The Times They Are A-Changin’…Again

The Times They Are A-Changin’…Again June 17, 2016

Orlando gathering resized
Orland0-area gathering. Image credit: Fibonacci Blue, via Flickr.

I’m sorry to say that I underestimated the American people. Happy and proud, too. Though I’ve long supported gay marriage, I have to admit that I thought it would take many decades, if ever, before marriage equality would be accepted by the wider electorate. The pace of change has been breathtaking.

But for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. It happened after Reconstruction, which led to the birth of the KKK, Dred Scott, and segregation. The Civil Rights Era turned the Solid South from blue dogs to a sea of red. You can draw a line from the Civil Rights Act to the long-stirred race baiting leading to the rise of Donald Trump. The 60s countercultural movement and Vietnam War protests gave us Nixon and the “silent majority.”

But those 60s undercurrents never really left, even when those erstwhile hippies became Reagan Democrats. It seems the spirit of easy going acceptance of people “doing their own thing” never really went away.

And that leaves us with the gay rights movement, which is now generating a vehement pushback from the Religious Right. It’s as if they awoke like Rip Van Winkle into the 21st century, rubbed their eyes, and found their world had become unrecognizable. What happened to our “Moral Majority?”

It was never really there, of course. It was just that the silent majority of the tolerant hadn’t been awakened from their own sleep.

And it’s not just the Baby Boomers who are driving these changes. Each generation has grown progressively progressive…and secular too. My demographic group, Gen X, is categorized by the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape study as 23% “nones.” Older millennials were 34% nones, while their younger cohort was 36%. Not only that, but nones are becoming increasingly secular. And that survey was conducted two years ago.

The Religious Right feels the ground shifting beneath them, so they’re holding on all the more tightly.

Gay marriage begat Kim Davis. Trans-inclusive bathrooms generated a new hysteria about pervs dressing in drag to get a peek at women taking a piss (when they could simply plant a hidden camera as so many voyeurs have). Where’s Monty Python when you need them?

But the Orlando massacre has shown that homophobia is far from a laughing matter. The emerging evidence that Omar Mateen may have himself been a self-hating homosexual only intensifies the culpability of anti-LGBT forces. And Mateen’s apparent loathing of his own natural feeling kills scores of LGBT youths every year through suicide.

It’s hard to see where you’re standing in the forest of time. Some seemingly groundbreaking events, in the perspective of hindsight, turn out to be mere blips. When a black man was elected president, it seemed like a sea change in American history. In fact, Barack Obama’s election generated a groundswell of hatred he’s never been able to completely overcome. The probable election of our first female president will likely do little but provide symbolic inspiration for the cause of equality…and provoke its own backlash. It already has (think: #berniebros).

I believe, however, we are in the midst of another seismic shift in our culture. It’s happening all around us, in small ways and large. The Religious Right may fulminate and blather on their hate. But GOP should take another listen to Dylan’s warning.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

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