Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Heartland of Nonbelievers

Some smart blog posts I read today - one about Ted Cruz's rhetoric of the "real America" and another about the future of queer theater - have got me thinking. I'm hungry for representations - in politicians' speech or in art - that assume certain ways of thinking and living. In other words, Cruz claims that Texas = America and D.C. does not; I want to hear a politician talk earnestly about "the heartland" and mean New York City. I want to watch a show where a death occurs and no one utters the word "God." Or where a gay couple - or any couple - are happily without children, and it's not a defining aspect of their identity. Or where living spaces are normal-sized and as unremarked upon as the giant apartment on Friends or the lush real estate on Modern Family.

I know that there are some politicians and some plays, movies, and TV shows that embrace or at least approach the perspectives I'm discussing. What I'm (naively? misguidedly?) hungry for in this moment are mainstream, mass audience, nationally-known examples, ones as available as the click of a remote control or mouse.

In his first inaugural address, President Obama said, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers." One of my friends was in the car with her husband at the time, listening to the address over the radio, and after she heard "nonbelievers," she turned to him and exclaimed, "He just said our name! We're famous!"
I do want more of those kinds of moments in our national discourse, where the facts of our pluralistic country are presented in fuller array. But here I'm talking about something stronger. Maybe I'm advocating a view as one-sided as the individuals and institutions that frustrate me. But if so, it's because lack has made me hungry for moments of one-sided abundance. I'm not saying that my politician or my TV show would bash Texas, God, children, or large houses. She/he/it would simply treat as normal, as self-evident, other views, other ways of living.

What would we call this?