Riding Shotgun: A children’s rhyme for a new America

If you’re going to act like a child, I’m going to treat you like one.

Now, this is a tale of Girl Jane and Boy Bill.
And this is a story of Boy Bob and Girl Jill.
All four were smart. All four were kind.
They did their share, paid their taxes on time.
They had houses and lawns and a child or three.
They looked like Americans, like you and like me.

But there’s a twist, you see. Bob, he loves Bill.
And (you might see this coming) but Jane — she loves Jill.
The quartet was quiet and prepossessing,
Though, for some, their existence was quite distressing.
You see, some folk are always looking askance.
Some folk will never give anyone different a chance.

Though the two pairs are kind, it is easy to see,
Wanting no more than to live ever after happily.
So, they decide one day, without pause, without tarry
To go to the small, local chapel to marry.
Because Bob loves Bill, and that’s a fact.
And Jane loves Jill. Who could argue with that?

But some did argue. There were many indeed,
Who said what the four demanded bordered on greed.
It was sick and perverted and twisted and wrong
That they could walk into God’s house, and before long
Everyone was standing up with venom to spew,
And not just the ‘folk’ mentioned in verse two.

And people said, “Fine, love all you want.
We’ll tolerate it (barely) and hold back our taunts,
But just because we won’t send police anymore
To nab you for goings-on behind bedroom doors
It does not mean you can have everything that we do.
Some are hetero-only, and here are a few:

Weddings and vows with grooms and with brides,
(You need one of each to stand side by side)
And the exchanging of shining rings made of gold,
It’s a long-standing and sacred tradition of old.
And most of all you can’t have a license proper
That’s the key, the finale, the big, great, fat topper.

Bad enough that you drag God into the fray
I don’t want to think of what Jesus would say,
But to have your coupling approved by the state,
To have your gay lover looked at as your mate,
Would take from our wallets and that just won’t do.
Benefits are out; have a civil
union
or two.

Oh, it is not prejudice. It’s not you we don’t like.
(Although we sometime let slip with ‘faggot’ or ‘dyke’)
We just realize that some things just cannot be.
Not even in our lauded ‘Land of the Free.’
You see, marriage is one thing we have that you don’t
And if the states do their job, they’ll see that you won’t.”

And the target of their ire, Bill-Bob and Jill-Jane,
Tried to stand up. They tried to explain
That what they wanted should be a protected right
For which they would act, for which they would fight.
They wanted marriage, nothing less, nothing more
Than to be legally bound to the one they adore.

They had seen to the other, when well and when sick.
What did it matter that both or neither had dicks?
They had already cherished and already loved
With no Church blessing or grant from above.
With all their hearts, they had made that admission.
And now all they wanted was their country’s permission.

But before they got through all that they had to say,
George Double-You Bush jumped into the fray.
He put forth a very simple solution.
An
amendment
to the U.S. of A Constitution
Prohibiting marriage for Bill-Bob and Jill-Jane
And then went on
the air
and tried to explain.

With a slow Southern drawl, he said, “Hold on, Tex.
I have no problem with you, just with your sex.
If you were Jill-Bill or even Jane-Bob,
I’d kick up my heels and call back the mob.
But nope, you’re not; you’re a right pair of queers
And the polls say you’re what conservatives fear.

You might be kind and quiet and unassuming
But to many, you’re a social catastrophe looming
There are some handing out licenses regardless of gender
And I have a message for those law breakers and benders;
It’s all got to stop. I won’t take no sass.
Don’t make me get my Daddy to come kick your ass.

Now, America is great. As a society, it’s free.
It limits the role of government for its citizenry.
But marriage can’t be severed from its religious roots.
If you were all Christian, this speech would be moot.
You’d see that a redefinition should not be required
For a custom in which our foundation is mired.

It’s a custom that’s been around since the Creation
And who are we to throw in our own little mutations
On God’s plan and the laws of this great land,
Which for you says wedding bells must be banned?
Most important, my constituents would have a snit.
The voters have a pulse, and I’ve got my cock stapled to it.”

Those were his words. Well, some more or some less,
But you should get the gist, the joke and the jest.
And if your bullshit meter was turned on to detect
You’d wonder why we need to protect
A heritage so strong that on it civilization could form.
Why should it crumble if taken outside of the norm?

Bill-Bob and Jill-Jane would not just sit down and behave.
They detected the bullshit. They would not cave
To their disenfranchisement by Commander-in-Chief
Or the violent, gay-bashers who cling to belief
That “JESUS HATES HOMOS!”
is a message divine.
They said, “If you believe that. Well, that is just fine.

These surely aren’t the first weddings to be
Villanized by this country’s majority.
You say that marriage has always been as it’s stood,
And no ‘activist judges’ ever did any good,
That marriage is perfect and should not be tweaked
And to do so would topple this nation within the week.

But, you see, we seem to remember a time
When for many exchanging vows was a serious crime
Back in what some would refer to as good ol’ days,
And not just for us, no, not just for gays.
A time when states would put their foot down
On who could come to the altar in tux and in gown.

Let’s say you were white and a Protestant too.
You could not marry a Muslim or even a Jew.
And then, once you could, other options you lacked.
You’d get your face kicked in if your partner was black.
In the North and the South, there were states that said
For that miscegenation, to prison you’ll head.

And this continued until a few judges
Put aside their prejudice, laid down their grudges.
And in Loving
v. Virginia
, a landmark case
Nineteen sixty-seven, those laws were erased
Thanks to Chief Justice Warren and his nine-member team
Who said, ‘Nobody fucks with Amendment
Fourteen
.’

So if you think this isn’t about civil rights
Take a look at our history, and you just might
Realize that, while hatred might change its face
From white-sheeted horsemen hanging a race
To politicians condemning an orientation,
It’s prejudice, not progress, that’s corrupting our nation.

Why won’t someone explain to that big White House jerk,
Separate, but equal’s been tried? It didn’t quite work.
You’d think, if he could, he’d make it his mission:
‘To marry, you have to be a white, born-again Christian.’
Well, Wilde called it ‘the love that dare not speak its name.’
But, we’ll speak it. We’ll scream it. We’ll live without shame.

We won’t go away. We won’t be put on a shelf.
And the homophobe right can just go fuck itself.
But we need help. We need heroes willing to do battle
With all those who’d have citizens herded like cattle.
We know what the founders meant when they said
‘Created equal.’ Without it, this American Dream is just dead.”

And what does our narrator say to this charge
That we should disregard the feelings of the country at large
In favor of protecting the rights of a few?
I say, Isn’t that what the good guys are supposed to do?
It’s our lifetime’s movement. Who will answer the call?
Make a happy ending. Help love conquer all.

Article © 2004 by Steve Spotswood