Ryan Slabaugh: When the honeymoon’s over, we get reality
November 6, 2008
I don’t mean sober up the Obama honeymoon, but some of the more idealistic supporters need only look to our own state to see that racial progress can easily hide a more disappointing fact ” we still discriminate.
Obama’s election prompted television comic Stephen Colbert to pose the question, “Is racism over?,” and his point was obvious. While our country has progressed in 40 years beyond treating racial protests with fire hoses and attack dogs, the country’s demographics have rapidly changed, allowing different types of, not less, discrimination.
One example is how we treat Hispanics. Native-born Hispanics get unfairly labeled as illegals. Thousands of businesses take advantage of immigrant labor’s willingness to work for pennies. School districts across the country subliminally blame non-English speaking students for a lack of federal funding. And so on.
But it goes beyond just race. On Tuesday in California, we voted more rights to farm animals and less rights to gay humans. To the churches that funneled millions into the Proposition 8 campaign, marriage must not be about love of one another. They’ve proven to us that they care more about what is in our underpants.
I see no other explanation. Those who use religious texts to defend these actions are blasphemous at best. Politicians who compare a man marrying a man to a man marrying a dog come from a long line of leaders who use fear to create artificial social divides. Those divides are never lateral ” they are always top down. One side is right. One side is wrong. No one has ever proven that gay marriage has spoiled communities, ruined children or poisoned our country’s values, despite the campaigning to the contrary.
Thirty-nine woeful states have similar laws, and on Tuesday, voters also passed similar bans in Arizona and Florida.
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Internationally, though, the election of a non-white president has prompted the world to return its use of America’s most famous calling card ” the land of opportunity. In San Francisco, one college student started a site called “Sorryeverybody .com,” where he holds up a photo of a notebook with a sign that says, “Hello World. Let’s Hang Out.”
He describes his motivation well, and because of that, I will borrow his words:
“Obama himself astutely observed that he was a symbol, that his campaign and the movement it spawned wasn’t meant to elevate him personally, but to revitalize a certain kind of American thing. I am impressed with the guy and I have a good feeling about his administration, but this website, this election, and this country are not really about great men doing grand deeds; they are about great numbers of us, doing the simple, noble things that actually keep us free and safe and prosperous. Putting a picture on a website probably isn’t one of those things. But I have a day job and I do good work. America’s wheels are turning. Let’s pat ourselves on the back tonight. We earned it.”
That night is over, though, so the patting on the back must stop. Lofty expectations and promises are distractions to action and policy, and therein lies the twist.
To most of the world, America took a giant leap forward this week. But in California, we took a step back.