March 15, 2013
America is a country founded on equality. It is an idea formalized in our Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Yet, the modern understanding of equality is threatening to undo us, as we become more and more fractured in our attempts to make certain that we all get an equal slice of the American Dream. Bluntly put, equality today means that I can have what you have, no holds barred. You have it, and I want it. I deserve it because we are both equal.
Equality is at the heart of the battle between the sexes. And most recently, equality has been argued at the Supreme Court as the premise for redefining marriage to provide for equality. Equality? How so?
Ask any child what equal means. At the age of three, he knows what to look for….my slice of the pie is just as big as your slice. And kids have a very simple way to enforce the rules of equality. You slice the pie. I get first choice.
Sadly, many adults have never graduated from this simple definition of equality. They wildly bandy the term “equality” around, as if all of life is one big cherry pie to be shared.
Children grow in their sophistication. Sharing a pizza is so much more complicated than cherry pie. Even when the slices are perfectly cut from the center of the pizza into identical slices, there are so many ways to go wrong in getting your equal share.
- How many slices of pepperoni are on each piece?
- Which slice has the most cheese?
- Does cheese matter to me?
- If I give you my cheese, what will you give me in return?
- If my brother is twice as tall, does he get twice as many slices?
- What if I missed breakfast? Can I have more than my extra tall brother?
What does equality mean? Quite literally, it depends on how you slice it. Some may object to reducing the arguments for same-sex marriage to a pizza party challenge. But there is more to the comparison than meets the eye.
Cherry Pie – we all have relationships that could compare to sharing a pie. For instance, there is the line at the box office. Every person in line is equal as my competitor. Our equal chance to buy tickets to the concert is governed by who got in line first. If tickets are few and the line is long, they may restrict each purchase to six tickets. And still, at the end of the day, they will run out of tickets and there will be the haves and the have-nots. Some will have $300 to pay for a ticket sold online. Many will not be able to ante up the extra money and will have to read about the concert in the papers or hope for a YouTube upload. Every person in line is equal as my competitor. But at the end of the day…some have…and some have not. As my mother used to tell me, life is not fair. I will not get everything I want.
Pizza – we all long for the relationships that are special orders, people who are essential to our life in personal and unique ways. Every pizza is specially designed to appeal to the one who will eat it. If we are lucky, we may have many such special order relationships. Common understanding is that we will be able to count these relationships on one hand. If I am lucky to have five special people that I can relate deeply to, what is the likelihood that each of these relationships is equal to all of the others? There is the parent who is my best friend. My spouse is committed to the fulfillment of my personal dreams. My child protects me in a new and expanding world with challenges that I need help to deal with. My friend of 40 years knows the history of my failings…and he loves me in spite of them. Each relationship is special, but none of them are equal to each other.
All things being equal…there is never a day when all things are equal. The best we can do is discern the differences and ask what those differences mean to us.
Marriage? Special order…made especially for whom? This is what we need to ask.
April 23, 2004: m…m…Married?
May 14, 2004: Order in the Courtroom!