Happy Birthday


Happy Birthday

I worry sometimes that we see the history of America through our own prejudices. If we are white, and poor, perhaps through the light of the depression; if we are black, through the prism of Jim Crow. If we are gay through the light of perceived disenfranchisement, if we are a woman, we may see a glass ceiling. Hispanics may see opportunity but oppression, Asians see success through hard work, everyone sees groups of people who they are certain think ill of them because they are a “pick a minority.” But we are all part of a minority.

Don’t think so – here’s a partial list and please note that all have been ridiculed because of simply being a member of the group — :

Black, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Arab (pick a variety), Eastern European, Russian, Italian, Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, Rich, Poor, Middle Class, Boomers, young, old, Middle American, a resident of any city outside of (San Francisco, New York., Boston, The Beltway, LA West of the Freeway or South of the Boulevard). How about Indians (American and Asian), Gays, Straights, Southerners, people who like the arts, people who hate the arts, hippies, aging hippies, bikers, right wingers, gun owners, left wingers, the French, Brits, Irish, Greeks, Turks, people with beards, blonds, overweight, white males, women ,underweight, Protestants, Wiccans, people in the parking business, anyone working for an energy company, or who shops at Wal Mart, or reads the National Enquirer or is a vegan, or a meat eater, or a member of Peta, or not a member of Peta. You get the idea.

We see America through the eyes of our little group, and frankly if the damn country can’t protect a Catholic, slightly overweight, white male of a certain age who eats meat, doesn’t care if you own a gun, boomer, in the parking business then what the hell good is it.

But that’s the point, isn’t it. We are all minorities.

Societies evolve. Fifty years ago a black president would have been impossible. Fifty years before that, Jack Kennedy, an Irish Catholic, would have had no chance at the presidency. Sometimes the evolution is bathed in blood (can you say Civil War) and sometimes we don’t even notice (I woke up one day and realized that my Westside LA neighborhood had blacks, old, young, gay straight, professors and electricians, liberals and conservatives, Armenians, Indians, Hispanics, Asians, Brits, blonds, nerds, Mormons, actors, artists, Irish, Jews, rich….. and that’s within a block in each direction.) The aging, Lilly white, neighborhood I move in to 25 years ago had undergone a transformation. No riots, no star chamber meetings to approve new neighbors. It just happened. Sixty years ago a Jew or a black couldn’t buy a house in the small farming community in which I grew up. The cemetery was segregated, for goodness sake.

What made the change? Was it all the “equal this” laws that were passed. Sure that took the codified nature of minority issues out of the government, but it was also the fact that our society matured. I grew up and went to school and found that my roommate and best friend was OK, and a Jew. My peers in college dated blacks and their parents found that the world didn’t in fact come to an end. The Hatfields and the McCoys not only forget what the feud was about, they intermarried and made those holiday parties really interesting.

All this happened in an amazing, imperfect place called America. There were a lot of bumps along the way, some slight and some horrible. And there will be more, forever. It’s the nature of society.

What a wonderful place to live.

Happy Birthday America


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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