Equality on Parade

Here in the Fort, when you’re a candidate running for a public office, one of the things you do to increase your exposure to the voting public is participate in parades for big events and holidays. To observe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, there was a big parade through downtown Fort Worth this week. And, because my husband is a candidate (a Democrat, of course) for public office (the Texas 12th District U.S. House seat), he entered a vehicle in the parade.

Actually, there were two vehicles. There was the requisite flatbed trailer filled with hay bales and towed by a large SUV, replete with flag-waving volunteers wearing our newly minted Greene for Congress t-shirts, and a smiling and waving candidate, too. You could tell he was the candidate, because he was decked out in a dress shirt and khakis, which made him much prettier than the rest of us. And that’s okay. He’s the one trying to get elected, so he can go on to do the hard work. He deserved to be prettier.

The second parade vehicle was a borrowed Mercedes Sprinter van, a behemoth of a vehicle which is pretty impressive in both size and looks. Ours was solid white, with spectator windows running the length of each side, which doubled as billboards, covered with campaign slogans drawn on by some of those volunteers. The windows were tinted, so you couldn’t see inside, which was a point in our favor, as the inside of the van resembled the catch-all storage closet everyone has, where you toss everything you don’t know what to do with. Ours was a receptacle for t-shirts, balloons, a ladder, various lengths of PVC tubing, dozens of bags of office supplies, tape, staplers, scissors, and every hand tool you can possibly imagine. You just never know what you’re going to need when preparing a parade float.

The float just wasn’t doing it for me this go-round, however. During our last Congressional run, I put in lots of time as a flag-waving, trailer-riding, smile-and-look-demure candidate’s wife, so this time I opted to ride shotgun in the van. I felt certain I could look demure and wave just fine from the passenger seat of the Sprinter. Besides, I’m allergic to hay.

The good news is that this year’s local MLK parade was bigger and better than I remember from our last campaign 14 years ago. Hundreds of floats, riders and marchers participated. There were marching bands from area high schools, members of vintage car clubs, motorcycle service clubs, elected officials, and lots of Democratic candidates for all sorts of government offices. No sign of any Republicans, however, save for our city’s mayor. Even she was hitching a ride with two Democratic judicial candidates. MLK parades can be a lonely place for a Republican.

The crowd this year was much larger than I recall it being back in 2000. Of course, it was a beautiful day – clear and sunny, with the temperature at parade time in the upper 60s. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.

And the best part? Parade-goers and participants alike represented every race. I saw spectators of every size, shape, age and color. Black, white, brown, young, old, straight and gay. Evidently, the lessons of Dr. King have lived on, at least for the more enlightened among us. I’d like to believe that MLK parades all over our country were equally well-attended by a similar rainbow coalition. But I know we still have a long way to go.

Dr. King’s struggles during the American Civil Rights Movement, and those of every citizen who believed in him and fought for peace and equality alongside him, are well-known. Because of the work he, and thousands of others did, the words he spoke, and the ultimate sacrifice he made, racial equality finally became a reality. It is the law of this land, despite attempts by some to undermine it. Even now, in 2014, when it shouldn’t matter who you are, how you worship, who you love, or what color your skin is, forces are at work to disenfranchise many citizens.

In many places, segregation still exists. Discrimination still exists. Poverty still exists. And these concerns no longer affect only people of color. They affect people because of their genders, their sexual orientations, their religious affiliations, or lack thereof, and their economic status as well.

When I was a kid taking history classes in school, I distinctly remember learning that our country was founded by people who came to our shores to establish a country where they could worship as they pleased and escape religious persecution. Another thing I learned was that these same founding fathers recognized a need to keep the laws they were establishing for this new country separate from the teachings of their religions, or any other religions. Hence that whole “separation of church and state” thing.
The gist was ‘I, (insert church/sect/order name here) won’t tell you how to run your government, and you (insert name of governing body) won’t make laws telling me who or how to worship, or even insisting THAT I worship. Deal?’

I’ve always thought it was a terrific set-up. And most of the time, it’s worked. Government has pretty much stayed out of the religion business. But lately, there’s just been a little too much religion trying to creep in and tell the government, and everyone else, how things need to be.

Things like gay marriage, for instance. There are those who believe that gays should not be allowed the right to marry because it’s ‘an abomination to God.’ Well, that may be what you believe based on your particular faith, but your particular faith should not be the determining factor for what millions of other people, most of whom you don’t know, should or should not be allowed to do.

Same for abortion. I promise you that no woman ever woke up one morning and decided that, since she had nothing better to do, she might go have an abortion before she went to work. No woman who ever had one wanted one. But the fact is, sometimes a situation is desperate enough that a woman has no other option. Medically, financially, emotionally. Each situation is different. It is not for anyone to judge. It is that woman’s painful decision to make. Not mine. Not yours.

I realize that Dr. King’s fight was against racial inequality, but I believe that if he were still with us, he would continue to fight for equality for all people, regardless of race, creed, color, religious affiliation, gender, or sexual orientation. He would fight for the poor, and the hungry, and the disenfranchised. He would fight for those who have lost all hope.

In 1964, when Dr. King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, he said:

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

For those of us who believe in equality for all, then, the fight isn’t over. We’ve got to stay with it. We have to keep going, until right wins out, and evil triumphs no more.

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