A Word In Edgewise: There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding


The number of gays isn’t growing through some nefarious “homosexual agenda”, it is simply becoming visible, just as there are more people of color coming into positions of influence and authority throughout the country. But having invisible gays and people of color “out there” and having to accept their actual presences are two different things, and the reality is frightening to many. The price of success includes both victory and danger.

When I was in prep school and college there were, respectively, none and a handful of students of color. Homosexuality was not talked about out loud, so who knows how many gays there were? Today, gay students are out and proud, and freshmen of color comprise 42% of my college’s Class of 2016.

Fear of change, not empirical evidence, fuels the hatred of racists and homophobes. Editorializing on Vatican Radio, spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi likened gay marriage to polygamy and polyandry. “Monogamous marriage between a man and woman is an achievement of civilization,” Lombardi asserted. Never mind that for millennia before the Catholic Church existed there were many other ways for humans to bond. One theory is that back when hunter-gathers lived in groups, paternity did not matter–not because the people were sinful backsliders, but because the group raised the offspring. The introduction of agriculture, land ownership and questions of inheritance made it important who sired whom. In other cultures, polyandry, polygamy (reread the Bible) existed.

Writing in 1957, famed religious historian Mircea Eliade commented on the West’s coming into contact with ethnicities formerly regarded as part of the “primitive” world:“For some time past, the West has been no longer the only ‘Maker of History.’ Which means among other things, that Western culture will be in danger of a decline into a sterilizing provincialism if it despises or neglects the dialogue with the other cultures.”

As the world both broadens and constricts, westerners will increasingly face cultures and practices which they do not personally embrace. We do not have to accept and adjust, but the consequences of refusal will be dire.

Heed former first Lady Barbara Bush’s admonitions–they apply to both political parties and established religions as well: “They are going to have to compromise. It’s not a dirty word.”

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