Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prop. 8 upheld by Ca Supreme Court

As many of us expected the CA Supreme Court upheld Prpp 8 while also allowing the gay couples that were married last year to remain married. Of course this is less of an ending than it is one moment in a longer narrative, so while disappointed I remain hopeful, and committed to the project of interfaith dialogue, and of working towards understanding in the Mormon community and the broader community. Below are some thoughts towards a progressive Mormon response to the decision:

1) As a Mormon I believe the emotional and spiritual growth, the life experience, the nurturing and acceptance we experience as members of strong, loving families is joyous, necessary and an expression of God's hope for all of us. Yet we live in a society that values some families more than others. I reject the idea that families with same-sex partners are any less vital, any less loving, any less able to nurture their members, any less deserving of recognition or protection than heterosexual families.

2) As a Mormon I am moved by the recognition that both the Mormon and gay communities have experienced the agony of misunderstanding, marginalization, violence, and persecution. Communities that share the pain of common histories and status as "outsiders" have a unique opportunity to come together; to empathize with each other, and to heal one another; to work together for the advancement of inclusive communities, and for the defeat of prejudice for the benefit of us all.

3) As a Mormon, I am lead by the essential Christian idea that the great commandment consists of a full commitment to God and to loving my neighbor as myself. This is not merely a feel-good truism; it establishes the very foundation of Christian ethics that call us into relationship with God and those who are different from ourselves. The way we listen to, engage with, and treat those who are radically different from us is a true test of our commitment to Christ. It's not enough that we be "tolerant" while living in judgment of and isolation from one another. Christian ethics insists that we allow our lives to be intertwined with the lives of those around us, even those who are radically different.

4) As a Mormon I see ethical dialogue as a way forward in difficult times. This is dialogue that originates from our commitment to community ethics and from a desire for mutual understanding. This is dialogue that seeks to include, to listen, and to guide us in doing our best for those around us. The Mormon community does not benefit when people respond to us based on stereotypes and fear. Nor does it benefit us to respond to other communities in such a way. Fear is never a legitimate basis of action. Dialogue is a tool for putting aside fear and building ethical and democratic communities.

In the short term I know there is a great deal of work to do. As one person I commit myself to dialogue, to community building and to resisting those voices that encourage us to fear one another. The lives and relationships of gay people embody the same dignity, love, respect, understanding, nurturing, and spiritual potential as those of straight people. I acknowledge this and hope that others will too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Mirror Turns 35

I put film and aesthetics in the title of this blog but I have yet to write on aesthetics and my posts on film are limited to my own efforts. So here is the perfect excuse to write about Aesthetics and film.

Andri Tarkovsky's renound work The Mirror is 35 years old in 2009.

The Mirror has held a critical place in my imagination since first seeing the image of the woman on the fence, the wind moving through the trees and other images. The film is an example, maybe the best example there is, of poetic narrative cinema. It sets the bar high for those who want to work in that way.

The film does have something of a narrative arc,it presents characters and events but the organization and presentation is based on the emotional experiences and memories of the characters, rather than on traditional story structure. In its best moments it comes as close as any art form can to presenting individual consciousness and memory as such.

Granted this type of film leads to great confusion for viewers who come to it with traditional expectations about how a story is to be presented to an audience. In this film its difficult to tell who the characters are and even what some of the relationships are between them. The film moves fluidly between different times, sometimes announcing this movement, other times not. What is interesting is that on the level of plot many viewers would conclude that the film is a total mess. Be that as it may, on the level of emotional structure, and refinement of the image The Mirror is an amazing work. It's completely enthralling, its a beautiful slow lament mulling life lived. Its also amazingly liberating to experience, anythings seems possible, and greatness is made to look easy.

Here is part of the opening sequence from you tube.

Long Beach Film Festival

Had some fun this weekend at the Qfilm festival. Susan and I went down for the screening and Q&A. We were joined by composer Douglas Romayne, who did the music for The constant Process. As it was mother's day attendance was a bit light, but the audience was very supportive. The Art theater in Long Beach is a wonderful venue and the organizers are putting on a serious festival. The Q&A was lead by a wonderful moderator who did a great job fostering discussion.

The Constant Process was screened with the feature length documentary For My Wife, a film that tells some heart breaking stories of Gay and Lesbian couples facing discrimination in critical situations such as when one partner lay dying in the ER and the hospital staff refuses to let the other partner into the room. Or after the partner has died and the funeral director refuses to speak with the living partner, or refuses to turn over the ashes. One story that was really remarkable was of a woman who's partner died of cancer and was cremated. The women had done everything right, legally speaking, the funeral director acknowledged as much but decided he would rather disregard the legality of the situation, rather than turn over the urn to a member of a same sex couple.

These are the sort of stories that give strength to the idea that communities with common histories of persecution and misunderstanding have a unique opportunity to empathize with and help one another. Its a given that most Mormons are against gay marriage. But this shouldn't mean that Mormons participate in a sort of de facto support of the kind of cruelty and discrimination that the film For My Wife chronicles, by working against gay marriage and being largely silent on domestic partnerships and other legal protections that can help same sex couples in these kind of situations.

Does our cultural emphasis on a certain type of family mean that we don't see or are not aware of families headed by single parents, interracial families, poor families, families with a father in prison, broken families, or same sex families?