Monday, July 05, 2010

Independence Day Thoughts from London....

This is the second year in a row that I have celebrated the Fourth of July from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in London. The city doesn't do much to mark the occasion. A few pubs will hang American flags out front in hopes of attracting wandering tourists. 

The American Military Memorial Chapel in Westminster Abbey gets a slightly larger number of visitors than usual. Other than that, it was just another Summer Sunday here in London.   

The day before on other hand was a different story, there were tens of thousands of people massed on the streets of central London Trafalgar Square was standing room only as various music acts and celebrities appeared on a stage and huge video monitors. As Eric and I made our way through the crowd I overheard one elderly American tourist ask her companion; "is all this for the Fourth of July?" Her friend replied she thought it must be. I didn't have the heart to tell them they had wandered into the middle of London's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay Bi-Sexual and Trans-gender) Pride celebration.

I will confess a certain ambivalence toward Pride celebrations in the U.S. this year. Part of it stems from the fact that I am in London partially by choice, and mostly by necessity. As travelling to the UK is far easier for me, than travelling to the US is for Eric. When I get asked at Heathrow Airport; "What is the purpose of your visit the UK?" I smile and say I am here to visit my Fiancé who is a UK Permanent Resident. At this point the UK Immigration officer invariably smiles and says; "that's nice, how long have you been engaged to her or him?"

Yes you read that correctly, they say "her or him". I smile and say how long I have known Eric and how long I will be staying in the UK on this visit. Often times I will get "congratulations", and once the immigration official who actually remembered me from my numerous other trips through Heathrow Passport Control, said; "tell Eric hello from us!"

It's amazing how the addition of that one little word "him", didn't cause the sky to fall on to the United Kingdom. Frogs didn't fall from the sky, the Earth didn't open up and spew lava all over Central London. At UK Border & Customs control, recognition of the dignity and equality of same sex couples is as ordinary as asking if you have any taxable good to declare.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the Atlantic the very idea that Same Sex couples might deserve the same BASIC civil rights and protections as everyone else is a subject of more debate than proposal to declare independence from Great Britain provoked back in 1776.

Fast forward to 2010, for the Republican Party and the "Tea Party Movement" they have manufactured,  the idea that Gay and Lesbian Americans (who pay the same taxes as everyone else yet are denied the same basic civil rights) might be allowed to get married, is tantamount to the world coming to an end.

So the GOP demands that the United States continue to cling to a law that prevents any recognition of Same Sex couples by the Federal Government. Of course I am talking about the ridiculously mis-named "Defense of Marriage Act." (DOMA) It provides the legal excuse for the United States to discriminate against us and over 40,000 bi-national same sex couples just like us.

The Republican "tea baggers" have a problem with me wanting to get married. It is the fact that the person I love has the audacity to be the same gender as I am. Now if Eric was female then Uncle Sam would give us his blessing no questions asked. I would be able to sponsor my fiancé for permanent residency in the U.S. and my government ( that I support through my taxes), would beam it's approval down upon us both. But the fact that Eric is a man just as I am, means that as far as my government is concerned , our relationship doesn't even exist.

All this despite the clear promises my President has made to the contrary.

So on this  Independence  Day  weekend,  as I  look back  across the Atlantic, I see an  irrational  fixation  by  Conservatives  to deny me and  millions of Americans  like me  the same basic  right  to  the  "pursuit  of happiness " they  claim to hold so  dear.  

Here in London I see  the  Armed Forces  of  Great Britain marching  proudly in London's  LBGT Pride parade  and instead of  the hysterical cries of  lunatic  homophobes,  I heard the  boisterous  cheers of  pride and support from tens of  thousands of  Londoners.

Now,  I really don't  want to leave my country.   Unlike  Sarah Palin and the scared gullible bigots that  hang on her every sad pathetic twitter posting,  I  really do  believe  that the  greatness of  the Unites States lies in our diversity.  "E Pluribus  Unum" - Out of Many , One.    Yet  for me to do something as basic as get married to the person I love,  I have to do just that.   Leave my country.

So I am moving to the United Kingdom.  Because unlike in 1776, in 2010 it is the people of Great Britain who have more civil rights and greater freedom than Americans do.  Unlike in 1776, in 2010 it is the American Government, not the British Crown,  that subjects its people to unfair taxation without representation.  Unlike in 1776, it is The United States of America that has politicians  seeking to preserve a status quo of inequality and treats groups of its own citizens unfairly.

In 2010,  the only quote by Thomas Jefferson  the  Republicans like to remember is the one about  'watering  the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants.'  Everything else Jefferson said on human rights, and the innate dignity of every person,  they like to forget.

In 2010  the  Republican Party and  "tea bagger" monster it has created  have abandoned John Adams' vision of America  as  the beacon of freedom for the world.  Instead,  they have a  scared, narrow vision of  America as  a place of freedom  only for some.  Everyone else, (especially if your skin happens to be a darker hue,  or worse, you  don't worship their idea of God in the way they prescribe ),  is suspect and therefore "un-American".

I look across the Atlantic  and I see  a country  which remains  determined  to treat me and the person I love  as something less than equal.   A country  that  gives credence to lunatics who claim that granting me the same basic civil rights as everyone else would bring about  nothing less than the destruction of the country and possibly even the world.  

How do you respond to that kind of  irrational hatred?

I can't help but wonder  what  John Adams would now think of  the nation he helped start .  He probably  would still be asking the question he asked back in  1776.  The same question I am asking as I look across the Atlantic and see  the Republican Party, a  party I once supported, allow itself  to become the standard bearer for  hatred, racism, xenophobia  and  bigotry;  Is anybody there?   Does  anybody care?.  Does anybody see,  what  I see?

When I hear clueless ignorant wingnuts, in their opposition to marriage equality say; "Same sex couples can draft contracts that give them the same rights as everybody else. We don't need to repeal DOMA, it's hard not to throw things at the t.v. Same sex couples in the U.S. are anything BUT equal.

So unless President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party suddenly grow a spine and decide to keep all those wonderful promises about equality they made back in 2008, I am am stuck choosing between love or country. After years of a trying to make a long distance relationship work, the choice has been made very clear.   So  as I waved my American Flag in Central London yesterday,  I  was all the while  acutely  aware  of  what  I must do to have those inalienable rights to  "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."   Country must lose.

Happy Independence Day everyone.

Dave & Eric.

1 comment:

Matt Fisher said...


Very eloquent and very powerful. All I can add is "Amen."

(and I am choosing religious language very deliberately...)