Yesterday the hubby and I watched the HBO movie “All the Way”, based on the play by the same name and starring Brian Cranston (aka the Breaking Bad guy) as Lyndon Johnson. The movie covers President Johnson’s struggles his first year in office to pass the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed segregation and the political landmines that bill caused him as he ran to be re-elected. It’s a good movie and I highly recommend it.
It was hard to watch the depictions of how poorly black Americans were treated in this country only a short time ago. It was even harder to watch the white Senators, Representatives, etc. talk about black Americans as if they were cattle, or worse. But what really struck me were the arguments they to defend segregation.
A few of them were: “It’s unconstitutional” . “It violates state’s rights”. “It will put our women and children in danger”. “It’s against God’s will”. “It will put an undue burden on small businesses”. Most of the folks who made these statements were pillars of their communities. They were church goers, family men, and students of the law. And yet they could buy into the idea that black people were not worthy of the same rights they enjoyed simply because they looked different.
I see a lot of those same of people today. No, they aren’t advocating for segregation of black people anymore. Now they are arguing for segregation between themselves and gays, lesbians and transgender people. Now they want to make it more difficult for Muslims to exercise their rights to freedom of religion and assembly. And they are convinced that God and the Constitution of the United States are on their side, just like the Southern Democrats did in the 1960s. And they are just as wrong.
I do believe that, 50 years from now, people will look at the way the gay community had to fight for equal rights with the same degree of shame we have today looking back at how black people were treated in their fight for equal rights. I’m glad and proud that my niece and nephew will grow up in a nation where, to them, marriage equality has always been the law of the land.
I am also hopeful that someday we will truly be a nation that grants everyone freedom of religion, not just freedom for Christianity. Our founding fathers never intended the US to be a Christian nation, but they did intend it to be a nation were we could really go “All the “Way” and truly live out the principle that all men are created equal. A mighty task indeed, but one I have hope we can achieve.
Photo of Brian Cranston from HBO.com