, whose practice of targeting black teens is well documented. The idea that being accused of stealing a backpack would lead to his arrest and detention would be absurd if it weren’t actually tragic. He should not have been tried as an adult, or had prosecutors, defenders, and judges so overwhelmed with cases that he waited three years for trial, violating his constitutional right to swift justice. He should not have been held in an adult jail where he would spend 700 to 800 days of those three years in solitary confinement. He should not have spent one day being abused by guards or the others incarcerated there.

This Martin Luther King Day, Governor Cuomo publicly released findings from a task force he began last year to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the patterns and practices at Rikers violate the human rights of adolescent males in jail. Rikers shouldn’t even have a youth unit. The RNDC, where Kalief spent three years, where 18-year-old Kenan Davis hanged himself this week, should not exist. Right now legislators in Albany are considering legislation that would end the automatic prosecution of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, and remove youths like Kalief from Rikers and other jails throughout the state. Kalief died because our system is broken, and lawmakers can act now to stop tragedies like this in the future.

GREGORY PORTER

There will be no love that’s dying here
The bird that flew in through my window
Simply lost his way.
He broke his wing I helped him heal and then he flew away

Well the death of love is everywhere
But I wont let it be,
There will be no love dying here for me.
There will be no love that’s dying here

The mirror that fell from the wall was raggedy that’s all,
It rests upon a rusty nail
Before it made it’s fall

Well the bones of love are every where
but I wont let it be,
There will be no love dying here for me.
There will be no that’s dying here

Four flowers in my asian faces, not a sign we’re dead
I payed for three a sweet old lady gave me four instead

There’s some doubt that’s out about this love but I wont let it be,
There will be no love that’s dying here for me.
There will be no love that’s dying here

The bird that flew in through my window
Simply lost his way
He broke his wing I helped him heal and then he flew away

Well the death of love is everywhere
But I wont let it be,
There will be no love dying here for me
No-o-o-o oh
There will be no love that’s dying for me

There will be no love that’s dying for you and me
Oh there will be no love dying here
No-o not for me
There will be no love that’s dying here
No-o-o
There will be no love that’s dying here

No no no no no no no no no no no
There will be no lo-o-o-ve dying for me.

Read more: Gregory Porter – No Love Dying Lyrics

1000 nights

the tonys r finished
and tears fell freely
as kelli ohara reminded me
we humans need each other

i read a story
in the new yorker
so gut wrenchingly raw
i wrote the author

she connected me
with kalief
an adopted boy
my owns son age

he just finished his first year of college
he did very well
i am proud
of my sons

which one landed in my lap
what radom act of god
placed u in my path
the two of us

so in a suit
he showed up at the view
shiny and sweet
i hugged him tight

1000 days and nights
in adult prison
2 years in the hole
tortured raped starved

just sixteen years old
when he was stolen
off the streets
put in a cage

i hold him
i touch his head
i tell him he is beautiful
he is

i love him
i microwave intensity love him
i vow to the light i will keep him safe
sign my name to his soul

like so many others
cheering him on
thru the darkest of tunnels
toward the sun

his mom who adopted kalief –
her youngest boy
the 7th of 7
who found him hanging yesterday

outside the window
of the apartment they shared
the electric cord
his noose

he came to my home for dinner
smiling from deep down
he told me he met jay z
this one – i thought – would be spared

against all odds
this man child
who refused to say he stole
when he did not

this kalief –
was made of strong stuff
a leader – a prince
a son – 24601

he had a birthday last week
got him an amazon gift card
thursday night – in la
i bumped into jay z

i thanked him for meeting kalief
for reaching out
how maybe
we could help him further

i texted kalief
that i saw jay n kanye
and we spoke about HIM
his greatness

yesterday at 11:03
he texted me

K – Srry rosie i need sum time to myself

R – ok no problem !!! be well

K – Mental struggles thanks for understand

R- totally get it – i am a text away if u
need anything – peace – i love u

an hour later he was gone
i wish i had called
that i had soothed his fears
calmed his traumatized brain

tonight alone
back in my home
i realize
he is home too

1000 days
kalief survived
yesterday he surrendered
part of me has gone with him

my son
our sons
all
1000 days

joni mitchell always

Shadows And Light

Every picture has its shadows
And it has some source of light
Blindness blindness and sight
The perils of benefactors
The blessings of parasites
Blindness blindness and sight
Threatened by all things
Devil of cruelty
Drawn to all things
Devil of delight
Mythical devil of the ever-present laws
Governing blindness blindness and sight

Suntans in reservation dining rooms
Pale miners in their lantern rays
Night night and day
Hostage smile on presidents
Freedom scribbled in the subway
It’s like night night and day
Threatened by all things
God of cruelty
Drawn to all things
God of delight
Mythical god of the everlasting laws
Governing day day and night

Critics of all expression
Judges in black and white
Saying it’s wrong saying it’s right
Compelled by prescribed standards
Or some ideals we fight
For wrong wrong and right
Threatened by all things
Man of cruelty-mark of Cain
Drawn to all things
Man of delight-born again born again
Man of the laws the ever-broken laws
Governing wrong wrong and right
Governing wrong wrong and right
Wrong and right

joni mitchell 1975