We hear and read many comments about freedom, but seldom do they include note of the addition of an overdue right. Usually, the chatter involves a perceived loss of freedom or a plot to deprive Americans of freedoms — not attainment of a right by deserving citizens.
Public dialogue in Pagosa Country is often dominated by voices touting ego-driven concerns when it comes to the topic of freedom. We hear from people whose aim is to broadcast political messages with a barely concealed racist text, and from some who claim to speak for the masses, trumpeting a political message that barely obscures selfishness and fear.
Go to the Internet and the situation is magnified; we are becoming a nation of web surfing idiots who characterize themselves with superficial memes, devour all manner of unsubstantiated “truth,” avoid the fact we are a nation of laws — laws that change in accord with a long-established practice. The Internet experience often obscures the fact that it is not self-consumed and untutored legal interpretation of founding documents that defines us as American, possessing freedoms unknown in much of the world; rather, it is cooperative effort, encouraged by the right of free expression, fueled by a willingness to adapt and compromise, that allows us to mobilize assets and efforts for the common good.
A barrage of opinions from those who hide prejudice with piety and selfish fear behind the patriot’s mask is unproductive. And, unfortunately, a steady focus on the missteps of government, (we, too, are sometimes guilty here), though justified, can lead to the conclusion that there is no positive, productive future for the community, for the nation. When we focus too often on the follies of public officials, we lose sight of the prospects for longterm, positive change and we are apt to miss such change when it occurs.
So, it is with satisfaction that we note something that buoys the spirit and indicates that we do make progress regarding freedom. An event took place last week in Pagosa that shows that many of us are eager to expand human rights, encouraging a culture in which new freedoms flower.
At midnight on May 1, civil unions for gay and lesbian couples became legal in Colorado. The state joined eight others with similar laws, and nine —as well as The District of Columbia — that permit gay marriage. The first civil union license was issued here last week, with two of our fellow Pagosans legally recognized, at long last, as a loving and dedicated couple worthy of the same rights extended to partners in a marriage.
There are, no doubt, some who blanch at this: that a same-sex couple’s relationship would be legitimized. These folks tend to dismiss the failure of many “regular” marriages, and turn a blind eye to the horrors and disappointments that too many “traditional” couples create and endure. They ignore the fact that individuals of the same sex, together for many years, if not decades, have outlasted many married couples and, at the very least, should not be denied critical legal rights.
Now, civil unions are available to many Pagosans (gay, lesbian and straight) and we extend our congratulations to those whose lives together can now take on a new and necessary dimension. Two Pagosans took that step last week, and we have no doubt that many more will follow. This is concrete freedom, unburdened by sublimated frustrations and anger, absent ego-driven agendas, characterized by love and companionship. It is the kind of freedom that makes us truly strong.