Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Monday, May 17, 2004

A memorable day in civil rights history

Today is the 50th anniversary of Brown v. the Board of Education, as everyone knows. And today will go down in history as the first day that gay marriages were genuinely legal for the first time in American history. It's impossible not to draw parallels.
On NPR today, they had a great and telling segment where they read letters that people wrote to President Eisenhower after the Brown v. the Board of Education decision. Sadly, many of the letters were protesting the decision and the authors were not hesistant to use words like "nigger" or describe black people as "animal-like". Most of the protests were centered around the ignorant belief that black people were perverse and diseased and that by treating them like equals, white children would become perverse and diseased. Most of us see now how ridiculous and ignorant those fears were.
But lo and behold, these are the exact same arguments being trotted out in protest of equal access to marriage for gays. Gays are perverse. They are diseased. If they are allowed access, it will hurt the pure straight people. Fifty years from now, people will look at pictures like these and judge our ignorant asses for our inability to see what is obvious, that these families are good, loving families, painfully ordinary in their way, and we are evil and unjust and ignorant for standing in their way.
All these issues came together in a random discussion I had today. One of my coworkers had returned from his sister's wedding so we were asking him how it went. He said it was great, without a hitch which was a big relief because he was afraid there would be incidents. We asked him what the worry was. He said that well, since his sister is white and her husband is black there was the usual tedious drama created by relatives who want their racism catered to, even if it means thwarting the happiness and love of young people. (He didn't put it that way exactly, but you know, summarizing here.) He was just glad that after years of fighting and threats of being disowned and having to stand up for his sister's basic human rights to love and marry who she pleased that it was official and final and everyone actually managed to have a good time.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Sometimes it just bears repeating. In a political enviroment, liberals push to get closer to the goal of securing the unalienable rights of all and conservatives fight them every teeny-tiny step of the way, and we get mired in the muckety-muck of the details and legalities of each issue and sometimes lose sight of the big picture. In Brown v. the Board of Education, the big picture came into sharp focus. Black people were being deprived of their unalienable rights, and for what? So a bunch of random assholes could feel superior just because they were born white? There is a reason that the term "eyes on the prize" has resonance. There are some principles that are so important, so essential to how we define America and its ideals that we cannot afford to lose sight of them for political gain or we chance losing our direction altogether.
With this 50th anniversary, I have heard alot of in-depth analysis of how Brown v. the Board of Education has turned out. Generally, it's not as well as could be hoped by any means, and that's a huge understatement. However, I also hear alot of people second-guessing the wisdom of the decision to pursue it. Are black students doing better than they used to? Are schools intergrated? Did they have a clue when they pursued this? Of course civil rights workers knew that intergration was not a cure-all. They knew that things would be fucked-up for a long, long time. But they also knew and they were absolutely right, that someone had to stand up on principle or nothing would change, ever.
And that's where we are with the gay rights movement. Alot of liberals are wringing their hands and whining that this isn't good timing or couldn't we compromise or move slower or something? The answer is no. Ask any half-assed historian how well "separate but equal" worked out for black people. It became its own burden that had to be overthrown just as crueler forms of bigotry had to be overthrown.
If you don't stand on principle once in awhile than your principles become vague and nebulous. Now is as good a time as any to dig our claws in and refuse to accept any compromise if that compromise means agreeing that anyone, ever is somehow deserving of less than what any American citizen is guaranteed.

39 Comments:

Blogger Adam said...

I wanted to scream in rage when I heard The Chimp in Topeka commenting on Massachusetts with his usual bullshit about "activist judges". Stupid fuckin' idiot. That's the EXACT SAME THING people like Strom Thurmond complained about when the Supreme Court, as my wife's East Texas relatives so quaintly put it, "gave us the Forced Integration."

For him to say that, while celebrating THE LANDMARK CASE THAT ENDED SEGREGATION IN SCHOOLS, is indicative to me of the absolute contempt that jerkwater has for the Constitution and the American people.

On a more positive note, the Attorney General of Rhode Island stated today that his reading of RI law is that ANY MARRIAGE that's legal in another state is legal in RI. Still up to the RI Supreme Court to make the binding decision, but it's certainly hopeful.

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