Land of opportunity for all, not just the privileged few

Marginalizing fellow Earth dwellers on the basis of gender, religious heritage, skin pigment, facial characteristics, ethnic origins, racial identity, sexual orientation, economic privilege, social class and other accidents of birth — and let’s be clear, these are ALL accidents of birth — seems to have plagued humankind since its earliest emergence. 

However, suppressing acts of demeaning, dividing and discriminating is a primal function of civilized society. And no nation has embraced the mantra of equal opportunity for all with greater fervor than ours.

We adopted the premise in theory in our founding documents and moved resolutely over the ensuing decades to further codify and implement our noble intent. We made particularly powerful strides, across a broad range of fronts, in the latter half of the 20th century.

But we have been suffering a virulent backlash in recent years, abetted by unprincipled political opportunists and an explosion of unfiltered media and social media propaganda. The key point of attack has always been the most vulnerable of victims among us, and the mantle seems to be falling most heavily at present on transgender youth.

That makes it all the more important to join the LGBTQ community in celebrating this year’s Pride Month activities, to be capped here with a family-oriented Saturday street fair on Alpine Avenue.

As LGBTQ activist Dr. Ron Holt noted, “Gay pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride parade, be thankful you don’t need one.”

The pride movement got its start in the wake of the Stonewall Riots of June 1969.

The riots were triggered by an massive and aggressive police raid on the Stonewall Inn, an underground gay bar operating in gay-friendly Greenwich Village. Engaging in gay dress or behavior in public places was illegal at the time, giving the invading force grounds for hundreds of arrests.

After several decades of steady gains on the gay rights front since, the tide began to turn with the Trump presidency, and that continues today in states where his party is in ascendancy, notably Texas, Florida and other states from the old Civil War Confederacy.

More than 280 bills seeking to curtail LGBTQ rights have been advanced this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

As was the case with the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions, the onslaught is dominated by bills seeking to limit athletic opportunity, bathroom accommodation and medical care for transgender youth.

However, it extends to a wide range of other measures, including  so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, targeting depiction of gay or lesbian life in fiction and non-fiction books. Under the reign of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida even managed to find 41 math books suspect.

Even where there is a small kernel of genuine concern, notably unfairness in male-to-female transition in athletes, it is being vastly overblown. 

Only 1.8% of America’s 15.3 million public high school students identify as transgender. Less than 15% of those are interested in athletics, and that includes gender transitions in both directions when only one is at issue. So the flood of legislation is targeting less than one-tenth of 1% of the overall student population.

What we’re facing is a network of politically charged extremists using imaginary fears to incite suppression of those they identify as “different.” 

One recent manifestation was the 31 Patriot Front supremacists traveling cross-country in a U-Haul to disrupt a 50-participant pride parade in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They no doubt chose Coeur d’Alene because is has long served as an imagined bastion of white supremacy in the whitest of America’s 50 states.

They came from 12 Southern, Midwestern and Western states, including Oregon. And they came with shields, shinguards, hardhats and other riot gear, along with a military-style plan of operations.

Members of the group, offshoot of the Vanguard America supremacist organization, claims its ancestors conquered America and left it to them. Their mission is to seize in back. 

Had they not been intercepted by police, their immediate aim was targeting gay Americans for, in their twisted minds, “attacking our children” and “grooming children for pedophilia.”

This hearkens back to the old Anita Bryant canard from the religious right, that being unable to reproduce biologically, gays and lesbians go about increasing their number by recruiting children. It has absolutely no grounding in fact, but continues to be perpetrated in Q-Anon circles and like-minded dark-web venues.

America is committed to serving as a land of opportunity for all, not just a privileged few. And it is incumbent on all of good will to ensure it stays that way. 


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