This will be a week for future generations to read about, for sure. Especially in the world of judicial history, with the US Supreme Court making landmark decisions in two huge cases. First, was the decision to uphold and support the Affordable Health Care Act, allowing the mass coverage of affordable health insurance for Americans to continue and no longer be targeted by opponents (at least, not as vehemently as before). That was a great win, I think. I’m a huge supporter of the US moving toward a more socially-conscious health care system and this was a big step in the right direction. Too many people fell through the cracks of the old system and too many lobbyists and pharmaceutical companies call the shots in health care rather than trained doctors who deal face-to-face with the patients and families of patients. We still have quite a ways to go to finally align ourselves with some of the best health care systems in the world, but it’s a good start.
Today came the second big Supreme Court decision: the decision that marriage is marriage in the United States, no matter who the two people involved might be. Very much a common sense decision and really, one that disappoints anyone who wishes people would have just realized this from the beginning. Of course people should be allowed to marry. It’s being celebrated as a huge victory for the LBGT community (and it is), but it seems sad to me that we had to take it this far. That it HAD to be decided by the highest court in the country and that they had to strike down the laws that states have created to prohibit people from marrying each other. Opponents to the idea of marriage include people who somehow believe that the marriage of a couple they disapprove of will somehow tarnish or diminish their own marriage. That idea alone is ridiculous. The idea that two people whom you happen to think are a bad match and should never get married will in some way hurt your own marriage is like saying you can’t go to a restaurant that has a dish on the menu that doesn’t appeal to you because the mere fact that it’s on the menu will make your dinner inedible. We shouldn’t need to go to the US Supreme Court for people to realize this is an irrational thought process and can not be made law. But we did. Because this is the United States and we historically have never been able to accept change in a tolerant and rational way. Let us find the most time-consuming way to solve a disagreement and we clamor for it.
So those two judicial events were sweet. Very sweet, but not sweet enough to overpower the incredibly bitter of this week. The very bitter comes in the form of the funerals of murdered parishioners in South Carolina who were gunned down at a prayer meeting in the oldest AME church in the United States last week. It’s another act of terrorism, home grown by white supremacy and twisted history, and home-fed by the NRA. We fight international terrorists with vehemence and follow them half-way ’round the world to “keep Americans safe”, but we can’t do anything to stop the gun violence here at home. We let that slide. These mass shootings are typically by white guys. The media and lawmakers tend to shy away from calling it terrorism or racism or any -ism. They call it ‘mental health issues’. A dude several years ago tried unsuccessfully to blow up an airplane with his shoe (this was called terrorism, by the way, not ‘mental health issues’) and immediately all airline passengers had to take their shoes off to board a plane (this was called ‘security’, not ‘mental health issues’). We’ve had dozens of mass gunmen kill hundreds of people in the United States, but we can’t even begin to make strides toward gun control in this country. God forbid someone have to go through some sort of obstacle to purchase a gun in this country, But make sure you wear slip-on shoes to get on that plane or people will be livid. The guy who killed the church-goers in South Carolina was a white guy out to kill black people. That’s what happened. He walked in to the Wednesday night bible study, actually sat with them for a while, and then murdered most of them because they are black. He didn’t kill himself. He was arrested and at his arraignment, the families of the killed and a few of the bible study survivors spoke to him of their forgiveness. How they harbored no ill will toward him. I don’t think I could do that. I know that forgiveness is more for you than for the person you’re forgiving, and in that way I think that if they really could find forgiveness so quickly, I admire that very much. I don’t think I could find it that quickly, if at all.
I can pity someone for their ignorance, but I also blame them for their ignorance, as well. You don’t have to be an ignorant, brain-washed fool in this country. We have loads of these people, but there’s no reason for them. As a public librarian, I can tell you honestly that there’s no cause for true ignorance in this country. Our public library system is incredible. It’s something the USA does right. And does very well. It’s a wide-spread system; it’s a free system; it’s a public service. No money changes hands, no opinions are pushed in anyone’s face. Just information at your fingertips. All perspectives, all sides to an argument, whatever you want to learn, your public library can find a source for you. You can refuse to do actual informational research to become an educated citizen of the world. You can spout off your wild ideas, your irrational fears and racist comments without any regard for the foolishness of your words. It happens every day; Fox News devotes their entire channel to it; the United States gives its citizens the freedom to stand on your soap box and spout your ignorance, but know that there’s no reason for you to be this way. You can be intelligent, no matter what your background might be, no matter how far you made it through school, no matter what your career, you can be a well-educated, rational, and intelligent citizen of the world. It racks up no student loans, has zero entrance fees, and the only requirement to become this wonderful type of person is bravery.
It all comes down to bravery, I think. The most ignorant people are often the most afraid.This is why they are to be pitied. Fear can dominate a person’s life and that’s a pitiful life, to be sure. They hold on to their out-dated, ill-researched beliefs because they are too afraid to discover that what they’ve been told by family, church, or their news channel is incorrect or, at the very least, not the whole truth. They can’t stand the thought of having their preconceived notions turned upside down. But I implore you to be brave.
We need more intellectually brave people in this world. Otherwise, what happened in South Carolina last week will happen again. And again. It will continue to happen until we, as a collective society, come to grips with the fact that we can be brave and we can teach each other that altering your viewpoint is not “waffling” or “weak-minded”. It’s acknowledging the hard fact that a person can not know everything about anything. This isn’t just a random statement, I mean our brains are not able to do that. We are physically unable to keep up with the speed of newly discovered information on any given topic. So, stop fighting it, America! Acknowledge this inherently human trait! We are a big nation with many differences and many struggles, but none of these struggles are helped by being scared of learning new things and discovering that what you thought was true is actually false. And what you have believed since you were little is actually no longer the reality of the world in which we live. Be unafraid to be proven wrong! Be accepting of new truths and other perspectives! Don’t hang on to hatred when there is love all around you. Be brave! Embrace and celebrate the freedoms you have to be a life-long learner and the ease with which you can get new and current information on ANY TOPIC from your local public libraries.