Saturday, June 13, 2015


My father used to advocate for equal rights for balding, middle-aged printing salesman. He was a man of deeply held beliefs, one of which there weren't many glass houses at which he was afraid to lob a stone or two. He had a long and storied history as a liberal and compassionate person. He was a committed delegate to Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential bid, and supported all kinds of causes that would have made him cozy in any blue state. But he missed being a hippie by a decade or so, and his middle-aged printing salesman buddies in Colorado didn't always see things his way. Which may be why he chose to put his tongue so squarely in his cheek as he made his demand for equal rights.
It was the latter half of the twentieth century, the part that came after "Mad Men." For the first time in American History, the white male, balding or otherwise, printing executive or not, were no longer seen as the simple be all, end all. Somewhere in my father's sarcasm was a trace of the fear that maybe there would come a time when he was no longer at the top of the heap.
And now, as the next century rolls on without him, barriers continue to be broken. Women are running for President of the United States. Sure, there was Geraldine Ferraro back in the day, but my dad was far too immersed in the Rainbow Coalition to be distracted. It is interesting to note that the folks at Wikipedia would like us to know that Ms. Ferraro was "the only Italian American to be a major-party national nominee in addition to being the first woman." We are a nation that prides itself on firsts: First man on the moon. First teacher in space. First electrocution of a criminal. There is a lengthy list of "first woman," "first African American," and "first openly gay," this that and so on. Considering the odds against any of these achievements, set up as they were by the ruling class of middle-aged white guys, they continue to be notable. It should be noted, amid the ever-expanding Republican field of candidates for the 2016 election, the first African-American to run for president was Frederick Douglass back in 1888. As a Republican. 
Things were different way back then. There have been many firsts since then. Latino bisexual disabled veterans remain under-represented, but strides are being made. The balding, white male printing salesman might still have a renaissance. Until then, I will consider each advancement of common sense as a first, and will look forward to a day when being first is mostly important when it comes to the one hundred meter dash. I look forward to a time when men and women are judged by the quality of their character, not by their place in line. It shouldn't matter. 

No comments: