I have to acknowledge how far I’ve come in life. Haven’t so many of us? It helps to pause and look. From the moment I graduated high school and moved out of my parents’ apartment on Gladstone Drive (I used to say, “Happy Pebble Drive”) that same afternoon, I took on the world in an open way. I was curious and unafraid of all that was in it – the endless ways of being in life, from sexuality to ethnicity to poverty to wealth to spirituality to religion. I realized there were men who were attracted to men and women to women and people born ambiguous for any gender at all, only to realize a biological propensity some years later. I saw the music, food, cultural practices and rituals and behaviors of all peoples, from Asian folk on Argyle Street to Mexican-Americans in the Pilsen District to African Americans on the West Side.
I took it all in.
I saw the diverse ways of living and enjoying life, the openness to embrace each day in a completely unique way from my own. I began to realize how hard-working and genuine Mexican-American people were, how sincerely appreciative they were for the opportunity to earn a living wage and provide for their families in the states or back down in Mexico. I wasn’t surprised when our lone African-American carriage driver Joe staunchly refused to work on Sundays because that was, in his culture, a sacred holy day of rest. I came to adore my gay carriage-driving friend, Christopher, and mourned his passing when he died of AIDS. I understood how few chances for a better life he’d had, that he could only find a carriage driving job midlife in downtown Chicago, and suffered from the harsh demands of it.
Later when I sat in university classes at CU-Boulder to learn of tribal cultures with chiefs and rituals of maturing into adulthood or transgender people in Brazilian shantytowns or female circumcision in Africa, I understood the concept of cultural relativism. There were so many more aspects, cultures and ethos. The simple step outward into broader education and travel outside our borders propelled me deeper into life. It opened up my world.
The point is: life on this earth is diverse. Everyone has his or her own way of being. Much of it is biologically determined as with gender and sexuality; others parts, culturally. No human being has the right to dictate the terms of living to another. No one has the right to deprive others — including nonhuman animals – of their fullest expression of health and happiness.
It is the job of our elected officials – our government – to see over all its peoples and animals. It is the responsibility of the empowered to provide and protect for all life, to the best of their ability. To preserve the land for future use by other living, sentient beings, in all its bounty and wildness. To see to the health and well being and happiness of all, humans and non. To operate on a platform of inclusion with the highest level of morality and integrity. To conduct themselves in such ways so as to foster respect – on behalf of and earned from all of its peoples.
Anything less than these standards of behavior is undeserving of the support or attention of the American people. It then becomes our responsibility to see to it that these people so failing to carry out their work in the best manner of all are thrown out of office and replaced by those who can and will.