Voices: Brace yourself for more changes to accommodate others' lifestyles

Voices: Brace yourself for more changes to accommodate others' lifestyles

By RAY ELLIOTT

My goodness, so many controversial issues exist in today's world where individuals in our diverse culture demand to be treated fairly and to be able to choose the lifestyle they desire that one could write a book on the subject. Marriage between people of the same sex is one of them.

According to a recent article in The News-Gazette, a couple of Illinois lawmakers say they will "seek to legalize gay marriage when the General Assembly reconvenes early next year," some 18 months after the state began allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. If passed, Illinois will join nine other states that currently allow gay marriages and four more states that "either endorsed gay marriage or repudiated it in the November elections."

The Dec. 14 News-Gazette editorial on the issue concluded by saying, "Times change. Attitudes change. It's legislators' jobs to assess the shifting landscapes and act as they see fit."

Scary as that may be, I reckon it is the legislators' job. Times and attitudes do change, no question about that. So brace yourself, as we must, for more change and more demands to fit others' desired lifestyles.

I grew up in a small village in southern Illinois where people never locked their doors, left their keys in their cars, stayed married to one another for life but were ostracized if they divorced or dared to live together, unmarried.

Now not everybody agreed with the latter two. My own parents didn't say anything one way or the other. The subject wasn't a part of their parental repertoire. And there was a man in town that lived the lifestyle he chose and allowed others to do the same without judgment of others or concern about what people said about him.

He always wore a suit and tie and a broad-rimmed expensive-looking Stetson and traveled the surrounding country as a salesman. A couple of times a year, he'd go on an alcoholic binge and stay in town.

When he was drinking, he'd come over to the general store flashing a thick roll of bills and buy us boys a bottle of pop and a package of peanuts. We'd take a couple of swigs out of the Royal Crown Cola and pour the Planter Peanuts into the pop, and he'd regale us with stories about his travels. Which we loved to hear.

One day, he started talking about women and marriage. We were far too young to be considering that. And he knew it. But he wanted to pass along some advice that he'd learned on the subject he thought might be of some help to us in our future lives.

After he got warmed up at the pot-bellied stove, he shook a Camel out of a silver-engraved case, lit the cigarette, took a drag and blew the smoke out the corner of his mouth.

"Now, boys," he said, holding the cigarette in his left hand that allowed the diamond on his ring finger to sparkle in the light, "I want to give you a little advice about gettin' married. And I've got a little experience in that area."

He paused and laughed. His protruding belly shook a little, and he took another drag from the Camel. "You see, I've been married five times, boys. And I want to tell you, never marry for money, but let it make up your mind damn fast."

We laughed with him. We liked him and his stories. He seemed like what I'd heard people call "a good feller." He always helped people around town when they needed something. More than a few times, I heard my parents talk about how he'd bought groceries for someone in need or given them a few bucks and never expected to be paid back.

I couldn't wait to get out of town to find out what the rest of the world was like. Trouble was that when I got away, it didn't take me long to find out that people were about the same everywhere with them thinking they knew what was right and proper behavior for everyone.

Through the years it became more acceptable to get a divorce. Not to church-going people particularly, but it was no longer necessary to be married for life to remain a pillar of the community. And couples started living openly together.

Then couples of the same sex started talking about getting married. Traditional beliefs that marriage is only between a man and a woman were strong but then civil unions were allowed. As Bob Dylan sings, "The times they are a-changin'." It seems quite possible that same-sex marriages will become the norm in the future.

Which is all well and good. What's good for one person may not work for the next. Shouldn't we all have the freedom to live the lifestyle of our choice as long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of another? And isn't "freedom ... just another word for nothing left to lose," as Kris Kristofferson sings.

So brace yourself, as I said earlier: what about those people who want to marry up with more than one wife or one husband or a combination of both? Will they legally be allowed to follow the lifestyle of their choice, if everybody agrees?

Wouldn't this give those people "the greater rights regarding taxes, insurance, freedom from privacy restrictions that heterosexual and same—sex couples have"? And wouldn't it help maintain a more equable society in terms of entitlements with the "family" units taking care of each other rather than depending upon the government?

Joy be to a free and politically correct world!

Ray Elliott is an author and a former high school teacher who lives in rural Urbana.

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