America's Ongoing Civil Rights Crisis
BY JASON GANTENBERG I NOVEMBER 21, 2008
DRAWING BY AMS.
We are confronted primarily with a moral issue... whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. John F. Kennedy
If polling has been confirmed as anything in recent years, it is as an ineffective means of gauging popular sentiment, which bodes ill for statistic junkies like me who get off on seeing row upon row of percentages and demographic tallies detailing anything from batting averages to health pandemics and constituent support for brainless political toadies. The results are usually depressing anyway, especially so for someone who is a firm believer that They will never tell the general public how bad it really is.
For instance, let's say Gallup released a poll indicating that 50% of people participating in a telephone survey said that gay marriage should remain illegal. One could conceivably imagine that the figure would approach 75% if the same cross-section of polled citizens were asked to put the pen to paper and actually draft a binding document in favor of legalizing the institution. Furthermore, a realist should probably assume that the same initial 50% opposed to same-sex unions also support ritual torture and execution of homosexuals as well as renewing the myriad anti-sodomy laws dating back to the 1700s that would effectively outlaw homosexual activity altogether. Don't kid yourself. The Supreme Court only just declared such laws unconstitutional with their decision regarding Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, and provided the opportunity, a good number of patriotic Americans would support Gerald Allen's proposed 2004 ban on gay arts.
Remember, folks. This is the same Land of the Free that had "colored" drinking fountains and bathrooms not so long ago. It is the same country that corralled every Japanese-American they could find and threw them into internment camps for the duration of World War II. There seems to be some inherent malfunction in the American brain unable to connect the very palpable definition of liberty with usage of the word itself. Our current civil rights crisis is no different. It too can be attributed to this faulty wiring and the strange, endemic notion in the United States that freedom is achieved only through its constant defense, a strategy that entails occupation, penetrative surveillance, social control, and constant war.
I can remember first coming into any sort of societal/political consciousness believing the bold lies about Free Press and preserved civil liberties--thinking these notions were more or less upheld in modern times—and suffering for a while under the pretense that America was a beacon for social change. It seemed to me that our society maintained a fluidity in the latter part of the twentieth century as well as a sense of responsibility to those disaffected by institutional prejudices. One needn't do so much as use a magnifying glass to identify the blatant cracks in such logic. Conventional myths propagated by the government and major media outlets exist only to instill illusions of meaningful dissent and personal freedom when, as the matter stands, they are simply nuts and bolts in the political machine. These institutions serve one primary purpose: to maintain the status quo.
In reality, change is a long and painful process during which the marginalized suffer on spikes and hope for a fortuitous fluke, a glitch in the Great Design.
To say the continued discrimination of homosexuals in this country is primarily due to the infiltration of our political system by religious fanaticism would be short-sighted. It might be true in large part, but the bias, while more prevalent among moralists, spreads across all social strata. Southern Baptists and proclaimed agnostics alike will grow squeamish at the thought of two gay men or women setting up house in a quiet suburb and attempting to lead a normal life. All the more saddening, perhaps, is that even people in favor of gay rights often fall back when it comes to nomenclature. Civil Unions are in, but gay marriage is as out as it ever was. No one likes to use the M-word, and if homosexual partnerships are established one day as legal and binding--in other words, as marriages—calling them Civil Unions would still be an act of discrimination, an inherent proclamation and utterance that something is less than full-fledged.
The fact that there is debate at all is shameful, in my book. Here we are, a preachy juggernaut constantly yammering on about progress and world leadership without a clue as to what either of those terms mean, unable to grasp the concept of tolerance even in the infancy of a new century that should have been ushered in with bolstered overtones of acceptance. Even now, the United States has made regrettably few strides toward evening the field, and such stubbornness has led to American Citizens, members of We The People like anybody else, being treated as something outside of legitimate. Many have been forced into the closet, sent to behavioral camps, and all in all, psychologically tortured because of something as innocuous as sexual orientation.
Maybe we've gotten one step past Selma, but if it weren't for a modicum of good luck, we'd be seeing another cross-section of the public plastered to the pavement by water from fire hoses paid for by their own tax dollars.