Jesurgislac’s Journal

November 4, 2008

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Shine on, stone soup, shine on

I’ll go back to regular recipes next time. In fact, I have a plan to see if I can make vegan gluten-free cupcakes, with rosewater icing, so if it works, I’ll share. Also there’s my recipe for my special mashed potatoes which involves (besides potatoes and cheese) beets, carrots, onions, and beer. But I really need to get a new slow cooker (my old one died the death last week) or else dig out my multi-layer steamer, which requires much more mechanical coordination.

I’ve had a bunch of people telling me recently, with regard to same-sex marriage, that they don’t like families that don’t fit their ideas; they think the government and public schools ought to make clear to everyone that those families – parents and children – are inferior, not really families at all. And they think the parents and children in those families ought to suffer legal discrimination. Most of them point to their religion as the reason why they think these families ought to be mistreated and abused: they think that the government ought to enforce their religion on others, by law. Some of those people seem very nice: two of them even invited me to lunch, should I ever stray as far as Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, they are arguing that these families – these real parents, these all-too-real children – ought to suffer for their beliefs, and worse than that: in the unreal world these people live in, I am not at all sure that they have realised that the shadow stock images of parents and children they casually denigrate and dismiss are real people.

Arguing about whether nontraditional families deserve pity or tolerance is a little like the medieval debate about left-handedness as a mark of the devil. Divorce, remarriage, single parenthood, gay parents, and blended families simply are. They’re facts of our time. Some of the reasons listed by sociologists for these family reconstructions are: the idea of marriage as a romantic partnership rather than a pragmatic one; a shift in women’s expectations, from servility to self-respect and independence; and longevity (prior to antibiotics no marriage was expected to last many decades–in Colonial days the average couple lived to be married less than twelve years). Add to all this our growing sense of entitlement to happiness and safety from abuse. Most would agree these are all good things. Yet their result–a culture in which serial monogamy and the consequent reshaping of families are the norm–gets diagnosed as “failing.”
Once upon a time, a pair of beleaguered soldiers straggled home to a village empty-handed, in a land ruined by war. They were famished, but the villagers had so little they shouted evil words and slammed their doors. So the soldiers dragged out a big kettle, filled it with water, and put it on a fire to boil. They rolled a clean round stone into the pot, while the villagers peered through their curtains in amazement.

“What kind of soup is that?” they hooted.

“Stone soup,” the soldiers replied. “Everybody can have some when it’s done.”

“Well, thanks,” one matron grumbled, coming out with a shriveled carrot. “But it’d be better if you threw this in.”

And so on, of course, a vegetable at a time, until the whole suspicious village managed to feed itself grandly.

Any family is a big empty pot, save for what gets thrown in. Each stew turns out different. Generosity, a resolve to turn bad luck into good, and respect for variety–these things will nourish a nation of children. Name-calling and suspicion will not. My soup contains a rock or two of hard times, and maybe yours does too. I expect it’s a heck of a bouillabaise. -Barbara Kingsolver, Stone Soup

There’s a very remarkable post by a very remarkable evangelical Christian, Fred Clark, whom I have recently quoted to two or three of those nice people living in that unreal world:

The truth is that unreality is simply unsustainable. Maintaining one’s belief in an unreal and untrue theory takes too much work. The vigilant rejection of reality has to be, on some level, exhausting. Even the elaborate support structures provided by Fox News and AM radio cannot wholly shield one from the constant intrusions of the world that is. Denying the existence of that world requires more help than even the voluminous right-wing echo chamber can provide.

This, I think, is part of why we’re seeing such desperate vehemence at the Palin rallies. The crowd realizes that the unreality it has chosen cannot long survive if the majority of their fellow citizens and neighbors refuse to play along. As long as the entire crowd is choosing to “see” the emperor’s splendid new clothes, then it’s relatively easy to go along with that choice. But once the crowd reaches a tipping point, once the majority are choosing reality and the truth, then the emperor’s nakedness become impossible to deny. For those who have chosen bigotry, racism and xenophobia, this election represents just such a tipping point. They’re watching unreality slip through their fingers and they’re trying, desperately, to grasp it even tighter.

After this election, part of our task — yours, mine and our new president’s — will be to find a way to gently invite and welcome these folks back into the real world. My suspicion, or at least my hope, is that eventually, once they are unburdened by the need to constantly choose unreality and therefore stupidity, they will find this a great relief.

Well, I hope so. As I hope to wake tomorrow morning to find Barack Obama’s electoral victory is confirmed.

I hope.


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