A black person in the Bull Connor South.
A Jew in ’30’s Germany.
A member of the Tea Party under Obama’s presidency.
All three of these are equivalent in that they are people who were or are sanctioned targets by the dominant culture.
I cannot imagine what it felt like to be a slave or to see my family sent to the ovens of Poland. But I know what it feels like to be the object of scorn by politicians, celebrities, universities, journalists and all other manner of established hierarchy.
Every day, I listen to elected officials talk about me as if I am sub-human. Every day, pampered voices with expensive hair styles chuckle about my inability to rub a noun and a verb together. My ability to think or act in the best interest of myself or my country are not challenged – they are simply dismissed.
WE say out loud that it is the responsibility of our elected leaders to represent all Americans, as well as the Constitution which they have sworn to support and defend. For that assertion, we are regularly the butt of late night comics who use us as a punch line.
It is incredibly enervating to get up every day and know that today you will be called a racist, a sexist, homophobic, xenophobic “birther” just because you believe that the Founding Fathers meant it when they said, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”
Or that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” or “…powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.”
We are deemed racist because we believe that people who are in this country illegally should at least say thank-you for the better life we have given them and their families. If we say that “God created them male and female,” it is asserted we are seething with hate and should be driven out of civilized society.
The Republic is at a dangerous crossroad.
From the earliest days, the arc of history has been to increase the amount of freedom that the citizen enjoyed. Even at the birth of our country, when people were indentured or enslaved, there was a recognition that the sweep of mankind would dismantle the old models and men (and women) would eventually live as equals in this best of all nations.
But today, in our children’s lifetime, we see that we are no longer moving towards freedom of all people. Yes, we have improved the lot of some races (black and brown), but at the detriment of other races (white and yellow). We are not raising people up; we are dragging people down.
Central to dragging down process is the need to make sure there are no dissenting voices.
If you have to debate someone based on the value of their opinions, there is a chance that your opinion will not survive a challenge. But, if you can show that the opposition is stupid and evil, motivated by base and selfish interests, your ideas will never face a challenge. What better means to protect flawed positions than to make sure that our countrymen believe your opponent is a racist, sexist, homophobe, and xenophobe “birther.”
I am not required to wear a yellow star. I am not required to sit in the back of the bus. Nevertheless, like my fellow Tea Partiers, my voice is strangled by a culture that has decided that I am “less than” the more enlightened citizens.
Those that silence us must remember that a society which refuses to incorporate the thoughts, contributions and values of any portion of that society is playing with fire.