Opinion: An ideal world

POSTED: 09/20/11 11:56 AM

In an ideal world, everybody is equal. In the real world it doesn’t work that way, even though there is progress. But how does one define progress? That depends very much on goals and beliefs. If the goal is to turn the whole population into devote Christians but in the real world more and more people become Muslims there is no progress. If the goal is, say, to have same sex marriage banned forever, but politicians decide to approve it, there is no progress either – except for the people who support same sex marriage.
In the United States the relationship between whites and blacks has always been problematic. Remember Mississippi Burning with Gene Hackman? That movie gives a pretty good idea about the way a part of the American population viewed blacks in the fifties. More recently, The Help with Emma Stone, viola Davis and Octavia Spencer painted another picture of the ugliness of racism and the resilience of its opponents.
Sebastiaan van der Lubben, the initiator of Election Desk USA that appears in the daily newspaper Trouw, wrote yesterday that in 1958, 4 percent of Americans approved of a mixed marriage between whites and blacks. A recent Gallup poll shows that the approval rate today stands at 86 percent.
Black Americans are more positive about the issue than whites. Most opponents to interracial marriages still live in the traditional south and in general, they are elderly people.
Van der Lubben calculated that the approval rate for mixed marriages increased over the past 53 years by 1.5 percent per year.
Gallup started asking Americans in 1996 about their approval for same sex marriage. In 1996 the approval rate was 27 percent; this year it is 53 percent – an increase of 1.6 percent per year. At this pace same sex marriage will be mainstream in the United States 23 years from now when the approval rate will reach 90 percent.
The question is why these processes take so long. We figure it is a matter of the old guard fading away, to put it nicely, and a new generation with fresh ideas taking over. Generational transitions are nothing new.
When James Dean made the movie Rebel Without a Cause in 1955 governments panicked and the film was banned in several cities in the United States and abroad, for instance in the United Kingdom, certain scenes were cut before it was allowed on the big screen. Today, Rebel Without a Cause is a cult movie that doesn’t upset anybody anymore. James Dean, by the way, died less than a month before the movie was released in a car accident.
Another example of generational transitions, or of the way how perception changes, is the way young men wear their hair. When the rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and the Beatles appeared on the scene with their long hair, this became every mother’s worst nightmare. These days, hairdo is hardly a bone of contention. We see young men wearing their hair like Pipi Longstocking and even though we think it looks rather ridiculous, who are we to comment on it? Nobody does, nobody cares – and maybe that is the most underestimated problem we have to deal with in today’s society.

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