I'm back... The training in New York for the Soulforce Right to Serve Campaign on Don't Ask, Don't Tell was awesome. I can't give all the details right now, but I'll be sure to keep you all updated on this next wonderful movement. (PS - Soulforce is the group which did the Equality Ride). Below is my post for the Fourth of July.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
~ Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
On this day 230 years ago, the history of humankind was changed forever. On this day 230 years ago, humanity stood up in valiance and honor for equality, liberty and freedom. On this day, America has yet to live up to those ideals so eloquently and courageously "submitted to a candid world" on July 4, 1776.
Many people have often told me, "Why do you get so excited about the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution? They are just stupid pieces of paper." Everytime I hear a statement like that, my heart breaks. These "little pieces of paper" mean so much, especially to those who have not yet tasted full equality, liberty or justice. To the African-American, the Hispanic, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender people and to the disabled... our American ideals remain, for the large part, just that: ideals still being striven toward but not yet fully realized.
America is a great country... a nation founded on the most progressive principles of equality, liberty and justice for all. Our pledge of allegiance states as much. Of course, equality is something achieved. It isn't automatically handed over to the few or the powerless or to the minority. For almost one hundred years after the signing of the Declaration, African-Americans remained in bondage. For more than 150 years, women remained second-class citizens. Now, after 230 years of promised equality, liberty and justice, LGBT Americans have yet to see it.
LGBT Americans remain second-class citizens. Gay Americans are unable to serve their country through military service. Gay Americans are unable to provide - legally, medically or financially - for their partners or families because we have yet to receive those "legal incidents" traditionally (and prejudiciously) provided only to opposite-sex couples.
Young LGBT Americans are forced, by law, to attend schools which remain unsafe for them, both mentally and physically. LGBT Americans of color face double the amount of discrimination and prejudice when compared to LGBT Americans of a European background - the same could be said of disabled LGBT Americans or the foreign same-sex partners of LGBT Americans (who could be living in the United States right now if their relationship to an American could be recognized).
I fail to understand how, after more than 200 years, America has yet to fully realize its principles and ideals. I fail to understand why we haven't figured it out yet. Are we stupid? Are we slow? Are we too obsessed with backward, prejudiced and demented religious points of view which, according to our principles, shouldn't have anything whatsoever to do with my equality and humanity?
The Fourth of July should be a happy time... a joyful, national celebration of freedom and acceptance. I'm a patriotic American and, yes, I will think joyfully of my nation's founding... but I am reminded on this day that I am not fully equal and that Mr. Jefferson's writings have yet to be applied to me and people like me.
Today is a day when America should be reminded that while we are fighting for freedom and equality around the globe, we have yet to achieve here at home. On this Independence Day I pray and hope with all my heart that America will finally get it and America will finally learn.
God Bless America... and may the Creator of all humankind guide us to fulfill the promises made to all people so many years ago.
Cross post from MattHillNC.com's Q-triad Blog