Michelle Obama broke two rules in Arabic/Muslim culture on the day prior to nine black men who broke a rule about sitting at a lunch counter in North Carolina had their convictions overturned 54 years after the incident.
Simple gestures can result in earth-shaking changes.
We will see–in time–what Mrs. Obama’s move did to embolden women in Saudi Arabia and other oppressive societies.
Women in Saudi Arabia have already been annoying people: daring to drive a vehicle. Seeing a President’s wife go without a head scarf must feel awfully affirming.
Nothing done by a First Lady nor her husband is without calculation. If the Saudi royals and oligarchs were upset by her going without a head scarf and wearing a pants suit instead of a dress–well, tough. That’s the process. People are moving on. Progress can’t be on hold until everybody “gets it.”
A lot of people haven’t been able to take a President who is African-American. There are times when those who are holding back from moving into the future are simply going to have to be upset. Others aren’t waiting for them to catch up.
Likewise, state legislators all over the United States are seeing their anti-gay laws overturned by the courts. Same-sex marriages are going forward.
The simple gestures lead to progress, because they are the easiest for everybody to understand–and the most difficult to oppose: simply sitting at a lunch counter…simply wanting to vote…simply choosing not to wear a head scarf…simply wanting to marry the person you love…Opposition comes off as laughable.
In a docu-drama about Lyndon B. Johnson that aired on TV some years ago, there was a scene where he was a Senator, and he was talking to a colleague from Alabama. Johnson said, a member of his staff–a black woman–was driving through Alabama, and had to use a rest room. She couldn’t find any place in that Senator’s state that would allow her to use a public rest room. Johnson snarled, “And so an employee of the Majority Leader of the United States Senate–had to squat by the side of the road!”
The future President added, “Now either YOU change it, or WE’RE going to!”
The simplest things are the easiest to understand–and the most difficult to oppose.
Eleanor Roosevelt–herself a dynamo for change–once cautioned a group of young idealists: Change only occurs in small steps.
But progress DOES occur. Especially with simple gestures. The simpler a gesture, the easier to understand, the more difficult to oppose–a step is taken.