I am a 40-year-old, white, heterosexual man. (Also, cis gendered, but I’m not terribly fond of that appellation, as it smacks of non-scientific taxonomy. But alas, here we are.)
I am beginning to grow accustomed to the possibility that the wider culture won’t care about – or even want to hear – what I have to say anymore. (ok, I’m not sure they ever did, but whatever.)
I have mixed emotions about this.
On the one hand, I have always wanted to be seen, and listen to, and taken note of. (I think we all do.)
On the other, I truly believe, in order for our society to progress to what it can be, folks in my category have to get comfortable with the idea that their voices won’t be the loudest in the room anymore.
I never wanted to be heard because I belonged to some group or other.
I wanted to be heard, and noticed, and remembered for the things I said and did.
(I still despise being dismissed, for just about any reason. Probably that’s my own emotional baggage to carry? It might be. But, I still find it difficult to swallow anyone being dismissed out of hand. Yes, there are exceptions; Nazis, the KKK, religious extremists of every faith – we can generally dismiss their views because they don’t respect our right to exist, or even have the conversation. And that’s on them.)
– A Brief Interlude, before I get Back to the Point –
Some years ago, I had a conversation with someone who, at the time, was a friend. He – and you just knew it was a he, right? – was ranting and raving about having to pay taxes. And here is what I told him:
It’s the price we pay.
It’s the price we pay for the protection and cohesion of our government, our society, and our way of life.
And it’s a damn small one.
No one’s asking the general populace to take up arms and go fight wherever we think it’s needed this week.
No one’s asking you or I to clean up after natural or man-made disasters, with our own two hands.
No one’s asking us to interrupt our lives at all, except to vote, and even that’s voluntary.
And yet, water still comes out of the pipes. The police are still on the beat. The lights stay on and the roads stay open. We are free to believe, and worship, and think, and speak how we like – provided it doesn’t cause material harm to another citizen, (also a tiny price to pay for those freedoms).
I wish I could say that the power of my argument changed his mind.
But enough of fairy tales…
…Let’s get back to the point.
The point is, if you believe in the Idea of The United States of America, then you have to accept some things.
If we are to be what we say we are: Equal under the law. Equal, in each other’s eyes. Equal in opportunity, then we have to take steps to level the playing field. Steps to ensure each of our citizens has that equal opportunity.
And that means, whether you like it or not, programs like Affirmative Action, a Progressive Tax, Equal Opportunity Employment, Quotas and Special Considerations are necessary.
And it also means the privileged class might need to take a back seat, for a while, until everyone’s gotten on similar footing.
If you believe in the promise of the U.S., then you have to believe in that.
It is the price we pay to live the dream we wish to live.
We’re not asked to sacrifice much in this country. Our forebearers did the vast amount of the heavy lifting on that front. But there are still sacrifices to be made, work to be done to preserve and protect this beautiful idea we call home.
No one is happy to sacrifice.
Sacrifice means giving up something important. And it’s going to be different for each one of us.
For me, someone who is almost pathologically non-competitive, it might mean working harder, and getting better, doing all I can, and still not getting where I want to be. (Don’t get me wrong, I still want to be there, or close, at least.)
And that possibility bothers me – I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.
But it is the price we pay for the larger dream.
The dream of what we can be.
The Dream of US.