OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Time after time

Brenda Looper
Brenda Looper

Time is weird. It crawls when you're doing something you don't want to do (especially if it's something you have to do, like register your car at the revenue office). When you're doing something you enjoy, it zips by.

Then there are the times you're so involved in an odious task that you don't realize how much time has gone by until you look up and realize you've spent half the day on this, and it makes you angry because not only are you hungry because you missed lunch, but time is only supposed to fly when you're having fun (soooo not fair).

That's the thing about time. The only constant is that it changes, but not because of us; as much as we want to believe in Time Lords (and I really do) and time machines, it's not happening. We can't put the toothpaste back in the tube after it's been squeezed, or make a day longer by changing the clock.

I mean, if you're seriously going to lobby for one time year-round, don't make it Daylight Saving Time ... unless you like the idea of sunrise at 8:30 a.m. in the winter and having to switch to later openings for schools, businesses, etc., for safety, then back once sunrise is again at a reasonable time (just think of the expense!).

We certainly can't go around taking rights from people who fought for them. That doesn't mean some people aren't trying their darnedest to do just that in legislatures across the country. Those eye-rolls you see when someone says "Make America great again" aren't necessarily because of distaste for the person who brought that chestnut from out of the past, but because we know it's not possible to turn back time.

Many of us would love to go back to when those we love most are still alive and when things seemed simpler. However, with the passage of time, you learn, and knowledge is power.

You learn that while things might have seemed simple for you, they weren't for other people of different races, religions, genders and sexual orientation. You learn that issues aren't all that simple and straightforward, but have nuance.

Once you learn some things, there's no way to go back. Before, you could ignore something like discrimination because you were born a white heterosexual Christian male who never had to deal with it, but once you see it and understand--like that just because someone was born a woman, she shouldn't have to fight to be able to vote, or because someone was born gay it doesn't mean they aren't entitled to the same rights--you can't not see it anymore.

That stuff was going on all around you the whole time. You might have been wrapped up in your own life and just trying to survive, so oblivious to what didn't directly affect you, or you might have been conditioned to ignore it, likely by those whose interests were best served by people not noticing it.

There are an awful lot of people who'd like to go back to when some people were seen and not heard--women, people of color, people of religions other than Christianity (as well as some non-standard Christian denominations)--and others were hidden altogether (anyone who was queer), the better to keep up the illusion that everything is happy and uncomplicated.

But time has brought things out of the dark. As time passed, knowledge was added, language evolved, and so did people. People became angry because they--and not because of their knowledge, talent, skills or anything else--didn't have the same rights others did. The rights that some have had from birth, women, people of color and others have fought for and, in time, won. And we still lag in many areas.

Women have run households for centuries, as well as nations in other places, but in the U.S., they've only had the vote for a little over 100 years (which makes Jeanette Rankin's election in 1916 to the U.S. House of Representatives all the more remarkable since it would be four more years before women could vote). Blacks have had the right to vote for longer than women, but had to deal with poll taxes and literacy tests and other means including violence (such as the 1898 Wilmington Massacre) if they tried to exercise that right.

But time is weird. Its passage makes the past not as clear, and we forget the things we should remember, so we do the same things over and over despite learning that they aren't fair or wise. We forget our history at our own peril, which is why there are things like Black History Month and Women's History Month so we'll remember those who won those rights for us. It's also why some people lost their minds when NPR tweeted that Michelle Yeoh was the "first person who identifies as Asian" to win the Best Actress Oscar, forgetting that while past nominee Merle Oberon was part Asian, she hid her heritage to avoid discrimination in Hollywood.

While we can't judge people based on the mores of today, we can judge actions. We now know, among other things, that slavery is wrong, women are capable of more than taking care of the home and family, and our friends of different races, religions, sexual orientations, etc., are the same as us, and should be treated the same.

The time when they weren't should remain in the past.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at [email protected]. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.

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