Stealing a movement

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By Jeffry Gardner

A woman screeched at me recently that the gay rights movement was “exactly the same” as the civil rights movement.
I said it wasn’t and offered some reasons why. Her response? “I’m sure millions of black Americans appreciate your speaking for them.”
Now she could have been sincerely passing along the gratitude she knew millions of African Americans would have for my rising to the defense of the civil rights movement.
But I doubt it.
It had the wanted effect, however. I dismissed her in the same breath that she dismissed me.
She is far from alone in her opinion, of course. Gay activists have long sought to make Americans believe gays, lesbians, et al, have suffered the same myriad miseries throughout their lives as blacks have since this land’s colonization.
It’s true enough that homosexuals and lesbians have been abused and stigmatized, however, the argument that they mirror the fight for equal rights blacks have experienced is weaker than water flowing down the Rio Grande.
A quick check of any local restaurant underscores, in part, my point. What say we look at Chick-fil-a?
During the recent kerfuffle, I ventured into one of these joints to see what all the fuss was about.
Right away I noticed the bathrooms: Men, Women, Gays, Lesbians, Bi’s. Then, at the counter I saw another sign: “Gay and lesbian customers may order food from the back of the restaurant.”
All right, none of that was there. There were no “gays only” drinking fountains. No “gays only” eating areas. Nothing remotely reminiscent of  America from Emancipation well into the 1960s. Or, to put it another way, there wasn’t any indication that society accepts the treatment of gay patrons differently than heterosexuals.  
From a tactical political standpoint, one can understand how badly gay activists want to draw parallels to the black civil rights movement. But it doesn’t work. At least not to the degree they would like.
Nor does it work when the mainstream media play along and allow gay activists to co-opt the civil rights movement into their lexicon. It’s a collusion that diminishes one of  the ugliest, most troubling, yet powerfully triumphant eras in our history.
Just look at a timeline of the African American experience. It starts with men, women and children traded like livestock, and it doesn’t get better for a long, long time. In fact, livestock were quite often treated better than blacks. I am unfamiliar with the gay-lesbian slave trade.
A particularly shameful period in our history came immediately after World War II.
Thousands of African Americans fought against two murderous enemies only to return home and be treated, again, like subhumans.
As a youth I played golf for a small university in Central Texas. During a road trip into the Panhandle, the team went into a local restaurant.
Above the bar were the words: No Charley Pride songs sung here. This was 1975. Upon reading the notice, our coach said, “We’re leaving.”  
I don’t recall ever seeing the words “No Elton John songs sung here” painted anywhere I’ve set foot.
Most of us come pre-wired, I believe, with “live and let live” attitudes. So one wonders how many people, fed up with being lectured to about the matter, have voted for defining marriage as a union of man and a woman union solely out of spite. I raise that possibility because polls find a majority feel gay civil unions – and the benefits that come with that legal contract – are fine.
Perhaps we’ve reached a stage where – during the height of the civil rights movement – it was suggested we judge each other and ask to be judged on the content of our character. Nothing else.
Jeffry Gardner
New Mexico News Service