Tuesday, May 22, 2007

it still walks like a duck

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

News from Springfield today that the Illinois civil union bill ( HB 1826) has been purged of references to marriage, apparently in an effort to appease those on the right who won't be voting for the bill anyway. The story, by Erik Potter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reveals that an amendment by the bill's sponsor is calling for the 49 instances of the M-word that appear in the bill to be reduced to 3. The right claims this editing is an attempt to fool legislators into thinking this bill isn't about marriage. That's just silly, of course, as the language of the bill calls for same-sex couples to be given all the rights traditionally afforded to spouses. Specifically, the bill would give same-sex couples rights taken for granted by married couples, such as hospital visitation rights, medical decision-making capabilities, and inheritance, among others. No matter what you call it, it is sure starting to look and sound a lot like marriage.

The bill currently lacks the 60 votes it needs to pass, and the legislature adjourns at the end of the month, so it is unlikely that there'll be many Children of the Corn born to legally wedded same-sex couples in the near future. But still, we can hope.

What does it suggest that it is still so amazing that such a bill is out there, whether it passes or not? Kudos to Greg Harris, the only out gay Illinois legislator, for sponsoring it in the first place. Courage such as his is still rare. He seems to actually think a political career is about representing the interests of the people that elected you (blue Chicagoans) rather than people who can get you things (red downstaters).

Whether you are for marriage or against it for gays, straights, or anybody, you have to admit that there isn't much room for debate concerning the relative merits and detriments of marriage when it isn't even a right everyone can choose or reject in the first place. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and writing to reps, but even if the bill doesn't pass I can't help feeling as if this wave is coming. It may take years, but the conservatives are on the wrong side of this one, as they almost always are when it comes to civil rights issues.

The fact that we are even talking about getting enough votes to pass something like this in the heartland, that we are at that stage of seriousness, is happy news indeed.

Here is the link to the story, since I can't seem to get the link to work otherwise above:

Or you can click on my link and look for "civil unions" by Erik Potter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Happy New Year

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It's finally over. My first year of going back to school, taking exams, reading dense, boring prose for hours on end, watching terrible teaching and wonderful teaching, rolling my eyes at the sea of children in my classes, being humiliated, learning to think like a lawyer (supposedly). In class at 8:30 or 9 every morning, five days a week. Having two or three hour breaks in between morning and afternoon classes that went until 3, 4, or 5 some days, because this incredibly inefficient schedule was deemed to be "good for us." Sitting in a classroom with a frozen, patient smile on my face, being lectured at in front of other classmates who stare at the floor in embarrassed sympathy as a country judge excoriates me for not speaking louder at the podium (apparently no one will ever tell you during oral arguments if the auditorium acoustics are bad. Because it is somehow, always, your fault). Keeping the frozen smile as another volunteer judge, woman who works as a lawyer at the county courthouse, reminds me never to dress provocatively in a courtroom because it is a sexist place. This even though my clothes are so baggy and buttoned-up I might as well be wearing a burqua.

Over the humiliation of being spoken to scornfully by professors. Over the devastation of realizing after getting through forty-four years and a PhD without ever taking real exams, ever, I would have to take said exams, perform miserably, and learn how to take a test properly. Over having my life, my achievements, my career, my talents, matter not at all.

The most repeated phrase I heard this week in the halls? "You never have to be a one-L again."

This batch of exams went better, though the last was not my favorite. I hesitate to think I did better, but I think I did.

Before summer, one last job to do. I have to write something for one of the journals. There are several options, and I would be happy with any of them.

Next fall my schedule works out to three days a week. Some people I know have two-day schedules. I never have to have more than four, though, unless I want it. And that means more time working at home and less time away from it. Any way you look at it, that's a good thing.

The year is over. The summer is here. And I never, ever have to be a one-L again.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

One down, three to go

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A short post, because I really do need to pull a last-ditch effort not to fail Civil Procedure. Con Law exam was yesterday. I can't say how i did because my critical skills are inadequate when it comes to law school, but I really did try as hard as I could. In fact, I tried so hard that I felt depressed afterwards. What if no matter how hard I try, I just suck at this?

Which is why I then went to the gym and watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy from season two. Completely overstimulated, I thought about how the media takes extraordinary people and tries to make them seem just like "us." I mean, surgeons who go to Stanford are nothing like me, unless you count overeducation. Nothing. They are smart enough and talented enough and disciplined enough to go through doors that few of us will ever, ever have the chance to enter. You can go to school your whole life and still be mediocre compared to such people.

But Grey's Anatomy makes it all seem so . . . level, somehow. See that brainiac intern? She's brilliant and credentialed, but YOU have better interpersonal skills. See that world-class surgeon? He can't keep his marriage together. Aren't you glad you can? Look at all these doctors trying unsucessfully to balance work and a personal life! Aren't you glad you have a dead-end job and can see your kids/dogs/plants every night?

One of the emblematic shots in the opening credits shows two sets of feet touching in a hospital bed. That picture promises something most of us also never find in the real world: love and sex and meaningful work all in one place, symbolized by two people touching each other in a semi-private/public context. As if we want life and work to be so connected. Do we? Don't we?

Now, I know people in communications and media studies ask these questions all the time. Is television supposed to make us feel normal, not just in its content, but in our participation in its rituals? Because I think I experience it that way. I mean, when GF and I sit down at night to watch tv together, it's not as if we are sharing intimacy--in fact, she yells at me if I talk too much, which I often do, because I get a little lonely and bored. So what are we doing, exactly? We're not together, but we're not apart. We aren't in company, but we are somehow sharing something with an imagined community of people we will never meet or know. Is that what it is? Imagined community--like Benedict Anderson's theory of national identity? It would certainly explain why live network tv is so much more comforting than more divergent cable stations, and why GF and I seldom watch DVDs when we can flip through the channels.

Imagined community explains the appeal of shows like Grey's Anatomy, which are about being young and finding comeraderie in the Rat Race. It explains Seventh Heaven, a wretched show GF adores. I imagine that I watch them because I want to be like the other people watching them. Or at least, share something with the other people watching them. But what?

There are no gay characters on Grey's Anatomy--thought there are gay actors. This is probably part of the point. We are all watching and none of us feels like we can figure it all out, and we want imperfect perfect versions of who we might be, but aren't. Kind of like the theory that women buy more clothes when they hate their bodies than when they like them (do they ever like them?). We all feel inadequate, lonely, queer, poor, stupid, ugly, old, declasse, outmoded. These shows allow us to experience ourselves being constructed in this way, as yearning for a normal ideal and falling outside it at the same time. There is immense pleasure in this, and sorrow, which is also quite pleasurable. The shared sorrow of all of us who don't fit in--because none of us do, really, do we?--getting old, side by side without talking, in the Rat Race. Thinking about what it would be like if things were different, but not really wanting to change anything.

Anyway, there's no point to this musing, except to point out how oddly lonely and communal modern life seems. This may be particular to my being a 44-year-old lesbian stuck in school with 23-year-olds I almost never have a converstion with, or it may be more general than I think. Which is fine, because uncertainty about the universality of one's experience is, I think, the point of these shows, or at least, a big part of their appeal.

I think I'll go to the gym now, where I'll get on the elliptical machine, surrounded by people I will never speak to--and in fact who are usually freaked out if I accidentally talk to them in order to get a machine (they are 20 years old and wear tiny shorts with sorority letters across their asses. I should be the one screaming.). We will all face front, listening to our individual music players, watching the tvs in the front window, or, as in my case, watching our video ipods, and move our limbs in a strangely synchronized sea-dance under the blue light of the television screens, and the early May Scorpio moon.

Happy finals to all, and here's hoping there's a conversation or two at the end of the work--and workout--tunnel.