Separate Is Not Equal

The Case for Equality

Segregation in the United States was struck down in the landmark decision in Brown versus Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas).  The court held in a unanimous vote that the policy of separate but equal was inherently flawed.  This set aside an 1896 ruling that allowed for separate black and white schools, not to mention other institutions.  By 1954 the court had realized the flaws of the earlier thinking, perhaps marred by personal prejudices, and ruled against the notion of separate but equal.  The establishment of two separate classes of people meant by its very nature that they were unequal in standing.

Despite the high court ruling, discrimination and segregation continued to exist throughout the 1950’s.  In fact it took federal government intervention in the 1960’s to force the end of segregation at some southern schools.  Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama famously tried to stop integration of universities in their states and maintain segregation.  While Governor Wallace remained popular in his state, Barnett, an avowed segregationist, was a one term governor.  Ending segregation by court ruling, did not change the opinions of many.

The prejudices of earlier times continued to plague the following decades, court rulings not withstanding.  It was impossible to erase generations of discrimination with some decisions of the court.  Indeed, many grew up learning discrimination and hatred in their own homes.  It would not so easily be set aside.

While a variety of equal rights were secured through the remainder of the 20th century by court ruling and legislation, there was one area where discrimination was being written into state laws.  Indeed the fear card started to be played anew when rights for certain citizens were being discussed.  It started when the Hawaii Supreme Court held in 1993 that the refusal to grant same-sex marriages was discriminatory.  In the years that immediately followed many states, including Hawaii, wrote laws to ban same-sex marriage.  In 1998 voters in Hawaii gave the legislature the right to define marriage as an opposite sex couple.

The systematic adoption of such laws across the country set up two classes of people.  The 104th Congress piled on in 1996 with the now infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  This law institutionalized discrimination and denied basic benefits to same sex couples that were provided to opposite sex couples in almost a thousand laws. This included estate benefits or right to inherit, joint tax filings, survivor social security benefits, and so on.  The very establishment of another class of citizen would be the eventual downfall of DOMA.5doma

The federal government had always held that whoever a state recognized as married was married, but then they tried to deny benefits under DOMA to those a state found to be married.  The most egregious example was brought to the attention of the high court in United States v. Windsor.  It was a fight taken up on behalf of an elderly woman whose marriage in New York did not seem to matter to the feds when her partner died and they took everything.  They did not recognize her right to inherit.  Either the feds recognized the marriages that were recognized by states, or they did not.  They could not have two classes of citizens.  The court saw DOMA as “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” and struck down some of its provisions.

Despite this ruling, as well as overturning California’s attempt to ban gay marriage through Proposition 8, there are still a majority of states that declare that a particular two people in love are not equal to another two people in love.  It is the case of setting up another class of citizen.  Apparently, many states are still under the notion this is OK.  People talk about the institution of marriage as if some God came down from on high with a set of rules about this.

Yes, I already know what some are thinking, but since I do not know ancient Aramaic, I will not pretend that the interpretations and translations of the Bible handed me by the religious right are necessarily correct.  Nor do I buy into any of the other scare tactics they use to convince us to set up a separate class.  That separate class thing just does not stand up against any test when Supreme Court justices have to sit and listen to it.

In the new political climate states are introducing “religious freedom laws” and “bathroom laws” that are discriminatory at their cores.  They allow for setting up separate classes and separate treatments of various people, not because of criminal activity, but for who they are, who they love, who they identify as.  Will the current high court strike down this discrimination, or institutionalize it as present leaders would like to do?

Decoration Day

This article has been posted before.  It has been received with a bit of skepticism over the origins of the day.  It is likely that the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War was taken up in many places during and immediately after the war, unknown to one another.  Some of these practices were reported in newspapers of the time, while others were passed down orally and written down later.  These later versions may have been supported by anecdotal evidence that is now hard, if not impossible, to prove.
Where exactly the practice of decorating graves started, and who should claim the origin is not really the point anymore, is it?  A tradition of decorating graves, and the meaning of the “holiday” are now largely lost.  This loss of historic knowledge, along with the loss of so many American soldiers, is the true sadness of the day.

Who will decorate the graves?

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see news reports covering how Americans are hitting the road due to low gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. And the Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

DOING WHAT WE MUST: SURVIVING IF YOU CAN’T PAY FOR DRUGS – A GUEST POST

Healthcare has been a hot topic for years. Meanwhile, some are relying on alternate methods of treatment. Drop over to SERENDIPTY to read a guest post.

SERENDIPITY

Case Management

When you are diagnosed with an illness for which there is no cure, but long time survival is possible, you quickly learn that the most important case manager you will ever have is yourself.  You need to learn everything you can to survive — legally and, if necessary, illegally.  You tend to drop your concern for law when your life is at stake, especially when you will “First, do no harm” (Primum non nocere), the oath of doctors and others helping people survive.

Support group members will urge you to not merely educate yourself about the disease, but to get a good case manager. After you understand all your treatment options and the decisions you will have to make, your case manager can help you navigate the maze of health care bureaucracy. This is important for everyone, whether or not they have a job or insurance. Anyone can be…

View original post 1,092 more words

ONE THING I DID NOT WANT TO BE

I visited my doctor yesterday for a periodic checkup. Every time I go to him, I think of these things.

SERENDIPITY

Old, by Rich Paschall

When you think of all the things you want to be when you grow up, “old” probably is not on the list.  You may think about being a doctor or nurse.  You may consider lawyer or politician.  Fireman or police officer may be on your list.  In fact, in your elementary school days you may have changed your mind many times. It is OK to dream about the future and fantasize about what you should do some day.

If superhero is on your list, you may have to give that one up rather quickly, unless you are Robert Downey, Jr.  He is playing Iron Man at the ripe old age of 50.  I guess that is a commentary on keeping yourself in good shape.  Of course, he is just play acting, like we do as kids, and he certainly has a stunt double.  Your own life…

View original post 874 more words

Medellin, Colombia

The weather in Medellin is just about the same all year long.  Yes, there is a rainy season, but they get a lot of rain where they are at.  I have made two visits there and enjoyed the people and culture each time.

Click on any of the pictures and look through the larger versions.

For a short article on my trip to Medellin, head over to SERENDIPTY here.

SABOTAGE – AND – MURDER

Here is a quick look at some early Alfred Hitchcock work. They are not likely to show up on television, even the oldies channels.

SERENDIPITY

Early Hitchcock, by Rich Paschall

The 1936 Hitchcock thriller, Sabotage, could be a story for the present day.  Foreign saboteurs are planning terror attacks on a big city.  No one is sure who these people are or why they are planning these things.  In this adventure the city is London and the time frame is “the present,” in other words the mid 1930s.  It is loosely based on a story by Joseph Conrad, Secret Agent.  Hitchcock released another film in 1936 named Secret Agent.  It is no relation.

Alfred Hitchcock

In SabotageLondon experiences a blackout which most take in good humor.  At a local theater, patrons are demanding their money back, and when the wife goes to see if her husband, the theater owner, is home he claims to have been there all along.  We have seen that he has just returned.  He is the saboteur.

Oskar Homolka, the Austrian actor…

View original post 869 more words

A LIFE TOO SHORT

By now, he may have been a huge international star.  There may have been concert tours and record deals.  There may have been television appearances and interviews.  His good looks and winning smile may have captivated generations.  All that was not to be.  It was on this date ten years ago that the young singing star, enjoying what was the beginning of a storybook success story, died in a Paris hospital waiting for a lung transplant.  Once you have seen the young man perform, you will immediately recognize the tragedy of this tale. You may then understand why fighting the battle Gregory was forced to fight is one of the saddest tragedies our youth can face. When I wrote this originally, Gregory was new to me.  I had just discovered his story and the odyssey launched by his dream to sing.  Now at the 10th Anniversary of his passing, I would like to introduce you, or reintroduce you, to this talented Frenchman: 

Grégory was not even two years old when he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. That is a genetic disease of the lungs primarily, also the liver and intestines. Its name comes from the scarring and cyst formations in the pancreas. CF can rob you of your breath and then your life.

While he did consider sports journalism as a career path, Grégory decided to pursue a singing career. Perhaps some would see that as a futile choice for a boy suffering with cystic fibrosis, but it was his real passion. In 2003 he was involved in musical comedy theater, but his big break came in 2004 when he joined in the competition on Star Academy. That would be the French version of the Idol programs in the UK and America. While on the show he got the chance to sing with Yannik Noah, former tennis star and father of a well-known Chicago basketball player. Grégory won the competition in a final landslide vote an American politician can really appreciate. It launched him on a red-hot career.

Grègory had become himself, the person he wanted to be. Appropriately his first album was Je deviens moi (I become me). Television shows, personal appearances and even a concert tour followed the release of his first single and its radio popularity. A live album and DVD of his concerts was an immediate hit in Europe. Music videos of his popular singles were released and can be found on You Tube. He sang mostly in his native French, but also English and Italian. His good looks, great vocal range, albums, dvd, and European popularity would make it seem like he had it all, but he was being robbed. CF was taking his breath away. In 2007 Grégory said his doctor ordered him to take a few weeks off to recuperate. He died waiting for a lung transplant. (He was 23.)

The story would just be ultra sad if we ended it there, but it did not end. Besides the outpouring of emotion in France, a posthumous album earned money for the Association Grégory Lemarchal to aid those with the disease. His sister published a photo book “Mon frère, l’artiste” of her pictures of her brother with the proceeds going to the cause. His mother wanted to put Grégory’s earnings after his death into helping those with CF, so that others would not suffer like her son did. Millions and millions have been raised, and yet young people are still dying.

If you know someone who is suffering or has passed you may want to consider helping here: http://www.cff.org/ Charitable giving is down but the need remains. It is tragic to lose anyone so young. Grégory’s short but successful career helps to shine a light on that.
I learned of his songs five years after his death, but like many, I wonder how great a career he might have had. I also wonder if the bright future of many others can be saved.

From Olympia 06, the only live album and DVD.  This tour was cut short, as was Gregory’s life. It is not high quality but the entire concert is here and begins with Je deviens moi.

Poetry Corner

Up the Down Staircase

Down staircase

Down staircase (Photo credit: quinet)

One way says up.
One way says down.
Go where you want to go
When no one’s around.

File these reports,
Attendance and tests.
Please, teachers, always think
Of doing your best.

Take on a class.
Challenge the world.
Share in the dreams
Of each boy and girl.

Up the Down Staircase, not down.
Down the Up Staircase, not up.
Let it be a challenge to you.
Never think that you should give up.

Up the Down Staircase, not down.
Down the Up Staircase, not up.
Shake up the school and enjoy every sound
And Up the Down Staircase, not down!

(Copyright Richard Paschall, music by Michael F. Teolis)

Based on ideas from the play Up the Down Staircase, dramatized by Christopher Sergel, book by Bel Kaufman.  The bestseller was also made into a 1967 movie.

Growing Up

I read so slowly,
Falling behind in everything.
My friends are on the next book;
I’m still on Chapter 2.
They say it is about hate, sex, war,
The downfall of society.
I thought it was about love, childhood,
Playing games.
Maybe they taught something
The day I was absent.

Old friends are no longer close to me.
I thought they were standing still.
Now I meet new people.
Should I move on anyway?

Why do they run when
Walking is much easier?
They are calling for me to catch up.
I can’t turn the pages that fast.

Maybe I’ll buy the “notes.”

 

All Rights Reserved

April is National Poetry Month