Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11, 2008: Episode 3: Darkest Before the Dawn

3:54 AM: Time for bed.
Just got back from taking photographs of the quiet neighborhood. The sky overhead was orange-brown with illumination. Low, thick banks of clouds reflecting the streetlights from the Silicon Valley neighborhoods beneath. The pictures I took are ethereal.

In the few minutes before I go to sleep (I had hoped 4:00 AM Pacific time, 7:00 AM New York time), I came across an invitation to the 15th Anniversary party of a gay couple who will soon be celebrating their legal California marriage. I won’t be able to make it because I’ll be walking Out of the Darkness for suicide prevention that day. Yet I wish them the best.

It made me mindful of the accusations of degeneracy leveled at the United States by fundamentalist extremists of both the Christian religious right and Islamists. They may loathe each other theologically, yet they find each other allies in their mutual despite of homosexuality. Considering Islam permits multiple wives — a practical anathema to most American conservative Christians — one would hope their culture might be more understanding of recognizing and respecting unique cultural traditions and marriage customs. Lest others condemn their own practices in due turn.

Personally, I have studied enough cultures through history to be rather tolerant of whatever is seen as culturally acceptable, so long as everyone is being cared for interpersonally and societally, and no one is being abused in a relationship. In the past, Biblical kings kept hundreds of wives, and this was considered a “good thing.” Today, polygamists go to jail. Would they be permitted their religious beliefs, say, if they all were practicing Muslims? Overseas, yes. In the United States, “land of the free,” not so much.

There are many unorthodox marriages people manage and cope through on a day-to-day basis. Many familial structures work to some degree of functionality in real life, yet remain informal and unrecognized. Like gay marriage has been for a long while. Yet there have been “two dads and a mom,” or “two moms and a dad,” and similar non-traditional families for years and decades now. Divorce made the issue of "Dad #1 and Dad #2” more commonplace and, thus, familial relations became more convoluted.

Since the 1970s, the odds of having a step-mom or dad, and thus, step-siblings, has increasingly risen. Your birth mother and father may have split, and each may have gotten their own spouses. Some of them may even have gone through the divorce, remarriage, and children stage more than once. Others simply don’t even wait for marriage or divorce before they breed and give birth. Thus, the concept of what a “nuclear” family is these days is quite elastic.

So elastic that the thoughts of having multiple partners in a marriage would likely evoke a “so what?” from many people younger than 25 these days. Not that I am personally condoning or recommending such non-traditional family unions. For my own part, I believe it can be quite confusing and disconcerting for the adult partners in such a non-traditional relationship, never mind the stress and trauma caused to a child.

Yet the overall trend in Western society, and particularly in the United States, is towards a radically different definition of marriage than what is espoused by the most conservative of viewpoints. Demographics and majority consensus are just are not in step with their fierce declarations of “one man, one woman.” Especially as many teen mothers are finding “one woman, no man” to be typical, or even preferable.

4:53 AM: Done for now. Time for sleep. An hour later than before.

I’m not sure why in particular my thoughts are revolving so much around marriage in regards to 9/11, other than the fact that I am still unmarried and would have wished that, if anything had changed since 9/11, it would have been to have established a happy little family. Since 9/11, I have gotten niece & nephews. My siblings are having children. Me? Not yet. Need more dates first.

I suppose I was also thinking about the proverbial “72 virgins in paradise” commonly referred to in regards to Islamic extremists. That definitely would be a non-traditional arrangement.

Tonight, as I wandered around in my thoughts, I came across the concrete-filled pipes that protect the utility meters for each of the apartments in my complex at 360 Chiquita. Something about the darkness of the night allowed my eyes to play tricks on me. Before I knew it, I had snapped my camera phone, and, to my eyes there was a reasonable facsimile of two towers, much like those standing in Manhattan 7 years ago.

Right now, it is darkest before the dawn. Let’s see what the new day brings.

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