Tuesday, October 15, 2013
No, I would resent being the "insurance policy" for others, but it could become necessary to live at all
I’ve said to myself before, that I resent being someone else’s “insurance policy” because I didn’t have my own family. Without going into all the details right now, I’ll say that this kind of thing has happened at various times in the past, including in the workplace. That was the real second-class citizenship, before the gay marriage debate.
The current crisis in Washington, as would any crisis (like a WMD terror attack or huge natural disaster) could, of course, put me in the position of having to provide for others whom I did not choose to be around. Yes, I suppose that if I were in that position, I should be grateful. It’s very double edged.
There’s a question of character here. Do I feel reward just from helping someone who needs some sort of provision or attention? Not the reward I want. It’s partly because I do find conventional “social competition” humiliating. So I live in my own world, where there is a lot of fantasy and content. But it can be taken away, by external catastrophes from without.
I am in a morally precarious position. Yes, I have depended on the hidden sacrifices of others. And I’m not willing to “sacrifice” simply when asked to. That sacrifice could be emotional as well as financial or expressive. Yes, I make a lot of “second class station in life”, but really that started when I was not able to compete with other males physically. So I engage in “upward affiliation”. Am I willing to “love” someone who has “failed,” perhaps because of bad luck or the wrongful actions of others. When it comes to be willing to show emotion for others, I am visual. I hope no one shoots me in the eyes, or that I don’t wake up some day with a detached retina. (I once did give a ride to the doctor for another substitute teacher who had!) I react to people on what I see. There are no victims, no allowances. The world I see is pass-fail. Yet, I can understand how those a little better endowed think that someone like me should accept submission (not creatively, as with the Rosenfels polarities, but in terms of actual life station)
Of course, in the usual sense it is my right to have a relationship with any consenting adult, and to refuse a relationship, just as others have the same right. But this concern is not about rights, responsibilities, and justice in the narrow sense of everyday life. This is about whether a community is cohesive enough that it can sustain reasonable liberty when it faces tough, life-changing challenges. That makes everything look very different.
So, yes, the ability to “love when you have to” and “step up” to it, does support the ability to marry, remain interested in one person for a lifetime, and raise children, and take care of other generations or of others in general when they “fail” or the world fails them. It can work in a same-sex context. But it is easier for women. It’s hard for men to accept this, when it’s important to learn to compete and prevail first, whether on the gridiron or concert hall. Not everyone will be able to do that. Marriage is the result of processes that need to happen, not the cause.
I think that my expulsion from William and Mary in November 1961 (posting Nov. 28, 2006) was partly motivated by the hidden message of my “admission” (when baited) to the Dean of Men in that sudden Friday evening (day after Thanksgiving) meeting that I was “latent homosexual”. No, I hadn’t done anything. But I had essentially announced that I, an only child, would give my parents no progeny. In their frame of reference, that was like a verbal nuclear weapon. Since I had “lost” the social competition, I would no longer stay on the scene and simply help bond with others who were also “uncompetitive”. The same sort of idea surface a year later when I was a patient at NIH. The therapists were very concerned about the source of pleasure in my “fantasy life”, not because I would do harm, but because of the meaning. If It was acceptable for me to refuse to love someone who was unattractive, then in a larger political sense, the “losers” might have no place in the world. The mere acceptability of announcing this sort of intention could be an invitation to new political tyranny and authoritarianism. If it wasn’t just what had gone on in Nazi Germany, it had gone on in Sparta.
Without going into a lot of personal detail, I can remember that this sort of issue came up even with my own period of heterosexual dating in 1971. There was an idea that one needs family, and needs to be able to pass the torch on to others (like children) if times get hard. Marriage is sort of a safety net, not just for oneself, but for everyone else around you.
The dangers lurking around outside my inner sanctum do make me ponder these ideas. They do help explain why at some points in my life, people have knocked and walked through the door and behaved intrusively.