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

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.

THANKS, NOW LEAVE

Some community organizations serve their members and alumni well. Others struggle under the weight of their “leadership.”

SERENDIPITY

Not Welcome Anymore, by Rich Paschall

Roger was a busy guy.  In recent months he absolutely could not find time to fit one more thing into his schedule.  The local pastor, Jared, was even busier and usually kept to a tight schedule.  His time was parceled out like the hosts he distributed on Sunday.  So it was a bit of a surprise when he dropped an email on Roger asking to meet.  “Perhaps we can get together for coffee on Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning,” the message read.  Roger picked Saturday.

When Roger turned 60 he had promised himself there would be no more big projects.  He felt he was done with community organizing, large social events, and big family gatherings.  “All the work should be done by someone else,” he thought.  But then there always seemed to be another great idea and that meant “one last hurrah.”

When a long time…

View original post 843 more words

YOU’VE EITHER GOT IT OR NOT

Whether you are going out dancing or to the local inn for dinner, you need some style.

SERENDIPITY

Style, by Rich Paschall

Perhaps you have noticed that it seems to be dying out.  You are probably glad of it too.  You did not like it.  You may even have been insulted by it, so it is so long and farewell.  It should be like many style statements we have seen over recent generations.  It is here for a while, then reason sets in.

Of course, we are talking about that so-called “fashion trend” that saw young men wearing their baggy jeans below their rear ends so that we could see their boxer shorts.  I am sure this did as much for makers of boxer shorts as it did for sellers of baggy jeans.  Perhaps these guys have started to realize just how crazy this was.  There may have been some cheap thrill in letting us see their underwear, but as a practical point of view it could not…

View original post 787 more words

LEADERSHIP

Last year this appeared on SERENDIPITY. Following the elections and light of what you see every day, perhaps you are wondering about the leadership qualities of certain people. Time to think about this again.

SERENDIPITY

What makes a good Leader? by Rich Paschall

With the election cycle in full swing, and the seemingly endless Presidential debates at hand, it is fair to ask what makes a good Leader.  What traits do we expect a Leader to have?  What do we admire in our leaders?  What qualities do we want to avoid in our leaders?  What generates our respect and our willingness to follow?

Your Vote Counts

It is not enough to say that our leaders should “lead.”  What does that mean exactly?  In a certain sense they all want to lead, but where are they trying to take us?  What message is their leadership style sending?  Are they willing to lead us in a good way?

It is also not enough to say that they should “inspire.”  What does that mean as well?  If they inspire you, I guess you would, of course, want to follow.  Not all…

View original post 843 more words

My Story, A Letter Home

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward, I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here almost two years ago following the inspiration given by that book.  After posting the importance of Your Story this week on Serendipity, I thought about this again. Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it up once more.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

TURNING SUCCESS INTO FAILURE

Time for some thoughts on success and failure. Are you thinking big?

SERENDIPITY

Thinking Small, Rich Paschall

Some organizations think big and do big.  You may know such organizations.  You may wonder how they accomplish so much.  How can a social service agency, school, church, or park district pull off grand events with a small budget and a small staff?  Yet, there are quite a number that do it.  What is the difference between the successes and those that think big and fail?  What is the difference between thinking bag, and those who just think small?

Image: Mashable.com Image: Mashable.com

Many think big but fail because they aren’t willing to do the work.  They want to be triumphant, but they are just hoping it will somehow happen. They rely on others stepping up to do what they should be doing.

The truth is that those running an event must step forward. They need to recruit volunteers to do what needs doing to guarantee success.  Some leaders are willing to do this…

View original post 562 more words

NO SPORTS, POLITICS, OR RELIGION

This past week I stopped by a local inn to see some friends. Two people ended up having a “lively” discussion on the outcome of the recent national election. Naturally, I thought of this guideline.

SERENDIPITY

Some Old World Wisdom, by Rich Paschall

When thinking of blog topics, there is no shortage of subject matter. Some general areas offer a lot of topics.  With a bit of extra thought, there’s an endless supply. Consider well how many areas you can pursue if you are willing to delve into sports, politics, or religion. Each is bound to set some readers ablaze. Would surely bring lots of comments. You do want lively discussion, don’t you?

How lively do you want it?

conversation1

Venture into a sports bar well into the evening and you are likely to find plenty of spirited discussions regarding sports.  These ideas should help you out.  Will the Cubs win another pennant?  Will the White Sox ever get the love the Cubs get?  Will the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup?  Will the Bears defeat the hated Green Bay Packers?  Will the Bulls beat the hated ____________ (fill in…

View original post 627 more words