Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can break my heart

We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.

   Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes words can be placating.  Sometimes words can be divisive.  Sometimes words can be amusing. Sometimes words can be hurtful.  Two words of late have become both a rallying cry and an epithet – Gay Marriage.  Personally, I think those two words should be shelved in favor of more accurate words – Civil Rights.

The basic rights that all citizens of the United States enjoy are called civil rights.  They have little to do with religion, although religious freedom is first among them.  They are the security that each of us is guaranteed that our lives, liberty and pursuits of happiness will not be trampled by a large group of others who think differently.

Today, a battle has been enjoined between those who favor civil rights for all, and those who wish to curtail the civil rights of a distinct minority.  I wrote a short while ago that the same restrictions were placed upon black and white Americans in this country within my parents’ lifetimes, just forty-one years ago, that in fact Gay is the new Black.

Both in the comments section of the blog, and in numerous email conversations, I’ve been told that a) God don’t like ugly, b) gays choose to be gay, c) it’s a moral/religious issue, or d) I’m wrong for equating those who support Proposition 8 with slavecatchers.  But the link is there.  And while I was originally writing to and for my fellow black Americans, this is, much like President Elect Obama’s election, a moment of choice for all Americans.

Do “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal?”  Whether you are a God-fearing Jew, Christian, or Muslim or a heathen like Bill Maher, you have the right to worship as you choose in the United States. And whether you are in love and/or a monogamous relationship with a man or a woman, you have the right to marry them in the United States.

The Bible, the Torah and the Qur’an are the source of faith and inspiration to millions of people . . . but they are being used, as they were once by slave masters intent on shepherding their “colored children” into the arms of God with the end of a whip, to separate, to discriminate, to shield fear, hatred and prejudice. And I’ve heard told (must have been in my confirmation class early on in life) that “the devil can quote scripture for his own purpose.”  And I’m sure some would say it of me, since I also remember Jesus saying, “that which you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

Are we loving our brothers and sisters?  Are we sheltering our brothers and sisters?  Are we excluding our brothers and sisters?  Are we telling them that they are not the children of God, too, because they are loving as God has shown them to love?

I’m sorry, I digressed into a philosophical question . . . must have been Keith Olbermann’s influence.  I was talking about legalizing discrimination.  I was talking about actions speaking louder than words.  Marriage is a public expression of a private commitment.  It is the celebration of union between two people who have chosen to become pillars of the community by establishing together another franchise of a pivotal institution.

An institution regulated by the State of California (or Massachusetts, or Hawaii, or Connecticut, etc.) which means that the fees paid for marriage licesnses are taxes used to support the public good; that marriages are also contracts between two people recognized by the government; that marriage is an “unalienable right” which should be accessible to all citizens – black, white, gay, straight.

We have a history in this country of thinking that civil rights belong to everyone except: the people we really don’t want to have them.  Want a list?  Plessy v. Ferguson, The Chinese Exclusion Act, English Only, Proposition 8, miscegenation laws, the Rule of Thumb, the slave codes, the black codes, the fifteenth amendment, Executive Order 9981, the ERA, etc.

Proposition 8 isn’t about “protecting traditional marriage.”  It isn’t about “the government supporting something God calls an abomination.”  Proposition 8 is about taking away those same civil rights fought for by the American Revolutionaries and codified in the United States’ Constitution and Bill of Rights; it’s about changing the discrimination defeated in the sixties into one supported in the new millennium; it’s about doing unto others what we would never agree to have done unto us.

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can break my heart.  The founding of our country began with powerful words:

“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 to protect these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The man who wrote those also wrote:

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed, from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

I think we are responsible, as citizens, to stand up and fight tyranny in all its forms, even when it isespecially when it is for others.  And so I end this as it began.

We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.

No on Proposition 8.  Yes on marriage, love, hope, and civil rights.

Cross posted on Spreading the Word on November 13, 2008.

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About Bolshy

Blogging in the ether to see if that elusive literary agent or publisher wants some new talent.
This entry was posted in Blah!, Blogs, Comment, Personal philosophy, Politics, Sociology, WTF! Moment and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can break my heart

  1. leapsecond says:

    And now people realize how horrible the tyranny of the majority omnipresent in democracy is. Prop 8’s passage is exactly why we vote to elect representatives, not on the laws themselves.

  2. SSG T says:

    Last time I checked, the VAST MAJORITY voted on this issue and decided that we, as americans, did not want Gay Marriage to be legal, or did I miss something? Honestly why would the gay community want to take on what is a straight tradition and belief? Marriage is a man and woman. Why can we not have something for them that gives all the same “breaks” or “benefits” as marriage? What is wrong with that?

  3. ReyMac says:

    That’s what they told black people, too. Why can we not have something that’s just for us, because we’re better and they’re different? Check the 14th amendment to the Constitution of the United States for your answer.

  4. SSG T says:

    Yea I have read the 14th. Perhaps we need a refresher course that covers the part on gay marriage and the fact that marraige, originally was a religous ceremony and for the most part is to this day. There is nothing in the constitution about gay marriage, or marriage in general. This is not a Federal issue. It is a state issue. Why does the U.S. Constitution keep coming up in this matter? It has nothing to do with it! Put it to the people and let the people decide what they want or don’t want. Oh wait most states have already done that…..what was that outcome? What is wrong with civil unions? As long as all the same benefits are there? Now it is more of an issue that we (meaning straight) call it one thing and others can’t by definition of what it is. I don’t care if a person wants to be with the same sex. I don’t have to answer for that, but marriage is a vow taken before God, in my opinion, and therefore cannot be called the same thing. The same benefits should apply. Which if you check into it, MOST companies already have benefits that are equal to that of marriage and in some ways much better. A person can have a partner and have him/her on their benefits plan but I can’t live with a female and have her on my benefits plan.

  5. Valerie Curl says:

    The problem with removing even one civil right of any group is that it all too often leads to the removal of other civil rights. It leads to further discrimination. Case in point in CA: a local PTA removed the membership of a Lesbian mother.

    Discrimination leads to more discrimination whenever a dominant group thinks it has the backing of the majority. A review of the systematic discrimination and removal of civil rights against Afro-Americans following the Civil War illustrates how a segment of the population can be reduced to being little more than hated objects.

    If we choose to claim our nation as the home of the free, then it is incumbent upon us to ensure freedom for everyone, including those with whom we disagree. Honoring the civil rights of all people is what we are supposed to do in this country.

  6. Venessa says:

    Marriage as a vow before God is strictly a personal opinion or religious belief. Last time I checked we don’t all subscribe to the same religion and that is a fundamental right. My husband and I had no mention of God in my wedding nor religious prayers etc. My marriage vows are to my partner not some God I don’t believe in. Everyone deserves that right. This is not a moral issue, this is about civil rights.

  7. An American Liberal says:

    First of all, GREAT POST!

    You know, when I was growing up in the 70s in Florida there was a great deal of talk about Civil Rights. In an effort to be succinct, suffice is to say that I always considered the whole affair as a “why did they have to do that”? Everyone should be treated equally irregardless was something a school kid got rather easily. Furthermore, I always thought the people who impeded the rights of African Americans must have been idiots.

    Warp ahead a few years and I find myself staring at another “Civil Rights Movement”. I fully endorse that homosexual couples be provided the ability to marry. And in reflection, my school age hypothesis about people who insist on standing in the way of what is “right”, yep they are idiots.

    I dont give a crap if the “idiots” did by majority decide to limit the constitutionally given rights of another person, it is wrong. You should be ashamed of yourselves and realize that as we progress into history, your actions will not be remembered fondly.

    BTW, religion and fear mongering were used by many to justify the segregation of the races and to diminish the quality of life for a great many colored people (before that, it was used to justify why women should NOT vote!). It is ironic that the Bible can be so readily used to divide us when the whole point of the “Book” is to unite us in Love.

    Silly me.
    An American Liberal

  8. ReyMac says:

    SSG T-
    You’re right. Marriage was originally a religious ceremony. And when we as Americans stop paying a marriage fee for a wedding license to the State, then we’re having a different conversation. And to say that the Constitution has nothing to do with it denies the concept of federalism, in which the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and trumps state laws, etc. and the p.o.v. put forth by the former Republican nominee for president, who said that he would favor an amendment to the United States’ Constitution defining marriage as being between a man and a woman – I think it was called the Defense of Marriage Act. Marriage is no longer (solely) a religious institution. In fact, if you get married in your religious institution, and do not have the contractual blessings of the State, you are not married. Therefore, it is a civil and legal issue, and the denial of such to a minority of citizens is discriminatory, and prohibited by the 14th – I know it doesn’t say gay – it says no discrimination. And that, as they say, is that.

  9. I have to say I find the views of SSG T rather odious to say the least.

    All this Prop 8 shenanigans hasn’t really gotten the attention it deserves over this side of the Atlantic, but for a nation generally so proud of its heritage and the ideals upon which that heritage was built, it seems that throughout the last century and continuing into this, those progressive ideals have been conveniently disregarded when they conflict with those of the prevailing establishment of power.

    You say that the “vast majority voted on this issue and decided that we, as Americans, did not want gay marriage to be legal.” But are those in favour of gay marriage not American also? Are they, as American citizens, not entitled to the same legal rights as every other American citizen?

    To allow the majority to dictate the conduct of others, to grant or rescind civil rights at the majority’s will, is not only itself Un-American, it contradicts the very same “ideals” that allow that majority the freedom of expression that would see such things as gay marriage outlawed.

    Moreover, this is not a case of the gay community “taking on” tradition and belief. It is a simple matter of a minority reacting against the brazen oppression of a majority that believes its superior numbers equates to a greater stake of the moral high ground when no such thing exists when decoupled from that majority’s self-decreed principles.

    Nor does belief or tradition mean much when all they do is act as an apology for such reactionary coercion. Belief is the state of accepting as “true” that which need not necessarily be true. Tradition is just another word for dogma.

    Finally, though it seems your main argument is that gay marriage is contrary to the institution of marriage as “a union of two people in the presence of God”, it should be noted that, in the words of the second President of the United States, John Adams, “The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or Mohammedan Nation.” Nor, for that matter, is it a gay nation or a straight nation; a black nation or a white nation. It is a nation of individual citizens each “created equal [and] endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” free to believe what they wish as long as those beliefs do not lead to the transgression of the natural liberties of others. It is in this way that the Founding Fathers sought to prevent any such tyranny of the majority embarking on exactly the reactionary measures as we are discussing here over two centuries years hence.

    To leave the last word to John Stuart Mill:

    “Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries…Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them…There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism.”
    On Liberty.

  10. leapsecond says:

    SSG: On the topic of civil unions, they are not accepted by every state, so it is not a feasible replacement for marriage.

    And, by the way, no one has to get married in a church, lest we forget, so this isn’t about religious belief in the least. Marriage originally meant the bond between a man and a woman, and since there was no other term for it, marriage became the legal term as well. The only thing inherently religious about legal marriage is the etymology of the word marriage itself.

    To get married, you can get a marriage certificate at your local town hall and a judge to marry you, and you and your spouse are married. That’s all it takes; you don’t need a church.

  11. The U.S. government crossed a VERY serious line with PROP 8.

    This “proposition” threatened children’s sense of safety and belongingness in California. Children’s safety.

    Regardless of THIS particular fight, there are way too many fights on way too many fronts for us to conquer piecemeal. The Time is Now – DRAW A NEW LINE in the sand and demand from President Obama and our representatives FULL EQUALITY.

    Equality Is Simple When You Simply Include Everybody.

    What? Not detailed enough for the lawyers?

    OK, we can list repealing DOMA, repealing DADT, include transgender in the ENDA Bill, allow adoption of abandoned children, equality in immigration issues, recognize our hate crimes as such, equal family/children rights……….whew! See what I mean?

    We are EQUAL SOULS in HUMAN BODIES. Could we please STOP discriminating due to the genitalia attached? Plumbing will determine each civil right?! Any separation from the pack is ultimately due to gender (and/or gender roles & stereotyping), and that is SEXISM. I cannot marry Bob because I am the “wrong” gender; if I were a woman I could marry Bob. SEXISM.

    And I cannot stress ENOUGH how my own suffering from Marriage Inequality is NOT the reason for wanting or needing equality. I am not something to focus on. But my story, and the stories of countless other Americans desperately need to be addressed in this civil rights struggle. Marriage laws were put in place many years ago in order to PROTECT individuals and their FAMILIES; if they were NOT necessary they would not exist (for heterosexuals). When these laws are NOT in place for ALL OF US, horrible, horrible suffering occurs. My WEBSITE has many examples.

    So Americans want to continue denying us what they have already deemed as essential. And many people want us to WAIT…2….5……10…….20……..30 YEARS, depending on the “civil right”, for what WAS and IS our birthright.

    I personally have a HUGE problem with that. I cannot wait. I will not wait.

    Will you join me on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009, and help me inform the government that WE are eager to be included in the federal tax base as soon as THEY include us in society’s laws? My 5-year-old students could understand this concept: EQUAL = EQUAL

    As Americans can’t we agree that there are MANY other important issues to address (like the Economy, Education, Health Care, Poverty & Homelessness, Iraq/Afghanistan…all of these are related), and solving THOSE problems is more urgent than having “Equality Issues” TIE UP THE COURTS for another 30+ years? We will NOT go away.

    You keep procreating; we keep popping out. Sorry.

    Our representatives have spent years inventing 4-letter words (DOMA, DADT) to restrict us, deny us, demoralize us, and harm our beloved families and children. Enough is enough.


    The National Equality Tax Protest
    – Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 –

  12. Matt says:

    To those in favor of gay marriage:

    What about marriage to a sibling? Or a cousin? Is that not a violation of one’s rights? You may find it “disgusting” or “wrong” but who are you to say it’s not allowed? Can I marry my child? Or my grandparent?

    Somebody please explain…

  13. Heavenly says:

    It’s kind of funny that religious people like to bring up things like marriage in the mist of some kind of kinship.

    Mmmm if you believe in Adam and Eve…how exactly do you explain how the human population came about.

    If Adam and Eve were the first man and woman and had children then who did their children had relationships with to make more people.

    Mmmm do you think any kinship went on there?

    If you use that judgment that if gay marriage allowed everything else would be allowed, then I guess you are okay with taking away heterosexual marriages because if we let straight people (like you and I) keep getting married than others would want to get married too.

    I guess we should stop marriage altogether. If we give it to one then we should give it to all.

  14. Dear Matt,

    Recessive genes? Genetic disorders, question mark?

    Good God, man. Think!

    Love you.

  15. Matt says:

    @ El Gweilo Intrepido:

    Did I mention reproduction? Uh, no.

    I was asking someone to point out the difference in letting two people of the same sex who aren’t going to have children marry and letting two people of the same lineage who aren’t going to have children marry.

    Love you too.

  16. Venessa says:

    @ Matt

    You’re comparing apples to oranges. How do you euqate marrying someone of the same sex to marrying someone related? Once you tell me how the two are related I might be able to give you an answer. But until then I fail to see any point you are trying to make.

  17. Matt says:


    Simply put: why is there a stigma around marrying someone that’s related? Because of the offspring that might be? Because it’s “wrong”?

    If you are marrying because of love, I don’t see how you think of it as apples and oranges. I’m arguing that the fact that two people are related shouldn’t get in the way, just as you think that the fact that two people are of the same sex shouldn’t get in the way. Let me know if you need more clarification.

  18. Venessa says:

    They are still two different things but I honestly could care less if cousins wanted to marry. I am not the moral police nor do I think it is the right of the people to impose and legislate the morals of everyone else. Unfortunately we live in a society where people believe in their own moral superiority over others. Aint’ it grand?

By all means, leave your 2 bobs worth

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