A couple of weeks ago in commemoration of the passage of women’s right to vote, I attended a viewing of "Iron Jawed Angels." The film detailed some of the struggles the suffragists endured in their determination to achieve full citizenship. The movie was just another reminder of what people who are different than what some people consider "the only genuine Americans" are often put through to gain equal rights. Over the years of our history, we have gone through agonizing periods, where it has been drilled through people’s heads over and over again that the only real Americans are white, male and heterosexual. Just as in today’s world, anytime anyone other than a white, heterosexual male breaks down a barrier, we’ll go through it all over again.
In my family we have been listening to this tale for seven generations in Missouri. It is no truer now than it was when the first generation heard it. Frankly, in my lifetime alone, I’ve heard the conversation enough times to be bored with it many, many years ago. Even though they were here first, it wasn’t until 1924 that Native Americans were allowed to be citizens, so the rest of us were lucky to get included at all. I suppose that after this current lurid display of political discourse, thousands of people will be driven from the voting booths simply because they don’t want to encounter unpleasantness. I am truly embarrassed as an American, not only because of the inability of some to behave in an orderly manner, but because they are being encouraged to behave that way by other politicians and we appear to lack the means to enforce order.
These folks fail to realize an important fact. Chaos and disorder do not remain where they are planted. They branch out in both seen and unseen quarters. For those of us who felt the unrelenting pain of Sept. 11, the last thing we ought to want is to create circumstances by which unexpected disruptions can occur without warning. No one should be interested in writing the kind of script that encourages deception and acts of destruction. Do you not remember that fateful day?
Tens of thousands of people learn about and are willing to embrace other cultures every year. So, these unrepentant haters and abusers realize that the time is getting shorter until they are outnumbered and become powerless. They spared the white Alice Pauls of this society no more than they spared the black civil rights activists. We know the kind of treatment anyone who is different is likely to receive so long as these haters are in control. And unfortunately, in their arrogance they delight in showing their true colors to foreigners so the whole world understands their behavior. Anyone who believes this anger is about health care is simply wrong.
Most reasonable people don’t believe that any race or sex has a monopoly on leadership skills. In a democracy everyone should have the right to develop his or her skills to reach their potential. People who don’t accept this should move to a desert island where they can be in charge and control whatever individuals that will allow them to do so.
I doubt the haters and abusers will ward off progress. Probably that is because there are too many who see themselves as leaders and too few of themwho will accept the role of followers. They have such a hard time trying to make the rest of us hate them as much as they hate themselves, that it's impossible for them to win.
The majority continues to move forward, find areas of agreement, get on with solutions to problems and treat even those with whom they disagree with dignity and respect. How in the world do you win a hate campaign with that kind of opposition?
That’s how women won the right to vote and that’s how minorities won the civil rights struggle. They rose above the haters. So hopefully, young men and women can profit from the examples of these two movements and soldier on to create a better world for their children and grandchildren. Being on the wrong sides of issues and continuously losing the big battles as a result of that stance doesn’t seem to make the haters any smarter. They persist in using hate language, trying to degrade their competitors and pounding their fists in the false belief that this strategy will somehow win them victories in their war against education and reason.
Robbing your lives of years of quality living is too great a price to pay for hating your neighbor. That’s why smart people learn to love theirs quickly. Life only gets better after that.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.