Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Guess Who’s Coming to the White House

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was on TCM today.  I watched again and remembered that the first time I saw it, sometime in the 80’s, interracial marriage was still shocking; something that made you look twice and perhaps judge negatively.  Watching it again now, 20 years later and 41 years after its release, it seems to me that the shift in our culture toward acceptance of interracial marriage has been phenomenal.  The year 1967, when the movie was released, was the same year the Supreme Court ruled in Loving vs. Virginia, in which the court “declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924″, unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.”   It’s amazing that it took so long for those laws to be overturned, but it’s equally amazing how far our culture has progressed since then.

The messages of this film are especially significant now because of the election. Barack Obama is of mixed race, a fact that people who interpret the Old Testament literally have used against him.  Citing prohibitions that God gave the children of Israel against intermarrying, literalists view intermarriage as a sin and the children of those marriages to be “less than.”  These ideas remain with us, a legacy of racism and bigotry.  But a legacy that is dying.

In the film, Spencer Tracy stated that he thought that public opinion against interracial marriage would not change within 50 or even 100 years. Yet only 41 years later, look how far we have come.  In spite of the fact that there are still people out there who object to Obama because he is black or part black, there are many more people for whom race and mixed race is simply irrelevant.

It says a lot about our level of maturity, our ability to accept people of all nationalities, races, creeds and mixtures thereof, that Barack Obama is electable in our nation.  Not a month ago, when I told a colleague that I thought he would win, she responded “Oh no, not in this country.  We’re not ready.  There are still too many bigots.”  But today the polls say something else, projecting Barack Obama to win 351 electoral votes to John McCain’s 187.  Last week, Obama gave a speech attended by thousands in front of the St. Louis State and Federal Courthouse – a building on whose steps slaves were sold and where Dred and Harriet Scott in 1850 had their petition for freedom overturned because they were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The 158 years since that decision have brought massive changes in our human and civil rights.  It has been a long struggle, and it isn’t over yet, but is encouraging to note that in my lifetime (I’m 40) interracial marriage in this country has gone from being illegal and “wrong” to being legal and no big deal for most people.

Obama in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Obama in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Our movement toward tolerance can also be viewed in our acceptance of same-sex-marriage. It’s easy to imagine the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with two fiances of the same sex instead of two fiances of different races. The same objections are raised – the problems the couple is likely to face in society, the judgment and condemnation they may receive regarding children, the objection that they have no right to marry at all.  But Spencer says it very well in the film – what matters is love.  “…because in the final analysis it doesn’t matter a damn what we think. The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel, for each other. And if it’s half of what we felt- that’s everything. As for you two and the problems you’re going to have, they seem almost unimaginable, but you’ll have no problem with me, and I think when Christina and I and your mother have some time to work on him you’ll have no problem with your father, John. But you do know, I’m sure you know, what you’re up against. There’ll be 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and appalled and the two of you will just have to ride that out, maybe every day for the rest of your lives. You could try to ignore those people, or you could feel sorry for them and for their prejudice and their bigotry and their blind hatred and stupid fears, but where necessary you’ll just have to cling tight to each other and say “screw all those people”! Anybody could make a case, a hell of a good case, against your getting married. The arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them. But you’re two wonderful people who happened to fall in love and happened to have a pigmentation problem, and I think that now, no matter what kind of a case some bastard could make against your getting married, there would be only one thing worse, and that would be if – knowing what you two are and knowing what you two have and knowing what you two feel- you didn’t get married.”

And to circle back to Obama, and America, we have a choice now. We can choose love or we can choose fear. We can focus on our separateness or on our unity.  Obama said, “We can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history.”  Obama represents, in so many ways, that what matters is what is in our hearts and minds (not our pigment).  What matters is how we treat each other.  If we choose our better angels and focus on our more noble history, then we can make our way into a better future.

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Thoughts on the 4th of July

I’m thankful that “The United States of America is not the same thing as the administration of George W. Bush. The good news for the forces of good is that only 24 percent of the people approve of the job he’s doing….. George Bush has to leave in January 2009 no matter what,” as John Carroll writes. Yes, I’m thankful for the fact that America is not synonymous with GWB, but I’m also deeply troubled by the damage he has done to America.

I haven’t flown my American flag since sometime in October, 2001. This is not because I don’t love America – I do. It’s not because I’m not patriotic – I am. But the flag quickly began to represent nationalism at its worst and a way of thinking that I don’t subscribe to, and I’ll be thrilled when once again, I can hang my flag and have it mean to me, to others, and to the world, what I think it should mean.

What does the flag represent? I’ve been thinking about my poor neglected flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, and why I feel reluctant about them, and here are my thoughts:

I personally pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and the people who defend it

(not to its flag, which has been appropriated by Hawks)

And to the republic for which it stands.

(Republics are governed by the rule of law, something this administration has no respect for)

One nation, under God

(God, here meaning Name your Own, or Buddha, Yahweh, Shiva, Allah, Jehovah, The Force, the infinite ineffable One, or no God at all)

Indivisible

(or, divisible into Red & Blue, Have & Have-nots, Rich & Poor, Educated & Non-Educated, those with health care and those without, the franchised and disenfranchised, the individual and The Corporation, etc.)

With liberty and justice for all,

(not just those who are rich and/or well connected and/or are white males)

The flag is supposed to represent the Republic of the United States of America. It stands for our values, which are (or have been) Freedom, Liberty, Justice, Equality, Diversity, Rule of Law, Democratic processes, Fairness and Humanity. Lately, this is not how we have been viewed in the world. Europeans see us as the number one threat to peace, and that is tragic. America no longer means the same thing to the world that we did after WWII. We are have strayed dangerously far from being the America that is represented by the Constitution when we override something as fundamental to our government as the writ of habeas corpus. We have sacrificed our most treasured values to fear. Bill Maher said, “So when it comes to sacrifice, don’t kid yourself-you *have* given up a lot! You’ve given up faith in your government’s honesty, the good will of people overseas, and six tenths of the Bill of Rights. Here’s what you’ve sacrificed: search and seizure, warrants, self incrimination, trial by jury, cruel and unusual punishment. Here’s what you have left: handguns, religion, and they can’t make you quarter a British soldier.”

Thomas Jefferson, in his First Inaugural Address outlined the values that America should live by…. the ones we should uphold.

Harmony and affection in social discourse. ~ Well, readers of news and blogs – is there much harmony and affection in our social discourse? Yeah, I know.

A wise and frugal Government. ~ There hasn’t been much evidence of *that* in the last 6 years. Priorities and the cost of the war… hmmmm. According to the National Priorities Project, the money spent on the war so far could have provided America: 1.8 million new teachers. Over 20 million college scholarships. Health insurance for over 60 million children. Or nearly 4 million new housing units.

Equal justice for all. ~ Ok. Where are we on that?

A jealous care of the right of election by the people. ~ the current DOJ, and the many other cases of election fraud show this right is less jealousy guarded than it should be.

Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none. ~ What a lovely foreign policy idea! Too bad we have this….

Freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus. ~ Oops. What was habeas corpus again? And what about that pesky freedom of the press idea?

Absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority. ~ Well, the President doesn’t seem to be listening to the majority….

And listen to his humility: “I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional.” ~ Not saying “I’m the Decider” now is he?

We need a leader “who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties – someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad.” – John F. Kennedy, September 14, 1960

On November 22, 1963, the day he was assassinated in Dallas, John F. Kennedy was scheduled to give a speech in which he would have said:

“We in this country, in this generation, are – by destiny rather than choice – the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, goodwill toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength.”

When America is once again worthy of our power, when we act as watchmen to freedom, when we are viewed by the world as being wise, peaceful and fair, when habeas corpus is restored and civil liberties defended, when integrity and not hypocrisy can be seen in our leader, I will gladly fly my flag. I will once again celebrate the 4th of July. And I will once again be proud to say, “I’m an American.”

 

 

 

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