Saturday, June 27, 2015

Celebrating Diversity, Wondering about Equality

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had announced its decision paving the way for same gender marriage throughout the US. The energy of the happy-hour crowd was euphoric. Smile, hugs, "happy marriage day" messages. A definite day of significant progress. Among the crowd were men who clearly had lived through much of the long-struggle for gay rights mixed in with the young generation that will largely benefit from the struggle. I wondered how much the latter appreciated the work of the former or, as we see with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, how much of this will simply be taken for granted, just as my generation did not fully appreciate the struggles of the depression of my grandparents. Also among the crowd were some lonely figures, some of whom will no-doubt join the countless other people in the world - gay and straight - who can legally marry in wondering if and perhaps hoping for the "right one" to come along.  And, this being DC, no doubt many of the celebrants are among the rich and powerful - the already well-to-do.

As I left the noisy, celebratory scene and walked out onto the street, it was back to reality. Among this reality scene were many people who continue to live on the fringes of society - people who sleep on the streets, ask for donations, perhaps suffer from the neglect of a society that often seems to place greater value on acquisition of wants instead of helping meet each others' needs.  I don't say this with smugness. I, too partake in this to some extent. I think I do better every year, but I still have a long way to go.

This is why, to me, the ruling the day before basically keeping the Affordable Healthcare Act in tact, was more significant.  This was one of the few rulings in the past few years that addressed the biggest inequity that we continue to ignore - economic inequality (as did the Fair Housing ruling earlier in the week that was a reminder of how institutional our racist/classist policies still are). This was the program that Obama promised when he was running for President, and the one that he spent enormous political capital on when he knew he had it, and he has paid the price for since then in three House election cycles.  Now, the Supreme Court has solidified this, helping to ensure income inequality is less a factor in accessing healthcare.  Given other Supreme Court decisions removing voting rights and anti-discrimination protections that are routinely used against the poorest among us, this was huge.

So, while I absolutely celebrate and understand the significance of the marriage ruling, I cringe to think that the celebrations of this are deluding us from getting the real work done for justice. I cringe to think how many gays and lesbians will indulge in spending sprees on costly weddings and unneeded gifts, sending a message that "we have arrived", when the reality is we have a long way to go.

1 comment:

Micah Bales said...

Great thoughts, Brad. I had a similar reaction.