Bringing the Forest Boy out of the woods.

Now that Ray the Forest Boy has been revealed as 20-year-old Robin van Helsum, Harriet Alexander and Joan Clements of the Telegraph have spoken with his friends in Hengelo, and what they’ve uncovered is both more mundane and sadder than I’d expected.

If this entry seems long, it’s because I like to err on the side of thoroughness. If it seems obsessive, that’s because even with the hoax exposed, Robin’s story is still interesting enough to tickle the writer part of my brain.

His parents divorced when he was a toddler and his mother took him and his elder brother Thomas, now 22, to Portugal. His father, Johan van Helsum, fought a custody battle and, upon winning the case, flew out to bring his sons back to the Netherlands.

“Robin was really traumatised by those early years,” said Mo Rahim Rigi, his former flatmate. “It unnerved him. His mother would try to get in touch, send him birthday cards and that kind of thing, but he didn’t want to know.”

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3 Movies I Enjoyed, 3 Things That Bugged

Freedom Writers

Here is my problem: I like my fictional characters with some dimension. I can do without villains who are all darkness and heroes who are all light. Among the chaos and tribalism of Long Beach, LA in 1994, the character of Erin Gruwell is just too uniformly, unrealistically good. I’m sure the real-life person of Erin Gruwell is a woman of integrity, generosity and courage, but I don’t think she was ever as perfect as the character we see in the movie. There’s nuance all around; her students are both victims of the gang culture and its participants. They suffer from LA’s damaged race relations but they’re also part of the problem. Gruwell’s colleagues are sympathetic up to a point; after going through 12 years of public school in the U.S. and teaching for 2 years in Albania, I can absolutely relate to Imelda Staunton’s character stating that “you can’t make someone want to learn.”

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How equality destroys marriage, except for when it doesn’t.

Margaret Talbot writes about the Prop 8 trial:

This week, the anti-gay marriage side is stressing a different mechanism of harm. It came up yesterday afternoon, while the defense’s lead lawyer, Charles Cooper, was questioning the plaintiffs’ witness M.V. Lee Badgett, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. According to Lisa Leff of the AP, “Cooper spent several hours with Badgett trying to demonstrate that traditional male-female marriages suffered after same-sex marriages became legal in the Netherlands in 2001. He introduced a number of charts showing divorce and single parenthood rates increased while marriage rates fell in that country.”

Ah, music to my empirically inclined lefty ears. Answers like these bring a glow to my little black heart. We shameless family-destroying coastal perverts keep demanding, “But, when you say letting same-sex couples marry will destroy heterosexual marriage…what exactly do you mean is going to happen?” and, finally, the enforcers of tradition give us a concrete answer expressed in statistics. They show us: divorce rates! Unmarried parents! Declining marriage rates! In countries that have legalized marriage equality! Yeah!

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Won’t someone please think of the children!

The battle over Prop 8 has gone to court in California, and the defense is proceeding with the usual arguments about how marriage is all about procreation. It seems we can’t discuss marriage equality in the U.S. without hearing that marriage is about making babies, ad nauseum like a broken record.

Meanwhile, in Portugal, something very different is going on: MPs have approved marriage rights for same-sex couples, but NOT the right to adopt children. Wherein lies the distinction?

“Adoption is a different matter from marriage, because adoption does not only involve free, consenting adults. Adoption is not a couple’s right, it is the child’s right,” he said.

To maintain that adoption is “a child’s right” still implies that same-sex couples are not equal to heterosexual couples in raising children, that family life with a same-sex couple is an inappropriate environment for a vulnerable child. The prejudice is still there. But this is interesting: it posits civil marriage as separate from parenthood. It puts marriage in one space, and children in another. The law assumes that marriage is not about making babies, it is about a relationship between two adults.

While the continued discrimination towards gays and lesbians in parenthood is unfortunate, it is so refreshing to this American to see this kind of sanity in the politics of marriage. We are long past the era in which marriage and parenthood were one and the same, if it ever occurred. Many people have children without getting married, sometimes deliberately. Many couples get married and do not have children. Do we give a couple a set amount of time to procreate or their marriage is null and void? Is a couple automatically divorced when the wife reaches menopause? Is the marriage annulled by law if either spouse becomes infertile? Is an engaged couple denied a marriage license if the woman is post-menopausal or if either partner has diagnosed infertility? No, to all questions.

If the concern is that extending civil marriage to same-sex couples will allow gays and lesbians to become parents, the answer is: that ship has sailed. Many same-sex couples already have children, and more become parents every day, with or without marriage, and those kids are turning out just fine. If you want to prevent same-sex couples from creating or adopting and raising children, you’ll need to fight that battle on another field. You won’t get any help from me.

I’m aware that this isn’t the only argument against marriage equality, but it’s probably the most obvious fish in the barrel.