Saturday, March 01, 2008

sufferin' until suffrage

"Sufferin' Until Suffrage" is a great song. I'm trying to teach the girls all the lyrics to it.

A rather conservative friend of mine complains that the song provides no justification for the anti-suffragette thinking that dominated the nation before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. I can see a simple reason why the doesn't explain why these dour old men thought the way they did: There was no reason for they way they thought. It's a familiar story, really. The System exists the way it does, and at some point, someone notices something is wrong with the System, and they call out in a loud voice, "Why are we doing things this way?" And no one can think of a very good reason, except that It's Always Been Done That Way, and Boy We Sure Were Happy Until You Mentioned It.

Dr. King got a lot of grief over this during the Civil Rights Era. He addressed it beautifully in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. There was simply no reason for segregation, no reason for denying blacks their right to vote, and yet this uppity black man had the gall to insist that the unjust system be stopped, and he outraged plenty of people, mostly because they had no reason for perpetuating the system they had.

I'm sure they had plenty of rationalizations to justify it, just as the establishment had plenty of rationalizations for opposing suffrage.

But no reasons.

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