TC Blogger Finds “Pretty Good Reasons” to Oppose Marriage Amendment

When the Minnesota legislature placed the proposed state constitutional amendment to limit civil marriage to heterosexual couples on the November general election ballot, many Minnesotans were outraged. Jeff Zuckerman, an editor and teacher at Walden University and the University of Minnesota, decided it was time to act. He began talking to his friends, colleagues, and the members of his shul about the idea of establishing a forum to articulate rational reasons why the amendment would be bad for Minnesota, even though the ballot initiative was 18 months away.

Paris 2011 001 224x300 TC Blogger Finds “Pretty Good Reasons” to Oppose Marriage Amendment

Jeff Zuckerman

The result of his efforts, 365 Pretty Good Reasons, launched on November 6, 2011, one year before Minnesotans vote on the ballot question.

A native of Pittsburgh and first-time blogger, Jeff Zuckerman has lived in Minnesota for more than 30 years, where with his wife they raised their two children. TC Jewfolk asked Zuckerman to explain what the blog is all about. He shared in thoughts about the proposed amendment, Jewish values and why civility in political discourse matters.

TCJF: Why did you start  this blog? What are your goals for publishing 365 Pretty Good Reasons?

JZ: Until the legislature approved the marriage amendment last May, I was in a post-2010 election slumber.  That vote hit me like a bucket of ice water. A blogger pal and I discussed what I could do about the amendment, and I came up with the idea of blogging one reason a day to oppose the amendment. At least it seemed like a pretty good idea at the time, anyway.

The “pretty good” business, of course, is pirated from Garrison Keillor’s Pretty Good Poems and Pretty Good Groceries. The idea of “365 Pretty Good Reasons” captured my purpose: to offer reasonable Minnesotans some reasonable fodder for rejecting the amendment.

How often do you post? As I write this, I see that there are more than 30 posts for this month and the month isn’t even over yet!

I’ve been posting once a day since November 6. If I have time I write a few ahead of schedule. I’m linking to other people’s stuff a couple times a week. On a good day the thing just writes itself.

Your blog obviously assumes a great belief in civil discourse, and you’ve called 365 Pretty Good Reasons a “rant free zone.” These days so much of what is published and and commented upon online seems rigid and disrespectful of other points of view. Why have you set a different tone with your blog? Can a civil tone make a  difference?

3164076904 e0810ca462 300x200 TC Blogger Finds “Pretty Good Reasons” to Oppose Marriage AmendmentRight from the start it was really important to me to keep it civil. I was worried that all we’d hear for a year would be hate and screaming and yelling. Not that I’m opposed to screaming and yelling—half my people are Russian Jews, and I did plenty of screaming at protest rallies going back to the 1970s. Getting older and calmer helped me realize no one is going to change his or her vote by getting yelled at. I’ve been delighted to see that Minnesotans United for All Families has taken that stance.

People on the far sides of the issue are going to vote the way they’re going to vote. I am interested only in reaching the 10% or so of Minnesotans, according to the last poll, who haven’t yet made up their minds. As it’s turned out, though, I hope some of the stuff I’ve written has provided additional ways for opponents of the amendment to articulate their opposition.

What have you learned or experienced with this project that has surprised you? Disappointed you? Energized you?

I’ve learned that writing a blog is a real test of your self-editing skills. If you can say it in 200 words, the trick is to say the same thing in 125 words. I used to be a reporter, and I’m glad to see that I can still write on deadline. Also, about 25 years ago when I was a columnist at The Daily I used to be funny. A friend of mine who dislikes everything told me she thought the blog was “hilarious,” so that’s nice.

One thing this effort has confirmed is that social media can be really valuable to getting your message out, and I absolutely suck at it, especially Twitter. You know anyone who wants to intern for me? I can write them a nice letter of recommendation on university letterhead.

I’m also eager to get more submissions from readers—a story or even three sentences saying why you oppose the amendment. That’s plenty!

What feedback have you gotten from people about this project?

I got a big bump in hits and comments about a month ago when my son Isaac and I posted an animation on YouTube called “So You Support the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.” Most people thought it was funny and, to my surprise, depressing. A couple of friends thought the lesbian heroine acted too coolly, and I get that.

I also got a ton of comments on a personal story I wrote a couple weeks ago about my Cousin Ellen, who I love dearly, and who married her sweetheart Lori in October in New York City. Personal stories really have power, and I hope to feature more stories in the months ahead about gays and lesbians I know.

Do you see a connection between your Jewishness and/or Jewish values and your commitment to this project?

My Jewishness absolutely is at the heart of this effort. My grandparents escaped Russia at the time of the pogroms and my dad and his family from Central Europe just before World War II. Some of them were atheists. Some were Orthodox. But in the eyes of the tsar and Hitler, all that mattered was they were Jews, right?

Now it’s 2012. I thank God I am an American, but I am mortified by the way the Religious Right is tearing down the Jeffersonian wall that separates church and state. Now they’re even hijacking that reality by claiming anti-Christian discrimination. It’s Orwellian and drives me crazy, but I’ve gotten snarky only once or twice in the blog and I try to keep it informative, light, and respectful.

Also, there’s no way not to sound like an ass by saying this, but half the pals I’ve made at Shir Tikvah are gay or lesbian. My last four rabbis are. And in terms of the Jewish tradition of fighting for social justice, I have yet to hear any argument that explains how this amendment is any less destructive than the anti-miscegenation laws of 50 years ago.

You’ve already presented many arguments in favor of voting “No” on the marriage amendment. What do you think is the most compelling reason to oppose this ballot measure in November?

A constitutional amendment is permanent. Most people under 35 plain don’t care who marries whom. I’m old enough to know that over time tolerance in America has won out over bigotry. This proposed amendment is a last-gasp effort to stall our inevitable destiny that favors the power of love and human dignity over ignorance and injustice. But that doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker—ergo, a daily blog.

How can people reading this help you with 365 Pretty Good Reasons?

I welcome guest posts from readers! Short, long, funny, or personal.  I still have more than 250 reasons to go!

(Photo: Justmakeit)

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About Meir Chris Bargeron

Meir Chris Bargeron endeavors to do his part to repair the world, one conversation or relationship at a time -- but tries not to think about it that way because that would be totally overwhelming. He is a non-profit leader, a clinical social worker, and writes about things that are on his mind. These days, Meir spends a lot of time thinking about living Jewishly and living well. He loves to read blog-post comments and hopes that you tell him what you're thinking about. Meir is a member of Shir Tikvah, and has a private psychotherapy practice in the Twin Cities. More information is available at www.bargeron.net.

Comments. Add Yours!

13 comments

  1. This is the third article about the Marriage Amendment I’ve seen at TC Jewfolk. The first was from Ethan Roberts, Bet Shalom; the second, Laura Zelle, JCRC; and now this by Mr. Bargeron of Shir Tikva about a fellow congregant, Jeff Zuckerman. All of them advocating what is clearly against Judaism – at least the Judaism that is found in that Torah scroll that resides in your synagogues.

    All three articles tell of Jews who advocate the position that same-sex marriage is of no consequence – to them or to anyone else. To prohibit them would violate some right that has not been discovered until now. And as Jews, these advocates must repair the world – correct? Therefore….

    I suppose, then, landsmen, you won’t believe it is of no consequence when in that hypothetical future day, when you get your wish that same sex marriage is enshrined in law, that agents of the armed state use their power have Jews comply with the “correct” way of thinking. We have the actions of the current Social Democratic administrative to thank for an example of how it can be done, this time against Christians.

    After all, depending on your definition of homophobic, Torah is suspect, is it not, Mr. Zuckerman?

    We’ve been down this road before. It has not turned out very well for Jews. I will refer you to what the left is saying about Jews these days, and the behavior of the left during the last century, the worst for human slaughter in history.

  2. Bachman strikes again!

    Listen – the amendment will pass and then you’ll just have to pray for all of the happy people.

    I assume you live in Minnesota. You’ll be running out of states my friend – one by one they will all join the party.

  3. There is nothing in the Torah scroll that mentions gay marriage. There is something that says not to lie down with a man as you would with a woman, but that may be interpreted in several different ways. Even the word “abomination” which has been associated with this passage has been shown to be, most likely, a mistranslation.

    I would not say gay marriage is of no consequence. I believe it is of great consequence to those who are at present being denied the right to marry for no good reason. I believe it is of great consequence to the families and friends of those who currently cannot marry, and will be of great consequence to future generations as well. I believe the consequences are positive ones, and ones of which God would approve, since God wants us to treat each other as b’tzelem elohim.

    I fail to see how marriage equality would be bad for the Jews.

  4. Say what you will about Rep. Bachmann – at least she didn’t introduce legislation in the Minnesota legislature sympathizing with supporters of genocidal Jew haters, or send a letter to the President calling for supply lines to Hamas to be opened.

    I can provide citations of fact. Just ask me.

  5. Susan Barnes wrote:

    “I fail to see how marriage equality would be bad for the Jews.”

    1. It is a direct attack upon and a repudiation of the most basic of Jewish family traditions and is therefore an expression of anti-Semitism;

    2. If enforced by the armed state it will be an act of oppression against Jewish belief;

    3. It violates the most basic objective truth concerning reproductive biology;

    4. It changes the primary reason for marriage: so that a man and a women form the basis of a family unit, procreate, and raise the successive generation;

    5. It blurs the line or erases the definition of male and female;

    6. If marriage is to be redefined, once that line is crossed, it won’t be long until laws against other forms of marriage are challenged based upon the homosexualist premise of “as long as two people love each other, what difference should it make?”;

    7. The dissolution of the standards of civil society that have existed across cultures, religions, throughout the world and throughout history.

  6. 1. It is a direct attack upon and a repudiation of the most basic of Jewish family traditions and is therefore an expression of anti-Semitism;
    (KEEP YOUR TRADITIONS IN YOUR HOUSE AND ALLOW FOR OTHERS TO MAINTAIN THEIR OWN. I PUT FRESH DILL IN MY MATZOH BALL SOUP – THAT DOESN’T AFFECT YOUR MATZOH BALL SOUP.)

    2. If enforced by the armed state it will be an act of oppression against Jewish belief;
    (YOUR OPPRESSION IS SELF-INFLICTED. NO ONE FROM THE ARMED STATE OF MINNESOTA WILL ATTACK YOU.)

    3. It violates the most basic objective truth concerning reproductive biology;
    (THERE ARE PLENTY OF HETEROSEXUALS WHO CANNOT OR CHOOSE NOT TO REPRODUCE. WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH THEM?)

    4. It changes the primary reason for marriage: so that a man and a women form the basis of a family unit, procreate, and raise the successive generation;
    (THE PRIMARY REASON FOR MARRIAGE IS WHEN TWO PEOPLE MAKE A LIFELONG COMMITMENT TO EACH OTHER. AGAIN, PLENTY OF HETEROSEXUAL PEOPLE CANNOT OR CHOOSE NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN.)

    5. It blurs the line or erases the definition of male and female;
    (NO IT DOESN’T. A GAY MAN IS STILL A MAN. A GAY WOMAN IS STILL A WOMAN. SIMPLE BIOLOGY MY FRIEND.)

    6. If marriage is to be redefined, once that line is crossed, it won’t be long until laws against other forms of marriage are challenged based upon the homosexualist premise of “as long as two people love each other, what difference should it make?”;
    (DON’T BE SO PARANOID…IT WILL SHORTEN YOUR LIFE.)

    7. The dissolution of the standards of civil society that have existed across cultures, religions, throughout the world and throughout history.
    (THESE ARE YOUR STANDARDS, NOT THE STANDARDS OF OUR SOCIETY – REMEMBER THAT FACT.)

  7. It’s actually quite funny that you brought up my favorite political punching bag. I obviously was referring to you, Nachman, not Bachman. The ‘N’ and the ‘B’ are right next to each other, so my apologies. Although I gather you’re a fan by your comment and your similar ideology.

    But please don’t even mention her name on this awesome website because in her years in the Minnesota legislature and later as a US Representative, Michelle Bachmann has done absolutely nothing. Not one important piece of legislation is tied to her name. Not one.

    She says funny things that are instantly proven to be either 100% false, figments of her own imagination, or utter hypocrisies. She’s a walking sound byte. That’s it.

  8. Thank you, Rev Nachmann, Ms. Barnes, and Mr. Mandell for your informative exchange. It’s gratifying to see Chris’s interview with me inspired a dialogue on this important topic. (Suddenly I’m in the mood for a nice cup of chicken soup. Mine I make without dill, Susan, but I, too, respect the choice of those who use it.)

    Rev Nachmann, I don’t know if you are a Twin Cities person, but I would love to sit down and hear more about your perspective. My email address is 365prettygoodreasons@gmail.com. Perhaps we can arrange for glesele tea.

    In the meantime, I am genuinely confused about your concerns of the “agents of the armed state using its power” to tell Jews how to think. The Catholic Church and fundamentalist Protestant leaders have been the main financial and political force behind this Minnesota amendment. Surely we can agree that things did not fare well for Judaism in the 20th century when the Catholic Church and fundamentalist Protestants united to effect civil law in Germany, Poland, Austria, France, and elsewhere.

    My only choice is to believe that you dismiss the Judaism and Minnesota Jews represented by the 30-plus rabbis who’ve spoken out against the proposed amendment. Please tell me I’m wrong . . . over a nice bowl of soup, maybe? I am too old to rant in public.

  9. Mr. Zuckerman wrote:

    >Rev Nachmann

    I’m not a German Christian.

    >Reb Nachman

    There. Fixed.

  10. Take the caps lock off. You don’t have to yell.

  11. Actually, I disagree. We should all be yelling – yelling NO TO THE MARRIAGE AMENDMENT.