Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How About a Hand for J.C. Penney C.E.O. Ron Johnson?

It must be weird to be on the wrong side of history and not know it. It was less than fifty years ago that the passing of the Civil Rights Act gave blacks the same privileges under the law as whites. Even though it was a milestone, there were still scores of Americans opposed to it. One, in particular, was the governor of Alabama, himself. Gov. George Wallace, the highest elected official in the state, stood in that doorway of that school, on that day, and tried to prevent a black girl from entering. Aside from losing the standoff, he wound up making a fool of himself for all eternity. No matter what good he did, he will always be remembered as the bigot who stood in that doorway.

Fast forward to now, there are many among us who, not having learned a thing from history, would stand in that doorway to prevent same-sex couples from walking down the aisle. Some of them are even running for president.

Just a few years ago, it probably wouldn't have even crossed the mind of the marketing folks at JC Penney to use an openly gay woman as their spokesperson. The political fallout would have been suicide for any middle-American C.E.O., and it would've been understandable if the company bowed to political pressure. But, just as social media can do some pretty bad things, it can also make known the general conscience of a nation. And the conscience of our nation says, "The right of gay and lesbian Americans to be treated equally in the eyes of the law is another issue whose time has come."

Of course, there will always be the haters on their "Mission from God," claiming to have a million mothers up in arms over what they did, and threatening to spend the rest of their days making sure Penney's chief exec., Ron Johnson, and his company, suffers for it. They can shout all they want about gay marriage, about homosexual spokespeople, about queer pets or insects, etc., etc. The fact is, The Times They Are A Changin'. Nonetheless, we still should take a moment and applaud Penney's commander-in-chief, for not so much as blinking in the wake of the political storm created by naming Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson. Heck, everyone should go and buy a pair of socks or a sweater to show their support.

Years from now, when every state in the union has recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry, we, as a nation, will look back and shake our heads at those who, in the name of religion, tried to stop their fellow citizens from living with the same privileges and rights they experience, because of their sexual preference. Just as we marvel at the unfortunate ones who opposed the civil rights passage nearly five decades ago, we will remember, with sadness and bewilderment, all those who preferred to side with the angry, the bitter, the misguided, and the shameful.

What those stubborn individuals on today's conservative right fail to realize is that, for all their protesting, all their lobbying, all their campaigning, all their thinly-disguised bigotry and hatred, in the end, it will ultimately be for naught. Because standing in the way of human progress in this day and age is like a farm house standing in the way of an interstate in 1952. Sooner or later, it's gonna get run over, and I'd hate to be standing there when the dozer comes. A marriage is the union of two souls. Not two body parts.

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