My wife and I were sitting in bed the other night, she on her laptop and I on mine, as we often are when evenings wind down. She showed me a YouTube clip she’d seen a while back that had resurfaced somewhere, and it was a compilation video of a teenage boy who had rescued a hummingbird. He fed it by hand, raised it. One section of the video was called “Flying Lessons,” and it showed the baby hummingbird flying from one of this boy’s fingers to the other, and back, and back, and back, and so on.

It was set to sappy music, ended with a shot of the boy asleep on the couch with the bird perched on his finger, looking around the room as though on guard, and there was just about no way you could come out of it not crying. Just remembering it now, my eyes are welling up. That’s 100 percent true.

I was thinking about that video of the boy and his bird this past week when New York’s state assembly voted to legalize gay marriage in the state. I firmly believe that in the decades to come, people will look back on marriage discrimination now the way we think of Jim Crow as a million years ago even though there are still parents and grandparents who can tell stories about it. What cruel barbarians people were then. How unenlightened. Our descendents will invariably say these things about us too.

Making gay marriage legal has ostensibly nothing to do with that hummingbird, but I think it speaks to a similar impulse within human beings. It’s what is in us that makes us do good things. That republican who was quoted as saying “Fuck it” when giving his reason for voting in favor said also that he wanted to do what was right. That little boy who found that bird wanted to do what was right. It was a moral choice.

And it’s confusing, and frustrating more often than not, because I don’t understand what it is in those people that they do those things that’s not in others who don’t.

On the same day the New York bill passed, at least three people died in a gunfight in Baghdad. As I look at the news tonight, a bomb attack in Nigeria has killed 25, and NATO/U.S.-aided rebels in Libya are escalating the civil war there. These things are happening far away, but here, we’ve got people starving on our watch, people dying because they can’t afford a doctor, crumbling infrastructure and a post-collapse economy that inspires so little confidence I’m about a week away from cashing out my retirement fund while I still can and stuffing it in my mattress. And while the overall crime rate in this country is down, there’s no shortage of violence either.

How can these coexist? How can we be capable of so many terrible acts and yet still manage to do amazing and wonderful things? Maybe that’s a simplistic view—there’s nothing solid about morality, ever—but if you look at it on paper, it just doesn’t make any sense. And of course, I don’t know anything about him, but that same boy who took care of that hummingbird, I bet at some point in his life, he’s called someone “faggot” and meant it. Or he’s made someone feel like shit just for being who they are, whether it’s their race, gender, sexuality, culture, whatever. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Every one of us. We do it everyday and we don’t even know it. It’s part of being human.

But these beautiful flashes are part of it too. The good part, I guess, or one of the good parts, anyway. And it seems like a stupid point to make only because it should be so obvious, but I think if we took that beauty, really stepped back and examined it and made it our goal for more of our lives, we couldn’t help but be better off than we are.

Congratulations to any and all on the upcoming nuptials.

All the best,

JJ Koczan

jj@theaquarian.com

 

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