I've heard a lot of back and forth. Listening to political rhetoric I would assume there are two groups in this country. Granola-eating bleeding heart baby-killing liberals, and gun-toting aging rich white intolerant right-wingers.
I take no sides in this argument. Its not that there aren't opinions I disagree with. Oh boy are there. We are, however, in a much deeper and stranger state of affairs, just beneath the surface. The 60's may be one of America's most influential decades. Along with the Civil War, World War II, the Roaring Twenties, the 60's changed social morays, shifted political focus, advanced new and exciting technological frontiers, and changed the nature of how we as a people define ourselves, and what it is to be an American.
I'm not going to sit here and tell anyone what it means to be an American. What cause is important and which is frivolous. What choices define a moral or amoral life. That is the beauty of freedom. The freedom to make choices. The freedom to make mistakes. Most surely, the choices of moral interpretation that have been imposed by authority have been the ones we later hold as our most unfortunate. Slavery, denying anyone the right to vote, the internment of American citizens, exclusionism of any kind, governmental support of the diminishing of anyone's quality of life.
The 60's can be described as many things, its movements have been interpreted as a fulcrum of limitless different types of change. Peaceful protest was not a new thing in the face of oppression. Neither was lawful armament as a means of civil disobedience as seen with the Black Panther organization. The people came together to force the government to stop looking away and admit its blemishes. To admit and take an active role in improving the lives of those who had been oppressed through socially accepted oppression. To remind government that it is of the people, by the people, and for the people. The power flows up from the most unfortunate poor person, and not down from on high.
People became important again. The quality of their lives. Their right to live outside of fear, and that America is about a fair shake for everyone.
Forty years later this culture of activism has become a vehicle of division. A peaceful country built on equality and opportunity is not the fruit bore from the trees planted at places like Selma, Kent State, and Washington D.C. Activism has become a tool of division and exclusion. The very way we define ourselves and others has been affected by this.
Once interest groups were able to gain governmental change through activism it became the dinner call for all wanting change for their particular cause. Instead of coming together for the good of humanity, individual interest groups are pandering to the political machine for relief and assistance of their particular dilemma. Each group argues that they are more deserving than others, that they should be first at the watering hole as the wrongs they have endured are worse than others.
Martin Luther King was a great leader and teacher of peace. But when he is spoken of he is listed as a black leader. He lead marchers on Washington to educate the American public of the oppression of African Americans in the old south, but more so ensure the rights and opportunity that America can hold for all.
For this he was followed by Men, Women, Black, White, Latin, Asian, Protestants, Catholic, Jewish, Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, young and old. On the road together this cross-section of America faced the challenges of marching the great distance to Washington D.C. together.
By saying he was a black leader, and not simply a leader diminishes his legacy and efforts. It identifies him with the color of his skin, not his humanity.
This identification leads us to Laws regarding hate crimes. If one person kills another with a racial motivation, the punishment is severe. Isn't murder a most heinous crime in itself? By focusing on the race of the victim we diminish their humanity, separate them from an average murder, and further divide ourselves.
Rape effects everyone. It is not simply a rallying cry of women's rights. It is a horrific thing for the survivors, nearly all of whom that are known being women, but it diminishes intimacy for everyone. It is a human issue. It damages trust between the sexes, scars both the victim and their loved one's at times irreparably. The lack of understanding creates a system oppression that has at times enslaved women and made them the subject of sexual, emotional and social brutality. Oppressors that pass along these cruel and sexist attitudes to sons and daughters have diminished their offspring's ability to enjoy a rich and beautiful intimacy with their partners. It is a human issue.
Activism is no longer the tool of the bleeding heart liberal. Right wing movements, religious movements, racially intolerant groups. All have taken a page from activism's book and have become vocal protestors for their viewpoints.
Why? Because activism is no longer comprised of peoples' movements serving to educate humanity on grievous issues in order to make the changes that will enrich the lives of all. It is about power. It is about which group gets their way. Does the KKK get to march or does the government cave to opposing pressure and ban them. Do gays receive the right to marry, or does the Christian Coalition get enough signatures, or support, to block the legislation?
For every group there is an equal, and opposite group. For every Group A there will be a Group Z, who's members find Group A's morality, or ideology or race or religion, reprehensible. In every Group Z, Group A will find motivation to be exclusionary to all but people of similarity to themselves.
But every group, from A to Z, will exclude, for outsiders cannot comprehend what it is like. That whites cannot know what it is like to be black, that men cannot know what it is like to be a woman, that straights can't know what it is like to be gay and on and on and on.
And in the end we are all crying oppression. Group A is oppressed by Group Z, Groups Z is oppressed by Group B, Group B can't get a fair shake thanks to Group C, and Group C won't listen to any other group because other groups don't follow the one true god. And in the end we are all seeking to be heard. All trying to shout louder than who we oppose. All seeking to be laws to protect us from those that would deny us rights. All seeking damages for wrongs we, and our ancestors, have endured. All seeking to block the spread of ideologies we find offensive. All seeking the freedoms we think we will enjoy when our current demands are met.
But we have alienated our neighbors. We have self-segregated ourselves by any one of a million possible differences we have from others. By seeking joining together around our particular individualities, and the unique difficulties therein, we identify ourselves as victims first. What effects one, effects all. Hardships that one must endure due to intolerance are reprehensible. They hurts us all. And for this, all should be aware. All should take an active role. E Pluribus, Unum, From Many, One.
But the backlash from the 60's has finally come full circle. The 60's are most remembered for anti-war peace protests and civil right movements that inspired movements of gender equality, rights for challenged peoples, equality for all sexualities, that have trickled down to modern-day moments that represent every possibility sub group imaginable. Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal. A sexual revolution broke down taboos about intimacy and our own bodies. The People vs. Larry Flint ensured the legality to publish pornography and lampoon public figures. The list goes on and on. Green peace and Sierra Club educated us about the environment, pollution, and ecological responsibility.
And now 40 years later, the pendulum has swung. The people chose a President that supports faith-based governmental programs over a separation of Church and State. A President who is strongly anti-abortion, who supports a neo-isolationism over a globally-tolerant approach. A president that is a Republican good ole boy from the country, and not the Democratic left-wing Draft-dodger he replaced.
Many will argue I am adding to the problem of division, and they are probably right. I seek human equality and unity. For people not to be distinguished by their skin, or any other trait, but by their character and accomplishments. But I guess every opinion that one holds is right, excludes someone, because someone will always disagree. Regardless, I support their right to do so.