Marriage is Not All That Simple

This morning as I sat down to work on a different post, I noticed that a blog about marriage issues linked to the Donor 67 blog without comment. I took a quick look and noticed that the driving sentiment behind the site was the idea of protecting the sanctity of marriage.

While I have become increasing “conservative” as I have aged and sired… and I clearly have issues with the way in which the IVF industry operates, I also would love to see my gay neighbors protected by the same laws that I am protected by. Two of the best parents that I can think of are a lesbian couple that live around the corner from us. They have a child with some developmental issues. In order to best meet his needs, one of them went back to school to get a degree in dealing with special needs children. She advocates on his behalf tirelessly and works with him in a loving way. It’s kind of incredible to see how far he’s come with her love and care. The idea that her marriage and her parenting skills and devotion are somehow lesser because she is in a loving relationship with a woman rather than a man is hard to fathom. In addition, my discussion about anonymity isn’t about aimed at shutting down the IVF industry but instead, increasing reasonable discussion about complex issues. What’s most frustrating to me is the idea that by discussing these issues I might be somehow perceived as attacking the rights of others.

In addition to working on this film about donor conception issues, I am working on a film about a development project in Brooklyn (that involves and arena for a pro sports team, housing, and office towers) and the people who are trying to stop this project. One of the issues being fought over is the use of eminent domain. Eminent domain is a hot button issue with conservatives and libertarians. In this case the right to use it is clearly being abused. Many politicians and citizens are loathe to fight it on these grounds because they believe that the benefits of the project outweigh the consequences of allowing this abuse. Others feel that as a society we need to be able to wield the power of eminent domain with few strings attached in order to further the greater good. In the name of the larger population they feel that we should be able to sacrifice the rights of the few. One of the common refrains at a recent hearing on the project was that the “few’ were standing in the way of the needs of the many.

As a filmmaker deeply involved with the story, I have to say that I think that the abuse of this power is extremely troubling. One of the issues involved is the Trojan horses of affordable housing and jobs. The project was sold to the public (and by sold I mean a multi-million dollar PR campaign) with the slogan, “jobs, housing, hoops”. In reality, the public dollars being used to create the affordable housing could be put to much more effective use in other projects, and the job creation would be very limited.

During the 50’s and 60’s great swaths of urban America were bulldozed in the name of urban renewal. “Substandard, blighted areas” were knocked down to make way for new housing complexes in a great “liberal” experiment. Unfortunately, that experiment failed miserably. Vast communities were decimated, and according to the research of noted psychiatrist Mindy Fullilove, the urban epidemics of drug abuse, obesity, and diabetes were born. If anyone doubts her ideas, a quick read (that was a joke- it’s a 1000 plus page book) of Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” should shed lay a good foundation for understanding where she’s coming from.

I use the word liberal, liberally above. The people who supported this work were clearly well meaning but the methodology and results have left ravaged neighborhoods that are only just beginning to recover 50-60 years later. Given what we know now about all of these issues, it’s really almost unfathomable that this type of planning would be still used with such abandon.

The irony here is that in general, the liberal/progressive establishment still stands behind many of these polices in the zero sum cold war game of liberal/conservative politics. This zero sum game makes it nearly impossible for people to take a hard look at awful situations.

In the fight that we are chronicling, the issue has created several odd alliances. The “progressive” denizens of the neighborhood, fighting to save their homes and what they like about their community are painted as obstructionists fighting jobs and progress and in general they fall on the side of the libertarians on this issue. These locals are then attacked by “progressives” not directly affected for being in league with their zero sum enemies. In addition all of the politicians who directly represent the districts affected on a local level are against it. However, those who are more intertwined with the levers of power, like the governor and the mayor, support the project. The “progressive” housing rights group ACORN is a major supporter (and majorly hated by conservatives). The “progressive” senator Charles Schumer is a supporter because he is excited about the jobs and the pride that a professional basketball team will bring. As such, the “liberal” reader of the news who skims the stories on the subject might be inclined to think that they too should support it. However, the truth is always much more complex than the headlines. This deeper truth behind the headlines is one thing that compels me to make documentaries.

As I have become older, with more responsibilities and ever more complex choices to make, I’m increasingly troubled at the realities that exist behind the various debates we engage in. As a human being that cares about my family and my community, I often feel shackled by outdated ideas concerning the most advantageous way for us to move forward. Until we can truly access the best possible information and have the freedom to debate issues in an open way, we will find it nearly impossible to move forward as a society that truly protects the rights of everyone.

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