This morning on Good Morning America, Rand Paul opined that the “flap” over his views concerning the role of government in protecting the civil rights of Americans has been a product of the 24 hour news cycle and that he’s not opposed to civil rights, thank you very much, end of story. He also whined “Where was my honeymoon?” –apparently believing that having been nominated to run for national office, he should be free from having to answer questions about his beliefs. What Dr. Paul should be learning in this instance is that there is no honeymoon for civil rights. People who hail from historically marginalized groups understand all too well that every day, every hour, they must continue to fight for their inclusion in America’s public square. In my own case I recall how, in 1998 I had a triumphant “book launch” event at the flagship Barnes & Noble store in New York City. The event was filmed by NBC’s “Dateline” which was doing a story on the book. What a heady moment this was for me. Like most writers I’d worked in seclusion, sometimes without a job, often insecure about my efforts. Now I was standing before TV cameras and a large audience in New York.
I wonder Dr. Paul if you can imagine what it then felt like for me when I returned to that same book store only 8 months later. I returned in the company of a friend who is also blind and who, like me, travels with a guide dog. We were detained by security as we attempted to enter the store and were told we had to leave. Dogs weren’t allowed. We asked to see the manager who arrived after some delay and who grudgingly admitted us to the store but only after we made it clear that the right to travel with a guide dog is protected by both federal and state laws and that this right pertains to private businesses as well as the subway system. The store’s manager was mean spirited and he offered us no apology. He simply walked away.
I wonder Dr. Paul if you can imagine what it felt like to be so thoroughly humiliated in a store. People watched as we conversed politely with the security guard and the manager, but they were looking for drama, as if the proscenium arch of the sixth avenue Barnes & Noble was just another diversion. Dr. Paul have you ever had your rights questioned in public? Where was MY honeymoon? The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and I can assure you that every day, every single day, there is someone with a disability (a war veteran, a child with autism, a person blind from birth who travels with a dog) who must file a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Department of Justice because he or she has been told to go away.
There is no honeymoon for civil rights. The fight for equality and dignity cannot yet be consigned to a quaint museum where laws are unnecessary.
In your world view Dr. Paul, I surely have the right to go to another book store, one that’s more enlightened as it were. In your world view the book seller should also have the “a priori” right to sell books or to not sell books depending on the nature of the customer.
Imagine what it would feel like to travel all day and not know which door will admit you. Can you imagine that, Dr. Paul?