As Florence Reece once asked — ‘Which side are you on?’

Bertrand Russell, an important voice of the 20th century, once said, “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

So here we are again as our gay community in Susanville faces another round of fear and hatred. Frankly, that saddens me — that people in my own little town could be so intolerant and express that intolerance in such a disturbing and hateful way.

America’s great strength lies in its making an individual’s liberty the cornerstone of our political and philosophical principles. Obviously, everyone cannot be president of the United States — there just aren’t enough elections or years for that — but winning that election is a real possibility for anyone who desires and seeks to pursue the office. Today we freely subscribe to the notion everyone in America is free to live as they see fit as long as they don’t trample on another’s freedom. And that’s the rub here in Susanville, I guess.

Now, I think I understand the impulse of the devoutly religious to further their truth and their ideas on Godliness and the ultimate salvation of one’s soul. My own grandmother was an evangelist who famously neglected her own children to save the souls of others. She said God called her to that mission, so I’m not casting judgment on my grandmother or her life’s work. I rejoice in her contribution to many. I’m just saying I think I understand the all-encompassing religious fervor of some because I’ve seen it in my own family. But a brief examination of history and a cursory survey of current events clearly reveal the injustice and oppression that always arise from the unholy union of religion and government.

I hope those folks can come to recognize those are their individual beliefs that they have every right to hold. I hope they also can recognize others have an equal right to hold different beliefs, and that neither side has the right to impose their beliefs upon the other.

And I think I understand the fear of the unknown. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — I do not understand being gay. I can’t imagine and I don’t want an intimate, physical relationship with another man. That’s me. I’m not surprised gay men have a completely opposite opinion. That’s them.

I do not fear the gay, because there is nothing they can do to change me, and I am just as sure there is nothing I can do to change them. I’m happy to live and let live. Besides that, I have gay members of my own family. Truth be told, you probably do, too. Pedophiles are pedophiles, be they straight or gay. One group has not cornered that market, despite the message suggested on the walls at Lassen Family Services.

Let’s finally face the great,  glorious truth about our country once and for all — America is a work in progress. The Framers didn’t have all the answers and solutions. Instead, they created a system, a process, through which we might be able to discover the humanity within us if we were steadfast enough to honor and further those ideals. We should all remember when the Framers wrote those immortal words in the Constitution in 1787, “We the people,” those noble words excluded all but old, rich, white men. Certainly, we the people did not include the indigenous population numbering in the millions that would soon suffer a terrible American genocide in every portion of our great nation (even right here in good old Lassen County), or the human beings who were forced to this land against their will as slaves to be bought and sold at auction like livestock, whom the Constitution said should be counted as only 3/5 of a human being, or even our women who attained the right to vote just 103 years ago in 1920 but still can’t to this day get an amendment passed proclaiming their gender is, in fact, equal to the other one. My God, folks, we haven’t even gotten that far! Some might call me an evil commie for spouting this so-called critical race theory. Instead, I say if we have the courage to acknowledge our mistakes, we have an opportunity to learn from them.

Some among us want to drag us back to an imaginary, utopian reality that never really existed when we were all  perfect and completely the same, a time when there was no racism or poverty or societal concerns of any kind in our great land. It’s time we forget about trying to return to a time and place and a society that never existed. We’ve come too far, accomplished too much and made far too much progress in terms of individual liberty to ever turn back to that view now.

It’s time we recognize our own individual parts in our slow and painful march to realize the ultimate dream of true equality for everyone. We only have this moment to push freedom and equality forward into the future. Or not. I humbly pray we do not falter and fail. Today, our choice is pretty clear. As activist Florence Reece asked us in her 1930’s song that became an anthem during the Civil Rights movement, “Which side are you on?”