Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Failing to Learn the Lessons of Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks made history when she rode the bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

If you don't know much about Rosa who died recently, this short note explains much of her story:
"Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it," writes Parks in her recent book, Quiet Strength, (ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1994). "I kept thinking about my mother and my grandparents, and how strong they were. I knew there was a possibility of being mistreated, but an opportunity was being given to me to do what I had asked of others."

The rest of Parks' story is American history...her arrest and trial, a 381-day Montgomery bus boycott, and, finally, the Supreme Court's ruling in November 1956 that segregation on transportation is unconstitutional.
What was the lesson of Rosa Parks?

Was it not that each person should have the equal rights and opportunities as his or her neighbor? Was it not that governments are empowered to protect those rights and whenever any group of individuals presupposes that they have greater rights than any other group that this is contrary to our Constitution? That the role of government is not to deny individuals rights but to guarantee and protect the equal opportunity our nation provides. That is what is truly unique about America!

Thomas Jefferson understood what the proper role of government is supposed to be.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was the main author of the Declaration of Independence within which was written:
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.
Jefferson stated at a later date:
"No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him." --Thomas Jefferson to Francis Gilmer, 1816. ME 15:24
So how is it an American tradition to go to the ballot box and vote to deny any group of individuals their equal rights? Their desire to pursue happiness in the way that they choose? Is this a moral value or even an American value? Since when do we amend our state Constitutions to deny individuals freedoms instead of using our legislative power to protect freedom for all Americans?

As reported:
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Texans voted overwhelmingly to add a prohibition of same-sex marriage to their constitution on Tuesday, becoming the 19th U.S. state to do so.

With about 550,000 votes counted, Proposition 2 was heading for ratification with 75.5 percent in favor.
It is not the role of the American government to deny any group of individuals rights guaranteed to all others. This is not the American way. We should not pass legislation designed to hurt people, to discriminate against them, to make them second class citizens.

No, America has not yet learned the lessons of Rosa Parks. We can lay her to rest with honors, but if we fail to learn the lessons of respect and tolerance, we really haven't progressed ahead of that embarassing time in the history of our nation.

Whatever we may think about homosexuals, it is not the place of government to single them out and deny them rights and freedoms guaranteed to other individuals. We will not encourage one single gay person to go straight by denying them equal protection under the law. But we shall manage to undermine the freedom in America for all of us if we fail to overturn this type of activity even by the electorate, that in the rush for morality, may be willing to trample on the rights of minorities. It has happened before, and it is happening again today.



Anonymous M Bagan said...

Discrimination against homosexuals is so sad. How does freedom of sexual choice threaten anyone? Except perhaps that underlying the rejection of the "devients" by the butch crowd there is the fear that similar leanings may break through and threaten the tenuous self image which accompanies hatred of the "other".

This is old hat of course, and easily understood. But it's also easy to feel anger and to lose track of this important basis for discriminatory feelings and actions. Homophobes don't deserve hatred--only pity.

Rosa Parks knew her own worth.

9:15 PM  

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