Inauguration

January 21, 2013 PoliticsVanilla Life  4 comments

What else could I post about today?

I hadn’t planned to watch the inauguration in particular, but it was on and then came the inaugural address.

I did not believe I would live to see a black president, at least not for another 20 years.

I know, I know, he’s half black, what the fuck ever.  His wife is black, his children are black and I don’t give a shit what the idiotic and asinine birthers think, or say.

He’s not the first black man for whom I voted for President.  I voted for Jessie Jackson in 1988.

I just looked up Jessie’s speech, his Common Ground speech, and what both slave drew and I were most struck by was how similar it was to the inaugural address to day.

If you’d like to read it, the text of the speech is here, but I’m going to quote a few parts of it:

America’s not a blanket woven from one thread, one color, one cloth. When I was a child growing up in Greenville, S.C., and grandmother could not afford a blanket, she didn’t complain and we did not freeze.

Instead, she took pieces of old cloth—patches, wool, silk, gabardine, crockersack on the patches—barely good enough to wipe off your shoes with. But they didn’t stay that way very long. With sturdy hands and a strong cord, she sewed them together into a quilt, a thing of beauty and power and culture.

Now, Democrats, we must build such a quilt. Farmers, you seek fair prices and you are right, but you cannot stand alone. Your patch is not big enough.

Workers, you fight for fair wages. You are right. But your patch labor is not big enough.

Women, you seek worth and pay equity. You are right. But your patch is not big enough.

Women, mothers, who seek Head Start and day care and prenatal care on the front side of life, rather than jail care and welfare on the backside of life, you’re right, but your patch is not big enough.

Students, you seek scholarships. You are right. But your patch is not big enough.

Blacks and Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights, we are right, but our patch is not big enough.

Gays and lesbians, when you fight against discrimination and cure for AIDS, you are right, but your patch is not big enough.

Conservatives and progressives, when you fight for what you believe, right-wing. Left-wing, hawk, dove—you are right, from your point of view, but your point of view is not enough…

But don’t despair. Be wise as my grandma. Pool the patches and the pieces together, bound by a common thread.

When we form a great quilt of unity and common ground we’ll have the power to bring about health care and housing and jobs and education and hope to our nation. We the people can win.

We stand at the end of a long dark night of reaction. We stand tonight united in a commitment to a new direction. For almost eight years, we’ve been led by those who view social good coming from private interest, who viewed public life as a means to increase private wealth.

They have been prepared to sacrifice the common good of the many to satisfy the private interest and the wealth of a few. We believe in a government that’s a tool of our democracy in service to the public, not an instrument of the aristocracy in search of private wealth…

Most poor people are not lazy. They’re not black. They’re not brown. They’re mostly white, and female and young.

But whether white, black, or brown, the hungry baby’s belly turned inside out is the same color. Call it pain. Call it hurt. Call it agony.

Most poor people are not on welfare. Some of them are illiterate and can’t read the want-ad sections. And when they can, they can’t find a job that matches their address. They work hard every day, I know. I live amongst them. I’m one of them.

I know they work. I’m a witness.

They catch the early bus. They work every day.

They raise other people’s children. They work every day.

They clean streets. They work every day.

They drive vans with cabs. They work every day.

They change the beds you slept in these hotels last night and can’t get a union contract. They work every day.

No more. They’re not lazy. Someone must defend them because it’s right, and they cannot speak for themselves.

They work in hospitals. I know they do. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commode. No job is beneath them, and yet when they get sick, they cannot lie in the bed they made up every day.

America, that is not right.  We are a better nation than that.

We are a better nation than that…”

Sound almost frighteningly familiar?

I voted for Jessie Jackson for a lot of reasons, one of them being, he was the first candidate for that office that ever asked me for my vote as a lesbian.  He’s the first candidate who mentioned gays and lesbians not as what was wrong with our country.

And today, 25 years later, the President quoted Stonewall along with Seneca Falls and Selma as seminal moments in American history.

I never thought I’d see that.  Never.

I am really nearly speechless about that, and those who know me know I am nearly never speechless.

It was probably that much more moving because I’d been thinking about Stonewall, those people who had been treated as the worst of the worst, the dregs of humanity who had, on one hand, nothing to lose, and on the other hand, had everything to lose, those people said, enough.  We’re done.  We won’t be pushed farther.  We will push back, whatever the cost.

The Stonewall riots happened on June 28, 1969.  Almost 45 years ago.  Today they were linked with women who had no voice, had been given no voice by the founders of the country, women who also said, we are done.

When the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, suffrage was extended to women across the United States.  That was in 1920.  Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the amendment in 1878, 42 years earlier.

By contrast, the Fifteenth Amendment, which stated that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” passed in 1869.

Quoting from an Examiner article – the full text is here – “On November 15th, 1917, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, founders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) were arrested along with 216 other women who had picketed the White House under the Woodrow Wilson administration, bearing signs for the right to vote. By morning, some of the incarcerated women were barely alive. Lucy Burns had been beaten. Her hands had been chained to the cell bars over her head, bleeding and gasping for air. When Alice Paul engaged in a hunger strike, guards tried to force-feed her, tying her to a chair and using a tube to pour liquids down her throat. Thirty-three women endured ongoing torture until word was finally smuggled out to the press.”

Seneca Falls was the site of the first women’s rights convention organized by women in the Western world, in 1848.  Now the Women’s Rights National Historical Park is located in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, New York.

Somewhere, among my souvenirs, is a photo of me and my ex standing in front of the sign there.

I pulled this from the Wikipedia entry about Selma:

“On March 7, 1965, approximately 600 civil rights marchers departed Selma on U.S. Highway 80, heading east to march to the capital. When they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, only six blocks away, where they were met by state troopers and local sheriff’s deputies, who attacked them, using tear gas and billy clubs, and drove them back to Selma. Because of the attacks, this became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Two days after the march, on March 9, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a symbolic march to the bridge. He and other civil rights leaders attempted to get court protection for a third, larger-scale march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., the Federal District Court Judge for the area, decided in favor of the demonstrators, saying:

The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups…and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.
—Frank Johnson

On March 21, 1965, a Sunday, approximately 3,200 marchers departed for Montgomery. They walked 12 miles per day, and slept in nearby fields. By the time they reached the capitol four days later on March 25, their strength had swelled to around 25,000 people.”

So, my President invoked Seneca Falls, Stonewall and Selma today.  Standing in front of what was estimated at one million people watching his inaugural address in person, my President said, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall…”

Being seen by an estimate of close to 40 million people, my President said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

So, I don’t much care if you like it or not.  If you’re one of those idiots who said you were going to move if he was re-elected, please, let me point out that the door swings both ways and you are more than welcome to self-deport yourself.

I don’t care who disagrees.

I never before had a President who was willing to talk about gay rights because it was RIGHT, and to hell with whether it was politic or not.

I’m proud I voted for Jessie Jackson, and I will tell you that his speech about common ground made me cry.

I’m proud I voted for Barack Obama, and I will tell you that his speech today made me cry, too.

 

 

 

 

4 comments to Inauguration

  • jade  says:

    i cried before he mentioned the word gay. And then i nearly wept. i’m emphatically NOT a crier by any means but this speech moved me deeply. The moment i was proudest of being an American was the moment i voted for this man.

  • aisha  says:

    Great post, Ms Constance – thanks for sharing this perspective. I so totally agree.

  • Jean Nolan  says:

    Yes, Ms. Constance. For what it’s worth, I’m a straight 62-year-old married woman, and I wept all day. To have my president articulate my views is overwhelming and joyous and surprising. Yes, for all of us!

  • Wordwytch  says:

    I think that the best thing about our President is that he cares. He cares enough to show that in the way he responds to people, his family and situations that are not easy.

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