Monday, January 21, 2013

Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall?

In Obama's inaugural speech today, he said, "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall."  

The significance of this line in an American inaugural address cannot be underestimated.  First of all "the star that guides us" is a reference to the mythical star that supposedly guided three wise men to baby Jesus. That is the same star that is guiding the truth of equality of all of us: men and women, gay and straight, and people of all races.  For those who don't understand the significance of these three places, here they are:

Seneca Falls: 1848 - women made a declaration of "sentiments" and "resolutions."  In other words, grievances and demands.  It took well over 100 years, but all of the resolutions have been made into law.  It is important to realize that their work then, their writing and fighting, led to the current freedoms women enjoy here and now.

Selma: 1965 - freedom fighters marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest white resistance to black voter registration.  The first marchers, 600 civil rights activists, were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. The second march, now 2500 strong, were turned around. The third march was protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals.  They made it all the way to Montgomery.  That struggle then, and many others, made it possible for Obama to be president today.

Stonewall 1969 -  drag queens, gay men, and lesbians fought back against police harassment.  Their actions then began the slow and very much unfinished march towards equal treatment under the law regardless of who and how you love. 

According to Obama, if a star guided the three wise men to Jesus, the same star guided all these protesters.

My companions thought they heard booing during O's speech.  And there may well have been in some corners.  If it doesn't hurt somebody, then maybe it's not real change.

My personal highlights of the inauguration were Obama's speech and Richard Blanco's poem which included these stanzas:

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

No comments:

Post a Comment