Friday, March 12, 2010

Fear And Loathing In Mississippi

It should come as no shock, when Mississippi becomes a battleground over civil rights. The death of Medgar Evers, of three civil rights works, shot in the back, show the determination of some to halt the course of freedom for all Americans. That the battle over black/white segregation was lost has not deterred some from diverting their energies into trying to enforce gay/straight segregation.

Fulton, Mississippi has now become a new battleground, which may not take on the stature of the events of Freedom Summer, but most certainly will have far-reaching implications, as a public school attempts to banish the "taint" of homosexuality in its halls by cancelling the prom, rather than allow a homosexual couple to attend.

Given the current climate in America, this should come as no surprise. Right-wing pundits harp on the talking points having to do with how the government is stripping Americans of their freedom and liberty, even as elements of American society seek to actually do this to those who have created no offense other than to be "different." These elements do not come right out and say the words, but their actions expose their bigotry in its totality. They know that to state their hatred of homosexuals would lead to their excoriation, but they are naive enough to think that merely taking such an action as cancelling a prom could not possibly arouse a nation.

For which they are fools.

Racism, sexism, ageism, bigotry... no matter what flag they are wrapped in or cloak that envelopes them, they are as plain as clouds in a clear blue sky, as obvious as the full Moon, and as poisonous as the worst snake or spider. These poxes on the body politic are unwanted reminders of the illness that still flows through our country's bloodstream; no amount of marching, rallying, protesting, or legislating has seen fit to expunge them from our society. Their odious, cancerous existence is mute testimony to the fact that not everyone can see reason or be enlightened.

And so, school administrators in Fulton, awash in the bitter swill that is local bigotry and ignorance, are punishing all the students in the high school, rather than take the chance that two rather harmless young ladies might attend together, simply because they prefer the company of their own gender to that of the opposite gender. In a way, this is the most important civics lesson these high school students can learn, for they can see the tyranny of stale ideas and dogma first-hand, unadulterated, constituted in the very adults they have been told to respect, people no doubt held up as pillars of their community. They were not here in the 60's, to see Mississippi burn, but now the drama can play out before them with new actors, in new ways, that might amplify the history of their state.

That it would take an outside agency -- either the courts, or perhaps a benefactor -- to put on a prom that all these children could attend is incomprehensible, though not as much as the mere fact that such a parochial attitude clings to life in the 21st Century. Are we so reticent, so set in our ways, so glacial in our thinking, that we the people, Americans, lovers of individual freedom and liberty, are going to stand for the continued existence of such things? Are we so removed from the shot and smoke of the Revolution, that we have forgotten that our fore-bearers died to give all Americans the chance to pursue life, liberty, and happiness?

In the end it will not be the government, but we the citizens, who shall decide this issue. If we do not care for intolerance and blind hatred and unwarranted fear, then we must stand up and say we will no longer tolerate these things. If we are truly to be a freedom-loving people, then we must free ourselves completely from our own self-imposed oppression, for silence only allows those who seek to restrain liberty more rope.

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