I just put my 3 1/2 year old to bed. She was chanting “What do we want? Civil Rights! When do we want it? NOW!” Crazy, right?
She doesn’t know the meaning of those words and it is my deepest hope that long before she has her own children, there will be no need for rallying cries such as this. But until that day, the chant must be repeated loudly and clearly across our nation and across our world. An hour ago, my family returned from a demonstration, one that was organized very last minute, in response to both the disturbing decision by the California Supreme Court and the firing of Lt. Dan Choi for publicly coming out of the closet. Lt. Dan, as many were calling him tonight, was there to speak, passionately and from his heart about knowing first hand how important it is to fight for the right to love. As simple as that. This man spoke, and many listened as he put it so clearly. This man who has risked his very life for this country is fighting the battle of his life for the simple right that so many of us take for granted. I don’t agree with war and I have never understood a person who would choose a life in the military, but this man, this strong man, this eloquent man, who has become a symbol for a movement to which he has been drafted, showed me the true meaning tonight of the words “courage” and “hero.”
This afternoon, I told my children that I wanted to attend this rally and that I wanted them to go too. I wanted them to understand what it means to be a part of something bigger than one’s self. We went, and my husband met us there and we held signs and took pictures and chanted and listened. And my children felt the energy that is created when many voices come together as one. I told my children after, that the reason I wanted them to go is that I want them to be able to tell their children what it feels like to be the change they want to see in the world. I told them that I hope that their children will ask them with confusion how it was that homosexuals could not marry, could not be afforded the same rights to love and live and die for their country-that their children will not be able to even imagine this world.
Here’s the thing. I was going to write a funny piece about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” life of a mom. How as long as you don’t ask me if my beds are made, I won’t tell you that they aren’t. As long as you don’t ask me when I last showered, I won’t tell you. As long as you don’t ask me if the kids had cereal for dinner, I won’t tell you. We all walk around with our dirty little secrets and an unwritten code that we won’t ask the real questions and we won’t expect the real answers. BUT, after going to this rally, after listening to Lt. Choi speak of the necessity to deny his very being in order to keep his job, a job that so many Americans consider heroic, my dirty little secrets seem insignificant, not even worthy of mention. To live your entire life as a lie-don’t ask me if I am gay and I won’t tell you, is incomprehensible to me.
There are so many problems that we as a country and a world face-the environment, the economy, healthcare, disease, education-that it is entirely mind boggling that we even need to spend our resources to fight for a basic human right. Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, Lt. Dan and another young man whose name I did not get, spoke of these things and we listened and we replied and we shouted and we told our children that we must pick our battles and when we do, we must fight for them with everything we have. I grew up in a time when, in certain places, people of color could not drink at the same water fountain as white people. Last November, we elected an African American man to the highest office in our land. Yesterday that very same man nominated a Latina woman to the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
Times have changed. Times are changing.
It is time to change don’t ask, don’t tell. It is time to ask. It is time to tell.