My favorite professor I ever had was a guy named Steve Shaw. I learned about him when I first headed off to college, the same college as my oldest brother had attended. When I was getting ready to head to Nampa, Shane offered me one piece of advice: “It doesn’t matter what your major is, Rece. If you can, take at least ONE class from Dr. Shaw.” So when I got to college and saw that the admissions folks had signed me up for math and choir, I dropped them. I also changed the potential classes they’d set up for me for the spring semester and added, “Intro to Political Science” with Dr. Steve Shaw.
That one class literally changed my life. In Shaw’s class, I was encouraged to think and deal and compare the morals and ideals I’d grown up with to the dilemmas I was introduced to in our readings and discussions. When we talked about capital punishment, Shaw talked about empathy, without calling it empathy. We can boast about how we feel about an issue and how we really care about the rights and privileges associated, but when it actually affects us directly, sometimes we change. It’s like the people who claim to be completely against abortions until they one day find themselves in need of this service and they change their opinion for the day. During that semester, I didn’t figure out every belief or idea I had right away, but I did start thinking and over the course of my college career, I developed some strong beliefs that I still hold to this day.
Because Intro to Political Science had been such a hit, I decided that I needed to take another Shaw class before graduation. So during the spring semester of my senior year at NNU, I took a specialized upper-division Poli-Sci class that focused on the Supreme Court Cases that had shaped our nation. It was phenomenal and frightening. It was pretty much the hardest class I had taken during my entire four years (including the semester at Oxford) but it was worth it. For me, it took my passion for history (I was a history minor, by the way) and put it into context for real, ever-changing life issues and situations that would forever evolve because that’s sort of how our nation works, we’re always evolving.
This past week, the Supreme Court Justices started ruling on cases that had been talked about and contemplated by citizens and “professionals” alike. These cases ranged from equal marriage rights, to college admissions, voting rights, and pharmaceuticals. The cases were all important for different reasons. I was fascinated as I read up on the news every day, wondering what the justices were saying and how it would change things.
Things turned out relatively well. We learned many things on this court. Once of these was that the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. For me, this was a no-brainer. I told even my most conservative friends that this made no sense. The Defense of Marriage Act was like a push back to the days of segregation when black and white people were forbidden from marriage, let alone using the same bathrooms. This ruling also made me happy because it made me think that perhaps one day soon I’ll be able to celebrate with Shane and Jim when they get married.
The race cases are interesting to me. I totally believe in diversity and living in a melting pot society, but sometimes, I totally feel like I’m ousted for being white. I’m totally serious. I grew up in Oregon and here in (western) Oregon it feels like people are always incredibly politically correct, we strive for diversity so much that it’s not uncommon to be the only white person chosen for a special group for promotional purposes (just check out Duck Store advertisements). My public high school was situated in a small town in Oregon. The population was pretty diverse. Race wise – there were many Caucasians, Hispanics, and a few African-Americans. But our community was more diverse than what the race card says. Our community was separated by religion, socio-economic status, educational backgrounds, and deep roots vs. transplants in the area. Things were not always easy for people from these different backgrounds. There was prejudice on occasion, but because we were pretty much all stuck together in a small town, we melded together into a small community. By the time I graduated, I didn’t even realize that in my small town that I’d been dreaming of ditching, I had learned to live in a diverse, tolerant community.
This is really what America is supposed to be like. We should all be treated equally. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, education, or job you have, you are American – you should be accepted. That is what the Supreme Court is supposed to ensure. They are the wise judges we place in charge to make sure we are living this “free” American life we are promised by our Constitution. Our country’s revolutionaries fought hard to give us the opportunity to live in a free society where we can practice whatever religion we want and live the kind of life we choose. This is the true American dream – you can change your fate if you want. You don’t have to DO anything (except, of course, pay your taxes) that you don’t choose to do. But there are also responsibilities that come with this. We should learn not to kill one another and we’ve got to know that it’s not ok to enslave our fellow earth dwellers for our selfish desires. Because we’re not perfect, we need others to help watch out for us. That’s what the Supreme Court does. They’re like the elder sibling of the family, making sure the younger kids are getting along and when they don’t, they get to pull the big sister card and tell us how it is. I like this. I appreciate this. And I can’t wait to read up even more about the individual cases and the public’s response to each of the rulings.
Until next time,