It has been an interesting week in terms of social justice progress. Even as I have marched through a very tiring week, I've taken moments to let myself feel awe at the news I've been hearing.
The event that most of the nation and future historians will remember from this week will be yesterday's ruling on gay marriage. I listened to this story on NPR yesterday about the man who wrote a paper as a law student arguing for the rights of gay people to marry; he wrote it in 1983, and he's spent the time between then and now working on that goal. I thought about how few of us see our goals and visions so thoroughly accepted. He will go to his grave knowing he's been a success in what he set out to do.
The conversation covered the idea of whether or not this change has come quickly or slowly. He said that his younger colleagues want to change the world and they get discouraged at how long it might take. But here we are, in quite a different landscape than the world we inhabited in 1983.
I think of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's. I used to think of it as a social movement of the 1960's, but my college teachers explained how much groundwork had been laid in the 1940's, 50's and earlier.
Both of these social justice movements show that the changes seem like they're happening very quickly, but what often happens quickly is laid on a bedrock of thousands of acts of smaller resistance and consciousness changing and tinier legislative wins than the ones that were sought. And then, at some point, boom--it seems as if the whole nation decides to change, all at once.
I'm also thinking of the issue of the Confederate flag. I lived in South Carolina for many years, and I have heard various sides of the arguments around the flag. I remember after a week or two at my small college in a small South Carolina town and thinking, some people here act like the Civil War was fought last year, not 120 years ago. That wound seemed so fresh.
I was surprised when South Carolina moved the flag from the State House (or was the state ordered to do it? how can I not remember?). There was the compromise that it could stay on the grounds in an area that celebrates the Civil War.
I remember walking to the State House grounds during grad school. I loved the statue that celebrated the courage of Civil War women--it was a statue of a woman struggling to lean forward to protect the children in her skirts. I would touch the statue and wish for similar courage. I would scold myself: "You think grad school is so tough; it's nothing like the Civil War." Something about that statue steadied me.
But I digress. In short, I thought nothing would change people's minds about that flag--and for some people, this is true. But the shooting in Charleston may have propelled the flag off the grounds altogether. We shall see.
We also had Supreme Court decisions on health care and fair housing. It's been a fascinating time to watch the Court. My spouse keeps saying that the decisions are less interesting than the fact that it is this court that made those decisions.
Early this morning, I went to the grocery store to help my friend who has had hand surgery with her groceries. I bought some groceries too. I put my cantaloupe on the conveyer belt. I thought of my mother's quip whenever she cut up a cantaloupe: "Cantaloupe without a man!"
But now we can.
I wish I had a more satisfactory conclusion--but I suspect the coming weeks/months/years will be like this: small moments when we realize what a different world we're leaving for our children. Some of the changes I like, while others make me mourn.
I think of a law student working on a paper, someone we haven't heard of, don't expect to hear from--how will the world be changed by ideas that are only being formed today?
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