The Land of the Free...
Yesterday was Fourth of July in the United States. Independence Day. The day we sit around and shoot off fireworks and at least pretend to remember the tenets on which our country was founded. Some of us remember better than others, of course, but it made me reflect a little on some of the phrases we throw around with such ease.
The Land of the Free.
In many ways, it’s a true statement. We did away with slavery in this country almost 150 years ago. In my lifetime, we’ve seen racial discrimination decrease significantly. I remember as a child, the biracial couple on The Jeffersons being a big deal. A REALLY big deal. Today nobody looks twice at my multi-racial family. (My daughter, adopted, is biracial. My son, biological, is also biracial, but a different combination.) I had one black classmate in elementary school, and then only for two years before Lacey moved away. After I graduated from college, I taught in a school so full of minorities that I was the minority.
There’s no denying we’ve made huge progress in making the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and all the other civil rights crusaders of the ‘60s come true.
We face a different kind of discrimination today: discrimination based on sexual orientation. I live in Texas. Now granted, I live in Houston where we have an openly lesbian mayor, but it’s still Texas, and that means knee-jerk conservative for the most part, so I know just how bad it can be, but I have faith too. I have faith because I worked with high school students for sixteen years, and I watched the evolution of their attitudes toward homosexuality in that time. By the time I left the classroom, the majority of the students I worked with couldn’t care less whether someone was straight, gay, or bi, just like they couldn’t have cared less if the person was white, black, Hispanic, Asian, or some mixture of all of those things.
We don’t live in a perfect world, and we don’t live in a perfect country. Discrimination is still taking place all over our nation and maybe even across the street from us, but I have faith in the future because those kids I taught? They’re graduating from high school and they’re turning 18 and they’re looking at some of the idiotic policies being proposed by politicians two generations older than they are and they’re saying, “No way!” Right now, they’re still outnumbered by the old fogeys, but they won’t always be. And when they aren’t outnumbered, they’ll change the antiquated laws because they realize the gay couple on Modern Family isn’t any more of a big deal than the biracial couple on The Jeffersons.
And so I return to the phrase that I started with. The Land of the Free. This is the land of the free, and I believe that in my lifetime, we will see that freedom realized for a new group of people in my lifetime, and I’ll be dancing in the streets and waving my rainbow flag along with everyone else when that day comes.