In which I Godwinize myself: Prop. Eight: Vote No…

Another unsought endorsement .

But even if it is or ought to be obvious where this blog and blogger stand on California’s Prop 8 and marriage equality (and civil rights universality in general), it bears witnessing in public.

Many others over much longer periods of time have made the case for marriage equality and for the defeat of the California initiative attempt to roll back that state’s recent championing of the, to-me obvious, recognition of the ethical imperative involved.

Here I’m going to offer no particular science — no arguing about the evolutionary genetics of homosexuality; no reference back to animal studies of sexual preference and behavior — no personal connections either, like the memory of the bar mitzvah I attended last year of the wonderful son of my closest married gay friends, none of that.

Rather, I’m just going to tell an anecdote:

When I was working on my book about Einstein, I borrowed a friend’s apartment near Nollendorfplatz in Berlin.  The U-bahn stop next to the plaza is an elevated one, with an arch piercing the track right-of-way to serve as the street underpass.  On the left hand limb of the arch there was a small plaque, topped by a triangle made of pinkish cut stone.

The explanatory inscription reads, in translation, “This memorial plaque at Metro-station Nollendorfplatz in Berlin-Schöneberg is to commemorate the Pink triangle. It was one of the Nazi concentration camp badges, used by the German Nazis to identify male prisoners in concentration camps who were sent there because of their homosexuality.”

It is the most modest memorial I have ever seen, demure, almost embarrassed to remind passers-by of the particular viciousness which it seeks to preserve in historical recollection.

The Nollendorfplatz station is a minor one in the Berlin system.  Not that many people climb the stairs just to the side of the plaque.  It is just there, waiting to be noticed.

And when you do — when I did on a grey February morning hurrying off to trace the progress of National Socialism in the newspapers housed in the state archives — the question of marriage equality, of full civil rights and social unconcern* for same-sex couples becomes extraordinarily uncomplicated.

When you can’t count Adolf Hitler as your enemy, you count me as your friend.

There is no real argument that needs to be made, I think, or rather, the implications of the Nazi search for markers through which to define people as less than human make an overwhelming argument for marriage equality, for social and legal indifference to sexual preference in general:

If we do not accept that human beings living their humanity must be equal in the eyes of the law and the state we open the door for all kinds of inhumanity, as Nollendorfplatz oh-so-gently reminds us.

I grew up in California; I wish I lived there now, just so I could vote against Prop. 8.  If you have that opportunity, seize it.

Update: minor corrections to fix the inevitable by-products of late-night, post canvassing blogging.

Image:  Michael F. Mehnert, Nollendorfplatz memorial, 2006.  Licensed under a GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.

Explore posts in the same categories: History, Politics, Sexuality

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One Comment on “In which I Godwinize myself: Prop. Eight: Vote No…”

  1. Hephaestion Says:

    Thank you for posting this photo. I definitely want to leave some roses under this plaque when I visit Berlin. The Nazi torture of gay concentration camp prisoners was especially grotesque – and when the Allied Forces liberated the concentration camps, they LEFT THE GAY PRISONERS IN THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS. The gays remained imprisoned. Meanwhile the American military put gay soldiers in dog cages, robbed them of their veterans’ rights no matter how heroic their military duty was during the war, and made sure they could not get a job when they returned home. See the documentaries “Coming Out Under Fire” and “Paragraph 175.”

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