Tuesday, February 20, 2018

No more Mr. Nice Guy

Our young people feel betrayed.

Youngsters are getting murdered at a sickening rate. After the Florida high school attack, survivors are angry. They are speaking out, staging sit-ins and planning protest marches. 

Their elders have abandoned them. As one of those elders, I am ashamed of my country. And I see myself as one of the good guys. I've worked for decades to derail the nefarious plans of crackpot right-wingers. I have allies in the fight. Fellow travelers, in the terminology of the Red Scare 1950s. In a small place such as Wyoming, we tend to know one another. Right now, we have our eyes on a state legislature dominated by wingnuts. I would say wingnuts from the hinterlands, but some of the worst ones are from the state's most populated county -- Laramie. My county. 

Sad to say, being a good guy is not enough. 

The children can teach us. Today, 100 teens from Parkland, Fla., got on a bus and took their pleas to their legislators in Tallahassee. We send them our thoughts and prayers. Scratch that. Thoughts and prayers have already been tried. I send my anger with them. They will confront a building filled with earnest faces.  Good guys -- mostly guys. They are involved in their churches, love their wives and children, are kind to animals, and care for the state of the nation.

Sad to say, being a good guy is no excuse.

To paraphrase Jesus: "You will know them by their actions." Matthew 7:20: "...by their fruits you shall recognize them." These legislators, many of them from rural America, are good Christians and read the Bible. Perhaps they neglected this section of Matthew. To use another phrase, "actions speak louder than words." What are their actions? They rail against immigrants. They demonize their LGBTQ neighbors. They cut food and medical benefits for those who need it most. They hatch plans to stop blacks and Hispanics from voting. They cut funds to education. They give carte blanche to gun dealers. 

You know them by their actions. So why do you keep voting for them? I ask these questions of Wyomingites, too. Florida may be in the news but we are seeing some ridiculous behavior in our own reps. In Wyoming, we are looking at a bill to allow conceal and carry in churches. Really? Have these people no sense of right and wrong? Didn't they get their butts paddled if they lied and cheated and bore false witness against their neighbors? Didn't they get Atticus Finch or Andy of Mayberry-style lectures when they broke the rules? They show no evidence of this. Apparently, you can't trust the words of good guys.

Our children and grandchildren now show us the way. I am not going to rain on their parade. Tread carefully, I could say. Be patient. After all, the world won't change with one fit of outrage, one speech, one march. But they will have to discover these hard facts as they work for change. 

As many aging activists will tell you, the struggle for black civil rights took hundreds of years. Women's Movement veterans can tell you the same thing. The struggle for gay rights didn't begin with Stonewall. Environmentalists have been publicly advocating for change since the first Earth Day in 1970.  But those battles have been going on a lot longer as people discovered that their fate is tied to that of the planet. 

This is beginning to sound like a graduation speech. I apologize. Aging good guys see themselves as founts of wisdom even though they may be just tired and afraid. I advise you -- wear sunscreen and don't take any wooden nickels.  

And don't let the good guys get in your way. 

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