Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Love, True Love (Polemic) by Charles D. Phillips

Love, True Love
by Charles D. Phillips

William Goldman is a wonderful screenwriter. He won his first Oscar for his screenplay for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” He won his second for his work on “All the President’s Men.” Both were grand movies. But, the screenplay of his that I truly adore is “The Princess Bride.” It’s a grand tale filled with swordplay, giants, rodents of unusual size, the Dread Pirate Roberts, wizards who can bring the “mostly dead” back to life while contemplating the joy of an MLT (mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich), and kidnappers who compete at rhyming couplets.

All of these things, in combination with a tremendously talented cast, make it a charming movie that is a delight to watch again and again. These characteristics have also given it an extraordinarily long half-life. In 2007, the 20th anniversary of its initial release, it was rereleased. It is also listed in the American Film Institute’s top 100 film love stories and Bravo’s “100 Funniest Movies.” You can even download it on iTunes. More importantly three generations of my family, to a person, love it.

Though ostensibly written for children, the movie is really something more. What makes it more than a simple frolic is its subject. The Princess Bride is a story of love, true love, a love that last for years. This love weathers loss, pain, and separation. It is a love that never wavers. It is, in the end, the love we all want. Any who find love like this might as well give up on Powerball. They have already won one of life’s great lotteries.

The importance, the scarcity, and the sanctity of true love are what upset me most about the current same sex marriage debate and its politicization of love. One interpretation of the Democratic loss in 2004 that played relatively well in some circles was an interpretation that emphasized the role of the religious right and Karl Rove. Rove’s “canny” plan put same sex marriage in some states on the same ballot with John Kerry. This interpretation is now appropriately undergoing considerable revision. Evidence is growing that the 2004 loss may have had more to do with having a Democratic candidate atop the ballot who had as much ability as a Martian to connect with the “average” American voter competing against an extraordinarily average incumbent who convinced enough uneasy voters living under the cloud of 9/11 that he was at least something approaching “a wartime President.”

Immediately prior to the 2006 elections, the Democratic Party Chairman incorrectly quoted the party platform, saying that marriage is something that occurs between a man and a woman, to a right wing televangelist. By way of apology, he later said that the Democratic Party was not really a party of exclusion. That’s right. It’s not. But Howard Dean was perfectly happy for it to sound like one if it can garner the party a few votes in the process.

The most recent election was not really that much better. That election was about hope and about bringing the nation back together. But, both Obama and Biden support civil unions and are opposed to same-sex marriage. To quote Obama, “marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”

In reality, the sanctity of marriage in America has no place to go but up. It’s currently resting frighteningly close to rock bottom. With our current divorce rate, the idea that there is something sacred about what we heterosexuals have made of marriage in this country is no longer a tenable argument. I personally believe that adding same sex couples who have stayed together after weathering discrimination and all the unpleasant things that we do to gays and lesbians in our society to the ranks of the married will only make the institution stronger. This is not to say that all gay marriages, any more than traditional marriages, are based on true love. But, the idea that same gender unions might somehow debase marriage is laughable.

I know that marriage as an institution is deeply rooted in concerns about property and in gender dominance. But, let’s forget that for a few moments and be starry-eyed romantics. Marriage should be about love. Somewhere among those traditional marriages that do not fail and those unacknowledged same sex unions with no governmental support, we will find those lucky couples who have found true love. When one finds true love, what does one do? You celebrate and give thanks. You also do all you can to protect your true love from all possible threats.

What should our society do for those lucky enough to find true love? We should celebrate with them. We should also be sure that all same-sex true lovers have the same status and protection the law now so generously bestows on drunken, heterosexual fools who just met in Las Vegas and think being married by an Elvis impersonator would be a “way cool" story to tell the guys back in Poughkeepsie and the gals back in Muleshoe.

My preferred solution to the question of who should be married is that we only allow those to marry who have, or have a good likelihood of achieving, true love. I call this the “Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock” rule. Their divorce clock started ticking loudly the moment they said, “I do, I guess.” But, who would have thought that Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger might be candidates for true love. So, my preferred solution has a bit of a problem. We seem to lack a good test that will tell us who is, can, or will experience true love.

Luckily, others in the past have faced this type of problem. I suggest that our nation use a variant of a tried-and-true technique for differentiating the deserving from those who’re undeserving. It is also a rule that will maximize the number of marriages based on true love.

The most famous example of my proposed rule for whom should be allowed to marry comes from a 13th century Catholic stalwart. He captured a city rife with heretics but containing good Catholics as well. When faced with how to determine whom to kill, he famously said, “Kill them all, God will know his own.”

For our purposes, my version of this rule will be equally effective but less draconian. I suggest that we follow my variant of this rule in order to maximize the number of marriages based on true love, which is surely a good thing for any society.

The rule is simple. Marry them all – woman to man, woman to woman, and man to man. Love, true love will always find its own.

Editor's note: Earlier versions of this essay have appeared in BENT Magazine (an online literary Ezine out of Australia,) Events Weekly (no longer publishing), and been produced by Touchstone Radio and aired on KEOS, 89.1 FM, community radio.

Author bio:

Charles D. Phillips is a public health professional who lives and teaches in College Station, Texas. His flash fiction has appeared in Flashshot, flashquake, HeavyGlow, Long Story Short, The Angler, Static Movement, Toasted Cheese, and The Vestal Review. His historical, western fiction has appeared in The Copperfield Review and Rope and Wire. His non-fiction essays have appeared in Bent Magazine, Events Weekly, and Touchstone Magazine. His flash fiction has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, 2009 and for inclusion in The Best of the Web, 2009.

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