Monday, April 5, 2010

The Apollo Program

It's not good enough anymore.

I remember playing a game called Civilization II back when I was a kid. Per the title, it was one of the empire building games where you explored territory, founded cities, negotiated with other civilizations, and discovered new technologies. You'd venture out into the all-encompassing blackness and gradually reveal more of the map, getting a lay of the land and the surrounding civilizations. You'd find new fertile areas to settle and new defensive positions to fortify for when your neighbors got uppity. Eventually you'd have explored your continent, gotten a pretty good idea of where the borders lay, and settled into a comfortable existence. Once you'd discovered the right seafaring technologies, you might strike out into the darkness once again, discovering new civilizations on a new continent and trading maps and technologies. But it was always difficult to motivate yourself to explore once you'd discovered all the trading partners. Blackness on the edges of the map still loomed, but you had more pressing priorities. This trireme is clearly needed to reinforce the fleet at Salamis; I need my cruiser sticking around Thermopylae to discourage those Chinese bombers from getting antsy (of course, I always played the Greeks). I can't invest in a fleet now, not when I'm so close to discovering gunpowder; maybe in twenty turns.

Then you'd make it to the modern era, and the space race began. With military domination unachieved, this was your only path to victory; first one to Alpha Centauri wins. Of course, to get there you first needed to get to the moon, so you'd start working on the Apollo Program. Since you'd put all those satellites into space, you'd finally, after all this time, have every square on the map revealed. There was an island you had no clue about, just six squares from your coastal capital city, a superb place for a fishing village. There was a source of incense or oil in the arctic wastes where you never thought to look. Or even a new civilization, who you might have learned from.

Gradually expanding the center's horizons isn't good enough anymore. They certainly won't dispatch their own triremes to find us, and the curious islanders that wash up on their shores every once in awhile are either unheeded or reviled. That's not entirely fair; sometimes enough of them make an effort to brave the straits in their rickety boats, and if they're close enough to the center's locus of power, they just might make it and have their existence realized and their humanity acknowledged. Maybe their island will remain a curious colony of the empire; most likely, that's how it starts, with begrudging acceptance gradually giving way to full citizenship. Perhaps one day, even their marriages will be accorded the full dignity they deserve.

But the center rarely makes the leap that there might be other islands, just a stone's throw away from their new territory. Those islanders might have a better chance of being noticed now that they're closer to a locus of power, but the process repeats itself. Each new revelation has to be fought for painstakingly, as if the previous struggles never happened.

Until the Apollo Program.

I want to talk about my father for a moment.

I do not believe that there is a condescending bone in my father's body. Only his refusal to discount my experiences and to treat my perspective as worthwhile salved the pain of navigating as a child in a hostile world that continually treated me as incompetent to define myself and my desires. When the long-promised respect for my humanity failed to materialize as I neared adulthood, when I was inundated with messages claiming that I knew not my own sexuality, that I was experimenting, confused, haphazardly reaching at a masculine self-actualization, his steady support was invaluable to convincing me to trust my own competence. When I began exploring a variant gender expression, his nonchalance that his son was shopping in the women's section of Target gave me the courage to become comfortable in my own skin.

I don't want to lionize my dad, or turn him into something that he's not. Lord knows there were difficulties- the awkward silence when I first commented on the guys that I found attractive or the advice that was overly preoccupied with preserving privilege than being comfortable in my own skin. Despite all that, he trusted my judgment, and once the advice was given, treated my decisions with respect.

He never asked me to justify myself.

This is because my father believes that there is no such thing as human debris. His staunch refusal to ever discount a person's point of view, to believe them irredeemably corrupted and incompetent, his dogged insistence on finding humanity in every person, is an inspiration to me.

To the extent that the sex positive movement will be successful, is the extent to which we succeed in creating more people like my father.

That's our Apollo Program.

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