“If you support the founding document [The Constitution of the United States of America] then you must also support giving equal rights to all U.S. citizens”--Marilyn Alexander and Gil Caldwell, founders of Truth in Progress, a national project created to promote cross-cultural understanding around issues of race, sexual orientation, and religion. The struggle for equality often gets pushed to the background when personal issues demand our time and attention. Pushing equality to the background is especially easy to do if you are Caucasian, straight, and gainfully employed, easy to do if you—by law—are receiving the benefits and the rights you deserve as a tax-paying U.S. citizen BUT…
That BUT is huge. And like all HUGE butts, especially when our own, we want to ignore it, we try to ignore it, it’s easier to ignore it, because doing something to change it requires honesty, effort, and commitment.
Fortunately for us, for the United States of America, a country founded on the principle that all people have certain purportedly “self-evident” and “unalienable rights” BUT where—for reasons of economics or bias or non-separation of church and state—all of our tax-paying citizens “unalienable rights” are not recognized, Marilyn Bennett and Gil Caldwell are not ignoring that huge BUT. The team, long-time friends and activists, have launched a three-year multi-media educational project, Truth in Progress, which aims to link gay rights and civil rights through a common interactive platform. “The fight for civil rights, and acknowledging equal rights, is always the same story,” Caldwell notes.
Truth in Progress continues what began in 2003 as an “extensive email exchange” during which Montana-based author Bennett and Caldwell, a retired United Methodist minister, shared “their personal life experiences of being black/white, straight/lesbian, older/younger, with cane/without cane, and male/female.” With the help of a $15,000 seed grant from the Rhodes and Leona Carpenter Foundation and the Montana Human Rights Network, their conversation is expanding to include interviews with activists and community leaders in cities significant to the Black Civil Rights and LGBT Rights Movement. (A feature length documentary will be released in 2013.) “Their common fight is a push to realize the full potential of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a document, they agree, that grants equality to all people regardless of race and sexual preference.”
“BUT we are the United States of America” we say, popping our heads out from under our cozy king-sized comforters. “Here, everyone is created equal. It’s written right there in our Constitution. Everyone is “...endowed by their Creator the same unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Isn’t that enough? Can’t we all just go along and get along? Live and let live?”
Sure we could, if this were the case BUT…
As a nation, we pledge allegiance to the Constitution, we support its tenets civically and fiscally, with our lives and our tax dollars, BUT we apply it selectively. We deserve the capital letter E brand of Equality, granting the same rights for every citizen to lawful union; rights to benefits; rights of survivorship; rights to dignity and respect.
We need this conversation to continue; support Truth is Progress.
*In 2007, some of these exchanges were published in a limited edition, Truth in Progress: Letters in Mixed Company.