Certainly there is still inequality for many, fueled by fear and hate and superstition and nothing more than a pathetic inertial resistance to change that represents the parochial nature of many of the more tribal segments of American society. Driven by a worldview absolutely dependent upon an unequal power hierarchy, many Americans continue to advocate discriminatory practices towards women, Latinos, Muslims, Gays, and in an indication of how enduring the structures of bigotry can be, African Americans. But even so, the arc of history could not be clearer or more easily defined - ultimately, the fears are seen to be baseless, the hatred pointless and the discrimination corrosive and toxic, and Americans, as they so often do, follow the demands of their conscience and eliminate the institutional and statutory basis for discrimination, allowing society over the next several generations to forget the shameful behaviors of their grandparents.
And so it is today. A shameful legal compromise that attempted to eliminate the worst effects of bigotry while retaining the institutional discrimination that has always been the core of the problem, a policy tellingly known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", has finally been legislated out of existence, and another group of Americans moves another step toward just being Americans, and not some kind of second class partial citizen with fewer rights and less comprehensive legal guarantees than enjoyed by us "regular" Americans. It's important to recognize that changing the law doesn't change anyone's mind, it only starts a process whereby citizens in the future will experience a nation one less legal or institutional processes supporting discrimination, and as a result that discrimination will wither and eventually die.
There have been many unhesitatingly courageous voices driving the debate in the face of the bigots and those politicians that catered to their hatred, but one stands out, not only for the surprising ferocity of his sustained attack on DADT, but also for an unexpected unwillingness, even refusal to pander to what has become his core constituency. That voice belongs to the otherwise loathsome Joe Lieberman. Yes, in the past I have called him treasonous for his willingness to put the national interests of Israel ahead of those of an America he swore an oath to serve, and his sickening and disturbing desire to shed the blood of millions of innocents unnecessarily in the furtherance of ambiguous and uncertain policy goals can never be overlooked, and must never be countenanced.
But this is precisely where his courage in the name of equality is so surprising, and perhaps why it was so effective. He has come to align himself so closely with the military leadership and the extreme voices of intolerance and prejudice of the extreme right wing that it really seemed a foregone conclusion that he would back away and pander to that constituency whose support he would need to further his foreign policy objectives. And yet he never wavered, never took an opportunity to sit back in silence, to back away from this fight. He stood up time and again, even a number of times calling out John McCain, whose Presidential run Lieberman famously backed, always making the point that it was about fairness and equality, more important issues than the hand wringing over some imaginary disaster that clearly was never going to actually come to pass.
I think it's very possible that without the contribution of Joe Lieberman, Don't Ask, Don't Tell would still be the law of the land. I find that somehow both reassuring and disturbing at the same time. I suppose the lesson is that nobody is truly how we caricature them, neither all bad or all good, and even those whose redeeming qualities are resolutely hard to see can, on occasion, do something courageous and important. If that is so, it's equally important to remember that the opposite must also then be true - those from whom we have come to expect acts of honesty and nobility may well let us down on important occasions.
So tonight I'll turn Mother's picture to the wall and raise a glass to Joe Lieberman. Joe, I hate you down to your treasonous black soul, but I can no longer ever say I hate everything you stand for. You stood up and made America a little bit better, and you deserve to be recognized for it. Thank you...
"Until The Oil Tanker Got It"
44 minutes ago