Which Side Are You On?

March 18th, 2012

No photos today.  Just one of my rants.  You’ve been warned.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

It’s hard for us to realize, nearly 250 years after Thomas Jefferson wrote those words, just how radical a statement that was at the time.  That was the age of the divine right of kings.  Those were words that could get you executed in much of the world.  Those words were the beginning of theUnited States of Americabecoming the beacon of freedom to the world.  Those words represent the ideas that made this a great nation.  Those words make me proud to be an American.

But theUnited Statesis a human institution and from the beginning it has had the flaws that are a part of every human creation.  We have always struggled with the truth of those words in the Declaration of Independence.  We started out as a nation where slavery was legally recognized.  Of course, from the start there were those inAmericawho saw that slavery was wrong and worked to end it.  It took nearly a century and a horrible civil war, but eventually slavery was ended and we moved closer to being the nation we set out to be.

The struggle wasn’t over, of course.  There always seem to be people who want to claim their superiority over others…to repress and discriminate against groups of people for no good reason…for the color of their skin or the place they were born…and, fortunately, there always seem to be another group of people who see how wrong that is and work to end it.  That has been the story of our country…and it still is.

Women were excluded from the definition of equal in that original document.  The subservient role of women was so ingrained that it’s doubtful thatJeffersonever considered that his language excluded them.  It took us even longer to fix that flaw, but eventually we did.

And the struggle goes on.  We’ve gone from a nation with enslaved blacks to a nation with a black president.  Women, once considered the property of their husbands, are now equal to men in law, if not yet in fact in the world of work.  We had to have the civil rights movement and the suffrage movement to get to where we are, but we have always moved in the right direction, toward the goal expressed in that original document so long ago.

Why is it such a struggle?  Because there are two sides to the struggle.  We always have a force that doesn’t want everyone to be equal.  There is always a side that is against progress, against freedom, against equality.  They have been with us from the beginning and they are with us today.  But they are the losing side.  They are the wrong side.

Sometimes the wrong side gains temporary victories and the world suffers.  That’s what happened inGermanyin the 1930s leading to World War II and the concentration camps and attempted genocide.  The struggle is important.  We can never relax and let evil win, even if only for a short time.  The cost is far too great.

How could anyone be in favor of slavery?  How could a position like that be justified.  Why, with quotes from the Bible, of course.  And with arguments about the economic consequences of freeing the slaves.  And, of course, with arguments based on bigotry.

And, surprise, the same basic arguments were used against the equal treatment of women under the law.  The Bible says women are not equal to men, even blames them for all that is wrong in the world.  And what will happen to our society if women don’t stay home and cook and clean and care for children?  And besides, women are too delicate to be involved in politics and work outside the home.  Always the arguments against equality are the same bigoted lies, just adjusted to the current group to be oppressed.

So, what’s this all about?  Well, while those battles continue even after the major victories, there’s another battle for equality going on right now.  I’m talking about the fight for equal rights for couples in same sex relationships.  I’m talking about equality for people regardless of their sexual orientation.  The time has finally come for this nation to move forward and end another kind of legal discrimination.

The arguments against this next move toward the society we set out to be are the same old arguments that were used to defend slavery, justify killing millions of Jews and against giving women the right to vote.  Those arguments are wrong, as they always have been.

I confess that I have a very hard time understanding how people can be against equality.  I suppose it is fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of change.  Fear of not having anyone they can feel superior to.  Fear of the “other.”

But I certainly know which side is right.  I know which side is moral.  I know which side wins, always, in the end.  I know which side Jesus would be on if he were here today.  If you don’t think that’s true, read the Sermon on the Mount and get back to me.  And I know which side Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius and the other great wise men/prophets/leaders of the past would chose.  The good and the wise and the kind are always on the side of progress toward greater freedom and equality.

How do we feel today about George Wallace standing in the doorway or Lester Mattox brandishing his axe handle to stop black students from entering a school?  How do we feel about those who murdered Freedom Riders?  Do any of us think that bombing a church and killing innocent young girls was the right thing to do?  The day is coming when we will look in the same way at those standing in the way of equality for all regardless of sexual orientation.

Equality, freedom, respect, consideration, love…those are the path to the future.  That is what this great nation is about.  That is what makes us great.  That is what makes us an example to the world.

It’s time for us to take the next step toward what we ought to be.  It’s time to end another form of discrimination, another way that a group of people have been kept from equality.  It will happen.  It is inevitable because it is right.

Which side are you on?

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4 Responses to “Which Side Are You On?”

  1. 1Cyndi
    March 18th, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

    That was excellent, Dave. I love how rants bring out our clearest thinking and eloquent expression.

  2. 2Brooks
    March 18th, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    It’s so odd to me that this even has to be mentioned these days. Great read, Dave.

  3. 3Dave Swanson
    March 18th, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

    I was going to pass on this, but it was nagging at me so here I am.
    You made a few points that answered all of the questions.
    Morals change, and with it what we consider what is right and wrong change.
    Whether we were right or wrong in our thinking 100 years or two hundred years ago is irrelevant. The morals of the time said it was right, even though now we say it was wrong.
    Thirty years ago gay marriage would never have even been introduced t be voted upon because the morals of the times said it was wrong, and it was wrong based upon those morals.
    Now we accept gay couples and out morals have changed so we think it is now the right thing to do.
    Let’s take this one step further. Current morals say it is wrong for a mother to have sex with her son, or father/daughter. But what if they are of consenting age? We still say, WRONG. How many years from will it take for these couples to fight to where it is acceptable and morals change so we are speaking as you did here today about their rights and equalities?
    If you don’t think it is coming you are living in a world like those people 200 years ago, or like our parents did only 40 years ago.
    Morals change and with it changes what we consider right and wrong.
    One would argue, where will our acceptance of moral conduct stop? Will it never stop, and will we turn into a race of people that allows anything and everything? Or have we gone too far already?
    I’m not taking sides. I’m sticking in my 2 cents on why we should be cautious about boldly stating what is right and what is wrong. It shifts, and always toward things we call wrong at the present.

  4. 4Judith Waite Allee
    March 18th, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

    I agree with you, Dave. And I know the struggle for rights relating to sexual orientation is far from over. However, I feel that it has made such amazing strides in the last 20 years, thanks to brave and eloquent people of all sexual orientations, that victory seems certain.

    The struggle that scares me now is the one for privacy, made apparent by the latest moves by Google. Once the “first do no evil” people, Google’s new so-called “uniform privacy policy” is not only evil, but also dangerous, pervasive, and downright creepy. They can proceed without public uproar because we are so numbed by tedious fine print that we tune it out.

    Think about the power of a database that compiles what books you bought, what search topics you searched, whom you e-mailed and what you said, your location (via your cellphone GPS) at any given moment . . . all stored with no expiration and available for sale or for free to the government. So far, Goog has authorized 95% of government requests for users’ data–WITHOUT notifying the users.

    OK, this has turned into an off-topic rant. Off I go. . . what you said was well said.

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