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One Issue Only


My mother talked to the television, disputing anyone with a pro-war message. When George Bush appeared on the screen, she’d turn away, but still talk. At first this was humorous.

After Daddy died, she became pessimistic. When she said the world should end, that we’d be better off, I said, “Easy for you to say. You’re 83. Please don’t express this to my children.”

At some point, the rest of us just looked at each other, rolling our eyes.

I see my children rolling theirs. And when I’m with them or anyone who’s watching the set, I respond to infotainers with, “As if that’s important.” I seem unable to control this, even though I know it’s annoying. And while I desperately try to manage the scope of my negativity about the future of our ecosystem, often I slip. My mother, myself.

So, no surprise the other day when sister Laura said after I’d been sleeping under her roof in NC almost two weeks, “You’re smelly.”

Insert:  We’d moved to a larger house in Baltimore. This was the first Baltimore period. Prior to Nashville. Before Manhattan. My parents and Laura were coming for a long weekend. I’d taped a quote to the fridge: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Morning of the second day, I marked through the “three” and wrote “two”. Benjamin Franklin’s words became a family favorite—especially with alterations.

I wasn’t quite ready to exit Laura and Erma’s though. The weather forecast was ugly. Consequently, I did what any stinky guest might do—I ingratiated myself, running the vacuum, sucking up errant cat litter, angling for a reprieve. On Saturday, Laura finally said, “Wait until Monday, unless it’s snowing then.”

It wasn’t. In Chapel Hill.

Six days into spring, I drove from NC to Baltimore through mostly rain that turned to snain as I neared a symbol of mighty righteousness, the Quantico Museum, and then another—DC. I caught an odor of Wall Street influence.

I’d listened to radio music early during the drive and then to Diane Rehm, who talked with her guests about gay marriage. And, yes, I support gay marriage, vows exchanged on the courthouse steps, on the beach, while bungee jumping, in a place of worship. Defenders of the “sanctity” of marriage baffle me. Perhaps they should unite to prevent the sources of divorce.

I had an urge to call the show, to articulate two considerations—wondering why anyone would want to thwart the happiness of others, and the questionable urgency of this particular issue when the US is on a rampage of imperial terror, its foreign and domestic policies threatening all life.

I thought of a friend who suggested I vote for Obama on the issue of gay marriage alone. Of so many who support Obama on this issue alone. People are surprised that I do not, cannot. Those to whom I say, “There really is one issue only. It’s Injustice.”

This casts a wide net; so vast that it encompasses the wellbeing of our entire planet.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore.  She can be reached at:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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