My Yahoo homepage generally presents me with the most awful and strange stories. I am not sure how I have been profiled as someone who wants to read such horror stories, but a couple of weeks ago I was happy with their “profiling” because one of the top headlines read, “Senate Swears in a Historic 20 Female Senators.”
For those of you who don’t keep track of these things, the number of women in our senate has been astonishingly low until the last couple of elections – generally hovering between one or two female senators until the early 90’s when it slowly and steadily began to increase. Now there will be 20 women serving which is really a phenomenal jump in the past 20 years.
The tides have been turning for a long time as our country continues to work to embody the declaration of “all men are created equal.” I would like to think this type of change could happen overnight, but with well over 300,000,000 people’s minds to change, well, that is a lot of work. Slow change is better than no change. The gay rights movement seems to be producing results pretty quickly — maybe I am misinformed because I really don’t have a grasp on the history — but I see the laws changing quickly as a majority of people around the country realize this change is non-threatening and the right thing to do.
But with all of this movement towards equality, there is a great divide amongst us. There are two polar opposite ways of thinking and the polarity seems to be exacerbated by the change: An every man for themselves attitude that fears the change vs a love your neighbor attitude that embraces the change but fears the people who fear the change. I hear a lot of fear of “difference” on both sides of the divide – a fear of how those “others” views will ultimately effect them.
Again, I am relatively young and certainly no history expert so excuse my ignorance, but I imagine our country went through just such a divide during the height of the civil rights movement and the turmoil of the Vietnam war – probably an even greater divide. These were periods that our country muddled through uncomfortably only to come out on the other side better and stronger. Although we still have a ways to go in terms of changing all of the 300,000,000 people’s minds, most can’t imagine a time when segregation was law and racism was the norm and, in fact, find it unbelievable that it was acceptable. Most can’t imagine a time when women couldn’t work outside the home, vote, or own property and, in fact, find it unbelievable.
The issues of today are gay rights and gun rights and the rights of the impoverished. And, although they divide us now, I have hope that – as history has shown us – this process is necessary and productive to make us even stronger. Instead of fearing our differences, we should welcome them as a necessary part of growing personally and as a nation. The conversation and debate is essential to produce change. And slowly, steadily, we may come together as a nation again and not be able to imagine a time when 50% of senators weren’t women, homosexual families didn’t have to be defined as anything but a family, and the impoverished were treated like second class citizens. For my children’s sake and yours, I am glad for how far we have come and how far we can go.