Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Age of Reason?

The last time I checked a calendar, the year was listed as 2014. That hasn't changed, has it? The reason I ask is that I keep seeing news stories that seem to have been taken from the early part of the 1900s. For starters, I see that the state of Arizona is trying to limit access to retail stores and businesses to homosexuals.  What the hell is going on here?

Perhaps there is some sort of research that I could do to figure this out, but I can't imagine how people hold such archaic views in a time when we have unprecedented access to information. The number of smartphones and tablets that proliferate our society puts information, literally, at the finger tips of the majority of Americans. So, why are people choosing to ignore it? Why are people clinging so desperately to backwoods ideals and uninformed ideas?

I was born and raised in Memphis, TN where we know a little something about the civil rights struggle. On a daily basis, I interact with people who were, at one time, not allowed to use the same restrooms as I would have been. These are the same people that feared for their lives because of the prevalent attitudes surrounding their skin color and the acceptable ways for them to behave. Many of their peers died so that others could have the right to be treated like human beings. Although the struggle continues, it is generally accepted that African Americans have the right to shop where they want and eat at the restaurants they choose. (A valid argument could very well be made otherwise....)

The challenges faced by the homosexual community routinely baffle me. These men and women (and other genders) face threats of death, unemployment, ostracizing, and more based solely on the person they are attracted to. Once again, "rights" that have been so easily dispersed to me have required the toll of generations to bring to fruition for them.

As with the rights of African Americans, it seems there has been a backlash against gay rights in certain communities. While black citizens are being gunned down by terrified white men, LGBT Americans are being turned away at stores and other businesses.

What is causing this resurgence of  this bigotry? You could say "religion," but I believe that is too broad and too convenient of an answer. The truth is that there are both wonderful people total assholes in every type of organization. Perhaps there are those that flock to particular religious sects in order to justify their hateful views; but that still does not convey the actual reason for their bigotry in the first place.

Whatever the reason, there are laws in place to protect everyone who has attained citizenship status. The Constitution explicitly prohibits the very legislation that Arizona is trying to pass; the same type that was passed before the civil rights movement.

The sad truth is that there will always be people who are afraid of something they don't understand, and will try to suppress it. Unfortunately, many people seem to view human beings that are different from them as enemies, instead of trying to find common ground. Those caught in the middle become accidental pawns in political battles, with their very lives balancing on the decisions made by the strange and sometimes ignorant.

Americans.....no. Humans are better than that. We have the capacity to learn and understand at an incredible rate. We have access to all the information we could ever want. We are better connected, though social media and smartphones, than we have ever been before in history. It is time for us to extend our hands to those we don't know, and stop demonizing them. If one group can be dehumanized with our legal system, then every group can. Until we start seeing each other as living, breathing humans with the same wants and needs, none of us will truly be free.


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