Seismic Cultural Shifts and Rifts

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Lately, it’s felt pretty good to be a Democrat. From the momentous decision to legalize same-sex marriage to calls for the removal of the Confederate flag, we have seen signs of significant progressive cultural shifts across our nation. The last month alone has witnessed the defense of an expanded healthcare system, the Pope acknowledging the human cause of climate change, and the country welcoming the new identity of trans woman Caitlyn Jenner.

Along with those shifts has come the exposure of underlying rifts across the Southern states in the form of church burnings and courthouse standoffs. Recently affirmed civil rights will be tested and tempered by entrenched opponents on all fronts, so that even as the celebrations fade, the fight is again heating up. Just the other day, a business owner in Tennessee put a sign on his store window that read “No Gays Allowed.” Let’s not forget that businesses in most American states can still fire someone for being LGBT.

While the White House was recently bathed in rainbow lights, and the law finally reflects the majority of Americans who support marriage equality, there will continue to be aggressive pushback. States like Texas and Louisiana have refused to give out marriage licenses. Even in a progressive place like San Diego, where most Republicans claim to be moderate, we have a County Clerk who tried to use taxpayer money to stop marriage equality in 2013. And San Diego County GOP Chair Tony Krvaric’s response to the SCOTUS ruling was to retweet a Republican National Committee statement that emphasized “traditional marriage” and “religious liberty.” If the head of the Party believes these things, it’s likely that Tea Party Republicans share his views, while so-called “moderate” Republicans give lip-service support to equality issues in public and revert to pleasing their base behind close doors.

The calls for the removal of the Confederate flag by conservative Republicans like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham have been another major pivot. This is a welcome sign of the loosening of the stranglehold that racist bullies have held for over a centuryAt the same time, discussions about the “stars and bars” have also provided a distraction from the real issues of racism and gun violence in America.

The surge in the awareness of police violence against African-Americans, combined with the massacre of innocents in a historic African-American church by a white racist, have seared the link between racism and gun violence into our nation’s consciousness. This conversation is long past due. Will it lead to real progress this time? The fact that the media were slow to acknowledge the rash of black church burnings across the South, instilling renewed fear in African American communities, seems like 1950s deja-vu, not 2015 progress.

We are seeing the throes of a country and a culture in transition, with people lashing out as they cling to a their experience of a very familiar America and a fear that it is slipping away.

But we are not going back. We will continue to fight for a more equitable and more perfect union. We must stand taller than ever, tireless advocates and vocal allies, united in the strength of our core beliefs. History will show that what we cherish as Democratic values are ultimately American values: equality, opportunity, prosperity, and sustainability for all.

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