Thursday, May 10, 2012

What is love?

Since the end of the school year is almost here, I've tried to turn most of my students' thoughts to social issues. I figure that in the end, it's important for "kids these days" to learn how to have intelligent, thoughtful conversations about the world's issues. I also stress appreciating the opinions of others, of course, which is probably the hardest part for my kids. Nevertheless, they seem to respond well to topics that make them angry, or sad, or passionate.

We began the week with the question, "Who should decide who lives and who dies?" When I posed this question to my students, I mostly got the answers I expected, like God, fate, and in some cases, ourselves. In one class, we ended up in a religious debate that lasted at least twenty minutes. It was off-topic, but I think that it was a worthwhile distraction. We then discussed major issues that may or may not play a role in the upcoming presidential election: abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty. We wrapped it all up with the same question we started with: "Who should decide who lives and who dies?" I was proud of the students that used our discussion to really reevaluate their original answers.

Today we began class with the question, "What is love?" Some of you may be like me, and immediately launch into "What is love?" by Haddaway, with accompanying "Night at the Roxbury" dance moves, but trust me when I say that my students did not find it funny. Instead, we started down a winding conversational path during which I learned a lot about the softer side of my students. One of my most obnoxious protegees, who shall remain nameless, surprised me the most. When I asked him "What is love?" he immediately answered "trust." I pushed them further, asking whether there are different kinds of love, and whether people feel love differently. I was easing them along the path toward a revelation, you see, that not only does everyone experience love in some form or another, but that people should be able to express that love in whatever way makes them the most happy.

Some of you may already see where I'm heading with this, especially if you've watched the news, caught a glimpse of your online home screen, or checked any social networking site in the past twenty-four hours. President Obama, in the wake of a hug uproar over North Carolina's proposed ban on gay marriage, FINALLY did what sane people everywhere have been waiting for him to do. He hopped off of the fence and declared that gay and lesbian couples have the right to get married. Go Obama! I may not agree with everything he's done as a president, but to take a stand in a country where the public is still split 50/50 over the issue takes courage and conviction.

I'm going to ask you, readers, the same question that I posed to my students: who gets to determine what love is? God? Fate? It's funny how life, death and love have all come to the same stalemate. I'll tell you the answer, if you're wondering. Who should decide who lives and who dies? No one. Live your life as if every day is your last and know that death is inevitable. Who gets to determine what love is? NO ONE. It simply exists, meaning different things to different people. Who gets to decide what marriage is? The bible? The Quran? The Talmud? And what about those of us who don't live our lives by a book? Marriage is simple, the union between two PEOPLE who love each other.

It's simple really, and my students seemed to get it. Gay marriage is just marriage, plain and simple. It's not affecting you any more than the gay and lesbian couples who have been committed to each other for decades before this "great debate." Let it go. Live and let live, because in life and marriage, no one should have a say except for you. As for death? I'll just leave it up to whoever deals with those things...maybe you should too.

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