The arc of history: An open letter to Jay McNamar

I’d hoped to share these thoughts with McNamar in person, but it’s now unclear that he’ll be coming to town today, so I’m sending them instead.

Last week I saw “42” at the movie theatre here in Morris. It’s a powerful portrayal of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey’s breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball, an important early step in a historical arc that runs within living memory from the service of blacks in WWII through school desegregation, the Civil Rights Act, and the election of Barack Obama as President.

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice. — Martin Luther King

Growing up in Texas in the 60s & 70s, gays were almost completely invisible, even more invisible than than the black maids that came across from the other side of town in the morning, and disappeared back in the evening. Our son grew up in the 90s and 00s here in Minnesota with numerous openly gay friends; another arc is playing out across the social and political landscape. And like the arc Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson helped bend towards justice, this new arc will play out over time. Just as women eventually won the right to vote, and a black man was elected President, we will eventually decide that the secular, legal idea of marriage is more about love and commitment than it is about gender.

So the question is, what role do you want to play when that movie is made? When our children and grand-children look back at this moment, will they see you on the right side of that arc, or as a supporter of the frightened, shrill, bitter voices that are the contemporary version of those hurling insults at Robinson?

You are our elected leader, and the history books will record your name next to that vote, not mine. You will certainly have to explain your vote in the months to come, but you also have to explain it in the decades hence. As the arc continues to bend, a vote for humanity and inclusion is going to be a lot easier to explain, and probably a lot easier to live with.

I most earnestly urge you to vote in favor of expanding the legal right to marriage, and wish you the best in your deliberations.

Sincerely,

Nic McPhee

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