Thursday, October 4, 2012

Small Choices

I've always thought that if I had lived in another time in history, I would have been an abolitionist, a Suffragette, a civil rights supporter, or whatever other label would be applied to someone who, at their time, was standing up against injustice.  Oppression and discrimination have always made my heart heavy.  I feel the need to do something.  To not, through my silence, grant approval.  I can't disguise my frustration and disgust in the face of inequality. 

I’ve come to believe that the struggle for the equal rights of those in the LGBT community is something I need to support.  When I really step back and envision myself in their shoes, I feel like I have a rock in my stomach and can't take a deep breath.  I may not be out there on the front lines with a sign and chanting for the news cameras, but I often feel that tug on my heart and cannot stand how my fellow citizens are too often treated horribly because of who they are, especially when hateful words and actions are cloaked in some kind of religious argument.

Recently my oldest son came home from school with a print-out about Boy Scouts.  Another boy in his class participates and he really, really wanted to join.  I told him we would think about it.  The more I thought about it though, the more I was bothered by the BSA exclusion of LGBT persons and began to doubt if participating in the organization was a good idea for us. 

I will pause here to make two points:  First, I recognize that as a private organization, it is the right of the BSA to make determinations about who is eligible for participation;  Even if I do not agree with their determination, I affirm their right to make it.  Second, I do not have a bad view of people who have participated in or currently participate in BSA activities.  This is not a judgment on those people, just a personal choice about the organization and its leadership for my family and me.

I know it might seem like this should have been a simple decision, but it was not.  If you knew my very reserved and introverted son, you would know what a huge deal it was for him to take such an interest in something and how very difficult it was to tell him no on this. 

I also wondered if my not letting him participate due to my beliefs on the matter was not the appropriate response.  As much as I truly believe in equality in this matter and that what I believe about it is "right," I still struggle with how that works when making choices for my kids.  I remember when I was 12 or 13 and my mom took my sisters and me to a Democratic political rally to hold up "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart" signs across the street in protest.  I contemplated if my not letting Luke do Boy Scouts because of my beliefs was somehow similar to my mom using her kids to help with an abortion protest.  I certainly hope that my kids grow up to be adults who take a stand for equality, but is denying them something they really want because of my stand on the matter the best way to teach them that?  In the end, I decided that if it were the way my child is or my relationship with my child’s other parent that were keeping him out of an organization, I would think that others keeping their kids from participating was an appropriate show of their disagreement with the way I was being treated.

It may be just a tiny thing, not something that anyone would think makes any difference.  I didn’t march down to the school, waving a banner, and give all the people signing up a piece of my mind.  I didn’t loudly protest to everyone within earshot the injustice I see in this type of discrimination.  But in the end, I decided I had to go with my belief that the commands that I follow to love my neighbor and treat others as I would want to be treated means taking a stand against discrimination.  I had to say no.  I truly believe that there will come a day when good will win out and discrimination against the LGBT community will not be tolerated.  Yes, it will come partly through protests and rallies and lobbying congress, but it will also be ushered in through the small choices we all make – in the voting booth, in the support we give to organizations that promote equality and withhold from those who don’t – in the choices we make for ourselves and our families. 

As Dr. Richard Beck so eloquently put it, “Goodness is, perhaps, more banal than heroic. Goodness is achieved through a million small acts of kindness, goodness, and generosity. Goodness is achieved through a million small acts of subversion, resistance, and protest. Millions of small Yes's and millions of small No's.”

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