Tag Archives: equality

Respect in Motion

It’s finally happening!  The Washington Redskins national football team has decided to change their name by eliminating the term “redskins”.  This is a moment for which the Indigenous American community has been striving for years.  It comes at a time of national soul-searching for the United States – a period nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century where we are at long last coming to terms with a lifetime of racial injustice and inequality.

The alteration didn’t come from a moment of sudden spiritual enlightenment from team owner Dan Snyder who had said many years ago that a name change was out of the question; adding: “NEVER – you can use caps.”

Never say never, Danny boy!

Snyder bowed to social and economic pressures.  Several major corporations that have sponsored a variety of professional sports teams in the U.S. for years had vowed to pull their support if Washington didn’t change its name.  When you grab someone by the financial gonads, they’ll follow you with hearts and minds.

But society is also changing.  Despite the old guard claims that it’s “just a game”, American consciousness has seen that proverbial light in the darkness and gone towards it.  NASCAR, for example, recently banned Confederate flags from its events; a move that has upset many White southerners.  Again, the old guard is losing its grip on cultural relevance.

The word “redskin” is equivalent to slurs like nigger, gook, spic, fag, or politician.  It’s seriously debasing and relegates the Western Hemisphere’s native peoples to a skin tone (which many don’t actually have) as well as to a sub-human category.  In all fairness, some people of Native American ancestry don’t care either way.  They don’t view the term as derogatory or racist.  It’s just a word.  Of course, it is!  So is genocide.

Washington is now at a moniker crossroads.  Obviously, they’ll keep the name Washington.  But what to add to it?  Some have suggested “Warriors” or “Red Tails”; the latter a reference to the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) servicemen during World War II who went disregarded and underappreciated for decades.

I recommend the term “Monuments”.  It’s a direct recognition of the Washington Monument, but it’s also a reference to the structure’s form and size.  You know – a large, tall, long, hard, phallic-shaped emblem.  Since football is such a macho sport, I feel it’s appropriate.

Regardless of whatever name Washington adopts, the time is way past due.  And there’s simply no turning back.  Time doesn’t stop and it doesn’t retract.  It always moves forward.  So should we all.

“A Matter of Respect” (2012)

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Equalizing

Recently, Virginia became the 38th of the United States to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.  It’s been a long-fought battle for proponents of dismantling all barriers to women achieving full and complete equality with males.  Earlier this month supporters became ecstatic when both chambers of the Virginia state house approved the amendment.

“We must begin to see a world without discrimination of any kind,” declared Virginia State Senator Mamie Locke.  “Equality based on sex is not just good for women, it is good for society.”

Ratification of the ERA reached a critical flashpoint in the 1970s, as more women entered the workforce and began seeking higher levels of education than at any time in U.S. history.  When Congress submitted the ERA to the states for ratification in 1972, it gave it a March 1979 deadline for 38 states to ratify it.  They didn’t make it.  In 1979, however, the U.S. Congress gave the ERA three more years to get ratified.  Again, it didn’t succeed.  By then, most judicial and legislative experts declared the amendment dead.  Even the U.S. Supreme Court, the only court to review it, acknowledged that.

Proponents remained undeterred.  The slew of legal machinations born of this ongoing effort is astounding, which is understandable.  Our education system often discusses our founding fathers, but – outside of Betsy Ross – says little about our founding mothers.  Yes, men devised and built much of the infrastructure and technology that has helped the United States become a wealthy, powerful nation.  The same is true for most other developed countries.  But women have been at the forefront of change and progress as well.  To deny their impact is essentially telling only half of the story.

Still, ERA critics state the ratification process has been unnecessarily complicated and even unconstitutional.  Others point to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which includes the term “equal protection of the laws,” and often refers to citizenship matters.  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (undoubtedly the most progressive of all the Court’s judges) opined that any attempt to ratify the ERA would mean starting over again.

But, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.  Full gender equality doesn’t just mean equal pay for equal work – which has been the crux of the argument.  It could also mean certain employment standards would have to be adjusted or eliminated.  For example, one could argue that physical fitness requirements for firefighters could be declared illegal based strictly on gender.  Some women may be able to meet those particular goals, while a number of men couldn’t.

A new argument that has arisen is that the ERA will prevent pro-life advocates and groups from protesting abortion, which is generally aimed at women.  It’s a dubious claim at best.  Perhaps some birth control methods could come under greater scrutiny.  Since birth control pills and IUD’s are consumed primarily by women, does that mean they will have to be deregulated and sold over-the-counter like condoms?  Or will condoms become available only by prescription?  That’s a disaster waiting to happen!

I personally want to see how ERA advocates react to women being compelled to abide by Selective Service.  Currently, all able-bodied, able-minded males in the U.S. are required to register for Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday.  There’s no penalty for late registration, but there are a slew for non-registration.  Men who don’t register usually can’t enter college or get financial aid.  In some places, they can’t even graduate from high school, or could have their diploma rescinded.  They can’t obtain federal job training, or get jobs within the federal government.  All men who immigrate to the U.S. before their 26th birthday must register in order to garner full citizenship.  Failure to register is a felonious offense and punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Selective Service is the most blatant and deliberate form of gender discrimination.  The education penalties alone are violations of Title IX, an act passed by Congress in 1972 and directed towards ending gender imbalances in the education system (mainly college).  Contemporary feminists had argued that all-male schools, for example, are unconstitutional if they receive federal funding.  But, as I see it, Title IX means nothing, since Selective Service permits discrimination against males.

The Selective Service system refers, of course, to a military draft, which has not been in place in the U.S. since 1973.  While it basically means all young men must be available for compulsory military service, it actually means that group is expendable.  When the concept of women serving in combat positions in military conflicts arose, many people expressed horror at the thought of women coming home critically disabled or in body bags – as if we’ve made our peace with men returning in the same conditions.  Selective Service, therefore, makes young males cannon fodder.  Even some disabled men have to register for the draft; that is, if they can leave their dwelling under their own power.  If disabled men have to register, why shouldn’t able-bodied women be required to do the same?

How will the ERA affect family leave policies in the American workplace?  Most health insurance policies require coverage for pregnancy, and most companies allow for X amount of time off to care for a newborn.  But very few companies maintain paternity leave, and I don’t believe any insurance policies plans consider such time a medical issue.  Will pregnancy no longer be considered a unique medical condition, but rather, something chronic like diabetes?

Will the Violence Against Women Act have to be restructured to include men, or will it be eliminated altogether?  First enacted in 1994, the VAWA seeks to improve criminal justice and community responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.  In effect, it’s also a highly sexist piece of legislation because it assumes either that only adult females are the victims of violence or that adult females are the only victims of violence who matter.  The law has been amended in recent years to include lesbian and transgender women – as if men, again, aren’t worth the trouble or should just be left to fend for themselves with laws and processes that don’t really help.

Currently in the U.S. vehicle insurance rates are slanted against males.  Most companies will lower insurance rates for females when they reach the age of 21, but only for males when they reach 25.  Men can earn lower insurance rates if they marry or have children.  Years ago women often couldn’t enter into a contractual agreement without a man as cosigner.  That’s now illegal, but will the ERA render the insurance rates’ gender disparities invalid?

Aside from forcing women into the military alongside men, one bloodcurdling fear among social conservatives is that the ERA will compel society to establish unisex public lavatories.  Early opponents seemed to focus on this in particular.  If that happens, will locker rooms fall to gender equality next?  Will doctors be forbidden from letting prospective parents know the gender of their baby after a sonogram?

As a writer, I wonder what the ERA might do to language.  It’s more common now to use the term humanity instead of mankind.  Will gender-specific pronouns fall out of favor or – worst – be outlawed?

How will the transgendered be impacted by the ERA?  Growing up there were only two genders: female and male.  Now we have such classifications as non-binary and cisgender.  Excuse me?

I know some of these issues seem almost comical, but we really have to think about what gender equality means.  I fully believe women are just as capable as men, when it comes to professional matters, such as business and law enforcement.  But men and women each possess qualities that are generally unique to our respective gender.  Neither set of attributes is superior to the other; they’re meant to work in concert with one another.  I’ve always said that, if gender and racial oppression hadn’t been in place for so long, we might have made it to the moon 200 or more years ago.  Telephones, motor vehicles and television could be ancient equipment by now.

But alas, our world hadn’t become that progressive until recently.  Still, aside from restroom signs and military deployments, gender is not always fluid and malleable.

What does gender equality mean to you?

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One Last Angry Clarion Call

Trump looking out in anger.

“It seems clear that [Attorney General William Barr] will do or enable anything to keep Trump in office.  And Trump will do anything to stay there.  Suspension of the election, negation of the results, declaration of martial law are not simply fanciful, alarmist or crazy things to throw out there or to contemplate.  Members of Congress, governors and state legislators, leaders in civil society, lawyers, law enforcement figures and the military need to be thinking now about how they might respond.”

Norm Orenstein, Chair of American Enterprise Institute of Public Policy Research

Donald Trump has joked recently that he might not leave office after a second term, as mandated by the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  This particular amendment was ratified in response to the 12-year tenure of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The original authors of the Constitution had never intended for any elected Chief Executive to hold the position as if it were a divinely-inspired monarchy.  They certainly didn’t anticipate Roosevelt, but they most likely designed the Constitution with concerns about scandalous characters like Trump.  Our 45th Chief Executive made his claim about an extended presidency last month at a conference of the conservative Israeli-American Council in Hollywood, Florida.  I’ve always found it oxymoronic – downright hypocritical, actually – that Trump bears such ardor for Israel and the Jewish people, while openly courting White supremacists.  But that’s a different subject.

The thought of Trump holding just one term in the White House was frightening enough three years ago.  That he could be elected to a second term is deeply unsettling.  That he could somehow forcibly remain in the office even one day longer makes the bloodiest horror films look like Hallmark greeting card commercials.

Yet Trump is delusional enough to believe that’s a real possibility, and he has plenty of supporters who would be comfortable with such a scenario.  Those of us who live in the real world understand this simply could not be allowed per that pesky 22nd Amendment.  Still, even some constitutional experts have surmised Trump might make such an attempt.  That would be reality TV at its worst!  Richard Nixon quietly left the White House, following an impassioned farewell speech to his staff, in August of 1974.  There were no guns blazing or hand grenades exploding.  Nixon and his family weren’t spirited out of the White House through a tunnel to avoid angry mobs of detractors.  The Nixons simply strolled onto the South Lawn, accompanied by newly-appointed President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, to Marine One.  The helicopter made the loudest sound of anything.  That’s how a peaceful transition of power occurs, even in the most dire and tense of situations.

With Trump, I can almost see him and his wife, Melania, scurrying through that tunnel in a setting reminiscent of Romania’s Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu.  I honestly don’t believe it will ever come to that sanguineous of a climax.  Yet, I wouldn’t put it past the infantile Trump to grip onto the door frame of the master bedroom.

But, while Trump’s behavior can’t be taken too lightly, another aspect of the current American experience that definitely shouldn’t be dismissed is the effect Trump’s presidency has had on his faithful minions and the sentiments that put someone like him into office.  Decades of socially progressive behavior and legislation gave us Barack Obama and others like him; individuals who didn’t meet the traditional standard of those in position of power.  In other words, Obama and others weren’t White males.  Just a half century ago it was inconceivable that someone like Obama could ascend to the highest elected office in the land.  It was unimaginable that Nancy Pelosi would be the one banging the gavel in the House of Representatives.  Only a handful of visionaries thought it possible that Hilary Clinton could be a serious contender for the presidency, or that Pete Buttigieg could live openly gay AND serve in the U.S. military AND talk about having a “husband.”  People born, say, since 1990 have no idea what a vastly different world it is today than in the few years before their time.

Now, it seems the nation has digressed with Donald Trump.  Decades ago, Ronald Reagan aspired for America to return to a time before the 1960s messed up everything.  That was a simpler time for him and others just like him.  But it meant Blacks sat at the back of the bus; women sought nothing but marriage and motherhood; queers remained in the closet; and Native Americans languished as comical figures on TV screens.  The 1960s may have messed up the world for the likes of Reagan and Nixon, but it opened up the universe for everyone else.

As I marched through my junior year in high school, I began receiving phone calls from a man with the local recruiting office of the U.S. Army.  I believe I’d spoken to him at least twice, before my father happened to answer the phone one day; whereupon he politely told the man that I had plans for college and that he and my mother were determined to ensure I get there and graduated.  Just a few years later I’d openly stated I had considered joining either the Navy or the Marines.  And each time my father talked me out of it.  In retrospect, I understand why.

As a naïve high school student in the late 1940s, my father had been convinced NOT to take a drafting course and instead go for something in the blue collar arena.  “Most Spanish boys do this,” is how he quoted the female school counselor telling him.  My father liked to draw and – much like his own father – had the desire and talent for an architectural profession.  But he’d been talked out of it.  Because that was what most “Spanish boys do”.  College was for White guys.  Trade school and the military were for everyone else.

Years of struggle – working twice as hard for half as much – and assertive civil rights action had led America to the early 1980s, when I graduated from high school.  And didn’t have to join the military.  In the spring of 1983, I was sitting in a government class at a local community college, when the instructor asked, “What do we owe minorities in this country?”

Seated in the row in front of me was a young man who had graduated with me from the same high school.  I knew his name, but I didn’t know him personally.  Without missing a beat, he muttered, “Nothing.”

Only the few of us nearby heard him.  He was White, as was most everyone else seated on either side of him.  From my vantage point directly behind him, he looked angry; as if he’d been robbed of something that was rightfully his.

I finally spoke up and informed the class that “this country” owes the same thing to minorities that it does to everyone else: equality and fairness; “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, as prescribed in the Declaration of Independence.  I added, “Nothing more, nothing less.”

That one young man and the others nearby nodded their collective heads and looked at me, as if I’d said something unbelievably profound – which, to them, it may have been.

That level of total fairness and freedom hasn’t been easy.  But nothing so monumental as dramatic cultural changes are.  The Civil War, for example, ended more than 150 years ago.  Yet, some people in the Deep South of the United States still can’t let that go.  They still insist it was a war over states’ rights, not slavery.  They’ve been fighting that conflict all these years and they still haven’t won!

That’s a little of what Donald Trump’s presidency is all about: a bunch of old-guard folks wanting to maintain things as they were way back when.  And it’s just not going to work for them any longer.  The old White Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate disrespected Barack Obama as much as they could without making it too glaringly obvious.  They did everything they could to undermine his presidency and essentially failed at every step.  If anything, they only hurt the country and their reputations.

Social and political conservatives can’t return to an America of the 1940s and 50s any more than liberals can return to an America of the 1990s.  Memories are forever, but time marches onward.  It always has and it always will.  Trump’s presidency may be the final battle cry of the angry White male.

But we can’t go back to whenever.  Time continues.

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Best Quote of the Week – December 6, 2019

“Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, but it’s not a license to discriminate. Elected officials shouldn’t be allowed to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to pick and choose which taxpayers they would serve.  If a government official can’t treat everyone equally under the law, then it’s time for them to find another line of work.”

Dan Quinn, spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, on the public warning Texas’ State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued to Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley for violating ethical standards by failing to treat LGBTQ people fairly in her courtroom.

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