Saturday, February 17, 2007

Viva Progress, A Little Bit of Truth About the Good Old Days

I had started this rant last night but over tiredness and pissed off did not make for a very good combination so I saved it and this morning Buckdog posted something along a very similar line from the Canadian point of view.
Since most of us have reached the conclusion that for better or worse, language matters, I've been giving some thought to William Donohue of recent infamy and others of his ilk.

We, or the MSM at any rate, have been referring to them by such terms as "Christian conservatives", "values voters", and "fundamentalist Christians". Those terms may be polite and fairly inoffensive but I don't think they accurately depict who and what these people truly are. Those terms in fact tend to lend them an air of reasonableness and legitimacy that they just do not deserve.

Much as I might favor "socially retarded, anally retentive, control-freak assmonkeys" somehow I just can't feature Anderson Cooper or Soledad O'Brien saying it which would kind of defeat the purpose of changing the terminology in the first place.

Here are a few alternative proposals:

Christian Extremists
Religious Radicals
Christian Despots
Religious Anti-Socials
and my personal favorite: Social Regressives

Socially regressive is exactly what they are and I like to call things by their true names. "Conservative" implies that they are attempting to preserve some better way of life that we all once enjoyed. I'm not sure in what fairy tale we enjoyed this "better way of life" but they claim it is so.

Let me take you back to the year of my birth, back in the good old days when unmarried women who got pregnant were sent away "to visit an ailing aunt" and gay people had to hide in closets stuffed with high-heeled slippers with fuzzy fake-feather balls on the toes.

January 14 - George Wallace becomes governor of Alabama.

February 11 - CIA Domestic Operations Division is created.

March 18 - Court decides poor must have lawyers (Gideon vs. Wainwright Supreme Court trial)

June 12 - Civil rights leader Medgar Evers is fatally shot in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi.

June 17 - The United States Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in Abington School District v. Schempp against allowing the reciting of Bible verses and the Lord's Prayer in public schools.

August 18 - American civil rights movement: James Meredith becomes the first black person to graduate from the University of Mississippi.

August 28 - Martin Luther King delivers his "I have a dream" speech on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

September 15 - American civil rights movement: The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing results in 4 deaths and 22 injuries.

November 22 - John F. Kennedy assassination: In Dallas, Texas, US President John F. Kennedy is assassinated, Texas Governor John B. Connally is seriously wounded, and US Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn-in as the 36th President of the United States.

November 24 - Vietnam War: Newly sworn in US President Lyndon B. Johnson confirms that the United States intends to continue supporting South Vietnam militarily and economically.

Those are just a few highlights from "the good old days". Don't forget that our public schools were still teaching children to "duck and cover" in the event of a nuclear attack and just about every town had at least one building with an official "fallout shelter" sign, likely posted not far from the omnipresent "whites only" signs. Miscegenation was still a crime in some states, in others it would only get you killed.

Pardon me for my complete lack of sappy, fond nostalgia.

I also remember who the people were who promoted and propagated all of the aforementioned loveliness. It was the Christians. The same God-fearing, bible-quoting, hellfire and damnation Christians as we have today, in many cases the direct offspring of the original pain in the ass idiots we fought before. The bible was used then, as it is now, to justify everything from racial prejudice and legalized discrimination to engaging in military actions we had no business being involved in.

I'd have expected us to learn something from this. Nope. The Regressives have learned to cloak their intentions and meaning quite a bit better but leopards don't change their spots and they are still exactly what they were in 1963: social regressives.

Maybe we haven't spent enough time and effort informing the younger generation about the realities that existed within our own lifetimes, preferring to feed them the misty, rose-colored version that time often lends to our memories.

I went to elementary school in a semi-rural, mainly agricultural district. More than half of my classmates were Hispanic, mainly first and second generation children from Mexico. Nearly all of their parents were farmworkers. The people who picked the crops for the food we all buy at our local supermarket. Even back then those crops would have rotted in the fields if farmers had to find white, American citizens to pick them.

Despite the disproportionate number of Mexican and Mexican-American children in my school all of the teachers were white. Not criticizing that, I doubt one could have found more than a small handful of Latino teachers in the US back then.

The problem was the attitude. I didn't really think about it much or it didn't penetrate my 7-year-old consciousness until the day W. disappeared. Until that day I simply took for granted my status as a golden child in the eyes of my teachers.

W. was Mexican, I don't know if she was in the US legally or illegally but her English was just good enough to barely get by. She was always quiet, never talked much to anyone and as far as I could tell, didn't have any friends. No one picked on her but no one paid her any attention either, myself included. I might have been unusual only in the fact that I even noticed she existed.

She disappeared one morning during recess. I noticed her seat was empty sometime after returning to class. I didn't think too much of it at first, assuming she was in the bathroom or some other logical place until our teacher started calling us up by name to pick up our graded assignments. Naturally W. was not there to respond when her name was called.

Nothing happened. When W. still had not appeared by the next recess I asked the teacher where she was and was told she must have gone home. Several hours later the police arrived at school with W. in tow. They had found her wandering about a mile from school. She said she had "felt lonely" and was trying to walk to her grandmother's Mexico. No one at school had reported her missing.

You would think this would have resulted in at least an apology to her parents. Nope. W. was expelled from school for being "unmanageable".

Even at age 7 I was aware enough to know that had I gone missing for even 5 minutes there would have been a massive outcry. Can't have little curly-haired, blue-eyed children going missing, what would people think? One less dark-skinned child in the big deal.

I also had enough sense to understand my own complicity in the matter. I had never spoken up, never questioned why the brown-skinned children were ignored, never questioned why all the goodies and attention always went to those of us with lily-white complexions. Enough sense to feel shamed. Where was the shame from the people who were supposed to be our role models?

Today we don't and indeed cannot get away with this behavior. I'm thankful for that. Still we have this large group of people who having failed in perpetuating this type of institutionalized discrimination against certain ethnic groups have now turned their attentions to gay people, single parents, the poor, and anyone else who doesn't fit into their world view of what constitutes a human being. And we've been letting them get away with it.

Now maybe some folks out there really long for the good old days, high-heeled slippers, beehives and all. Me, I prefer today and should I be lucky enough to live to see it, the future. Hopefully a future where we've put a little bit more of the "humane" into humanity and people like Mr. Donohue don't even merit a mention on the evening news because normal folks just don't go around worrying themselves about what other folks do in their bedrooms or demonizing the weakest among us.

Hopefully enough of us will stand up and call the people who would do this what they really are and refuse to accept it.


Flimsy Sanity said...

Excellent and interesting post. Being ignored is just a step above being abused.
Both "right" and "conservative" sound virtuous - "regressive" is better but I would like you to work the word "sanctimonious" in also - they are especially adept at feigning righteousness (maybe where "right" comes in).

Not Your Mama said...

Sanctimonious social regressives works for me.

Anonymous said...

religious regressives works for me too. These idiots give Jesus a bad name.

ryk said...

Beautiful post. I've been calling them the American Taliban, but I really like Social Regressives. Permission to steal? And it turns out you're younger than I had imagined you to be from reading your stuff. Wise beyond your years I guess.

Not Your Mama said...

Encourage you to steal. It does little good if I'm the only one saying it ;). Was looking for something that could possibly go fairly "mainstream" while not flattering them in any way.

Tired beyond my years mebbe. Not complaining, it's been an interesting life but yes, a little tired now.