Today is Memorial Day, when we’re supposed to honor those who have fallen in defense of our great nation and its principles. Many will do this by participating in a parade, going to a cemetery, or looking through photos of loved ones buried across the globe.
There are other ways to celebrate the sacrifices that have made America the world’s most radical experiment in free speech and free thought. Remember, it’s not the fact that you were born here that makes America great. It’s the principles that America stands for, struggles with, and protects.
So this week you’ll be honoring those who have fought and died for America when you:
* Use birth control
* Download porn
* Watch the Sopranos or South Park
* Go to a raunchy comedy club or listen to a raunchy CD
* Have non-intercourse sex
* Get a lapdance at a neighborhood club
* Read a gay magazine
* Have sex with someone of a different race
* Write a letter to the editor about same-sex marriage
Every single one of these acts took a court decision to affirm its legality. Many of these required Supreme Court action. Yes, the same historic court that decided the fate of racial segregation, “one man, one vote,” and the 2000 presidential election was needed to decide that whites and blacks could have sex together, and that Americans could legally purchase contraceptives.
When you live your normal life this week—using condoms, watching grownup TV, shopping in private on the internet, enjoying oral sex, ignoring ads for massage parlors in your local newspaper—you’ll be honoring the lives and hard work of thousands of plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, clerks, and volunteers.
These men and women may not have died in the line of duty, but they are on the front lines, serving our country. We have no medals for Bill Baird, Phil Harvey, Mildred Loving, or other heroes who have risked their lives, freedom, and sanity to protect our sexual expression. They fought not against a foreign enemy, but against tremendous pressure right here at home—from tyrannical majorities, powerful minorities, vindictive government agents.
These same elements threaten our basic American rights today.
Like other freedoms, sexual freedom isn’t free. Today, on Memorial Day, let’s remember those mostly-anonymous people who struggled and suffered to make America safer for sexual expression and the commercial and intellectual activities needed to support it.
Some will say that granddad or the local barber didn’t die in Flanders, Gettysburg, or Vietnam so that his neighbor could go see a stripper, or his nephew could buy rubbers or hear Jon Stewart say “dickhead.” I say that that’s exactly why people died to defend America—a special country in which people have the extraordinary right to do, say, and think things of which their neighbors disapprove.