Land of the Free? Really?

Today in the school where I teach, as well as in many schools around the county, I think, it was “The Day of Silence” to raise awareness of the difficulties of LGBTQ kids in our society. The idea behind it is that many of these kids, and adults too, I suppose, are forced to remain silent, or hidden, about who they really are because of the lack of acceptance in our society. This day is commemorated by students who wear black and do not speak for the entire day, carrying with them a card that identifies them as observing this day.

I completely support this effort to raise awareness of the problems of many of my own students who I know have had difficulty dealing with who they are in relation to their peers as well as their parents. I have spoken to some who have not been able to be completely open with their parents for fear of reprisals, and, thus, they remain in the closet. I bought a t-shirt from our Gay-Straight Alliance — the in-school support group for LGBTQ students and their allies — and wore it today to support the cause, though I could not be silent or else I would not have been able to do my job as teacher.

But the whole idea got me to thinking not just about the plight of these particular students but of all people in this country who have been marginalized if not outrightly discriminated against and how some of these crimes against humanity go on in silence because certain people have very little voice. I won’t go into too much detail or even deign to make a list of them, but start with the Native Americans and work your way forward in history and you’ll find many, many people who have been ostracised and even legislated against, which is where I really want to go with this.

We live in a country that claims to be the land of the free, yet our governments — local, state, and federal — have actually made laws over our history that restrict the true freedoms of many of its citizens. Now, I’m not talking about the “right to bear arms” or the “right of the press.” I’m talking about basic human rights that should be unarguable, inalienable.

Every day there is news about new legislation somewhere in this country to restrict if not outright ban abortions. Why? The first amendment guarantees that every citizen of this country is free from the oppression of a single religion, yet the only true argument against abortion is a religious one. Who do these people think they are telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Fetuses are not American citizens because they have not been BORN in the US. Simple as that. If you are a woman and you don’t want to have an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy, then, fine, don’t get one. You’re a patriarchal male who wants to keep his daughter from getting an abortion because you don’t think it’s right for women to do so, fine, try and stop her. But, if she wants one, she should also have the right to go and get one WITHOUT your permission because it is her body, not yours.

Why are people legislating how people behave in their bedrooms? If a man wants to have sex with men, then let him. A woman likes women, fine. What’s the problem? Again, this is only an argument if one allows religion into it, and, supposedly, we’re not supposed to do that with the laws of this country on any level. So, leave the LGBTQ community alone to be who they are.

I could continue like this for pages, but I should just get to the point. The true idea behind the freedom that is supposedly guaranteed in this country is for people to be free to live their lives how they want as long as it does not impact the lives of others who are trying to live their lives their way. This means we have to have laws to protect the general citizenry (e.g. no killing other people) but we do not need laws that inflict a specific philosophy on others (e.g. homosexuals cannot marry). Basically, all laws should be based on the principle of “do no harm.” If you do, you will be punished. So, as long as you are not hurting members of your family, community, or country, feel free to believe what you want to believe and act the way you want to act. But if you so much as cause physical or psychological damage to a person, then you should be punished. This is a very simple rule that comes out of the western religions: “Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you.”

Jesus, according to the New Testament, turned that into a positive statement, saying do unto others as you would want done unto you, but that doesn’t make as much sense to me as the older, sort of negative version. I would love for someone to give me a million dollars, but I am not going to give some a million dollars because of that desire. On the other hand, I will NOT put restrictions on how people love each other because I would not want anyone to do that to me.

Such a simple rule to live by. Simply accept people for who they are. If you don’t like who they are, don’t associate with them. If you give them a chance, you might find yourself enjoying more love in your life, and who doesn’t want more love? According to The Beatles, it is all you need.

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