Saturday, June 27, 2009

On The Soap Box For Liberty

Independence Day is coming in a week or so. Do we deserve the rights and liberties we aren't willing to fight for?

Having recently seen “Food Inc.” and being keenly aware of the struggle of my gay friends for the right to marry, I have been suspended in a state of ambivalence regarding my ability to act on either of these grand issues of our American freedoms and rights. As I volunteered to see our president win an unlikely election I felt a surge of vitality that I am sure is dormant in all of us. But this is not the time to sit back and let oppression by the greedy and the fearful damn us to lives of lesser quality than that which we are granted equal access to by our constitution.

From bullying farmers out of the right to grow what they want to grow and, by natural progression, our right to eat the healthy food we may prefer to eat, goliaths like Monsanto force us to accept a potential health holocaust as what seems like inevitability looms on the horizon, silently threatening our children as we merrily keep eating and feeding them whatever we’re served. At the Shopright today I wanted to vote with my wallet - as the film encouraged me to do - and avoided processed foods, chemicals like preservatives and artificial flavors, bought only wild caught fish and organic beef. My daughter's birthday is in a week or so and I wanted to buy organic cake mix. No problem. But organic icing? No can do. After some frustration I turned to icing from scratch and picked up a can of Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder. Great, I thought, looking for the ingredients to make sure there were no preservatives or artificial flavors. I looked and looked and became very frustrated! Finally I found these two little words: "Ingredient: cocoa." Period. I almost started crying. A recipe on the back tells me how to make lovely all-natural frosting! I feel like I'm on the road to taking real responsibility for my body and what goes into it, for the first time in my life.

And for our gay friends – the mere concept of banning love when countless “proper” relationships result in divorce, when heterosexual fathers are abandoning their children, beating their wives, and other atrocities occur daily in the “sanctioned” marriages across the US – this horrifies me. How can we sit by and allow love to be unlawful when the right of a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, and the security of a partner, are the very core of the simplest “free” pleasures in life that money cannot buy… and yet we’ve made that security against the law?

In an editorial piece in AM New York last week, Lamont Hill pointed so eloquently to the obligation we must embrace of continuing to acknowledge that we must sacrifice comfort to fight for our liberties, as has always been the case. Those that came before us marched, protested, walked out of jobs, sat in the streets to wrest liberty from the grasp of domineering bullies who – since time began – would continually run roughshod over others to have their way if someone were not willing to stand up and sacrifice a little comfort to see them defeated.

At my daughter’s Montclair State University commencement last month, Newark Mayor Corey Booker was a keynote speaker. He so beautifully and so appropriately quoted Dr. King, and I apologize for paraphrasing but I don’t have time to research this, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability. It is carried in on the shoulders of those willing to fight and to die for it.” Amen.

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