For the first time in years, on this Fourth of July, I’m optimistic. Proud to be an American. I really started to feel it while a handful of us were sitting in a bar after a night at the jazz festival here at the end of June, and Sue held up her iPhone for everyone to see. It was that photo of the White House bathed in rainbow colors after the Supreme Court had finally conceded to the obvious: The government can’t discriminate against people just because of a braying minority that willfully ignores facts, science, change, the truth.
“It gives me goose bumps,” Connie said when she saw that photo.
You’ve likely read about the amazing week that President Barack Obama was in the midst of. Marriage equality. The court upholding his Affordable Care Act. The lunacy of racists hiding behind the Confederate battle flag. Some of it was sadness, but Obama was there nonetheless, singing “Amazing Grace” at a service for nine people murdered in a church. A few years ago, we were calling it Hope.
Only the timing was coincidence, not the outcomes. Our brilliant president laid the groundwork for all of this to happen. He’s leading this country into the 21st century.
People tend to look at all of this news, these debates, as separate issues. They are not. The same people who don’t see the Confederate flag as a historical reminder of slavery, armed rebellion against the U.S. and hundreds of thousand of people dead and maimed are the same people who champion open-carry gun laws in public places. They are the same people who insist the tax scofflaw Cliven Bundy and a handful of gun-waving Tea Party supporters threatening Federal agents who came to Bundy’s Nevada ranch are patriots, but they see it as a threat when others protest the epidemic of unarmed black men being killed by cops. They are the same people who make excuses for why nine people were murdered in a church. The killer was crazy, the killer was a fringe racist, the killer was on mood-altering drugs. Well, Europe has crazy people, racists and prescription drugs, yet doesn’t have our level of mass murder. The only difference is, we have plenty of guns.
It was thrilling to see the country react so quickly in the last few weeks to the idea that the Confederate flag must come down from government buildings in the South, along with questioning the morality of statues of Jefferson Davis in public places and schools named for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. It’s about heritage, not hate, they say? You really have to re-think your heritage if one of the groups coming to its defense is the Ku Klux Klan.
The same public disapproval for the Confederate legacy must also be heard on other issues. Open-carry advocates want Americans to see guns as a familiar accessory of everyday life. They’re just another tool? No, they’re a weapon. Designed for only one purpose. A Texan who carries a gun onto a church or a college campus should be looked upon with the same public disdain as a redneck who flies a Confederate flag in his front yard. The name of a Klan founder should not be on a school. Your gun should not be in a school. Or a movie theater. Or a nightclub. Or a mall. Or a political rally, as we saw during the last presidential campaign. Even tucked away in a holster, a gun is an unspoken threat.
Opposition to forward movement comes from the same people who sneered at the Occupy movements of a few years ago, those brave citizens who camped in public spaces, sacrificing the comfort of sitting on the couch in front of a TV tuned to Fox News, igniting awareness of how 99 percent of America is getting screwed by the top 1 percent.
For more than a decade now, conservatives have chosen to define America, and their fellow Americans’ love for it, by yardsticks that millions of people do not agree with. If you were against the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan from the start, you were labeled unpatriotic. If you were against a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions, you were going against the will of God, and hence unpatriotic. Because this is a country built on God’s principles. Their God, of course. Never mind that stuff you learned in school about the Pilgrims fleeing England to escape religious persecution, and that Founding Fathers prattle about freedom of religion.
School. Isn’t that the place where they teach us that man evolved from monkeys? Science, what good is that?
There is one reason that all of these frantic people running for the Republican nomination for president are saying such nonsensical things. It’s because they are willfully ignorant of facts, science, change, the truth. There is one reason Donald Trump rocketed into second place in the Republican polls after he called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. It’s because he’s saying what conservatives believe. Their political platform is Obama was born in Kenya and rich people can build golf courses wherever they want.
It is all about control, and these people are losing it. Today’s debates are one agenda championed by a dwindling minority.
Dwindling minority, I say? On virtually every issue, Americans now fall on the progressive side of the debate. Americans want to see the minimum wage raised, because profitable business shouldn’t be built on the backs of people working 40 hours a week, yet living in poverty. We’re OK with pot now. Oregon legalized recreational use last week. In the coming weeks, it appears we’ll be seeing Obama commuting non-violent drug offenders, treated like murderers in our overstuffed prisons.
Obama has even said that the racist nickname of Washington’s NFL team must go.
And soon enough, it will.
America is not a conservative country. It is progressive. All of the issues, all of the progress, tells us so.