Sunday, July 30, 2017

All Things Being Equal

I have watched the movie Lincoln a dozen times or more, now. Forgiving the filmmaker's habit of glossing and smoothing over history to present a coherent narrative thread, it is still a window into a time when the story of equality was still raw and jagged. A time when it was far easier to dismiss those of darker skins to being inferior to the marbled and mottled white of the Founding Fathers.

At one point, Daniel Day-Lewis' President Lincoln relates learning of Euclid's First Axiom: Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another. It is a jumping off point for the coming vote on the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery, per the story.

Euclid spoke of the "self-evident" nature of his Axioms. They were true because they were true. They were bedrock principles of geometry and mathematics; neither would function without such things as the First Axiom being true. The movie extends the idea that perhaps this could be considered a starting point for that immortal phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are create equal." More importantly, it applies the idea to people, that they are, in fact, all people.

What seems self-evident to modern eyes was not so to 17th, 18th, or 19th Century ones. The movie accurately, but perhaps too softly, portrays the revulsion of White men at the idea they might be considered equivalent to Black men. Opposition to the Thirteenth Amendment was not necessarily because anyone wanted to promote slavery further, or maintain its legality, but due to the idea that millions of freed Black people would demand equality under the law, and White men were not ready to give it to them.

We step one hundred fifty years into the future, and the idea of equality has taken on broader connotations. There is still the Black-White divide, as healthy as ever, written into the very marrow of our society, but now so many other groups are subject to variations on the theme. Hispanic and Latin individuals, members of the LGBTQ community, the disabled... humanity has had equality divvied up and partialed out in microscopic quantities to be fought over by many groups, like a pack of ravenous animals, while the White power structure works feverishly to retain the power to do the divvying and partialing out. The result is the inevitable: White fear of extinction driving us to an administration wholly incapable of running a nation, populated by those who were never capable of doing so in the first place.

If the current situation does nothing more, it should galvanize us into action. We've been deficient in our maintenance of government, and lacking in the moral firmness to drive bigotry, hate, and greed from the halls of Congress and the Oval Office. It's time we stopped assuming that someone will take care of the things necessary to restore order. That was always our responsibility. Many Founding Fathers were skeptical we could do it, but they gave us the power nonetheless. If we were slow to recognize the coming onslaught, we have enough outrage within us to light the fire necessary drive it back. If we take action.

We, who are enjoined to affirm and believe in equality, know the stakes. It is not just the equality of race that must concern us, though this does run through every other area of concern. We must establish equality of Justice. We must establish equality of Income. We must establish Equality of Health. We must establish Equality of Care. We must establish Equality of Education. Most importantly, we must establish Equality of Representation, for all time. It is time for the Constitution to receive proper upgrades, and safeguards, and to retire those parts of it no longer relevant to the modern age of humanity.

This is on us. All of us. But it starts with those of use who carry the same privilege as those who now seek to roll back the clock on American history, to a nonexistent "gilded" age. The easiest way to tear down a system built on White privilege is by White privilege, from the inside. If we are reticent because we are afraid of what we will lose, then we do not understand that we have already lost it. No amount of freedom, liberty, or justice we may hold means anything while it is shared unequally with our fellow citizens of all types. If we do not work to ensure equality in all things, we stand to watch our society tear itself apart as these groups try to wrest from us what we could simply impart by our efforts on their behalf.

It is no longer possible to maintain the current state of affairs. We fight for what we know is right, or as President Lincoln once said, our nation stands to die by suicide.

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