Expanding on some of what I wrote yesterday, I want to add the observation that I see the times I cited in my past as happening again, this time under the guise of the phony issue of religious rights. What is it about the American character that it has to have something to hate difference the way it does? Is it something in the water?
I can’t suppose, however, that the need to hate is purely an American characteristic. History is over ripe with examples of hate. The Old Testament, as we call it, is practically a paean to the idea of hate. They don’t believe what you do, kill them! It is just my naivety that causes me to expect that a people who created a government based on the idea of the legal equality of all human beings would have somehow have conquered the tendency. I love the American ideal, as expressed within the Constitution; is it just an irony that all, but one, of the framers of the American Constitution were slave holders?
The most insidious characteristic of discrimination is how hard it is to recognize if you are not one of its victims. Growing up in the North, I was taught that the 13 to 15th amendments had solved the race problems. If I noticed “colored only” on water fountains, “or white men only need apply” signs, it was only in photographs depicting the backward South. I never noticed that Black and Latino, or indeed anybody else but White people, seemed to be the only people who wore suits and worked downtown. It never occurred to me that Black people were forbidden to live in my neighborhood, not by law, but by the unspoken fiat of my White neighbors. It wasn’t until I recognized myself as a gay man, and as such, became subject to that brand of discrimination that I began to see the soul-numbing, life threatening reality of prejudice even in its most civilized expression.
Voltaire stated the maxim, “Your right to swing your arm ends where the other person nose begins”. Someone else voiced the observation that “Majority rule only works if you’re also considering individual rights. Because you can’t have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper.”
In its birth certificate, America declared that all people have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. It listed no exceptions. It did not exclude race, philosophies, gender or gender preference, classes, or sexual preference. This last idea is not in opposition to the first two. Rather, the first two suggest a caution for thoughtful consideration as we pursue the third.
I define “thoughtful consideration”, in this case, as an examination of how a personally held belief is more a weapon against the happiness of others than it is a necessity for your own.