Monday, July 04, 2011
Fourth of July 2011. Can you believe we've gone from quills to twitter in less than 300 years? A long way in a short time, huh.
Because of all the gay civil rights action and discussions happening recently, I thought this was a good day to take an honest look back at those U.S. presidents who we celebrate as civil rights heroes.
First of course, the founding fathers. I would think that Black Americans would agree that the brilliant framers of our nation, many of whom became president, need not apply for this particular honor.
Kennedy, Lincoln, Johnson, were they great men of justice for all?
LBJ would not have even been considered for president or vice prez today. He would never have passed today's vetting with his atrocious civil rights record. And, did Kennedy voluntarily tackle the civil rights problem?
Lincoln freed the slaves and made great civil rights speeches of inspiration and importance. The debate has always been whether Lincoln freed the slaves because it was the only way to save the Union, not because it was a horrid inhumane institution.
Do motivation and intentions diminish hero status?
Kennedy didn't want to intercede on behalf of the jailed Martin Luther King and was provoked into interceding into the Jame Meredith and Bull Connor high profile cases.
Lyndon B. Johnson, after the JFK assassination, took the opportunity to force through sweeping new laws that changed this country forever. In the South, democrats became republicans and republicans became democrats. Concessions were made to get the bills through so most of the laws did not fully protect those they covered. The South became more sinister and the North became more stealth in it’s racism.
Don't get me wrong, Lincoln, Kennedy, and Johnson were all good caring men but none acted on that goodness alone. They acted on political expediency and only when it was imperative or opportunistic to do so. All gave famous speeches of civil rights and equal rights, all suspect in their behind the scenes opportunity for greatness and motivation for their actions. All considered great human rights leaders. They are indeed.
Barack Obama is being criticized for his lack of proclamations regarding gay marriage. Although he has done more for the GLBT community than all other presidents combined, he is being accused of waiting until his second term to speak out. I think he is doing just that. Some say this a failing on his part? We know he is capable of inspirational speeches and is known for his patience in wanting a law passed that will endure. Is the president a coward or a hero for holding his tongue now to not jeopardize progress in his second term?
So, how do you measure these men as civil rights heroes? Is it for their public proclamations of civil rights for all. Is motivation important, doing the right thing because they truly feel it is the right thing? Or, should they be considered great based on their enduring legacy of policy?
I think Barack Obama will measure up and deliver it all.