In the spirit of Valentine’s Day past, I’ll start with a lay-out of the menu: take-out from our favorite pig joint to include pork short ribs in Asian-buffalo sauce, soft bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños in a sweet drizzle, and a pinkish pork tenderloin topped with a figgy apple drench. Probably a little more sugar than I should have, but totally worth the V-Day splurge.
Here lay the difference between this Valentine’s and previous: it was a dinner shared with my 19-year-old son, home from college to do some laundry.
I don’t mind it… this state of relationship-less-ness (if that’s not a word, it should be); it’s not necessarily a better state, just one that grants me a little more openness. And as I look back on my Post Valentines Reminiscence of last year and the opening of one sort, I’m looking now to an opening of another. In last year’s post, I wrote about a lovers’ cookbook that included stories of heterosexual lovers and their food experiences, and in the end, wished for a cookbook that laid side-by-side the diversity of all committed, loving relationships. I didn’t make it into the bookstore this year to see if my wish had yet come true, but I’m guessing we’re not quite there.
We’re not quite there.
And this year, by we I mean ALL of humanity… not just the U.S. piece of it. Sochi has helped us understand the dangerous ignorance that exists in much of the world… still. Then there’s this map that shows us the countries where gay relationships are a punishable crime. I don’t think many of us take a good-thing-we-don’t-live-there attitude, but I wonder how much any of us commit to what doesn’t touch us directly. And here I’d like to step away from strictly gay relationships and reflect on our relationship to any in this world.
Edward Snowden has become something of a national hero to many of us, myself included. His revelations awakened us to the effects of a waning democracy that relinquishes its core values and freedoms to the desires of giant corporations garnering more and more of the nation’s wealth with every act of espionage made on their behalf. We’ve seen a populace rise up in grassroots action—actions including petitions for Snowden’s clemency, bus campaigns, marching and picketing, and, no doubt, hundreds of thousands of letters. It marks something of a renewed commitment to a government by the people that protects the people from the manipulations of the powerful elite. I’m not sure that there’s enough of us participating, but there’s enough that it’s got the political powerhouses of both parties scrambling. Their fear is noted in the heightened shrills of their propaganda. It’s lovely, really.
But I find myself wondering about a few other whistleblowers who’ve gotten comparatively little attention for their commitments to truth and humanity—whose lives are restricted by a bondage far more limiting than anything Snowden has, as yet, endured. That’s not to take anything away from Snowden… I don’t imagine that he experiences much real freedom in Russia, and the little he has is limited in time. But compared to the incarceration of Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond, or the detention of Julian Assange, restricting his movement to a small apartment-size locale, we assume that at the very least, Snowden can walk outside whatever he calls home. Why, by comparison, so little indignation for Manning and Hammond and Assange?
Last month, The Guardian posted an article attempting to answer that very question. The difference, as writer Michael Ratner sees it, is simply in the direction of sympathies. By all accounts, the information that all three disclosed is equally damning of government behaviors as that disclosed by Snowden, but they diverge in the who of impact. Snowden revelations shed light on activities directed at the American people. Assange, Manning, and Hammond revelations had far more to do with illegalities impacting the populations of other nations.
So it would seem that our sympathies extend only so far as our borders. Humanity on the other side, as well as its defenders, remains interminably invisible—as if, somehow, those of us born in this country of a few remaining protections did something to deserve our place here; as if there is more than an arbitrary line created by wars past that is fast thinning to corporate lobbyists who spin their billions into legislation that compromises national sovereignty; as if a government that will commit atrocities in the name of profit in other countries won’t ultimately turn those same atrocities on its own people, poisoning their food and reducing their livelihood to a penance. As if humanity isn’t shared, after all.
Last Valentine’s Day I longed for a cookbook that validated all loving relationships—that offered up quotes on food and love and relationships by gay men, lesbians, and transgendered men and women and laid them beside the quotes of heterosexual lovers. A book that said love is love, no matter the gender distinctions. I still long for such a book. But now I want another. One that lays the injustices committed against the Iraqi people aside Afghans and Pakistanis and Mexicans and Americans and Native Americans. One that says an injustice there is no different from an injustice here, except, perhaps, in its severity; our humanity is one. Until we can write such a book, not one of us is truly free.