shame on us

Jeff and I are enjoying some lovely time away from daily life with Elena and Ian this week in central Oregon. I’d like to say that we’ve been totally unplugged, but of course, we haven’t. So, like many others, we’ve both been overwhelmed with red and pink images online, other photos and news accounts of the “controversial” issue before the Supreme Court this week. To say that I’m frustrated – and dare I say, angry – about the time that we as a nation are spending on this issue is an understatement.

My son’s school district lost 300 teachers this year. He no longer has a librarian (who he talked about often) and class sizes continue to grow to absurd levels. He has PE, library, technology and music once every several days. Teachers are instructing classes and subjects in which they have no previous experience because they were needed there after teachers who were qualified in those areas – including areas like sciences, foreign languages and special education – were let go. (Actually, Ian’s former school librarian wasn’t completely let go – she now teaches second grade at his school, speaking of random teacher transfers.) This year, Ian tested into Oregon’s advanced student program, but a lack of funding and resources has made us realize that though his educators have the best of intentions, challenging him to reach his full potential is, understandably, the least of their worries. Without a key state government reform this year and voters approving a local levy to raise property taxes, there will be more bleeding next year.

We are not unique. Nationwide, our entire education system is severely broken from funding to the way we are preparing future generations to keep up with what’s required to succeed in the modern world. And we are spending precious time and money on debating whether or not everyone has the right to equal benefits in marriage? Really? Shame on us.

Most of us have read the horror stories of healthcare. You know – the ones about people have worked hard all their lives, done “the right” thing and then lost their entire savings, homes and lives simply because they got ill and became buried in costs. Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nationwide, our entire health system continues to be severely broken. And we are spending precious time and money on debating state by state whether two women or two men have the legal right to spend their lives together as spouses? Really? Shame on us.

In December a young man walked into a first grade classroom and senselessly murdered several innocent children and adults. Evidence shows that not only did he have mental health issues, he was aided by an entertainment industry that ruthlessly markets violence to youth. (I won’t express my opinion here on the firearms issue since that would open its own can of worms.) Mental health is something our leaders pay attention to only in passing and those violent movies, video games, action figures and the like? Well, they make a lot of money and what’s more important than that, right? Until our society makes changes in these areas, Sandy Hook certainly won’t be the last tragedy of its kind. More innocent people will be killed. Yet, we are spending precious time and money on debating whether someone else has the right to legally marry who they want to and be happy? And whether or not they might have the right to give an unwanted child a loving home and that they would both have legal parental rights for that child should something happen to one of them? Really? Shame on us.

Our country – our world – has its plate full of so many critical issues that affect our future (which reminds me that I forgot to bring up that whole pesky issue about our planet disappearing…) that it is absolutely baffling to me that we would waste one second of our time debating whether two people should be allowed to marry who they want, and whether or not we as human beings should all be entitled to the same rights.

The question is – why the heck wouldn’t we all be entitled to the same rights? Didn’t we generally decide as a country a while ago that discrimination is bad? Why is this any different? What effect does it have on your life if Joe and Mike, or Barbara and Sarah want to spend their life together, and maybe raise some children like so many others of us do?

In our home, Jeff and I make a conscious effort to let our children know that they will be loved and accepted by us no matter what they grow up to be or whom they love. That includes making no assumptions about their future relationships, starting now. Of course once you become aware of it, it’s interesting to observe how wired our society is to assume that everyone will grow up to be heterosexual. Sometimes I find myself cringing now at relatively innocent comments made even to Ian, Elena or other children in passing. And that’s not to say that it’s not our first inclination, too, given it’s certainly what we know best – but as they say, times, they are a changin’. And only those who change with them survive.

So, forgive me if I just don’t comprehend the mindset of those who believe this is an issue worth fighting over. I have confidence that like other major social issues in history – we’ll come around on this one. But why do we have to waste so much time, money and energy on getting there? Don’t we have so many bigger fish to fry?

I say we do. Rant over.

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