One minute, I’m proud as hell of this country, the good old U.S. of A. The next minute, I wish Jerry Garcia was still alive and we could all just float upon a cloud of patchouli while group-hugging all the way to drug-induced enlightenment. Sometimes, I get inspired thinking about how far we’ve come in such a short time (sans the drugs) in some respects; but as soon as I am again steeped in the issues of the current day, I want to grab this country by Florida and drag it out to the woodshed for a proper switching. Are we a beacon of light in this world of much oppression and intolerance, or are we a bigoted, backwater nation of which we educated folks who know better should be ashamed? Let’s face it, there is some validity to the Right’s characterization of us as the latte sippin’, Volvo drivin’, Hate America First crowd. We just love self-deprecation when it comes to our country and never miss an opportunity to kick the shit out of ourselves for the latest insult to our ideal of what we should be as a nation— should-ah, could-ah, would-ah… To be clear, there are many reasons for us to be discouraged from an immediate perspective, but on paper, there are also some things that merit a little pride.
I don’t need to mention the latest assault on our sense of accomplishment, as we all know the unfortunate details of the Trayvon Martin case rather well at this point. There is something worth a brief mention regarding the matter, however: Isn’t it curious how lines of support are being drawn regarding this case much like a party-line vote in a Senate subcommittee? It seems that once again, Republicans ignore empirical evidence and arrive at their conclusions based on some trumped up fantasy that is inconsistent with the facts, and congruent with their ill-conceived ideology. As it turns out, many on the Right are siding with Zimmerman, a Hispanic, and the Left is generally on the side of Trayvon Martin, who happens to be black. I guess there are degrees of bigotry. But I seriously digress…
Perhaps by the time I’m finished writing on this topic, some other egregious assault upon our national pride will have occurred (let’s hope not!) and really make my thesis a stretch. That said, this post will henceforth concern itself with the bright spots in our recent history that might suggest that something’s afoot in this country, despite the daily blemishes on our good name that rightly consume us.
There are a couple of areas in which there has been rapid and palpable progress in this country; one of them is on the issue of gay equality. In my lifetime (albeit, the very beginning of it!), homosexuality was still considered a disease and listed in the DSM as a psychological disorder. To be sure, there are still right-wing Christians (think Marcus Bachmann— that’s another story!) who believe that being gay is the result of succumbing to Satan and is a damnable offense that can be cured by prayer and behavior modification. However, from my perspective as a heterosexual (which, I must admit, may be entirely different than that of some gay men and women), the last two decades have brought us a ubiquity of gay culture, both on TV and in films, and in most other areas of our lives. Because many more gays were coming out to friends and family, it didn’t take all that long for those who needed to catch up to realize that some of the folks they loved and cherished were actually gay.
Beginning with Vermont in 2000, civil unions became sanctioned by the state, giving same-sex couples the same rights afforded to married couples. I must say, despite the temporary and shameful right-wing backlash that screamed out Take Back Vermont via lawn signs that peppered rural Vermont, I was proud to be a Vermonter that year (I am now a reluctant New Yorker— only because I miss Vermont so desperately). Now, same-sex marriage, which is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, allows same-sex couples to marry with the state’s blessing. In addition, I would argue that the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996, would not get out of the Democratic Senate if proposed today. I would also argue that the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), proposed in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. via a constitutional amendment, could get by the Congress only if their were huge, hateful (read: Republican) majorities in both Houses and would never go on to achieve ratification in the states if it did. As the year progresses, it seems that more and more Democratic leaders are supporting same-sex marriages. I am going to go out on a limb and make a prediction, right here on BNV: President Obama will be the first President to support gay marriage if he is elected to a second term. The only opposition that will remain will be the bigoted fools on the Right.
Speaking of our President, I would be remiss if I did not conclude this discussion of social progress with a mention that the electorate in this country has at least suggested that we’d like a nation where there exists unfettered equality for all and where irrational xenophobia is the exception. In 2008, we elected the first man of color (named Barack Hussein Obama no less) to lead a nation that was heretofore led only by powerful white men. That’s got to mean something, doesn’t it!? And it wasn’t a squeaker, either (so it wasn’t just us latte sippers that voted for him!). He won decisively. That was a proud day to be an American, and we should have all been singing that hackneyed country song, despite our innate distaste for effusive displays of patriotism and country music.