Every now and again however, there is a week like this week, a week when as an American broad abroad I can hold my head up high. A week when I am not just proud to be an American because of what is stamped on my passport, but because I can say with pride “Look at what is happening! Things are broken but we are working to fix them. They’re not fixed yet, not entirely, but oh, man! We’re not stuck in the station anymore. We’re moving. We’re picking up speed. We are coming out of the tunnel and heading toward something lighter and brighter.”
We are changing.
Progress is never easy. Progress is messy and ugly and it dredges up all sorts of nasty things that have been lurking in closets and under rugs and buried in shallow graves. Progress drags out the skeletons of racism and discrimination and hatred and fear and homophobia and shines a light on their bones. It’s uncomfortable to look at those bones laying bare in front of us, to examine our own complicity, our own part in their history.
But we are trying. This week proved that. We are trying. And that counts for more than just something, it counts for a lot.
Confederate flags, flags which, for all intents and purposes, mock the place of black Americans in the history of the United States, are coming down. Those songs of the south are rewriting their lyrics, one flag at a time. By lowering those flags and relegating them to history, we have taken the first baby step toward making amends. We are one step closer to being able to ensure that American is an inclusive term that needs no color qualifier.
Rainbow flags, those symbols of LGBT pride, are going up. A historic Supreme Court decision declared marriage is for all. We no longer have to qualify it by saying ‘gay’ marriage. It is now, and shall be, simply marriage. By raising those rainbow flags we are validating the fact that love is not so much color blind, as rainbow color inclusive.
As a white, heterosexual female, it’s not often I get to feel the power of validation. I imagine those early suffragettes felt it when women were finally granted the right to vote. But I can’t imagine what it is like to have to wait for validation of your life or lifestyle. The idea that the legitimacy of a life is up to the whims of a political climate or a court decision? I won’t even pretend to know what that is like. I can’t. Not in any real or meaningful way. There must be anger. There must be an element of ‘what the hell has taken so long and who the hell are you to tell me my life didn’t matter before this? I can only hope there is also a little bit of joy.
There is still so far to go, but this week? This week has been a good week. This week I can hold my head up high and when someone asks me what it is like to be an American I can point them to the headlines. I can say yes, there is much that is wrong, there is much that is broken. There are skeletons still hiding and bodies still under the rugs. There are millions of lives buried in shallow graves that need to be exhumed, because those lives matter too. But…oh, glory glory hallelujah–look at what we are doing!
We are changing, we are not just thinking, we are doing. This week America reaffirmed that Clementa Pinckeny matters. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse matter. Jim Obergefell and his husband John Arthur matter. We are moving forward, faster than I thought possible. We are getting closer to a hashtag that simply reads #Lives rather than one with a necessary adjective in front of it.
Next stop, America? Gun control. Because Noah Pozner matters. Veronica Moser-Sullivan matters. Casssie Bernall matters. And the only way to wash their blood off our hands is to keep moving forward and to keep validating life–all of it.