Missing Mr. RogersWritten by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I was delighted and proud of the Bowling Green City Council. They showed some real courage by voting, overwhelmingly (7-0;6-1) to support the establishment of two “human rights” ordinances. Under the new laws, the classes of people that can be discriminated against shrunk dramatically. The only group that can be discriminated against are people with certain political ideologies. I don’t know why council stripped the political affection portions from the ordinances. I guess repubs can still stick it to the dems and visa versa. Go Figure. But just about everyone else is protected under the new law. Good for them… Good for us. One more step in realizing the great American dream.
Even though that dream may mean different things to different people, the challenge for all who seek it is overcoming the barriers that interfere with the pursuit of that dream. Some of those barriers are interior, the collection of psychological quirks, complexes, and anxieties that we all possess that manage to keep some of us from taking the risks we need to better ourselves. Some of those barriers are external, the collection of prejudices and attitudes that keep some people from certain groups in our society from claiming for themselves the full measure of opportunity and promise this great land of ours can offer.
Though political acts such as these can speak little to the interior forces that hold us back, they can do a lot to help address the external forces that hold certain segments of our society down. Every time members of society move to enact a boundary around an irrational prejudice or establish a protection of rights to a group denied those rights, we become more and more like a “people” and less a collection of self protecting individuals. We become stronger because we can utilize the gifts of all of us.
Of course there is some blow back. Unfortunately, much of it will come from a community I hold dear to my heart: the religious community. About 1200 residents signed petitions calling for a referendum on this. If all the signatures on the petitions are authenticated, then our quiet, mild mannered town will become like so many other communities in America: a battlefield in the so called culture wars.
I suspect this will be more of a “skirmish” than an all out battle. It is not the nature of the citizenry of our fair city to bully one another. We in Bowling Green pride ourselves on being a polite people. There will be a few yard signs, some friendly debate at Panera Bread and Grounds For Thought, a few angry letters to the editor, and some preaching from the various pulpits in our town. No doubt some of the evangelical community will ride their usual high horse about gays, lesbians, and the trans-gendered being an abomination before God and the destruction of civilization as we know it. Meanwhile, those of us who hang out in the historic mainline or “old” line protestant traditions will break-out that Rodney King golden oldie: the “can’t we all get along” homily. A few of the more emboldened among us will challenge their congregants to accept the wisdom of the city council as an act of grace, extending the full measure of humanity and hospitality to society’s marginalized. All of this will be as predictable as a Rush Limbaugh rant against our President.
It is the predictability of all of this that is becoming tiresome. There will be the usual arguments about a person’s right to harbor their prejudices, the absurd notion that this will somehow put our children at risk, and, of course, the last refuse of the logically and theologically impaired: this is an abomination before God. I wonder what is it that allows so many of us to assume there is a correlation between personal behavior and one’s sexual orientation or nationality or race or gender.
Where is Fred Rogers when we need him? This gentle, sweatered soul daily challenged his audience with the simplest of all questions: “Who is our neighbor?” If we start there, we might eventually discover that our neighborhood is much bigger that we ever imagined. Then those silly and stupid assumptions we make about others who are “different” begins to melt away. Blessings to the Bowling Green City council for reminding us how big our neighborhood really is and what we can do to make it better.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist minister in Bowling Green.