The Journal of Disbelief
If Jim Cook were a blogger, and not a liar, this is what he would blog today.
In the 1950s, the Trailways bus station in Flagstaff was housed in the railroad depot. Many nights, I sat in a cafe across the street, drinking coffee with my buddies and talking about our dreams of the future.
If black people got off the Trailways bus and started toward the cafe, the proprietress met them at the door. She told them she couldn’t serve them.
The African-Americans did not act surprised, or outraged. They were refused service all across America. Many of us sensed that it was wrong, but accepted it as the way of the world–bigotry by default.
A black person needed to carry his food with him when he traveled. He also could not rent a hotel room, except in cities large enough to support black-only hotels. That discrimination was ended by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also known as the Voting Rights Act.
Now there’s a Senate candidate in Kentucky, Rand Paul, who thinks the Civil Rights Act should have excluded private businesses which wanted to discriminate against people of color.
Whatever your politics, you’ll probably agree with me that lately, the world has been getting crazier faster. Your definition of “crazier” may be different than mine, and that’s fine. This is America–so far.
During my years as a journalist, I reported on the movements of the time as they came along: the civil rights movement, the protest against the Vietnam war, the women’s movement. Things moved more slowly then, but they tended to move forward.
I was optimistic, but I also was naive. It didn’t take long to realize that whatever gains are made, new bigots are spawned every day. We are all born ignorant. Some of us try to get over it, and others pass it on to their children.
Furthermore, the idea of freedom scared the living hell out of some conservative Americans and their institutions. At this moment, educators in Texas are trying to rewrite school history books to represent a conservative bias.
I believe that I wrote the first serious article about women’s liberation in Arizona. I didn’t intend for it to be serious, but an organizer for the women’s movement made so much sense that she didn’t leave me room to be snide. Those were the days when women mentioned in news articles were not allowed first names; a woman was identified as “Mrs. John Somuch.”
The organized warned me that I would receive more complaints from women than from men. She was right. The housewives of Mesa were furious. I had challenged their traditional roles. But over the years, I watched several traditional women demand equality, fight for it, accept it as their due.
I came to understand that there are always people and institutions that would drag us back into the Nineteenth Century.The coal industry has come close.
There are people in Congress who bang on their high chairs in front of CNN cameras every time someone suggests governance that does not favor their favorite contributing industry. Some of these guys can’t even have a civil discourse with themselves.
Any measure that suggests a more beneficial relationship between a taxpayer and his government is called “socialism,” and in some cases it is. Social Security sure isn’t classic capitalism. That would be British Petroleum.
Despite ourselves, we have come a long way since 1964. In general, more people are more equal than they used to be. The knuckle-draggers have slowed progress, but they haven’t stopped it.
So now we have a candidate for the U.S. Senate who thinks the Voting Rights Act of 1964 went too far. It would be easy to ignore him, but I suspect he has a lot of friends out there. Still.