My first interest in literature as an adult was sparked when I was introduced to George Bernard Shaw. I was a 19-year-old theatre major at Grossmont Community College, and at the end of the semester, we were assigned a final project, which was to perform a monologue from a play of our choosing. I chose to perform a piece from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. I don’t know what drew me to the monologue ten years ago (perhaps Shaw’s use of the word unscrupulous), but there are a few lines of the monologue (if you are familiar with the play, I performed Tanner’s part) that still strike me to this day.
The artist’s work is to show us ourselves as we really are. Our minds are nothing of this knowledge of ourselves; and he who adds a jot to such knowledge creates new mind as surely as any woman creates new men.
Totally sounds like something I would perform or at least think! There is more to this quote, but I would say that I have evolved as much as my knowledge of myself has evolved, and as a teacher there is nothing more rewarding than creating a new mind. For me, that’s what made my journey to Ireland a few weeks ago quite special: it was my new mind, reconnecting with its old self.
Ireland is the birthplace of the man who sparked my interest in literature. At 19, I did not know that George Bernard Shaw was a socialist, and I did not know that it would be our identities as socialist that would make me feel even closer to Ireland during my visit.
I decided to visit Ireland to experience a Gay Pride Parade in another country. Ireland had recently voted to legalize same-sex marriage, so I thought I would see the festivities; however I did not do a lot of partying (the drinking that took place, however, is another story). I went to a debate about how passage of the same-sex referendum took place, and I intended a meeting with Ireland’s Socialist Party to discuss what the party’s next political steps will be. In the socialist meeting there was a time dedicated to listening to voices in the audience. Many of the speakers spoke about solidarity, and I was so moved that I participated by expressing solidarity with the party, its aims and my passion for social justice to the audience. I was accepted with open arms and at the end of the meeting the audience was invited to march with the socialist party during Dublin’s Gay Pride Parade to advocate for anti-austerity measures in Greece, separation of church and state, and to celebrate marriage equality, so naturally my partner and I went.
Marching with socialists, holding a banner that advocates for the separation of church and state, in solidarity with people who were complete strangers to the day before, was beyond stimulating. I cannot express what it felt like to be a black American and to have walked in Dublin’s Gay Pride Parade as a socialist with fellow socialist and to have received a barrage of applause as we walked through Dublin’s streets, holding a “separate church and state” banner.
I suppose I am, like any other person, awakened when I’m around like-minded people (more on the dangers of this when I write about London), which is why being in the land of George Bernard Shaw was so moving to me, and still is as I write these words. As a socialist, Shaw challenged conventional wisdom of marriage and advocated for forms of marriage that could make a modern liberal blush. He also was a supporter of “placing the work of the wife and mother on the same footing as other work: that is, on the footing of labor worthy of its hire.” He also advocated for unemployment in a woman’s household work exactly like unemployment for shipbuilding or an other recognized bread-winning trade. I can’t help but hope, if he had lived in this generation, he would have been marching with us, especially when in 1889 Shaw wrote
I appeal now to the champions of individual rights to join me in a protest against a law by which two adult men can be sentenced to twenty years penal servitude for a private act, freely consented to & desired by both, which concerns themselves alone. There is absolutely no justification for the law except the old theological one of making the secular arm the instrument of God’s vengeance.
So there I was in Ireland, surrounded by love, art, socialist and a new sense of purpose. I would say I am somewhat of a decent artist, which means, at least according to Shaw, my new sense of purpose is to show people as we are—the good, bad and ugly. In other words my purpose is to lead to myself and others to self-discovery. And how lucky I was to be In Dublin in the middle of a beautiful celebration filled with the aroma of the fulfilled purpose of marriage equality.
It just so happened to be the case that SCOTUS made same-sex marriage the rule of law, so I had double the pride.Curious enough though, the supreme court made the decision, which offered contrast to the citizens of Ireland who voted for same-sex marriage. Pride, success and achievement can be found in both, however, I was conflicted. On one hand the citizens of Ireland showed solidarity with the LGBTQ community by voting for same-sex marriage, while the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was the rule of law. I suppose in some ways it took the onus away from the American citizen to have gone out and have shown their morality, and support or lack thereof for same-sex marriage at the polls, however, I am thankful that SCOTUS saved us from religious dogma.
I was so exhausted with marching and my spirit was so full that I had no interest in partying after the parade. Not partying during pride was a first for me, but I imagine that since my purpose had changed, so did I.