Every so often in human history you have massive changes that affect all of us. These are things like World War II, which was truly a world war, (as opposed to WWI which was just the world of whites, never mind that it was still massive). It’s easy to point to these events and understand that they changed us.
Smaller events, like the founding of the United States, the rise and fall of the British Empire, the rise and fall of Rome, the cycle of dynasties in China, the rise and fall of imperial Japan, etc., are easy to see in by looking back, but were certainly much harder to identify as changes that would affect the world as a whole – at least while they were happening.
And there are smaller events that have dramatic impact on the world around us. How they work has always interested me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the way that history plays out, with its push-and-pull dynamic, is not only interesting, it’s almost poetry. And I think I see one happening around me.
I’m the first to recognize my own privilege, being a white male has some amazing power that is just handed to me, and that I can easily abuse without even realizing it. Given that I’m gay, I run into times where this power mysteriously evaporates and I’m faced with having to fight for things I feel entitled to. Specifically, equal treatment under the law.
The fact that a white man is bitching about not being treated equally is irony of the highest order, and I know that. I’m not just fighting for me, tho, and in reality, I have it pretty good, but I continue to fight because until we have equality, too many of my friends get fucked sideways for nothing more than not being exactly like The Old White Straight Men who are, for some reason, the base zero for “what did that human look like?”.
Regardless, I think we’re at an interesting inflection point, where an action catches the eye of the public in such a way that the public reacts sharply – far sharper than they have in the past to similar actions. It’s the straw the broke the camel’s back, for sure, but it’s still broken, and it’s interesting.
When Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in Indiana last week, he knew exactly what he was signing and what it would do. He had advice from 20 top legal scholars in his state warn him of the issues with the bill, and he didn’t care because Mike Pence is a bigot. There’s nothing more to it. He’s just a bigot, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid; he’s not.
And by signing that bill into law, he created a firestorm that caught, honestly, most of us by surprise. While I like to think that we’re all outraged by idiocy that puts imaginary friends before flesh-and-blood people, we all know that happens all the time. And it’s not new, not by a long shot.
But this time? This time, it was different. This time, everyone saw, and everyone spoke out. So much so that, while it was a nice surprise that Apple, lead by the recently self-outed Tim Cook, spoke up, and it was even nicer that Salesforce.com and Angie’s List both decided to move operations out of Indiana to avoid the insanity that this law creates, there is not one person on this planet that would have bet money on Wal*Mart stepping into the fray on the side of equality. Not one.
That’s how this point in time is different. Pence got smacked down hard across the board, and when Arkansas and Wal*Mart are calling you a bigot, you have some real issues to deal with, and fast.
As of right now, Indiana is working on a compromise bill that may or may not be enough of a change for the equality-minded to live with, while Arkansas is drafting a new bill, other states such as my own, Montana, have dropped the bills entirely, and the bigots of the far right are crying foul and raging against reality. Sorry NOM, AFA, AFD, AFTAH and all you other bigots, you can suck it.
With SCOTUS hearing oral arguments on marriage equality on April 28th, with a ruling expected sometime during June (Pride month, for those who don’t know), this year has moved us unexpectedly closer to the end goal of full equality. The fight is by no means over, but we are much closer than we were even at the beginning of the year.
This inflection point could be the one that moves us to the last chapters in this fight. I’m hopeful. Self-reinforcing success would be incredible to have, the momentum would change the world.
I’m scared that it could, like any inflection point, trigger a disaster, too. Too many angry people can make a war from nothing. But I’m hopeful.