Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘human dignity’

The Promise that is America

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...

Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An inauguration of a President is proof that our Democracy and our American principles are alive and well, as governance continues seamlessly without bloodshed.  Yesterday’s second inauguration of our first African-American President was historic for another reason.  It occurred on the day we honored the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. , who told the entire world not far from where our President spoke that he had a dream. That dream was for this nation to “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'”  Yesterday, in a most spiritual confluence of sentiments, our President intoned the same words as “the star that guides us still”. He called upon us “to carry on what [our forebears] began”, to make  our national dream/Dr. King’s dream a reality for all Americans.

Recently Washington has been caught in too many and too heated inter-party squabbles that overshadow the difficult work we elected our officials to perform. All too often, we see the sneering and the name-calling. We see hints of racism, sexism and elitism coming from the mouths of our elected officials. Who can forget that on national television our African-American President was called “lazy” and in the halls of Congress our leaders debated the different types of rape, some better than others, some forcible, some not?

Yet, yesterday our President standing shoulder to shoulder with Dr. King implored us to embark on a journey that would not be complete until:

  • “our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts”;
  • “our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law”;
  • “no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote”;
  • “we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity”; and
  • all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm”.

For a video of the full text of President Obama’s second inaugural address, see: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/inauguration-2013-president-obamas-2nd-inaugural-address-full-18274078, and for the full text of Dr. King’s speech, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/17/i-have-a-dream-speech-text_n_809993.html

In front of hundreds of thousands on the Mall in Washington, DC and in front of millions around the globe via the media, President Obama pledged his second term to making equality a reality for all Americans. It was a historic inaugural speech made on a historic day.  Hopefully, his words were more than hyperbole made by a President who was moved by the moment.

obama-2nd-inaugural.jpg

Image courtesy of: http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2013/01/president-obamas-second-inaugural-speech-we-are-made-for-this-moment.html

My ethnicity is better than yours. Really?

Do you believe your race, religion, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation is superior to others? Most people, if they’re being truthful, would have to say, “yes”. That feeling of superiority is called ethnocentrism.

We are all ethnocentric to some extent. We live our lives in the context of understanding who we are, but not understanding those different from us. Because it’s near impossible to comprehend that we don’t comprehend, we are trapped in what we know, unless we are willing to venture outside our comfort zone and entertain the thought that the culture of others may be different but not inferior to our own. Simply stated, we have to acknowledge that we have prejudices before we can take affirmative steps toward tolerance.

There are too many dissimilar cultures in this world to ever believe that there is only one right way to be. Nonetheless, we in the United States have a tendency to believe that our culture is better than other cultures. Some Islamic fundamentalists believe the same about their culture and religion. Some Christians believe there is only one way to heaven (or to be at one with God), while ignoring the many diverse religions throughout the world that preach much the same values and virtues as those of the Christian faith. Take ethnocentrism to its logical extreme and you have Nazi Germany slaughtering millions of innocent people, whether they be Jews, Catholics or homosexuals, just because they were different from the slaughterers.

As Shylock said to Antonio in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not  revenge?” Despite our cultural differences and our ignorance of those differences, we are all human, deserving of human dignity. In this season of good will to all humankind, we ought to be mindful of our inherent ethnocentrism. Only then can we attempt to eradicate our prejudices, making our globe a safer place for all of us this time next year.

Image courtesy of: http://www.realcourage.org/category/cartoon-controversy/

There Ought To Be A Law

Here’s the thing.  At best the bigot is a thief, at worst, his thievery is murder, plain and simple. The bigot is much like the common crook, only worse – so much worse. The common crook steals property. Maybe he’ll use it to buy a loaf of bread or a much needed fix.  The bigot, however, steals significantly more than property.  The bigot steals human dignity. Once stolen, the bigot has no use for it at all. A purely gratuitous taking.

I’m not talking about hate crimes, for which we have laws.  I’m talking about your run-of-the-mill this is America, and I’m free to spew anything I damn well please intolerance, whether it’s directed at a racial, religious or ethnic group, a gender or a sexual orientation. Make no mistake, intolerance is invidious and meant, from the first uttered intolerant word, to bring a person down, to make that person feel less about themselves and to instill fear and shame.  At the same time, the bigot gets the benefit of the equal and opposite reaction.  The bigot experiences an undeserved high, puffing and strutting, because he has the power to make someone feel small.  That power, in and of itself, makes him, by his own standards, better than “those people”.

Bring all of this foolishness into the schoolyard, and the bigot inflicts pain on impressionable children who will carry the scars of intolerance for the rest of their lives. It stands to reason that if a child is told often enough that he is worthless, that child will believe his worthlessness. This is not rocket science.  Not many children can withstand the bigot’s ugly “truth”.  For why would anyone say such hateful things, except if they were true.

When a gay, lesbian or transgender child can no longer cope in this world,  find sanctuary in this world, carve his own place in this world or merely survive in this world, then the bigot has become a murderer, a killer of spirit, if not a killer of life.  For that, there ought to be a law.

image curtesy of: http://unshaned.wordpress.com

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