And speaking of those brave enough to rebel against the status quo...I was able to watch a bit of Rosa Parks' funeral today. The usual attention-mongers (or is that power-mongers?) were there, regrettably, but other than that, it was quite impressive. There are few people who have truly changed the course of modern history, and she was certainly the focal point of a sharp indention in our time-line. There comes a time when someone has to stand up and declare they will no longer participate in what is wrong instead of looking the other way.
It's nice to think that eventually equality would have happened anyway, as I have heard some say - the same ones, I might add, who claim slavery was on its way out in the south before the civil war. Economically speaking, that was true. But morally and ethically, a lack of slavery is simply not equal to a presence of equality. In fact, I would say that Americans today are still xenophobic, by and large. Look at those protesting the war in Iraq - claiming that what happened to "those people" is not our problem.
"Those people" are apparently anyone who is not white, christian, and reasonably wealthy.
As I have said elsewhere, if a brutal dictator took over Canada or Switzerland (the land of the tall, blonde western ideal), and started digging mass graves and executing political dissenters or religious believers, even liberals would be knocking themselves over to go stop the slaughter and oppression of "innocent people."
"Innocent people" are apparently those who are white, christian, and reasonably wealthy - hence the lack of concern about christians in Sudan - who aren't white or wealthy, or for persecuted Chinese believers - who aren't white, nor for the living conditions in Appalachia (an eternal Kentucky issue) - who aren't reasonably wealthy. Hence the majority of people in America who before Rosa Parks were content to look the other way. "Those people" weren't worth getting involved and putting yourself out in the line of hate and ridicule.
Rosa Parks stood for an ideal that is, frankly, still not in place, and worse, may never be. I am of the opinion that we have not only made all of the progress we're going to make, but as the world economy strangles on the overwhelming debt of the United States, Americans are going to actually regress. Already anti-semitism, racist hate against latinos and blacks, and economic envy of asian immigrants is slowly but surely oozing its way out of the cracks in America's foundations. It is irrational, yet there it is. For a while we envisioned a "pax americana," where our might and our resources could put down any oppression or persecution or unjustness anywhere in the world. Now we are back to not wanting to get involved.
Why? I can only speculate. Maybe in part because today's x-ers and tomorrow's y-ers have rejected the idea that everybody should have the same outcome no matter what sort of effort they put or don't put into their goals. That educational experiment should have been trashed before it was ever started. Yes, American kids are rewarded for doing nothing at all. Yes, every kids in class knows that is "wrong." Every culture is equivalent, every lifestyle perfectly valid, they are told. Sounds good, doesn't it? To the white tower world of academics, yes. To the real world of the schoolyard, it sounds ridiculous. Out in the adult political world, such ideas can be disastrous.
How can that be? Well, class, let's consider the schoolyard for a moment - the training ground for adulthood. If everyone is equal and every choice of lifestyle is perfectly OK, then who is to blame for the pervasiveness of poverty? Whose fault is it that when some kids can't afford the latest trends? Whose fault is it that some kids are fat? Soceity holding them down, of course! That's what they're told for the first two questions. But most kids most places know that mostly isn't true. They know from personal experience that people who study get good grades, and people who don't get bad grades. They know that people who waste money don't have any to spend on necessities (however loosely a teenager might define "necessities"), because they see their friends do it all the time. They know that if you want to get a good job, then you need to dress the corporate way - at least in the presence of the corporation. They know that if you refuse to do so, you'll likely end up working at McDonalds. They know that if you can't speak correctly or write coherently, you can hardly even get a job at McDonalds or Wally world. James Earl Jones and Condoleeza Rice don't seem to have any trouble making money, after all. Poet Laureate Maya Angelou has done pretty well, they see. And they see plenty of kids at their schools who refuse to study, learn to speak proper English, or use drugs, get pregnant, or whatever it is they do to themselves to sabotage their success. And then there's the third question, about weight. Well, apparently, that's now all about DNA! Raise your hand if you see a problem here, class.
These ideas have become an underground, but majority, part of American philosophy. We deny it, but it is there for all to see if they are honest with themselves. This is a country where people are expected to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps." When they see those who are poor or oppressed or genuinely held back by society - they blame the victim, because most of the time, it is in fact what they have done to themselves that got them into their present situation. But just because that is often true doesn't mean it is always true, and Americans have lost their ability to tell genuine need from genuine laziness. And what about DNA? Well, here we are back where we started - some undesirable traits are simply due to heredity - to your geneology - to your race!
To "translate this into the key of Iraq," as one of my professors would say - this means that because they are Muslim and non-white and poor that they somehow deserve to be oppressed and killed. In the "key of American poverty" the data leads to the same erroneous output (garbage in-garbage out). Do you see where this is going, class? It's a viscous cycle - racism leads to bad conditions which lead back to racism. People who claim that we have gone to point A and into point B refuse, evidently, to see that point C is actually point A all over again.
And if we are, in fact, not responsible for our outcomes because of our DNA - if we are all just glorified animals - then it's survival of the fittest, class. Natural selection. Eugenics in disguise.
Rosa Parks was buried today - a true heroine. Her cause was more important to her than her "convenience." Her cause was important enough that for 380-some days, hundreds of people agreed that the cause was worth the inconvenience. She believed she had a God-given right as an immortal soul here on earth to the same rights and treatments of every other person. And she was right, of course. But what if there is no God?
Take God out of the equation - and the immortal soul that makes us all truly equal - and what do you have left?
Nothing, of course. That's how it's now OK to kill "inconvenient" babies - and how, in the future, it will be OK to kill "inconvenient" non-babies: the old, the "defective," and of course, those whose presence in society or the economy is "inconvenient." Question, class. Who gets to define "inconvenient?" Wealth? Race? Religion? Autonomy?
Or DNA? Now do you see a problem with this line of reasoning, class?
(How ironic that we have not, in fact, made any progress at all. )
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The viscious cycle continues unabated.
Entry for Wednesday, 2 November, 2005