Every religion has its mythic stories. We teach our children in Sunday School classes and we share them during worship services. Our stories inspire us to want to act, and instruct us on how to act.
The mythic stories of my religion involve resistance. But our resistance has not been against tyrants or kings, but against ideas and prevailing social norms. Katarzyna Weigel and Michael Servetus were burned at the stake resisting the idea that every person had to believe what the majority of people believed. When Edward Everett Hale and Lydia Maria Child helped lead the abolition movement, they resisted the dominant paradigm that accepted that some persons can be treated as property. And when Viola Liuzzo and James Reeb died at the hands of racist cowards in Alabama, they resisted the notion that all people do not have the same inherent rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Some generations don’t have the chance to write a mythic story. The great causes arrive only occasionally, and are often not recognized until they are past. But I believe that we are living through such a period right now — a period in which a shadow hovers over the land and whose minions march on many fronts. That shadow is Regressivism. That shadow is the delusion held by some that we need to return to a time that never actually existed — a time during which the masses lived contentedly under the thumb of a benevolent and privileged few.
The Regressive is a cunning adversary. He poses as the polite academician, the well-groomed politician, the business owner from humble roots, the preacher of a loving god. The Regressive promises freedom from fear, freedom from government interference, freedom from immorality. And you pay for these freedoms with sacrifices to the altar of gods of Regressivism. The price? Sacrifice the Other. Sacrifice LGBT folk because they are abominations. Sacrifice women because they cannot be trusted with the responsibility of reproductive choice. Sacrifice the poor because their labor has no value. Sacrifice people of color because they are inherently inferior. Sacrifice your safety because guns matter more than people. Sacrifice the sick, the elderly, the mentally ill, the homeless, the immigrant, and the poor because they are not worthy.
And who resides in this godhead of Regressivism? Greed. Ignorance. Complacency. Power. Lust. Hate. Arrogance. Intolerance. These modern day golden calves demand sacrifices of blood and life and will settle for nothing less. And in return, they offer the banality of cable television, Twitter triviality, and the narcissism of a bloated America that wallows in wealth while half of the world starves.
But how can we fight these gods, whose resources to oppress us seem endless? We start locally and we start small. Throughout Michigan, towns are passing ordinances to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in nondiscrimination laws. Bay County adopted one small piece and Saginaw continues to wrestle with a much broader ordinance. Each time we take up this struggle, the shadow of Regressivism sends forth its soldiers armed with bigotry, a strategy of misinformation and the tactics of fear. The time is coming for Midland to enter the fray. The forces arrayed against us here will be strong, but we will prevail — we must prevail.