Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shotgun Weddings

It’s coming soon to a town near you, especially if you live in the south.

It’s inevitable. It’s coming soon. Because that’s how life works. Whenever there is big social progress there’s always somebody who vows to stand in the way and be a diehard dick about it. And when dealing with the diehard dickiest of the diehard dicks, there’s only one thing you can do. You have to call in the troops.

It happened when the schools were ordered to be racially desegregated. Marshals had to escort little Ruby Bridges and big grown James Meredith to school.

And now courts are striking down same-sex marriage bans all over the place and you know that’s the kind of thing that brings out the diehard dicks. It already has. There have been counties in the south where public servants have refused to go along with it. So it’s inevitable that soon there will be same-sex shotgun weddings. Armed troops will have to escort James and James Meredith to the county courthouse to obtain their marriage license. And some diehard dick of a governor will grandstand, blocking the courthouse door and bellowing, "Heterosexuality now, heterosexuality tomorrow and heterosexuality forever!"

In a way I’m kind of jealous. There was no crippled Ruby Bridges. In 1976 Congress passed what is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which says all cripplets are entitled to a free and appropriate education in the public school system. But when the first trickle of cripplets appeared in the public schools, there were no rabid protesters with signs reading CRIPPLET GO HOME. There was no adorable little poster girl, with crutches and leg braces and pigtails, being protected by marshals.

And so the moral of the story must be that once the federal government issued its mandates opening the doors of education to cripples, everyone happily and swiftly complied.

And now let us all pause and express our gratitude that all the parents who have fought like hell to get their cripplet kids into the best public schools did not read the above sentence all at once. Because if they had, the needle on the Richter scale would now be furiously bouncing from the vibration of them all simultaneously laughing their asses off.

No, the diehard dick educational obstructionism cripples bash into is much more covert. It happens on the administrative level rather than in the streets. It happens in offices and hearing rooms. A parent pushes a school district to give their cripplet child the education they deserve but the school district refuses to budge. And if the parent wants to go to court, it’s whatever lawyer they can afford versus all the lawyers of the school district. And so the parent fights a solitary battle that makes no headlines.

It’s an ingenious strategy that seals discontent in a vacuum and preserves the fa├žade of benevolence. One wonders what might have happened had Bull Connor and all those guys been so shrewd. Suppose those guys handled civil rights protesters in the same way police usually handle cripples protesting for their rights. The threat police feel when crippled protesters approach is much different than the threat they feel when black protesters approach. When cripples approach, instead of reaching for their clubs and guns, the police reach for their rubber gloves. And when it comes time to arrest, the police usually escort the cripples over to a processing table, give them citations and send them home.

Suppose John Lewis and company had been greeted that way at the Pettis Bridge: “Good day Mr. Lewis. Please step right this way. Here is your citation. Now run along and have a nice day.” And the white people up north watching all this on television would say, “Aw now see there, Martha? That Jim Crow ain’t such a bad guy.” Maybe the diehard dicks would have prevailed.

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