Okay, so I have a soft spot for 80's music, so what? On a bitterly cold November Sunday, the only thing more comforting than Journey's "Faithfully" is perhaps Elton John's "Sacrifice," which, to me, is actually a brilliant piece of self-indulgent poetry. No, I don't do drugs--but I do enjoy listening to these (soy)-cheesy songs and ruminating just a bit. So, in honor of National Elton John Day (which I totally just made up), let's start with sacrifice, since the whole meaning of it has been percolating in my brain as of late...
The concept of sacrifice is based on the fact that I'm entitled to this. I'm entitled to eat animals, I'm entitled to get married, I'm entitled to have whatever car I want, as long as I want it. People seem to think that doing the right thing is a sacrifice. Is abstaining from marriage a sacrifice? Is not eating animals a sacrifice? Is car-pooling more often, getting a more eco-friendly vehicle, or choosing public transportation a sacrifice? Our touchstone in deciding whether we're entitled to do something is not whether we personally can afford it; it's whether everyone could do it and if so, whether the planet and all it's inhabitants could survive.
We have a nation which just elected the first African American president, yet same-sex couples are still not able to get married. Marriage itself is an institution that is based in handing over property (women). Oodles of years later, half the time marriage winds up falling apart anyway.
Instead of gay people seeking what straight people have, maybe straight people should consider seeking what (some smart) gay people have, to figure out their relationships in a way that makes sense for them, including taking into account what happens when the marriage falls apart. There is something so icky here--straight people get engaged, can't bare the idea of a pre-nuptial agreement, and then when they split up and sue each other over beach houses and stubborn pride, it's our tax money--and by "our" I'm including people who aren't married either by choice or force--that pays for the court's time. Here's a hint, engaged folks: Get a pre-nup! Or better yet, why not just consider the "pre" part and ditch the "nup." You wouldn't go into a business relationship without a contract. A romantic relationship is like a business relationship, except, if you're lucky, your romantic relationship also includes some nooky.
Now, I won't bore you with my in-depth feels about the entire institution of marriage. I will, however, point your attention to an essay called "I Do Not: Why I Won't Marry," written by straight woman Catherine Newman. This essay is full of many ingredients I look for in a story: a pinch of self-righteousness, a smear of radicalism, and a dollop of smart wit. But the author, who chose not to get married, has an annoying (and hypocritical) habit of making too-many crude meat-comparisons.
In a way, it was a breath of fresh air to read this essay, in which Newman uses this sensible rationale--"because the Religious Right and their Defense of Marriage Act use marriage as a vehicle for homophobic legislation"--as a reason for why she "does not." But then, she kept talking about things like "pulling the skin off a roast chicken and eating it right there in the kitchen, before the bird even makes it to the table," and several other gross things like that...things that made me wonder how someone can be so right-on with issues of unjust privilege, and recognize the necessity of standing in solidarity with gay people who aren't given marriage "rights," but then turn around and flippantly take the life of another animal. Gay people have continued to be subjugated throughout history, in ways such as not having the right to marry (though I'm not sure why they'd want to partake in something so deeply flawed, but they still should be able to make that decision for themselves), as well as the other end of the spectrum--violence and murder.
Speaking of violence and murder, vegans (those who choose not to consume beings who were murdered) are not "noble" because they are choosing not to take something that is not theirs to take in the first place. Just because we are given that unjust power does not mean we are virtuous for not using it. Same thing with marriage: by abstaining from the legal privileges it comes with, you are not making a huge gigantic sacrifice, though you are making a teeny tiny one (but a necessary one, nonetheless). More importantly, you are simply doing the right thing, and, much like Newman, making an important statement while you're at it. Now if Newman would only ditch the carcasses...
But by abstaining from eating animals even though you can eat one if you want, by not driving around in an gas-guzzling SUV, you are not sacrificing anything. It is our moral imperative in today's society to help preserve the earth and all the earthlings on it, and to do our part to not contribute to the degradation and commodification of the planet and the non-human animals.
We are currently faced with an economic crisis, and people are being forced to look at things from a slightly new angle, holding onto their assets like it's nobody's business (which it's not). If it's true that things have to fall apart before they can get fixed, then I certainly hope that the last decade has counted as falling apart, because bureaucracy and participatory patriarchy is so 2005.
As Sir Elton John once said... "And it's no sacrifice... no sacrifice at all."