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Jewish World Review June 4, 2004 / 15 Sivan, 5764

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

Ladies' Night: An investigation | The name is Spade. Sam Spade.

I was in my office drinking whiskey right from the bottle when the phone rang. It was a bar owner in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I laughed out loud when he told me his problem.

See, on Ladies' Night at his bar, women get in free, but the men pay a $5.00 cover. The concept works: the place gets packed with men looking to meet women and women looking to meet men. Everyone is happy.

Everyone but one fellow.

He felt violated that he had to pay $5.00, while women pay nothing. He filed suit and the New Jersey Director of Civil Rights agreed. The director ruled that Ladies' Night is unlawful.

To investigate how such a wacky "civil rights" ruling could happen in America, I went back to the beginning.

Right in our Declaration of Independence, issued July 4, 1776, our founders declared that all men are created equal. But all men weren't equal then - not when slavery was legal.

America nearly tore itself apart over that issue. The Civil War was about a wide range of issues, state's rights among them, but the primary reason was slavery. Hundreds of thousands died in that war, but when it ended, all men were free.

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But we had a long way to go. In 1955, Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. That was the law in Montgomery, Alabama then -- African-Americans had to ride in the back of the bus and give up their seats to white folks.

Thanks to the peaceful resistance and boycotts led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. segregation was defeated in Montgomery. In 1964, America signed the Civil Rights Act into law, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.

Still, America had a ways to go. In 1961, one African American fellow applied for admission to the University of Mississippi. The school returned his application. The fellow took his case to court and won. But when he tried to go to school, all hell broke loose.

See, a lot of folks didn't want a black man in their school. A mob of 2,000 showed up with guns and bricks and Molotov cocktails. They squared off against hundreds of federal marshals, prison guards and border patrolmen. Violence broke out and President Kennedy sent in 16,000 federal troops to quell the disturbance. More than 160 people were injured, 28 marshals were shot and two people lost their lives -- just so one man could attend college.

It's amazing to me that such events took place only 50 years ago in America. It's also amazing the way our country keeps reinventing itself -- keeps facing down and rooting out what is wrong.

Heck, it wasn't long ago that women couldn't vote and that opportunities to work and prosper were denied them. Another struggle was waged and great progress was made. Though our country is not perfect, many women are doing quite well today.

But what's more amazing is this: that some in America have gotten so selfish and so lost in themselves that they have lost the ability to distinguish between great wrongs in our country and unimportant slights.

Just like the nitwit in New Jersey who filed suit over the $5.00 cover. And just like the American Civil Liberties Union, which used to dedicate itself to large issues, but which now gets mired in too many silly ones.

The director of the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU said, in a USA Today article, that though the Ladies' Night ruling might strike some as silly, where there are opportunities to create equality, we should do so.

Back at my office, I called the bar owner and told him there was nothing I could do to help - that Americans have lost their common sense and that Ladies' Night was gone forever. I suggested he try something safe: "People's Night," something so bland that nobody would file a lawsuit over it.

He thanked me, then hung up. I opened my draw and pulled out my whiskey bottle. I popped the cork and raised the bottle high. "Here's to People's Night," I said to myself. I took a good long swing. I would have laughed if I wasn't so depressed

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© 2004 Tom Purcell