At the same time, in the USA we have set out to be united in our belief in and practice of democracy and the rule of law. No matter what one man's church or temple may say about people of differing skin colors, that man may not discriminate against another in our society because of race or creed.
My people, your sisters and brothers, neighbors and co-workers, the LGBTQ community, has within my lifetime emerged from the shadows. As a gay child in the 1950's, I had no role models and faced a life of secrecy and invisibility. In the 60's my community began to find its voice and begin to claim our dignity and common humanity. Each decade since has brought significant progress along the road to freedom and equality.
Being of a sunny disposition, my focus has consistently been on our progress in this world. Seeing (and helping) young people grow up in a world where they aren't just taught to be ashamed of their identity has carried me through many setbacks in our struggle for civil rights and for dignity.
My optimism has been sorely tested these past two years. Huge swathes of our American society have "come out" as angry and resentful of the change I have been celebrating. We are confronted with frightening statistics -- how very many fellow Americans are expressing their righteousness of religion against the freedom of African Americans, Islamic Americans, free women and LGBTQ citizens, to name just a few.
That a so-called devout Christian father is still allowed in 41 of our 50 states to submit his children to what amounts to torture to make that child learn to deny their nature and hate themselves, I find utterly deplorable. We used to allow adults to tie a left-handed child's dominant hand down so that they would learn to reject the use of the "devil's evil left hand".
A fourteen-year-old girl in an Evangelical household, a girl who has been given little-to-no education about her sex and sexuality, a frightened young teenager who gets pregnant will likely have no opportunity to make a considered choice for her future. Her mother and father don't think that this girl has a choice at all. And even more, they believe that their belief-system gives them the right to decide for other families and other 14-year-old girls, no matter what the law of the land may be.
I believe that young people must be exposed to the range of human belief systems so that they may make meaningful choices for their lives. That is what freedom tastes like. I believe that a woman who does not think that abortion is a good choice should be able to decide not to ever have one. But I am sick to the bone of people using their religious beliefs as a cudgel to clobber all of us who do not subscribe to their narrow view of "freedom of religion."
A frighteningly small percentage of current US citizens have learned about Civics, about the difference between the freedom to believe and the act of imposing one's beliefs on others. Demagogues --be they in the pulpit or the US Congress-- are brandishing fear-inducing slogans to set us against each other. Even the mighty Liberty Bell can be drowned out when the self-righteous broadcast their bromides and tweet-storms.