A love Supreme

Wyatt and Reese. A rainbow flag of love and filth.
Wyatt and Reese. A rainbow flag of love and filth.

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage hit with the sun-beam warmth of “Acknowledgement,” the opening track of John Coltrane’s swinging, metaphor-ready masterpiece A Love Supreme.

The news arrived with a rush, like that gong strike and cymbal wash punctuated by Coltrane’s righteous tenor sax and McCoy Tyner’s rapturous piano. A majority of the justices—though fewer than one would hope—interpreted our Constitution with the vision it deserves; it is not merely a product of or for its time. The decision, for hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families, provided a civil rights victory, an acknowledgement of equality and humanity, and an affirmation of love.

Resolution

It’s a shame that four justices continue to reveal themselves as regressive, spiteful literalists. Clarence Thomas especially deserves a Charles Barkley ass-whooping.

Love sometimes hurts, but it is an inalienable right.
Love sometimes hurts, but it is an inalienable right.

“Any form of discrimination, you have to check it,” declared Sir Charles in support of equal rights for gays. The outspoken Hall of Fame basketball player is admittedly not renowned as a constitutional scholar, but he is a keen and bluntly eloquent observer of hypocrisy; in a 2011 interview about playing with gay teammates, Barkley stated, “I’ve been a big proponent of gay marriage for a long time, because as a black person, I can’t be in for any form of discrimination at all.”

“In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law,” wrote Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan in his famous dissent of the infamous, 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, which upheld racial segregation. The deeply religious Coltrane believed the same in respect of God. “We are all one in His grace,” says the poem/sermon that accompanies A Love Supreme and shares its name.

Pursuance

Of God, Coltrane further adds in A Love Supreme’s liner notes: “May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor.” There aren’t many endeavors as human and worthwhile as sharing one’s love and life with another.

Equality is black-and-white.
Equality is black-and-white.

The march to equality in this country is slow and sad and littered with casualties. But then there are those liberating bursts. Of Friday’s historic Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, President Obama, who has admitted a change of perspective on the matter, said: “…sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

In their pursuit of happiness, dogs don’t care whether their proprietors are gay; like Coltrane, they “believe in all religions” in which love lies at the heart. They seem to innately understand what has taken us so long to concede; that love, divine or not, is an indivisible right.

Psalm

As a closeted Midwestern kid just a few decades ago, amid the emergence of AIDS and rampant homophobia, when taunts of “faggot” haunted anyone who didn’t play sports or verbally express an interest in boobs every 15 minutes, I didn’t dare to imagine this level of equality.

“How does it feel?” a childhood friend asked via text after the announcement of the Supreme Court ruling. I invoked ’Trane, whose A Love Supreme is celebrating its 50th anniversary and is just one year removed from the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964:

“ELATION — ELEGANCE — EXALTATION—”

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10 thoughts on “A love Supreme

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  1. There are many elegant words here, Steve; both yours, and among the lovely quotes! Sharing your happiness in this civil rights victory and affirmation of democracy. (At a time when our democracy seems in such need of affirmation, and more.)

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    1. I sincerely appreciate the kind words. I didn’t expect to feel quite as overwhelmed as I did (though the razor-thin majority was bittersweet … those dissenting justices sucked the soul right out of our Constitution).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was at the theatre last night, a play called Told Look Younger by Stephen Wyatt, my friend Octavia’s ex-neighbour. It is about three old friends who meet up periodically. What binds them together is the fact they are gay and came out to each other at university during a whisky sodden evening.
    Although much of the play is about dating, and a fair amount about sex, the underlying message is about the need for human contact. This really came out in the Q&A session afterwards. Love and affection, physical contact, are as important to our wellbeing as breathing. That so many religious people find it necessary to bar people from that, or to say that their love is not acceptable, is bizarre and contradictory. I should make that people with fundamentalist beliefs. Being a fundamentalist in any religion seems to involve removing empathy from your life. And humour. I haven’t heard of a single comedian to emerge from IS.

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    1. And now we await the frivolous lawsuits from fundamentalist churches and bigoted bakers.

      The play sounds lovely. After the Supreme Court ruling, I thought about how little removed we are from people having to hide their homosexuality for fear of persecution; how discreet they had to be if they chose to pursue a physical relationship. I already have an ulceric level of life/work stress without having to live a covert lifestyle.

      And that is a brilliant point about fundamentalists and humo(u)r. I just don’t get the draw of some of these churches or extremist groups; everyone’s so angry and high-strung. After reading an article about IS the other day, a friend said, “These guys are like the kids who came out of high school angry at not getting laid.”

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  3. So clearly passionate, an absolute joy to read. So happy I found your blog. It’s nice to read your writings. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for reading, and for your kind words. I was literally overcome with emotion after reading the decision on Friday. The significance may be hard for some people to grasp, but it was a powerful moment of acknowledgement and equality for a group of people who have been persecuted for too long. (Now, as The Onion pointed out, we only have about 47,000 social injustices left to conquer.)

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      1. http://www.thepublicreviews.com/told-look-younger-jermyn-street-theatre-london/ may interest you.

        The point you make about people having to hide what they are came home to me when I met another blogger who has moved to London with her partner from the US. Her partner is not out to her family, and so every visit S has to move out. The idea that you cannot share openly details of your weekend, of the person who means most to you, sounds to me like a recipe for mental illness.
        I had a conversation with a colleague this morning about fundamentalists. We agreed they are life denying rather than life affirming. It’s all about fear and division.

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