|Matilda's Project: a play about family diversity|
The video is of a clean-cut, sensible looking lad, Zach Wahl, speaking at the hearing of a bill to ban marriage for same-sex couples in Iowa, USA. Zach was raised with lesbian mothers and makes a touching appeal for people to recognise the normality and ‘goodness’ of his family life. I have to confess to a brief teary moment listening to this. I would be very proud to be one of this kid’s Moms.
However, the second time I watched it, I felt a bit irritated by its blatant appeal to ‘normal’. Why can’t people accept us even if we don’t fit this image of whitebread ‘normality’? If my son spends his teenage years sporting gothic-black eyeliner and reading Sylvia Plath (as I suspect he well might) can he still stand up and make an appeal for how great his family is? This is not to undermine the importance or impact of Zach’s speech (it’s a beautiful speech). But I think we need to remember our families and our kids – especially our kids –are great in all their diversity.
All that being said, it's a great thing that Zach’s video has gone viral. Apparently when it was posted on Facebook, it generated over 1,000,000 ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ within 24 hours. Dana Rudolph, who writes the Mombian blog (check it out if you haven’t already), makes a good point about why this video is so powerful. It tells a story. She writes, “Storytelling lies at the heart of the human experience. It is something we expose our children to almost from birth, and cuts across time and cultures. Never underestimate the staying power—or the transformative power—of a good story.”
Stories generate emotional connection between people and 'issues' in a way that facts, figures and arguments will never do. We often forget about the role of emotion in political action. It is the implicit subtext to almost all political argument. At the end of the day, it is often the appeal to emotion, rather than rational argument, that changes minds (hearts?)… and policies.
But stories are also simply great tools for exploring human experience. People read reflections of their own lives and the world they inhabit. Stories help people make sense of their place in the world and the weird, wacky, confusing processes that keep society ticking over.