It’s summertime in America. We’re fast approaching an important anniversary for the United States. The date when the movement for freedom and equality were endorsed by our founding fathers by their signing of the Declaration of Independence. There will be much back slapping and many self-congratulatory kudos about the nation, plenty of speechifying and a little bit of introspection as well.
After the flag waving, parades, picnics and fireworks are behind us, there will still be those of us who are not entirely equal in this land of liberty. It will be a time for the brave to continue the struggle to actualize true liberty and justice for ALL. I have a few short thumbnail sketches about where we’ve been and where we need to finish up as a nation of equals.
“People are pretty much alike. It’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities.”–Linda Ellerbee
It’s difficult for me to imagine a country, especially the United States, where more than half of the residents are treated like second class citizens. Those people couldn’t even vote! Just over a century ago, those people were the women of this nation. For around half of the history of the USA the struggle for equal rights for women took place. For many folks, even women, such a thing seemed not only impossible but immoral as well. Womenfolk were supposed to stay in their places and submit to the will of their menfolk. It said so in the christian bible. Ever since the suffragettes got the movement rolling, women have improved their status in the US. They’re not looking backwards only forward towards securing their status as full equals under the law.
“I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.”–Barack Obama
One of the most difficult concepts for most moderns to understand is that of slavery. Many of us have difficulty figuring out how some people view people of other racial backgrounds as somehow lesser beings.
I consider myself to be fortunate in that I spent my junior high school years with classmates and pals of various ethnic and racial origins. My best friend in seventh and eighth grades was Joshua who came from a family of traditional Hebrew culture and religion. I often studied alongside kids of African heritage and sometimes ate lunch with the small group of second and third generation Japanese kids. They had different characteristics from me but I didn’t think of them as better or worse just as they didn’t judge me on account of my fair skin and red hair.
It still bothers me to know how much racism not only bubbles under the surface, but how much of it remains overt. We must get beyond this.
The LGBTQ movement is the most recent example of oppressed, less than equal residents of the USA struggling for full liberty and justice. As the LGBTQ community closes out another June/Pride Month, there have been some improvements in a few areas of the nation. Most recently, the legalization of same sex marriage in New York state. This was accomplished by a plurality of lawmakers with the endorsement of New York’s governor. There are a scattering of states that recognize these marriages, but they aren’t recognized in most states and certainly not by the federal government. LGBTQ couples looking for income tax filing married status, for instance, won’t find it in the land of the free.
Gay folks still have a long ways to go for equality in the workplace. There are still many hurdles to clear in regards to overall social attitudes. Homophobia is on the wane, but retrograde politicians and religionists continue to use the LGBTQ community as a scapegoat to further their own political and power agendas. This inequality also must go.
There are other groups of people who are struggling to have themselves become fully free. None of us will fully realize the dreams of the authors of the Declaration of Independence until every single one of us is treated with equanimity.
How long must we wait as a nation to be fully equal under the law?
The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you will deeply contemplate the meaning of liberty and justice for all on this Independence Day.