“…To dream the impossible dream, To fight the unbeatable foe, To bear with unbearable sorrow To run where the brave dare not go; To right the unrightable wrong…”
-Man of La Mancha
by: Marcia Prichason
While Americans haven’t cornered the market on creating second class citizens, we are certainly very good at it. Until as late as 1865, U.S. citizens could own slaves. Today, most people would agree that slavery is an abomination. But, before its abolition, the nation was polarized by this issue. Those who justified its existence used these specious rationalizations to justify their position:
-Slavery has always existed.
-The Bible condones slavery.
-It is natural for superior people to have authority over inferiors.
-Society will fall into decline and all kinds of evils would be unleashed without slavery.
To those enslaved, it must have seemed like an impossible dream to ever be free. Their foes were unbeatable and their sorrows unbearable. For them, this unrightable wrong would seemingly never be righted. But, there were individuals who did run where the brave dare not go…the abolitionists.
At the time, however, society viewed abolitionists as eccentrics. In fact, “slavery opponents generally elicited reactions ranging from gentle amusement to harsh scorn and even violent assault” (www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/our-economic-past/ten).
Eventually, due in no small measure to their hard work and a violent civil war, slavery was finally abolished. But, it took nearly a century after that before we passed laws that prevented discrimination against African Americans, American Indians and other ethnic groups. And, sadly, in some parts of our nation, this discrimination still exists.
This tradition of treating other groups of people as inferior persists, especially with respect to equality for LGBTQ individuals. In fact, opponents today use the same baseless rationalizations once used to support slavery. And those who support equality for all individuals are often dismissed as eccentrics or bleeding heart liberals.
But now, after decades of rancor and dissent, there is hope. Recently, the national board of the N.A.A.C.P. voted to support same-sex marriage. This marks a dramatic shift in policy.
African-American leaders have often seen gay rights groups as insensitive to racial concerns. Also, some resented the movement’s use of civil rights language to make their case for same-sex marriage. Advocates for gay rights, in turn, sometimes blamed socially conservative African-Americans for their defeat in crucial electoral battles
But, hate crimes are increasing across the country. And, many states are attempting to encode discrimination into their state laws and constitutions. It has become clear that these two minority groups need to either stand together or die apart (www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/nyregion/black-leaders-and-gay).
Obtaining equality for everyone in this country is not just a voluntary quest; it is a battle worth fighting. And we must enlist all the allies and advocates we can to join us in this dream for a better tomorrow. Without these allies, we risk failure. And failure is unthinkable.
While we have come a long way toward acceptance and legalization of LGBTQ individuals in this country, it is not enough. We must rally behind the common cause of nationwide equality and push what opponents call the “gay agenda” of equal rights. If we relax after the few gains that have been made and call it done, then we are condemned to continue as a country divided between those who have rights and those who do not.
As a nation, we cannot afford to relegate certain classes of people to a less than equal status. In our competition in the international arena, we must be the front runners in the quest for justice. That is what this country was founded on, and that is how we must operate if we are going to continue as world leaders.
And so, I hope you join me as . . .
“…This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!…”
And I know, if I’ll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this,
That one (wo)man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with (her) last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!
…And I’m just a mom who loves her son…