This week's wonderful cover (July 8th) of The New Yorker
magazine brought a smile to my face and also got me to thinking. If you
haven't yet seen it, the cover shows an old black and white television,
the kind I grew up watching, complete with rabbit ears. On the screen
the full U.S. Supreme Court is posed, as if for a photo op, while in the
foreground, watching perhaps from a couch, we see the faint, but
clearly discernible outlines of two legendary Sesame Street characters,
Bert and Ernie. You can only catch their backs, but Ernie is nuzzled up
close to Bert, his head resting on his neck, the way friends do,
sometimes. Clearly, given that they're staring at the Supreme Court, and
given last week's momentous decision on same-sex marriage, one can only
put two and two together and surmise that Bert and Ernie must have a
very special reason to be interested.
smiled immediately. I got it. But then I wondered, until now, who among
us guessed that these two lovable puppets might just be gay? I don't
know about you, but I grew up without ever giving much thought to
another person's sexual orientation (let alone an imaginary
character's). It was a simpler world back then, I suppose, or more
repressed. Or more stupid, I don't know which. People were pretty much
people, characters were characters, puppets, puppets. When I was in
college I remember meeting a few men who I imagined were probably more
drawn to their own sex than the other, but they never said anything
outright. No, it was all guess work then; and my conclusions about them
hinged on the smallest bits of circumstantial evidence: their obsession
with Oscar Wilde or Rock Hudson or their love of ballet, nothing that
would ever hold up in court, supreme or otherwise.
Now, thank God, we're largely through with all that. No one
seems to care, which is as it should be. And I'm sure that, beyond the
joy of the moment, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are
breathing well deserved sighs of relief. More and more we seem to be
okay with the idea of live and let live, and that can't help but be
beneficial to everyone.
Oh, I know the battle for tolerance is always ongoing, and we
have to be vigilant, and that there are (and always will be) a few odd
places in this country where justice gets confused with a particular
verse of the Bible, but for now at least, let's admit we've moved on.
Surely that's something we can all smile about.