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A new study from a prominent journal by an expert of some kind was not paid attention to today because a voice in your head you have not identified as your father’s told you not to believe it.

The study concerned an important matter possibly relating to public health, economics or political strife but was not received due to the insistent reflex inspired by a husky Dad voice buried deep in the cerebral cortex warning you that it was not content he would approve of. This triggering voice first entered your sub-conscious brain when you were a child and continues to influence executive cerebral and limbic systems of your body (as well as the house-cleaning functions performed by your digestive system) and thus will not allow you to receive this important breaking news on a topic of critical importance.

The study was full of useful statistics and percentages that might help you adapt and make contingencies for emergencies, as well as anecdotal evidence relating to something that might affect your financial status or one or two ways you might not use a hammer, but its salient points were masked to you by the persistent social conditioning you received by a certain grey eminence whose early rules set down as an exchange for simple nourishment were indispensable for a helpless young homo sapiens facing a hostile world of animals. This conditioning severely affected your ability to assimilate new information, mainly because of the gruff, stern tone of the hunter gatherer, as well as implied and now subconscious threats that a challenge to him meant risking the loss of family members and peers and their body warmth—things at the time critically important to a child’s survival and well-being.

“We are definitely headed for trouble,” said a credentialed and educated person whose face you could barely be brought to look at as he or she offered countervailing information that challenged the prevailing norms, value systems, semiotics and archetypes laid down in your neural pathways by the patriarchal strongman and lawgiver whom you still in moments of stress and discomfort call “Daddy.” The story mentions several things you could do to address the critical issues raised by this news story, which might have been about gold prices or the flammable liquid in your house but whose message conflicted with your father’s opinions and threatened to upend the folkways and learned behavior that are now an immutable part of your psychological profile—offering you your ego, your identity and cultural belonging and likely your entire concept of self, a sense of belonging your brain feels is vitally necessary on this tiny planet totally alone in the universe and vulnerable to expanding stars, asteroids and heat death. As the spirit of your father says, there is a heavy price to pay by questioning tribe loyalty and listening to the plea of an outsider that you listen to him about this important topic which might be about lead toy paint or STDs or municipal bonds or global warming but which is not, unfortunately, powerful enough to get through your impressively large Dad-filter or appeal to your brain’s otherwise rugged and impressive neuroplastic cells.

“The time to act is now,” said a person of authority, perhaps a politician or priest or business leader, “but there is only so much time we have before it will be impossible to act on this [issue your dad has already made up his mind about] whose dire consequences cannot be minimized, unless it is by the comforting and unrelenting voice that gave you the gift of fear when you were still learning to crawl, the voice whose dissent against which offers perilous pitfalls, sickness and likely a hideous and prolonged death.

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So we’ve finally come to the end of the debate over marriage equality and our gay friends Imagehave won an unquestionable legal right to marry. Right?

Well, no.

Wednesday’s historic Supreme Court decision invalidating the key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has likely set the stage for a series of arguments in the state houses over the issue. The majority opinion in the United States v. Windsor, written by Anthony Kennedy, essentially says that the Defense of Marriage Act for no good reason allowed the federal government to stick its nose into a state issue, the affairs of family, to single out one group and injure a class of people that one of those states, New York in this case, sought to protect. As he put it:

“DOMA’s avowed purpose and practical effect are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States.”

What the decision doesn’t do, however, is make gay marriage the new law of the land. By making this a state issue, the court left open the unhappy idea that it might not strike down gay marriage bans in less liberal states.

Look at the decision on California’s gay marriage ban handed down the same day. In that ruling the court decided not to take up an appeal on California’s law, but this was an issue of standing, not the constitutionality of criminalizing gay nuptials. The state of California had refused to defend the law any longer, and the gay marriage opponents who appealed had no direct stake in that appeal, so legally the Supreme Court didn’t have to argue the substance before it simply passed the hot potato right into the garbage. (The majority opinion in that vote offered an interesting Red Rover game in which Roberts stood alongside justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan against Sam Alito and Sonia Sotomayor, crews as motley as one could imagine.) The decision in Windsor also found an executive branch–Barack Obama’s–unwilling to fight for the DOMA, so a party directed by Congress had to get involved.

Of course, the standing issue is important to this argument for myriad reasons. Standing means that a plaintiff must have been directly harmed or have some connection to the harm caused by a law. In the case of gay marriage opponents, that applies … um … never. As I’ve joked here before, gay marriage does no harm whatsoever to straight people other than directly offend what must be their smutty imaginations. That fallacy was again voiced relentlessly today as religious conservatives again said that allowing gays to freely marry somehow deprived them of freedom. I guess because the act contradicts what they believe, it is a form of mind control. I’m stretching there, but it’s hard to make sense out of such a brutally senseless argument.

But as glib as I’d like to be that questionable legal representation produced a happy effect, Emily Bazelon at Slate, among others, asks a fair question: Is it right that the will of California voters was subverted in this case because their state government refused to fight for a law they passed? Would our joy at seeing gay haters’ asses handed to them on an issue of standing be so funny if this were, say, a water pollution issue that our state refused to fight?

But I don’t wish to be ambiguous. I’m happy for the decision today, that five of the Supreme Court justices called the Defense of Marriage Act what it was–malice against a group of people. A law that disapproved of a class of people one state, New York, was trying to invest with some status and integrity.

You can, of course, read Justice Antonin Scalia’s whining dissent, filigreed with such thumb-sucking lines inveighing against the “black-robed supremacy” of a court gone out of control. It is more tired rhetoric about judicial activism, something Scalia, whose willingness to become activist in defense of conservative causes, ought to be too embarrassed to keep saying out loud by now.  Then there are predictable screeds by National Review editors who try to subvert the logic of tolerance by saying gay marriage proponents are somehow full of contempt. See what pretzel logic man Rich Lowry did there? I’m not the one hating the people I hate. It must be something they are doing. The people I hate must be causing it somehow.

That attitude was institutionalized by the DOMA. That attitude spawned a law of the land. That attitude was why the law came crashing down under its own weight.

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Turning My Pages This Color Today

It’s about marriage equality. And it’s about time.

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My son Xander recently reached the age of 8 months. Every new month brings new milestones in child development, including new abilities, talents and comprehension. What are some of the things I can expect as the father of an 8 month old?

–* My son will start moving around on his belly more, creeping towards things or pushing himself backwards with his arms.

–*He will increasingly start to chew on softened foods.

–*He used to put the remote control in his mouth. Now he will throw it at my head.

–*He likes to take objects and bang them, twist them, throw them, squeeze them, drop them, notarize them, send them parcel post, sprinkle them with glitter, sew them to his eyebrow and dissolve them in aqueous acid.

–*He will now have a better sense of what objects do, whether it’s a comb for straightening his hair, a cup for drinking, or a horse’s head in a bed that sends a message to the Tattaglia family.

–*He will now exhibit separation anxiety when he leaves me or my wife, unless the person taking him is really hot.

–*My child’s depth perception is almost adult-like, which means he can likely see right through adults and their bullshit.

–*If he goes through bouts of persistent crying for no apparent reason, it could be that he’s simply taking after mommy.

–*Letters of the alphabet will make more sense to him, as will racist jokes.

–*He will be more able now to stand on his own–with the help of a chair, a table or an illegal prescription drug from a celebrity doctor.

–*Some studies suggest that babies already have a sense of empathy for other babies in distress at this stage of development. But since I am adult, I can expect him to have no empathy for me whatsoever when I’m trying to sleep and he’s got a wild hair up his butt to yell in a shrill monotone. Thanks for nothing, child empathy!

–*A baby needs stimulation from more activity at this phase, whether it’s a trip to the zoo, a walk in the park, a rock concert for babies, a rock concert by Phish, the Altamont Concert, a book club, a fight club, an anti-nuclear energy demonstration, a Tea Party event or a jailhouse interview with convicted murderer Charles Manson.

–*He will like it when I dance with him. Favorite dances include the hora and the box step, but not the macarena, which your baby will recognize as a passé and stupid step from the early 1990s.

–*For some reason, though, he will likely do the Freddy.

–*This is a time for him to explore his boundaries and discover his limits. As he gets older, he’ll be doing the former less, while he’ll be doing the latter for the rest of his life.

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Dear long-suffering Beauty is Imperfection reader:

You probably feel lately like my son Xander looks in this picture, asking, “Where is Eric? Where are the freakin’ blogs? What did I do? What is happening to me?” If you are still reading, you must crave my abuse like love. I thank you for that. If you’ve been checking in and missing me for the past few months, I apologize.

I confess that although I have been a prolific writer in the latter half of 2012, it was not here. I know that a blogger makes a sort of social contract with you to keep you updated on his doings, attitudes, new thoughts, etc. Indeed, I sat down a couple of times to offer my thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, the Republican primaries, etc. … but often I let these unfinished posts sit on my server through the fall as I labored as a work-at-home father. Even the Christopher Hitchens article I posted earlier tonight was two weeks old. I had it 70% written on the day his death was announced, and I let it sit, unable to get it Christopher Hitchens perfect before I went home to Oklahoma to enjoy Christmas with my family. For most of the fall, I was working on fiction–doing rewrites of the five novels I’ve got on my hard drive. This has been difficult enough to do with a baby, but doing it and being a full-time blogger has been almost impossible. I am considering publishing these novels myself in 2012 as soon as I have a couple of professional editors look them over. (This includes the serial “Letters to My Imaginary Friend, Leticia,” which was first published on this blog.) When that time comes for my books to arrive in your Kindle, I’ll let you, my readers, know right here. You’re special that way!

The thing I most wish I’d done is spent some time talking about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I think it’s one of the most interesting political developments of the last decade, and yet it was something I never went to see for myself in my own city. Mainly this is because of my new family and work situation, which made it impossible to go out. But also I feel, as I get older, that I no longer have to be at the “in” happening to understand it or take what I need from it intellectually. I watched the videos and read the blogs and heard the arguments. So I might add that I also refrained from talking about Occupy Wall Street because even though I agreed with the general idea, I was skeptical about specifics of the movement, which were precious few. My first drafts about it thus turned out curiously negative about the entire venture, and at the risk of being misconstrued without time to perfect it, I let the piece languish in my computer’s sleeping brain. I might publish it later as is or with the promise of a follow up, but at this point, it would be a little bit like staircase wit to talk about OWS, the drum pits and the fetching naked girls dancing about for economic equality, which is apparently what it takes these days to get the subject on CNN.

I had a wonderful Christmas; it was very important to me to go home because my son got to meet his relatives–the large extended family I grew up with in Oklahoma City. I was blessed to have all my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins grow up in the same town with me (symmetrically arrayed on both mother’s and father’s side). The family I grew up with has just about everything in it: rich, poor, intellectual, down home, cosmopolitan, alcoholic, certifiably crazy and criminal … you name it. And though I left home at 18, I have never taken for granted what they offered me as a kid: My entire psychological makeup comes from having all these points of light on a string. The idea that Xander wouldn’t have as many contributors to his development as I did … especially now that I have moved away and my parents are not alive … well, it makes me too sad, and makes my trips home that much more important and poignant. I especially enjoyed some talks with my 84-year-old grandfather about his life, which I hope to share in memoirs eventually. We had two new babies this year, Xander and his cousin Scarlett, and though I always love my family’s attention, this year I was greedy only for the babies to have it.

Stephanie and Xander and I are spending this New Year’s at home recovering from Christmas illnesses we picked up in Oklahoma. Tonight we’re spending New Year’s Eve in our apartment and keeping it low key. I don’t feel the need to be anywhere other than with my little family and appreciate the things I have. But if you are reading this, then I’ll also say I appreciate you, dear reader. My postings will probably remain sparse, but hopefully I can do a little better than I have recently.

Have a happy New Year.

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A Happy Day

It is a happy day, because my beautiful new niece Scarlett was born in Oklahoma. My family has grown a lot this year, and every new person creates a new viewpoint, a new foundation in our spiritual framework (whatever spiritual means to you). I hope to know her well, even though I live so far away, and share as much happiness with her as I have with her brother and sister. I hope to influence her life in some meaningful way, because I know she will also grow up and influence me. Welcome, Scarlett! Whoever you are, whatever you are, whatever you do, you are loved.

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My Son

Yes, it’s official. I am a Daddy! My son Xander was born a couple of days ago. He is, like his mother, a bit impatient, and he came some four weeks early. My wife and I have been by his side at the hospital watching his little lungs improve over the last 48 hours as he sits hooked up to monitors in a Giraffe incubator with a breathing mask attached to his face, surrounded by other tiny babies in ventilators and blue light bili lamps. We are in agony not being able to hold him, but we know that he’s not fully developed yet and we’re learning to live for another week watching him through Plexiglas and occasionally holding his little hand. His favorite new activity is ripping the mask off and kicking and screaming, and so Stephanie and I are confident that her genes have won out.

I am humbled, witless, stupid with joy, just plain stupid and greatly empowered after seeing my son arrive in the world. I’ll write more later, but wanted to share my absolute joy at the miracle of life with all of you.

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