Memory and Desire

 “April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.”

T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”


The heavy rains awaken me early on Saturday morning and dislodge a buried memory of a conversation I had with Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur a decade ago, when I confided my avoidance of politics and she replied solemnly, “the personal is political.” I remember hearing her speak publicly about domestic violence and understanding she wasn’t merely quoting a slogan of the feminist movement. Her words were a caution against silencing one’s authentic voice out of fear.

* * * * * * *

In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that will determine if marriage equality becomes legal throughout the United States.  Ever since signing the Human Rights Campaign’s Love Can’t Wait Petition, I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive, dreaming that I would be in Washington, DC when it did. I planned to attend the March for Marriage on Saturday and stay in our nation’s capitol until midweek.

But I’m not there. I’m here in Atlanta. Working at my son’s school this week, picking up my daughter from afterschool meetings, teaching a Melton class, being present where I am also needed; I’m mostly satisfied to drive around town with this poster hanging on my car’s back windshield.

love cant wait cover pic web width

Recently, a Rabbis Without Borders colleague sent an email asking about my recent foray into political activism. He remembered that I wasn’t particularly comfortable speaking about politics, and we corresponded about why I was so passionate about fighting RFRA in Georgia. I confided that although I’d been pushed out of my comfort zone into state politics when protecting the rights of LGBT citizens became personal, I’d also discovered an awakened desire to live out loud.

I spent years conditioning myself to speak in my feminine voice and to smile, to swallow words that might offend anyone in order to gain access to a male-dominated profession. The past few months have brought a measure of recovery of my former self. Now, I can no more hide my yearning to unleash my words than the dogwoods can withhold their blossoms bursting forth with the announcement of spring.

Long after the rain subsides, I sit in silence, honoring Saleemah and acknowledging my desire to speak fearlessly about politics. My words—about the civil rights of LGBT people and about the inclusion of LGBT people in the Jewish community, here in the U.S. and in Israel—are rooted in conscience and nourished by passion.

* * * * * * *

If these are matters of personal significance to you, as well, I hope you will be moved to speak about them and take action.

  • HRC website: Sign the petition and learn about other ways to get involved
  • SCOTUSblog: Subscribe to receive email updates about this landmark case
  • SOJOURN: Support LGBT-Inclusive Israeli Organizations

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