Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'Wiser today than yesterday'

   Face it. Regression is in. Let us return to yesteryear. Actually, let's return to the day before that.

   A marginal candidate wins the Senate seat from Kentucky saying the Voting Rights Act is obsolete.

   An even more marginal candidate emerges as the Republican presidential favorite in Iowa. Her husband makes his living advertising his ability to pray homosexuality away. She calls climate change "a deliberate hoax." I didn't know hoaxes came in any other flavor.

   Speaking of climate, and regression, the governor of Texas (lurking now in the presidential powder room) says big polluters bear not on climate, but prayer does. He called for Texans to pray for rain. The petition has summoned mostly perspiration, but in big drops.

    Each of these figures is emblematic of a politics that has left reason behind. Their party, one that has at least even odds of governing the nation in 2012, has come to be what H.L. Mencken described of a tent revival in 1925 when he was in Dayton, Tenn., for the Scopes monkey trial.

    Mencken described a worshipper who refused to touch anything comporting itself as literature:

    "Why, indeed, read a book? If what was in it was true, then everything in it was already in the Bible. If it was false, then reading it would imperil the soul."

     Would that Sarah Palin had such a rejoinder for Katie Couric.

      If you listen to what's said by these people who would govern America, supported by Americans who subscribe to a mid-1920s vision for us all, you can get discouraged about the capacity of public policy to summon anything approximating progress.

      And then you read about a Republican like Mark Grisanti.

     Grisanti was one of two GOP New York state senators who broke from his party's ideo-clutches of religious passion and voted with the majority to legalize gay marriage.

     He said something amazing in so doing.

     "I apologize to those I offend. But I believe you can be wiser today than yesterday."

     Surely that is impossible today. Well, maybe not.

     Look around and realize that wiser heads can bob to the surface in a churning backwash. The U.S. military is about to let gays and lesbians serve as if they have the very rights the preamble to the U.S. Constitution says they have.

     The plights and progress of gays and lesbians could not be more analogous to those of blacks and Hispanics 50 years ago, and before them women in general — demeaned and diminished for generations in the name of the law. Somehow, reason prevailed on their behalf, and it will ulitmately for homosexuals and the transgendered.

      Reason will prevail as well one of these days for the children of undocumented workers, they who broke no law being born here yet who face extraordinary barriers against making the best of their situations. That's something something the DREAM Act is written to address. It will prevail one day. Because wisdom will.

      Reason will win out over the voices of fear that today dictate crazy overreaches like Arizona's SB 1070. At some point, better guest-worker programs and orderly and reasonable paths to citizenship will become the way we deal with the shadow population that does so much heavy lifting under an increasingly scorching sun.

      We will be wiser than the ethnocentrism and hatred that swells in times of trial, be it manifested in Japanese internment camps or a months-long tempest about an Islamic community center near Ground Zero. 

      We will be wiser. Believe it. The tent will always be set up to gather those who wish otherwise. They will always be a presence, and always a political force.

     It's worth remembering that in that "monkey trial" Mencken covered, biology teacher John Scopes was convicted of breaking Tennessee law by teaching Darwin's theory. As history proves, ultimately, we were wiser.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.             





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