Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Forward, Into the Past


    Take a stroll with me, if you will, back in time; back to a magical moment in the history of the great state of Arkansas: September, 1957.  It’s front page news. Nine young people, who had the audacity to be born black, carrying their books, heads down in fear, bravely walking to the steps that led up to Central High School, surrounded by raging, screaming white people who didn’t want them going in there.  Here’s a quote from Elizabeth Eckford, who was 15 years old at the time.  “They moved closer and closer … somebody started yelling… I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd – someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed like a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.”

    She spat on her.

    It’s not like the nine were going to get inside on September 4. Southern Democrat (yes, Democrat) Governor Orval Faubus had National Guard Troops there – to make sure they didn’t. 

    Five days later, September 9, the Little Rock School District condemned the governor’s deployment of troops. On September 24, Ike, the Republican (yes, Republican) President of the United States, sent the 101st Airborne, federalized the Arkansas National Guard, and guess who was going to Central before October.

    Whew! That was tense. 

    Now, for today’s young people, some clarification of the labels. A brief history lesson, if you will.  It was Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, who freed the slaves. Orval Faubus, a Democrat, who blocked the Little Rock Nine.  Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, who backed Faubus down.  Those labels – Democrat & Republican – are today synonymous with “Liberal” and “Conservative,” respectively.  People who are ignorant of history argue that it was conservatives who championed the advances of African Americans in our society, based upon the fact that they were Republicans.  But, you see, that is not true.

   “Liberal” means, at its core, “open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.”  “Conservative” means, at its core, “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.” (Google).  Look it up.

    When the Emancipation Proclamation (one of those Executive Orders some folks are so convinced is tyranny today) was delivered by Honest Abe on January 1, 1863, the ownership of black people by white people was considered, at least by the southern states, a “traditional attitude and value.” The Confederate States were “cautious about change or innovation.”  The two sides fought this big war over that little dispute, and a combined total of 620,000 soldiers died in the process. In the end, Lincoln’s liberal agenda prevailed.

    The Southern Democrats, beginning in the 1850s, remained after the war, and didn’t get along well with the Republican black folk.  In 1933, there came a new Democrat president from New York named Franklin Roosevelt, who introduced a series of domestic programs known as “The New Deal.”   From that moment on, the Democrats, as a party, began to move to the left – aka liberalism.  Consequently, the Republicans moved to the right – aka conservatism.  “By 1936 the term ‘liberal’ was typically used for supporters of the New Deal, and ‘conservative’ for its opponents.” (Wikipedia – look it up.)  But the Southern Democrats, like Faubus, remained stuck in the old ways, until the Little Rock Nine put one of the final nails into their political coffins. 

  So, here we are now. Conservatives, on the right, Republicans; Liberals, on the left, Democrats.  OK?

    November, 2014. Conservative Republicans take over the Arkansas state government, duly elected by the good people of the state.  March, 2015, Arkansas lawmakers introduce the “Religious Freedom Bill” – a law specifically designed to give business owners and employers a legal defense to discrimination claims when they refuse to do business with people because they have religious objections to said people’s lifestyles or actions.  That’s my understanding, anyway.  It’s a thinly veiled effort to circumvent the federal anti-discrimination laws that have been brought about by “liberals” since 620,000 men died fighting over “civil rights” 150 years ago; and many more in the interim.

    Indisputably, these laws, being enacted by other states as well, are aimed at the LGBT community.  Some people just don’t want to have to do business with “the gays.”  You may be one of those people.  But consider that this same law could possibly be construed to allow somebody who doesn’t condone your actions or lifestyle, on religious principle, to discriminate against you or your family members at some point in the future.  It could happen. Do you drink? Smoke dope? Have “relations” with people outside of wedlock?  Do you work on Sunday? Do you eat pork?

    The Arkansas Legislature is doing its level best to take us back to those steps at Central High in 1957 – shining the world spotlight on us once again – leading us boldly forward into the 20th century.

    How proud we all must be.   
 
© 2015, Rick Baber

1 comment:

Mark Pillow said...

That was really a good Piece Rick, In my return to Arkansas and my family - living with my Sister and her Youngest son, I get these odd questions from a 15 year old about the '60s. I frankly describe what it was like and his face tells it all - "REALLY UNCLE MARK?" YES REALLY NEPHEW #3. It won't be long, maybe another generation - and it can all just be a memory, a lesson from the history books. If we let it.

But those dang LABELS! Intellectual short cuts that punch the hot buttons of political donors and low information voters...are a disservice to us all.