Cory Booker is the mayor of Newark. I’ve seen him on other occasions and he is articulate and, from what I’ve seen, fearless, a rare combination today in politics. In this excerpt he’s talking about gay marriage.
No, that’s not right. He’s talking about equality. And that’s what is at the heart of so much today. Listen:
He says what I believe. Being an American, to me, means something very basic and unequivocal. Equality is not a commodity, available for a price, which some folks can afford more of than others. it comes with the territory and the idea that we still, after all this time, have to have special legislation to defend various aspects of what should be presumed without question irritates me.
His remark about the utility of popular votes is also spot on. We like to assume democracy is applicable in all cases, but it is not. This is one reason we have a republic rather than a full-blown democracy. A democratically empowered republic, yes, but in a republic the passions of the moment do not hold sway, or should not. Lest anyone thinks otherwise, for a vast portion of this country slavery existed by dint of popular mandate. So did the chattel condition of women. While it may be true that these things would have (and did) erode in time, that is not the same as saying democracy worked. Other factors were involved, but in the case of slavery a war had to be fought in order to enforce what ought to have been recognized as a fundamental right.
Americans are no different in many ways than any other person on the planet. We have our foibles, our prejudices, our blindnesses. Many of us really don’t think through the meaning of our convictions and in some uncomfortable areas we would rather the issue never come up than have to deal with it. And doubtless a great many of us want to feel special if not superior in relation to others. We have many euphemisms for those with whom we wish to have no association, and most of them are class-based, some are race-based, others are behavior-based. None of them should be permitted to dictate legal status.
Equal means equal. Until we internalize that, breathe it like the very air we take for granted, we will continue to suffer the kind of strife that often renders our politics abusive and fruitless.