My husband and I were on our way home via Metro North last weekend when we overheard a conversation about that afternoon’s Gay Pride Parade in New York City. The conversation, not especially favorable, concluded with, “We’re going to hell in a hand basket.”
I suppose the great irony of the situation was that although we hadn’t been in the city especially for the parade, we did spend some time as spectators/supporters of the event and as we watched the excitement and people waving their rainbow flags, I’ll admit, it made me a little teary. Now, I don’t cry easily and I’m not known for my grand emotional performances. And yet, at such a demonstration of love and acceptance, freedom and equality how could anyone help from getting choked up? How could this be the demise of society? Are we really doomed to hell in a handbasket for this?
It would seem that each generation is on the fast track to infernal damnation by way of thatched vessel. I suppose for my grandparents it was jazz and liquor. For my parents, it was surely rock and roll and any/all things relating to the Vietnam War. For my generation, I wonder what our defining moments will be. Will it have anything to do with the most recent Supreme Court rulings, or will it involve Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster in Texas or the droves of people who rallied in support of her message? I often approach my writing and life in general, with a very tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic attitude. However, I can say with absolutely certainty, all snark aside, I have never been happier to be a part of my generation and alive at this time in history.
Doesn’t it seem that the things we most admire and romanticize in retrospect are the things that caused the most controversy at the time in which they happened. Every generation seems to believe that its youth and their crazy, revolutionary ideas will be the end to society as we know it. They collectively experience the angst and heartache of a new world as envisioned by their spawn. However, things eventually change, the dust settles and smoke clears, and we all continue on with a new perspective and (hopefully) appreciation for the once oppressed or marginalized people who now experience the rights they were previously denied.
Okay, okay, let’s not Pollyanna the situation to death. There is still enough equal opportunity hatred running rampant. Naturally, some will hold on to their disdain and they will always find a way to back it up with empirical evidence or divine ordinance from God. But I think about how quickly attitudes have changed, relatively speaking, about same-sex marriage for example. The Gallup poll reported in 1996 that only 27% of Americans were in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry. By 2004, support jumped to 42% and by 2011, the majority of Americans supported marriage equality. That’s saying something.
We’ve got our work cut out for us though. Despite all the progress, as of this month, only 13 states have legalized same-sex marriage and women are fighting a battle that most of us thought had been put to bed decades ago.
It would seem to me that women and the LGBTQ community are the last groups that people can still get away with admonishing hate toward. I use the term hate deliberately, most especially because the concept of (in)tolerance is such a wishy-washy, benign waste of feeling and because any time another group attempts to deny another of its own power or rights; it is an act of hatred, as far as I’m concerned.
You can strip women of their reproductive rights and pass it off as protection of female dignity and unborn lives. You can withhold the rights of a same-sex couple to be married and pass it off as protection of the sacred institution of marriage itself and the preservation of a moral society. However, the only thing these “protectors” are doing is protecting their own, majority rule. Power. Control. Fear.
Perhaps it’s an older-wiser correlation, but I have never felt such a sense of restless anticipation as I do now. I’m concerned to know that equality and basic civil rights (which should never be up for vote) still hang in the balance to some extent – decisions being made by politicians I wouldn’t so much trust with the question of what to have for dinner. However, there is something to be said for young people, my generation and the one ever younger, fighting for what is truly right. So since we’re all on our way to hell for believing people should be who they are and not who society thinks they ought to be, my final question is this: will I at least have a second to decorate my hand basket with a few ribbons or something?