Thursday, July 2, 2015
Of Symbols and Substance, of Sheep and Wolves...
And, as always, the world turns and a new day dawns. Everything changes and everything stays the same...
The Supreme Court has ruled that our citizens born with homosexual orientation have the same right to marry as those of our citizens "lucky" enough to be born heterosexual. Public opinion currently happens to coincide with this ruling, though many still oppose it. And, as in decades past, with other civil rights rulings, history's wheel turns, but stubborn conservatives and reactionaries still vow to cling to the old ways.
They mean business, those stubborn conservatives and reactionaries. Those bigots and rabble-rousers. As they did back in the day when George Wallace cried "Segregation forever," placing himself in the doorway of a public school rather than accept integration. As thugs and hooligans harassed and brutalized young black students entering integrated schools for the first time. And, the racist resistance continues to this day, though in more subtle forms. Some still cling to the past in the form of symbols, like the Confederate flag they want to keep flapping from the flagpoles of state capitals, never dipping it an inch. When they're told that flag offends many in a deeply personal and cutting way, because it stands for slavery and racism, they say they embrace only the good things that flag represents: valor on the battlefield, commitment to cause and fellowship. Conservatives always seem to embrace the shadows of old dreams, ignoring the ugly substance that such shadows mask. Like wolves hiding in sheep's clothing.
In opposing marriage equality, as in demanding the right to display racist flags, they aim always for the symbols, for the peripheral abstracts. States' rights. Constitutional process (as it suits them to interpret it, of course.) They conveniently ignore the substance of human life, human rights and human dignity. The Confederate flag is a symbol. "Traditional" marriage is a symbol. No matter that those symbols have historically excluded and demeaned, even dehumanized and killed minorities. Conservatives insist on preserving their precious traditional culture and identity, and they always scream about their rights and about due process.
But, is that really what it's about? How much have they cared about preserving Constitutional due process when advocating undeclared war or governmental spying and wiretapping? How often have they cried "lawlessness" over abductions, secret prisons or torture chambers? They care nothing about law or due process except when society finally gets around to acknowledging the human rights of those historically disenfranchised. It's no longer fashionable or politically advantageous to demean gay or lesbian people with adolescent profanities or hateful threats of violence, so conservatives stoop to invoking the Constitution (a document they have time and again seen fit to ignore.) They love to invoke tradition, too, because it's always their last fallback position when society moves forward in advancing civil rights. "It's always been done this way, therefore, it's right." "Our society will collapse if anything changes; this old way is basic to our way of life." "What right does the Supreme Court have to impose its will on the people?" How many times have we heard these stale complaints? These twisted bits of Orwellian double-think that turn our system of law and basic rights inside-out?
They wave the flag, they wave the Constitution, and they preach traditionalism when it suits them. But, they lack the moral courage to face the substance of the issues. The meat of the matter is that they're saying (as they always have) that certain groups of people (a.k.a. white, heterosexual men) have the right to lord it over everybody else. They hide behind symbols and wave false banners of freedom. What else can they do, really? The tide of history will always be against them. But, they'll always linger in the shadows like termites, trying to eat away at the achievements of progress.
In the end, the stars and bars will come down and the rainbow banners will go up. But, they'll keep trying. They always keep trying. What else can they do?