Oct 30, 2005

Rosa Parks Provided us With a Legacy. What's Our Duty Today?

A Simple Act of Great Consequence

Sometimes it takes a simple act--like standing up for your rights by sitting down--to change a country. Fifty years ago, Rosa Parks had the courage to change America. Unfortunately, racism still has an appeal in these United States of America in the 21st century.

"Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race be permitted to attend a school of the other race."

Over the last week, I've been watching the politicians paying respect to the legacy of Rosa Parks. Congress is honoring this civil rights matriarch by having her body lie in the Rotunda of the US Capitol; the first woman to receive such an honor. This is good and well. I do appreciate gestures of gratitude and sincere appreciation of a person's contributions to the betterment of our society. However, I would like to see more.

I would like to see our country a place where no one is discriminated because of race, gender, religious beliefs (or the absence thereof), ethnic background, and sexual orientation. I would like to see positive action when it makes a difference, not some kind of vague promise, in the undetermined future, and not when it's too late.

I would like to see a society where our citizens have opportunity to succeed regardless of their financial means, and that everyone gets equal treatment under the law. I would like to see every American has the right to healthcare and education. I would like to see tolerance, respect of privacy and individual choice is exercised along with personal and civic responsibility. I'd like to see that Americans begin to define patriotism not by the size of their flags but, themselves, being informed and engaged in the affairs of our nation.

Nobody likes to hear unpleasantries, but we must confront those unpleasant realities if we are to change them for the better. Social change often proceeds at a glacial speed, and often it takes a couple new generations to replace the old ones in order to see real change. Sometimes the law--as in anti-discrimination and racial issues--is ahead of the mood of large chunks of society which are too conservative to change their "tried & true" ways. Mark Twain once said that the power over cultural norms is stronger than the power to make laws.

It took the Supreme Court and federal troops to implement legal change in the South. Racism, sadly, is not gone yet. The lunatic fringe is not marginal anymore, as it has found representation in the current president and the Republican leadership. Bush has long lost the Democrats and the Independents; he now has only the support the fanatical theocrats and the powerlogs who want to turn this country back to Dark Ages. When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he joked that "here goes the South for a generation!" Well, it has been longer than that! The unfortunate reality is that although the country moved to end the horrible Jim Crow laws in the South, many Americans never changed their views. This reality is perhaps too harsh for many people to bear.

The quote in italics above is in the state constitution of Alabama. Obviously, it's a moot law, invalidated by the Supreme Court, but I want to ask you this: do you think that, if the people of Alabama had the option to decide on segregation today, would they keep that provision or repeal it from their constitution? I know what I would do if given the choice--I would vote to strike this abomination from the constitution and any law or regulation. Apparently, the majority of the people in Alabama that went to the polls last year and overwhelmingly voted for G.W. Bush failed to repeal this moot but symbolic statute from their constitution! Draw your own conclusions.

We have a long way to go, friends. We have to do a lot more maturing as a nation. We are still debating whether to embrace modernity, the scientific method, and safeguard privacy & civil rights. We should keep being inquisitive, truly brave, that is, able to handle the truth. I find that too many people among us don't have the courage to think for themselves deferring their choices to the ..Guardians. Bushco and all the other elected representatives work for us! We do the hiring, thus, we have a responsibility. Immaturity is the condition when a mentally capable adult refuses to act responsibly, exercise his full intellectual potential.
As the philosopher Immanuel Kant said, adult immaturity is dangerous because of the people it produces! This self-imposed immaturity can lead to bigotry and erodes the conditions of freedom. I am hopeful, but not entirely confident that the road ahead will be without much strife.

I do think that every progressive person in this country has a duty to be involved in the struggle to take back America from the lunatic fringe. Rosa Parks did her duty. We have to do ours, in which every way we're presented with the challenge. Every effort, small or big, counts. Fifty years from now we may be considered the people who prevented the US from slipping backwards and rather helping our country remain at the forefront of freedom, tolerance, and a good place to experience all the thrills life can offer.

Speaking of life, I believe that the way we treat the young & the elderly, the sick & the invalid, all those who need & deserve our help says a great deal about our society today. Rosa Parks is being honored, and rightly so, but I'd like to know why this elderly person couldn't afford to pay her rent? [New York Times article ] She had to rely on a local church for support, until last year when her landlord stopped charging her rent. I think if we use common human decency as our guide we can truly make the world a better place to live; and, we should start from our own backyard; they're a whole bunch of forgotten people back there, behind the sunny porch and the shining city on the hill.


"I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die--the dream of freedom and peace." Rosa Parks


16 comments:

Alanis said...

Excellent! Thank you for being brutally honest. The mainstreat media and our leaders won't handle the unpleasant realities. And, things won't change (or won't change fast enough) if we refuse to acknowledge reality.

Anonymous said...

Alabama may be an exception. Perhaps

Andros said...

I truly wished it were the case.... unfortunately it isn't. How do you explain that so many people voted for David Duke (archwizzard of the KKK) for the US Senate? Who elected the bigot from Oklahoma to the US Senate? In Mississipi they couldn't just have a Martin Luther King holiday, so that day in Feb. they celebrate R.E. Lee's birthday! And so forth.... (it's a long list)

Ronald said...

We can't give everything to everybody just to make it an "even playing field"... though I agree that we're not doing enough as a society

Anne said...

Rosa Parks was a pioneer. It's very sad that she had trouble meeting her expenses. The Presidential Medal of Freedom doesn't buy groceries nor pays the rent.....

Rumbux said...

Very interesting concept about maturity and a chronic dependency on others to decide for you....

Thinking is hard work; why do it if you can avoid it! right?

It's sad.

Geeshus said...

Poverty rates fell while Clinton was president; they've been going up since Bush took over.

The US has the highest percentage of CHILDREN IN POVERTY than any other advanced industrialized country.

The self-appointed moralists are uptight about human sexuality and they want to ban sex-ed, condoms, etc. Guess what? Abortions AND rates of teenage pregrancies are going up under Shrub. Now, try to make it in life while having a child before graduating high school....

That's the REAL difference, when it counts, not, like you said, in the undermined future (afterlife?)....

I'm sick of the bigots, the cretins, and those who don't give a damn about our country....

We cannot afford to leave it to Bushco to ruin America (and much of the world).

Bostonian said...

I wonder what the people 50 from today would say about us..... I think the'll look back and frown that people are discrinated based on their sexual orientation...

And, the Republic will have survived same-sex marriage! (like we have here in MA already)

George said...

Those people 50 years from now will be scratching their heads in disbelief thinking about the idiots who elected Bush and got a SCOTUS who helped the cons and the theologs turn the country back!

It'll take a generation or two to fix things, if that soon. We're having a driver who's driving the country backward while he thinks he's going forward....

Wait, what's that? It's a PA announcement.... Please put your seat in the upright position, tighten your seatbelt, and brace for impact!... Oh, and put your passports in your mouths as this will expedetite the body identification later. Thank you

Rapturist said...

Why worry man? We're riding the end of times! Let's go out with a bang!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Horseman of Apocalypse said...

Here's the link for you to check out (literally)....

According to the rapture index it's time to kiss your @ss goodbye!

click here

Madison said...

I wonder if people will remember Rosa Parks and all the others who made our country a better place to live in. Unfortunately we suffer from a collective memory loss, and we're prone to repeating the old stupid mistakes. Americans don't know their history.

Samantha said...

It's worth analyzing why the bigots and the small-minded voted for Georgie B(oy) in droves....

You had a quote on the main page of your blog a while ago, by John Stuart Mill that said, not all conservatives are stupid but all stupid people are conservatives! How true!

Great blog, and a proof that there are still good liberal voices across the ..pond!

Cheers

Burke, Edmund said...

"..adult immaturity is dangerous because of the people it produces! This self-imposed immaturity can lead to bigotry and erodes the conditions of freedom.." I. Kant

This is very true. I know many a country that it applies to a sizeable chunk of the population.

LGB said...

Although we may agree about human nature and the kind of people we have here in the US, there is a great disagreement on what to do about it....

I'm in favor of education and more choice--even if it means mistakes and screwing up (as it is the case today), rather than having "guardians" telling us how to think and how to behave...