The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

In Memorium - Rosa Parks

The Importance of Standing Up (Or Sitting Down) For Your Beliefs

Momentous things can happen when people do seemingly ordinary things at seemingly ordinary times. Without realizing it, they are committing extraordinary acts and create their own extraordinary times.

So it was fifty years ago when a woman simply said, "I am going to sit down right here. No, I am not going to step back off of this bus and walk to the back to sit there. I am a human being, and I have every right to sit where other human beings do."

That act of sitting, and in doing so, asserting one's civil rights, was the trigger event reinvigorating the struggle of a people to secure the full measure of their liberty. A momentous event out of what should be a routine one - sitting on a bus.

Rosa Parks, who passed away yesterday, made an affirmative choice. It wasn't just that she was tired from a long day of working in Montgomery, Alabama. She was tired of having her rights violated on an everyday and continuous basis. She was tired of the daily slap in her face every time she stepped up to ride that bus and was forced if, God forbid, there were white people in front, to step off the bus and walk to the rear door to enter after paying her fare.

So she made a choice. She sat down in a seat of her choosing, consequences be damned.

That's called courage. It was an especially courageous choice to be made by a woman of color in Montgomery, AL in 1955, and it is courageous acts like that which inspire the action of others. Movements are begun, leaders show themselves, causes are advanced, and society changes as a result.

Rosa Parks' act touched off what can best be termed a revolution in this nation - and a revolution over the best of things: the struggle for liberty. The struggle for individual rights. The Montgomery Bus strike was only the beginning. Out of that fire, leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arose. The barriers to racial equality began to come down. This nation was electrified and changes happened.

Because she made a choice.

Susette Kelo made a choice, too. Her rights were being violated by a systemic government policy – and like millions of others, she could have just taken what was being handed to her, and that would have been it. But instead, she decided to stand up – and that simple act has electrified people. A movement has begun to coalesce around that act (and the Supreme Court decision that has affirmed this horrible violation of civil rights). Changes will happen.

Now, I don’t wish to diminish or in any way lessen what Rosa Parks accomplished over her long and distinguished life. Nor am I trying to burnish or puff up what Susette Kelo did. But what I am saying is that many great things begin with the courage to take very simple acts, and it is up to history to weigh their importance in the grand scheme of things. A few months after Rosa Parks sat down on her bus, I’m certain that any writer who equated her act with Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation would have been roundly criticized. It’s only with the perspective of time that we can talk about the two acts in the same sentence.

Who knows what people will write about Susette Kelo’s stand fifty years from now?

The freedom of a society requires the constant vigilance of the people, protecting their individual rights from abrogation by the state. The greatest heroes are those who stand up when their rights are being violated demand justice. And when individuals do this, their acts must be celebrated. There is no doubt that Rosa Parks is at the top of this pyramid. Her memory deserves our highest honor.


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