Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What happens to one, happens to all

Last Saturday, I ended up listening to This American Life, and I had a really strong reaction to this week's show. Especially the segment about Serry and her family.

Maybe it's because I had just read Susan Jacoby's book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Or perhaps because I'd just read Jody Picoult's novel Nineteen Minutes, a story about bullying and school shootings.

I think that most of all, it's because I saw how easily what happened to Serry's family -- herself, her husband, and her kids -- could have happened to me. Could still happen to me.

In a country where we have a guaranteed Constitutional right to practice any religion or none at all, and where we each and all have equal protection under the law. Where there's a (wavering) "wall of separation" between church and state, which (theoretically) includes public schools. Where I don't always feel my Constitutional rights are well-honored. Where I can lose my job, my house, my kids, for being a lesbian or being a Witch -- for the gender of my partner and the gender of my Deity. Where the tyranny of the majority often trumps the rights of the individual.

In the situation with Serry and her family, the Department of Justice eventually got involved, at least with the school district. But it was too late: their lives, and their family, had already come apart. Their nine-year-old daughter had lost every one of her friends. The parents separated under the strain. They all moved.

How do we remedy that?

How do we explain it?

How do we keep things like this from happening? How do we protect ourselves and each other?

It's not enough to join or give money to organizations like the ACLU or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. It's not enough to vote in both national and local elections. It's not enough to stand tall.

But those things are good places to start.


da said...

Hm. Your comment in d's journal has a bit different flavour in light of this post.

I should add that I believe very strongly in the secularist acceptance of multiple religions (or lack of religions). Which isn't exactly what I think we were talking about in d's journal; but it's part of what you're talking about here.

I haven't listened to the TAL episode yet; I will do so this week.

sta┼Ťa said...

I also believe very strongly in the secularist acceptance of different religions, including none -- I don't believe an ethical life need be grounded in a religious tradition. Another way to say it: I don't believe someone needs to be religious in order to be ethical. I think that separates me from the religious right and most evangelicals. And growing up in the NW Baltimore neighborhood where I did, I saw that in action every day. It's something I'm grateful for.

I have to go back to d's LJ entry, but one of the things that was really helpful about the comment after mine (yours?) is realizing that we might all be meaning slightly (or dramatically) different things by the words "secularist" and "secularism." I realize a chunk of what I wrote was from the standpoint of Susan Jacoby's definition -- but is that what I really think? Must think about that.

No fair. You now have official sanction to spell "flavour" that way. :)