Jesse Ventura is threatening to run for president. Well, he’s probably the only candidate who’d answer the “Boxers or Briefs?” question by saying “Neither.”

It’s just grandstanding. He won’t do it. Look, if you get disillusioned by politics after four years as the Governor of Minnesota, wait until you get to DC. I hear they play for keeps there. Oh, yes, Minnesota politics are cutthroat and ruthless, and the Capitol steps are regularly heaped with bodies like a scene from “I, Claudius,” but even our standards of cruelty and brutality are mild compared to Washington. You have to admire his desire to run on the No Party platform, though.

Look, I like the guy, kinda. It’s left over goodwill from the old days before the going got weird and the pro turned weird. He was the right guy at the right time; he broke up the monopoly power of one of the parties, and made it possible for people to vote for someone other than a Sainted Humphrey without feeling as though they had betrayed their roots and joined the spats & diamond-tipped walking cane crowd. He did some good things, too – basic stuff like dropping the car tax and giving back excess tax revenue. But in the end he just became weary and cranky; his head grew thicker as his skin got thicker, and when he announced he wouldn’t run again there was a general sense of relief. There will be the same reaction when he announces he's sitting out the 08 election. We like you, Jesse. Don't press it.

Wife’s at her monthly hen party, which means the usual: off to McDonald’s to sit by the player piano and hear it stumble through old show tunes - Gershwin tonight, horribly done; it’s like they hired some lovely old lady who used to teach piano in the 50s and still enjoys playing so much no one has the heart to tell her that her playing sounds like there’s a cat on the keyboard with three sprained legs.

Then a trip to the computer store to get toys – in her case, a Care Bear computer game. Oh Dad, it’s just what I wanted! It has activities! She says the word very carefully, as if it’s fragile. On the way over she’d said another word with great deliberation:

"Grant and Nathan said pee pee and poop in the sandbox today."

They did, did they. We’re having issues with excretory language lately, teaching her when it’s right and when it’s wrong. Right: I have to go poopie. Wrong: He is a poopie head. It’s an interesting lesson, because the difference is literal vs. figurative. And my lesson would appear to be “Don’t use figurative language!” Great. Anyway, sometimes she says that other people use these words so she can say them herself, which is a clever way of routing around my censorship.

She dropped a p-bomb at lunch today, and I did the usual chastisement. I told her that her teacher would also be disappointed in her if Gnat used these words, and teacher would tell me if Gnat used the words in school. Teachers are a different sort of authority; I think kids know that teachers are less judgmental and more easily fooled, since they don’t see what goes on at home. But to lose a teacher’s affection really takes some work, and means you’ve been extra bad. They always want to be on teacher’s good side – unless they’re a total juvenile delinquent from the get-go, or the teacher is a hard-arse lame-o whose disrespect you wear as a badge of honor. But you don’t get many of those teaching three-year olds.

“Don’t tell her I said poopie head!” she said. I assured her I wouldn’t, but she had best keep poopie to herself. Figuratively, of course.

So today she said that Grant and Nathan said pee and poop, and the teacher was “very disappointed.” (I wish I had it on tape; there’s something so unbelievably charming and precious about the speech of kids at this age. Complete sentences, actual narratives, every thought voiced without fear of censure or dispute. It’s just charming to be around her, that’s all. And she’s funny. But that’s another entry.) We discussed the concept of “disappointment,” and what it actually means. I tell you, it’s a minefield – you have to assure them that bad emotions are valid while stressing that better emotions are preferable. My wife, for example, handles the “it’s okay to be second place” and I handle “but it’s better to be first.” That about covers it. As Spaceboy says on Olie: “I’ll do my best, because that’s the best I can do.” Something in my wife’s nature wants to shield her from the pain of losing, while gently nudging her to excel; I want to give her a desire to win, and an understanding that we can’t always be first. Like I say, it’s a minefield – and of course she’s watching both of us to see how we present these ideas in word and deed.

Which brings us to gay marriage. Earlier that day I’d heard an interesting debate on the Dennis Prager show. He had two anthropologists as guests, both tenured professors who favore of elastic definitions of marriage. One of them said the most extraordinary thing, which prompted me to finally say something about it here. I’ve avoided the topic because A) I really don’t have any observations not covered elsewhere by other fine commentators, and B) expression of opposition to gay marriage often leads to a distortion of one’s views. After the constitutional amendment issue was floated, I caught a couple examples of TV commentators calling it “a ban on gay unions,” which is an utter mischaracterization of the issue. As if the government was going to find gay couples, crowbar them apart and make them live alone in dismal one-room apartments. And I’ve heard callers to radio hosts insist that in the end it’s all about homophobia, or religious intolerance, no matter what arguments the host might put forward.

Well, I have no religious opposition to homosexuality. I think civilized society recognizes that a small percentage of its citizens are drawn to the same sex, and that’s no reason to gather up the pitchforks and flaming torches, okay? Live and let live. Consenting adults, etc. And it's not one of those "you repulse me, and you should be glad I tolerate your presence" things. It's just no big deal for me. Not on the radar. I have no problem with civil unions; I have no problem with gay adoption, either. We had a piece in the paper a few months ago about a gay couple who’d adopted six HIV-positive children from other countries. Six! And I’m supposed to stand in judgment of them?

But what perked up my ears was one of the anthropologist’s assertions that there is no difference between a two-parent / two-sex family and a two-parent / same-sex family. None. He said: Any preference for a traditional mom/dad family was based in a “superstition.” His word: “Superstition.” Because, you see, there was no evidence that two moms were different in any important way than a mom and a dad. Belief in werewolves, belief in the evil eye, belief in the walking undead or the superiority of a mom-dad household: superstition.

In his zeal for a brave new world, this fellow managed to insult and demean everyone. And I mean everyone. Moms? Any guy can do your job. Dads? Your son or daughter doesn’t need to grow up with a male role model in his or her daily life. It’s the sort of pernicious nonsense that thinks gender is an arbitrary social construct. It’s not enough, apparently, to say that gay couples can be great parents. You have to insist that heterosexual couples have no inherent advantages. It’s not enough to say that kids raised by gay couples can grow up well-adjusted. You have to deny the advantages of growing up in a family where the child is exposed to both male and female role models on a molecular level. It’s not enough to support the rights of a lesbian couple to bring life into this world; you have to stifle your own suspicions that having a dad in the house is better than not having one. Otherwise you’re one of those curious old things who lives in a world dominated by superstitions. Quaint, amusing superstitions.

This is what dismays me: no matter how much I may support gay rights, in the final analysis my belief that my daughter needs a dad brands me as a reactionary.

Well, at the risk of making it worse: A mom cannot be a dad. And a friend or uncle who comes around for trips to the ice cream store might be that vaunted “male role model” but he’s not going to magically impart values just by showing up for an hour or two every fortnight. Just because gay couples can’t be excellent parents doesn’t mean that the inherent nature of the relationship is equal to the inherent nature of heterosexual parenting. But nowadays we cannot make value judgments about these things. If you say that heterosexual parenting arrangements have a built-in advantage you're somehow delegitimizing the very notion of homosexual parenting

I think this is obvious, and I am mystified why this should somehow become a referendum on homosexuality. But alas. I’m sure this makes me, in the eyes of some, a hopeless bigot. It would be different if the advocates admitted the difference and insisted that it doesn’t matter in the long run. No: they refuse to admit that there’s a difference at all. Moms? Dads? Play-acting roles, Mere inventions, lead aprons we drape on manikins.

I don’t mean to suggest this is the opinion of all advocates of gay marriage; for all I know most regard this a self-refuting drivel. Of course kids need dads and moms! But it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, and it seems to be a favored argument by those who are approaching the same-sex marriage issue not as a civil rights issue, but as a means of enshrining gender-studies grad school nonsense in public policy. Rather than explore the fascinating differences between men and women, they shake the Etch-A-Sketch and insist there were never any differences anyway.

To paraphrase Prager, it takes a Master’s degree to believe something as stupid as this.

Just took Gnat up to bed. We said our prayers. I'm not a churchy guy, but this is important. One daily nod to inscrutible divine. My wife usually puts her down, and they recount the day and say what they’re grateful for. “And now we say thank you to God in heaven who looks over us,” I said, “And who –“

“And your mom is in heaven with God,” she said.

Whoa. This had never come up between us before. This must be something my wife mentions from time to time. “Yes,” I said. “Yes she is.”

“And God doesn’t want us to say poopie words.”

“That’s right,” I said.

When you’re three and a half it’s still a mystery. Sometimes God is Mom. Sometimes God is Dad.

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