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.


Nic McPhee

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How do we wish to be remembered (again): Vote No tomorrow

How do we wish to be remembered?

Looking back, it can be hard to imagine why people in the past just didn’t get it. Why they thought women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, and why blacks and whites couldn’t use the same restroom, or the same school.

The people that voted to supported these old ideas were not all Bad People going out of their way to work against the rights of others. I know some where my relatives, and I’ll bet that some were yours. Certainly, there were plenty of small-minded, mean-spirited people leading the charge, but they depended crucially on the passive support of numerous well-meaning folk who mostly just didn’t want to rock the boat or weren’t very comfortable with change.

Tomorrow in Minnesota we get a chance to vote on whether our state constitution should be amended in an attempt to block all future efforts to allow gays the human & civil rights of marriage, & the legal protections it affords. As you consider this amendment, it might help to ask yourself: How do I wish to be remembered? As someone who quietly stood with those who would limit the freedoms of those different from themselves, or with those who believe in liberty and justice for all?

And let us be clear: This is a human rights issue.

Sue & I have been married for over 20 years and she has been a full, equal, & wonderful partner in building our shared life. Her creativity and passion flows through our child, our home, and the experiences we’ve shared. I would hope that our community would recognize this and support her associated rights, which include critical things such as health coverage, our pension, and her right to speak for me regarding medical treatment. If, however, someone didn’t recognize her rights, she would have the legal backing of the state of Minnesota, which ensures the human and civil rights of a spouse in numerous ways.

Why should any committed couple be denied these same rights, regardless of their genders?

Which brings us back to the question: How do we wish to be remembered? Do we want to be remembered as supporting a last, desparete gasp of a group attempting to deny yet another group a basic human and civil right? Or do we want to be on the right side of history tomorrow, knowing, win or lose, that we voted to treat our fellow travellers humanely, with courage & justice?

So I urge you to Vote No. It’s a vote your grandchildren can be proud of.

I would also strenuously encourage you, for many of the same underlying reasons, to vote no on the proposed Voter ID amendment. I recommend that you check out Guante’s excellent video on the Voter ID amendment if you wish to learn more:

You might also want to check out MPR’s nice video on the huge amount of vagueness and uncertainty there is in the proposed Voter ID amendment:

So go vote tomorrow. It matters. I know that the weird math of the electoral college can make it seem like voting for president doesn’t matter unless you live in Ohio or Pennsylvania or Florida. And it can seem like incumbents have a lock on everything. But on either of these amendments, it could literally come down to a few votes. So don’t say your voice doesn’t matter. Don’t say you don’t have time. Don’t say no one cares. Instead be a voice, however small, for a more humane world.

Vote No on both proposed amendments.

How do we wish to be remembered?

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