Ben Gibbard is best known for being the lead singer of the indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie. This past week Gibbard cowrote an editorial for The Daily Beast about a same-sex marriage proposition on the ballot in his home state of Washington. The piece focuses primarily on his sister’s recent lesbian wedding and the familial and societal implications of the event for him, his parents, and the rest of us.
A few excerpts:
In June 2009, [my sister] got married to her then-girlfriend. After the event happened, I remember talking with my parents, who are of a generation where, when my sister came out, everything they thought about what their daughter’s life was going to be like was now different. That takes some readjusting, especially if you’re from a generation that’s more used to “traditional” family. The first thing my parents thought was, “We’ll never have a white wedding!” because they weren’t thinking far enough in advance to where a gay wedding would be an eventuality.
The fight for marriage equality bears many similarities to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. We can now look back at a generation of people who are parents and grandparents who were not in support of this, and now have to look their children and grandchildren in the eye and explain why they weren’t for equal rights for all. . . . There are these ads that are running now in Washington State that say, “You can be pro-gay and be anti-gay marriage.” No you can’t! That is a bigoted position.
All of this talk regarding the “backward way things used to be” in the generation Gibbard’s parents were raised–the Baby Boomers–got me thinking about the topic of wisdom and respect for people and ideas that came before us.
A straight-forward reading of Gibbard’s op-ed makes it sound like the generation his parents came from was fairly unenlightened.
But wait, I’m confused! On one hand we’re supposed to understand that the Baby Boomers were cultural and moral Neanderthals who wouldn’t know tolerant values if they were glitter-bombed in their faces.
Then on the other hand–in the same piece–we’re supposed to look to the inspiration, clarity, and wisdom of the Civil Rights movement that took place way back before time began in the 1960s.
Aren’t the 60s supposed to be when Mad Men is taking place? What did those dolts with nothing but their African-American-and-Caucasian colored TV sets and AM radio dials know about morality anyway?
But things get even more complicated for Gibbard’s “parents just really don’t understand” position from there.
One might posit that Gibbard was simply referring to the undeniably courageous Civil Rights leaders–led by prominent black voices such as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.–who fought for something when it wasn’t popular. The only problem there is that even liberal-voting blacks today are still overwhelmingly opposed to the re-definition of marriage.
So what, precisely, is Ben Gibbard’s point?
Apart from a touching story about his sister, his point is simple: we know better. I know better. And anyone foolish enough to voice opposition must immediately be labeled a “bigot.” You can make up for it later by coming around to our side, but you will come around.
For just a moment, forget how you feel about gay marriage and reflect upon my larger point here.
How important is the “wisdom of the ages” to you personally? How readily do you dismiss or ignore what your parents and grandparents say, let alone a group of individuals like the founding fathers? When it comes to making important decisions regarding our personal lives or whom we will vote for or whom we will marry, do Millennials make “emotions” or thoughtful investigation and inquiry of trusted mentors a top priority?
How can one be a mentor to the entire culture without ever having sought the counsel of one himself?
It is my joyless contention that pride and ignorance, not tolerance and discernment, inform more of my generation’s decisions and positions than we’d care to admit.
“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.”
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy