Progress and Equality in the 21st Century

Progress and Equality in the 21st Century? Ha!
Progress and Equality in the 21st Century? Ha!

Never underestimate the human capacity for getting everything wrong. Why is it that we always seem to find the need to categorize some group as “Other”? Our history is marked by the hard-fought steps toward equality, and what makes it all the more disheartening is that the argument itself never seems to change, only the group to which it is applied. We now can all accept (well, most of us, anyway) that people should not be allowed to own one another, and that interracial marriage doesn’t lead to bestiality. It should be obvious that women are every bit the equal of their tripodal opposites, and that the differences between the sexes are no basis for a comparative judgement on superiority. The Blacks didn’t steal the White man’s jobs, and the Latinos aren’t stealing them now. Gay Marriage isn’t about granting special privileges to a certain group, any more than feminism is about destroying men. Sure, each and every one of us will take every advantage we are given, but when it’s obvious that the game is rigged against us, who among us would not speak out? And why is it so easy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of someone whom you do not know?

I’ve only faced two hurdles in my quest for dominance: I wasn’t born into the 1%, and I suffer from a mental illness. In every other conceivable way, I am so far ahead in the game that I am a little ashamed that I haven’t done any better than I have. The worst I have to deal with is someone assuming that I have lots of money, and a good credit score, and then screaming at me because I cannot spare a dollar. I have had no issue getting hired just because my name’s spelled “different”, and have never been passed over for a promotion because someone assumed that I would not be able to command the respect of my employees. I have been frequently undervalued in the workplace, but the woman who took over a restaurant from me when I moved to the other store across the bay wound up making $5/hour less than I had, all while doing performing the same job. Yes, I did have more experience than her, and yes, I was also about a decade older, but a job is still a job, and no one should make only $13 every hour to be a restaurant’s General Manager.

When my wife decided that the time had come for us to marry (she was tired of wasting her time on something so open-ended), we had no trouble with it at all. I may have mentioned before that I am an atheist, and as such, wasn’t really interested in a fancy church-type wedding. My wife was Catholic, and for us to have been married in the eyes of her faith, I would have had to convert, and that wasn’t going to happen. We went to the Oakland Courthouse, filled out some paperwork, and then had a pleasant little ceremony in front of family and friends. Done. We didn’t want a church wedding, and we didn’t get one. If marriage is a religious institution, as many have suggested, then I should never have been allowed to marry. But no one has said a single about that, even when I bring it up, because my wife and I are of “complimentary” genders. At this point, the conversation turns to the reason for marriage, which, supposedly, is to populate the world. I then ask if marriages should be annulled if a couple cannot conceive. Or simply decide they don’t want children. Or want to adopt, instead. Again, the crickets become almost deafening.

I really just don’t understand.

It’s not a zero-sum game that we, the human race, are playing: trickle-down economics have taught us that. When one group is given an institutional advantage under the pretense that it will be better for everyone, it never is. I have known wealthy people, and the majority of them do not spend a single penny more than they are absolutely required to by law. Those of us without portfolios, because we cannot afford to leave our money out of reach, tend to spend it when we get it, and pump our hard-earned dollars right back into the economy. The more money that we have to spend, the more money we will spend. Yes, we will pay off our bills, and most of us will try to be responsible, but after years of making hard decisions regarding healthcare versus eating, it’s nice to pick up something that isn’t a necessity. And the more we spend, the more jobs will be required, as it takes more people to work the registers when there’s a constant line spilling out the door.

Letting someone else do something that you can do isn’t granting privileges, and they aren’t “special rights.” The world will not come to an end if two dudes can marry, and it will not end if women are finally thought of as something other than the “weaker sex.” Yes, the millionaires and billionaires might see their money vaults become a little emptier, should workers have the right to earn a living wage, but more money than god is still more money than god. And just because someone doesn’t share the same faith as you, doesn’t mean that they’re declaring war upon it.

I’ve made the point before, but I feel it bears repeating: If you are in the majority, you are not being persecuted. That’s kind of the benefit of having a majority. And, after having been railroaded into being confirmed into the Lutheran sect of the Christian faith when I was barely able to grow facial hair, and having read the Bible cover to cover, I am even more confused by those who wear a crucifix and spout off about how Jesus disapproves. Correct me if I’m wrong, as it’s been awhile since I peeked at those red letters, but I remember Mr. Christ wanting to keep money out of religion, feed the hungry, help the poor, and generally treat people better than they had been. He never said anything about a “homosexual agenda,” but I do remember something about wealthy tailors and their camels. And the parts of the Old Testament that people flip to when they are in dire need of something with which they can condemn complete strangers (Leviticus, primarily), are nestled right in among prohibitions on diet, fashion, and the sale of daughters, which are frequently ignored. It was my understanding that Jesus came to redeem the world, not start a cult of hatred and oppression.

And since I seem to be determined to piss everybody off, let’s talk about feeding the hungry and helping the poor. I mean, first we’ll have to drug test them, and scrutinize their lives for any mistakes they may have made (because we all know that no one who’s in power has ever taken a misstep), humiliate them, demonize them, moralize and then demoralize them. If they are going to receive our the fruits of our taxed labor, then they had better be on the straight and narrow, just like those we send to represent us in state and national government. Are there people who game the system? Yes. But that epidemic is not limited to just the working poor. Or those who cannot even get a job that doesn’t pay enough. If you say that we are a Christian nation, but allow a man (or woman, or child) to starve, then you haven’t been paying attention. That little “t” around your neck is not a status symbol. There will always be people who take advantage of the kindness and decency of others, but that is no excuse to punish everyone who might need help.

From there, let’s shift to voting rights, since I’m detecting an underlying theme. If your political party cannot exist unless you deprive citizens of their right to participate in their own representative democracy, you need better ideas. The goal should be to make everybody’s voice heard, even if they disagree with everything you’re saying. I, for one, do not appreciate a slide back into a state of feudalism. Money shouldn’t determine the social agenda, and wages shouldn’t consign someone to slavery. If you cannot make enough to get by, even if you’re working sixteen hours in a day, you don’t need to see the shackles to know that they are there. There is an overwhelming sense of apathy in regard to the electoral process. Every vote counts is a beautiful sentiment, but when decent people are barred from running because they refuse to sell their soul, and a candidate can garner fewer votes than his opponent, but walk away the president, I see why people just don’t care. And if no one turns out to cast their ballot, the election becomes a contest between fanatics. And that’s when you get legislation like this:

In Florida (because, of course it’s Florida), there is a bill in the State House which would ban transgender people from using “single-sex public facilities” to which they were not biologically (genetically) eligible. The bill states that its purpose is to “secure privacy and security for all individuals using single-sex public facilities.” Which, on the surface, seems like a noble cause. People should be able to feel safe and secure when they are at their most vulnerable, i.e., when then are in a state of undress. “Single-sex public facilities are places of increased vulnerability and present the potential for crimes against individuals using those facilities, including, but not limited to, assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism, and exhibitionism.” Again, good on you for recognizing that. Of course, these actions may be committed by people not banned under this bill, so it only disproportionately affects those who identify with a gender that they were not fortunate enough to have been born into.

There are so many things I get to take for granted as a white, heterosexual male. I can walk down the street and not worry about harassment from the cops, or catcalls or intimidation from the opposite sex. My instinctual expressions of love (well, most of them, anyway) have never been criminalized. It’s actually a little depressing to think of how little I’ve accomplished with all of the opportunities that I was lucky enough to born into. I cannot imaging the courage that it takes for those without my privileges to face such an uphill battle. Life is hard enough without knowing that you’re probably going to be worse off for having tried for something better.

I imagine that I may have lost some of my audience somewhere along the way, and I can only say that if I have offended you, I am glad. It means that I have challenged your beliefs, and I can only hope that you will take the time to consider if they might be in need of re-evaluation. I don’t know that I have all the answers, and I don’t presume to speak for everyone. There are experiences that I will never have, and that both reassures and saddens me. I speak not because I feel that others cannot, but instead, because I have a soapbox upon which I am allowed to preach. I have many failings, as my wife will more than happily attest, but each and every day I try to leave myself open to the possibility of learning something new. Don’t tell anyone, but on a few occasions, I have been known to fall a little short of right, and as much as it has violently abused my ego, in the long run I would rather know the truth.

We cannot hide back in the past, nor look within it for our answers to the future. We must learn from our mistakes, for our victories teach us so much less. The history of humanity is a brutal struggle with our world and with our very selves, but we have made at least some progress since the dawn of time, and despite our best intentions, will most likely make some more, if we don’t drive ourselves toward extinction.


And here’s a little something to put your day back on track:

He has his own way of mining for truths…

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