It's interesting the things you see repetitively every day, but those things never actually register in your mind until one day, something inside you is touched. Today it was the American flag. I drive around most days of the week, as I'm a home hospice nurse working in a huge county in Washington. I spend a considerable amount of time in my car so I read bumper stickers daily, and try to figure out what people's personalized plates mean. Since September 11, 2001, people have been sporting American flags on their cars, their homes, their hats--pretty much anywhere people can see that they are proud to live in this country. I was one of those people; I had a flag sticker on my car, too.
I'm Not a Proud AmericanToday, I came to realize that I am not proud to live in this country. As I pondered why looking at that American flag bumper sticker was causing such a rush of emotion, it occurred to me: I am an American. I was born here, my parents, grandparents, and I think even my great grandparents were born or at least raised in this country. For the first 8 years of my schooling, we got up every Monday morning and said the Pledge of Allegiance. It never bothered, actually, I never really thought about it, until today.
I've been employed, in some capacity since I was 14 years old. I've been paying taxes and contributing to social security for more than half my life. I have made Uncle Sam a very happy camper--he's accumulated a hefty chunk of my hard earned cash, just as anyone else who's ever worked in this country. Here's where it becomes difficult for me. An American citizen has certain rights and responsibilities, and therefore is entitled to certain liberties as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. I never had reason to question that until Catherine died.
We Paid Our Taxes, Like Everyone ElseWe are both American citizens. We both worked hard since we were young. We both went to college and attained college degrees so that we could be productive citizens and contribute to our society. We both volunteered in our communities, and never once questioned our belonging in this society. But we should have. As taxpayers, law abiding citizens, voters, and hard working women, why is it that we are not equal in our society? I am in the process of raising two daughters who will become tremendous young women, and will not be dependent on the government for money; they are strong, independent, and intelligent young ladies. They will complete college, establish careers, and pay their debts to society just as we all do.
What I am experiencing today is such a deep betrayal by the country I have been pledging allegiance to all my life. We went to Canada and got married, because our country of origin denied us the right to do so. When Catherine and I returned to the United States, our union was not and would never be recognized. Many heterosexuals have gone to Canada and got married, and returned to the U.S. with all the rights and privileges of a married couple, allowed by the United States government. Why is that? How is their love any more sacred or valid than ours was? We returned "home" to be discriminated against--we knew that going into it.
The benefits that are simply assumed in a marriage of a man and a woman, are absent for two people of the same gender that marry one another. Of course, one would say, gay people could go to Massachusetts and get married, but do they know that the moment those married gay or lesbian couples leave Massachusetts their marriage is invalid? That they have to be residents of that state to be married there? Do people know that a gay couple could get married, then a straight couple could get married by the same justice of the peace, the same day even--and the gay couple would have absolutely no rights outside the state of Massachusetts. I wonder how many people realize that those newly married couples don't and won't get 100% of the rights of heterosexual married people. And let's not even get started on the joke that is a civil union. Those utilizing the civil union laws, get only a trickle of the rights that married people get.
So I say to myself, "What in the world am I doing in a country where I am paying money to be a second class citizen?"...(keep reading...)