Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sounds of Silence

Image from SodaHead

Warning: Some of this may be offensive to some readers. For example, the incredible misspellings in a quoted Facebook status. Or maybe even the notion that someone can be so young and so bigoted. Read at your discretion. goes.

I have been extremely unsettled since I read a young man's status post on Facebook the other day. He wrote - no, wait. Let me share an interesting post (yes, it is related; I am not going off on a tangent) I read at Militant Ginger: Why do Christians hate Gay People?

Don't feel like clicking the link and reading the whole piece? Okay, slacker, I'll give you a good quote from it:

While certain Christians were instrumental in securing Civil Rights for African-Americans, the core support for racial segregation across the United States came from the majority of 'decent,' normal, Church-going Americans. The same people who are now protesting against gay marriage.

In fact, the scriptural arguments were quite similar, too - with the 'mark of Cain' often being interpreted as dark skin, thereby offering scriptural evidence to support the assumption that black people were spiritually inferior to whites.

Such scriptural interpretations were clearly just cynical attempts to hide racism and bigotry behind the legitimacy of religion. I honestly don't see how the Christian position on homosexuality is any different today.

The recent case of Constance McKinnen's prom (Don't know what I'm talking about? Have you been living in a cave?) illustrated a depressing demonstration of hateful homophobia by Christian churchgoers. Go over to Wisenheimer for a funny take on this story. No, really, go over there now and read it. I will wait.

That Courtenay has a way with words, doesn't she? Yes, this is related to what I began telling you about. It's not a tangent, I swear.

Okay, now back to the Facebook kid. He was writing in response to the Day of Silence on April 16th. Don't know what that's about? Don't feel bad; I didn't either. Here's how the group sponsoring it describes their mission:

The Day of Silence, a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is a student-led day of action when concerned students take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment -- in effect, the silencing -- experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies.

Sounds like a pretty damned good idea to me. I thought of my friend Mrs. Chili, and the posts she's done about the young men who were driven to suicide by such bullying. This is a worthy effort on behalf of a group who deserve better treatment. In the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., it was a good old fashioned non-violent protest. It was greeted by these compassionate words in this child's Facebook status:
Not participating in the Day Of Silence tomorrow. Honestly, there are bigger problems to rally for. 4,000 Children die every hour from starvation and I see no Day of Silence for THEM. Thousands of Christians and their families are tourtured, imprissoned, and killed every year and nobody says a word. But if gay couples aren't allowed to marry? OH NO!!! Lobby!!! Boycott!!! Rally!!!

I told you were were some serious misspellings. There is also a depressing lack of tolerance for his fellow man. What made it even more depressing to me was seeing that ten of his peers, including a girl I know, had clicked the "like" button. It shook me up to think that this girl agreed with such a bigoted view.

Kids, we need to respect each other. We can rally for more than one thing. We can help feed children and protect Christians from the lions and let gay folks get married. Of course, I'd argue that we should probably have fewer children so that there are not so many hungry mouths in the first place. But that's sort of a tangent. The point is that Christians should stop hating on gay people.

For some reason, I'm reminded of the poem "First they came" by Pastor Martin Niemoller. Often quoted, it describes the dangers of political apathy in response to fear and hatred which soon escalates out of control.

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

and by that time no one was left to speak up."

My son heightened my sense of anxiety about this current of hatred in our country when he talked this evening at dinner. He mentioned things he'd read in the news about the rise of militia groups and the threat of civil unrest in this country.

But that's all fodder for another post. I'm worn out right now (as you've probably already surmised by the rambling incoherency of this post) by the thought of young people I have met who are bullying those who are unlike them. From the things I've read about Jesus, I don't think he'd cotton much to their actions. I'm headed to bed now, with visions of a Ricky Ricardo-like Jesus greeting them some day beside St. Peter at the pearly gates "Kids, you got a lotta 'splaining to do! What part of " but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" did you not understand?


Mrs. Chili said...

Tom, a dear friend and the outreach coordinator at the Holocaust education center at which I am a fellow, makes sure that each of his presentations includes the line "hate is learned at the breakfast table." Kids don't come up with this shit on their own; someone - likely someone the kid trusts and/or admires - has told them that this behavior is okay (or, at the very least, has not told them that this behavior is NOT okay). Either way, I hold grown-ups responsible. As a teacher, I'm a stop-gap for this kind of crap. I don't know how many minds I change, but I keep at it just the same.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

This country becomes scarier by the day. It's like we're headed in two opposite directions and I worry that the hate half just has more gumption than we do.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Not we you and me though--you strike me as having plenty of gumption.

phd in yogurtry said...

Thanks for a great post and some enlightening links. I am one of the slackers who read your summary but I did click over to the Militant Ginger post and plan read it in full. I too believe Jesus would have upheld GLBT rights. It's a no brainer. He was all about tolerance.

phd in yogurtry said...

oh and I absolutely love your opening image. and my son participated in the day of silence. one of the schools west of austin (leander, cedar park) were planning to allow students to protest "day of silence" by skipping school. I say, good for the participants. I can't imagine a cooler day in school than to have only tolerant schoolmates present.

but still sad, of course. kick those school administrators in their homophobic arses if they don't crack down on truant students.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Thanks for your comments, friends. I'd wondered if I was overreacting, but reading your comments reminds me that this problem is real, and we must take action to stand up against hate.

I am summoning the courage to have a conversation with the girl's mother, who is a good friend. Wish me luck.

lisleman said...

good timing for an anti hate post - tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of Oklahoma City bombing. There's a lesson in hate going to the extreme of terrorism.

I do think religion has a dark side to it.
good post.

secret agent woman said...

My son mentioned the silence day and said that some kids knocked into a friend of his who is bisexual. I was pleased to hear the principal took swift action and suspended the bullies.

Miss Healthypants said...

Amen, sistah!!!! I couldn't agree with you more. So how did it go, talking to that girl's Mom? I'm curious! :)

Fantastic Forrest said...

Miss Healthypants - I've been off visiting my just-turned-80-years-old Mom, so I haven't met with the girl's mom yet. I am hopeful it will go well. All the supportive comments here help me feel it is worth the discomfort involved. XO

Bee said...

The story about the prom blew my mind. Hate learned at the breakfast table, indeed. (I wonder where your friend's daughter is getting her intolerant ideas from?)

Fantastic Forrest said...

I'm hoping to lunch with her this week. I'd worried that I was overreacting, but you all obviously see the connections I've made. I believe if I didn't speak up against something like this, even if it is subtle, I'd be failing to behave in a moral fashion, to uphold my values of social justice.

Shortly after I wrote my post, I sent a note to the daughter, the mom, and some other young people and their parents mentioning the incident and clarifying the intention of the Day of Silence. The response to my note? Silence. I've spoken to a few of the people about it since, and they told me they agreed wholeheartedly with me. But I've yet to speak with my friend or her daughter. It's uncomfortable, but I'm hoping my action will make a difference. We'll see.