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NEW, MORE JUST AMERICA RISING

GOP activist Sadie Fields, an ultraconservative Christian, says she is frightened by the prospect of a Brack Obama presidency. As chairman of the Georgia Christian Alliance, she believes other members of the Republican faithful should be scared witless too.

Last week, in an effort to rally the troops, Fields sent out a desperate, last-ditch plea claiming that an Obama victory will mean a "liberal tsunami" that abandons the vision of the Founding Fathers.

"The country I grew up in will be no more," she wrote.

Fields came of age in south Georgia during the 1950s, when black children were not allowed to sit beside her in a schoolroom, when black adults were routinely denied the right to vote, when black men could be lynched for looking a little too interested in a white woman. The specter of a black president didn't even inhabit nightmares at the time, since such an unthinkable prospect was beyond subconscious fears. That's the country she grew up in.

I know a little of that America because I was born in Alabama shortly after the Supreme Court ruled against segregated schools. I remember the culture of Jim Crow, which dictated that black schoolchildren were too dumb to deserve new schoolbooks and that my parents, both black teachers, were too inferior to deserve the same wages as their white counterparts. Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, I attended separate and unequal public schools most of my life.

I do not mourn the passing of that America.

I remember when black Southern families carefully mapped out their road trips, looking for routes that offered up the homes of relatives or friends. Their dollars weren't good enough to buy hotel rooms or service at roadside restaurants.

I do not mourn the passing of that America.

Fields has claimed that she supported the civil rights movement, going so far as to march in a demonstration led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If so, good. But the Methodist church of her childhood, with its strict moral codes, saw no righteousness in King's crusade.

Instead, her parents and her pastor emphasized the narrow beliefs of that time and place: Black and white people do not mix. Schoolteachers should lead their pupils in a proper Baptist or Methodist prayer. Women who conceive children outside of marriage deserve only misery.

I do not mourn the passing of that America.

When Fields discovered that her only daughter, Tess, is a lesbian, she "came over to where I worked, screaming, and told me I was 'dead' to the family," Tess Fields wrote in an essay in the Atlanta Journal- Constitution in 2002. "She called me 'sick,' 'crazy,' and 'of the devil.'"

Sadie Fields, then chairman of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, was successful in her 2002 crusade to pass an amendment to the Georgia Constitution banning same-sex marriage, a proposal that passed in many other states too. Comparing homosexuality to the propensity to murder or steal, she said: "If I was born predisposed to kill or lie or embezzle, I have the obligation to myself to overcome that, because it's not in the interest of the common good."

This year, Americans struggling with mortgages and massive credit card debt aren't letting themselves be distracted by wedge issues. While the Mormon church and other conservative groups are still trying to thwart gay marriage in California and a handful of other places, most surveys show that antipathy toward gays is fading.

A new America - a more just America - rises.

Whether Obama wins or loses, the America in which Fields grew up - preserved as perfect in the amber of her memory - is passing away. The monochromatic America of Christian prayers before football games and New Testament Scriptures read in fifth-grade classrooms; the America of all-white juries, an all-white Congress and all-white classrooms; the America of gay men denied security clearances out of fear they could be blackmailed and of young pregnant women dying from coat-hanger abortions; the America of George Wallace, Phyllis Schlafly and Anita Bryant - that America recedes before a new tide.

I do not mourn its passing.

©Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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