Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Just Asking Questions"

This blog is about my life in Recovery. Some days, the focus is a little less on the 'recovery' part and a lot more on the 'my life in' part. Today is one of those days.

I've just come from my first day back at class after being on a very late-term spring break. We had another panel discussion in my Issues of Diverse Populations class and today's was about Heterosexism--the oppression of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgendered individuals. As was the case for when we did the Sexism panel, there were some comments from my classmates that I strongly disagreed with.

I suppose before I go any further, I should re-out myself as a progressive liberal hippie commie pinko, just in case anyone reading this isn't familiar with my political beliefs.

There are a couple of my classmates who are extremely prejudiced, who hauled out their bibles yet again to talk about how gays are evil and should be killed. Okay, I'm overstating, they didn't go that far. But it's the kind of opinion and argument that really pisses me off. I have to practice a lot of patience and tolerance when someone voices that opinion. I don't argue with them or try to change their minds, but I don't remain silent either. My comment today was about a piece of legislation being considered in one of the US states that would make it illegal for the word 'gay' to even be said in public schools. I thought it an excellent example of institutional oppression. Ultimately, that's what any 'Ism'--racism, sexism, etc.--is about: the institutional practices that perpetuate the oppression in our society. But I'm getting away from my point.

One of the people who was making thinly veiled anti-gay comments was a black man. I don't want to wade into the waters of bad blood between blacks and gays here; suffice to say, if you aren't aware that it exists, trust me it does. It surprises me, though, every time, to hear biblical arguments used by blacks against gays because it was those same exact arguments that were used against blacks to justify slavery. The idea that being gay isn't 'natural'? When slavery was legal, it was thought that the black man's 'natural' place in society was as a slave. The bible says being gay is wrong? The bible talks about slavery a LOT more than it talks about being gay.

My point with all this (and yes I do have one) is a question I discuss with other deep-minded individuals from time to time: must a tolerant society be tolerant of those who are intolerant?

Many say, "yes, absolutely; that's what being tolerant means!" But I wonder. Here in America, we get all up on our high horses about 'free speech'. An example that comes to my mind is how organizations like the Ku Klux Klan are allowed to organize and march in parades. People don't like it, but it's allowed because of their first amendment rights to speech and assembly. But how willing are we to allow a black nationalist group to march? Less so, to put it politely. I see the Tea Party faction of the conservative political spectrum in this country holding rallies with their anger and their guns, and how it's broadcast with almost a celebratory air on national television while they shout angrily with their antigovernment agenda. Would a group of well-armed Muslims be as well publicized and in such a favorable light?

And at the end of the day, how much of this is just opinion? My opinion is that anyone LGBT is as much of a human being as I am. Some people think that it's their personal mission handed down to them from God to get rid of LGBT folks. Who is right? Is anyone?? What about when intolerance becomes more than just harassment? What about when it turns to murder or genocide? If it's agreed that we need to step in and stop that kind of intolerance, why is it okay to be accepting of lesser forms of intolerance?

I'm not pretending there are any answers to these questions, I'm just putting them out there, asking them, because they're questions I ask myself and others. Asking questions leads to debate, leads to new and different ideas. Change happens when we stop going along with the status quo and start examining what goes on around us, in our lives, and inside ourselves. Maybe even it's the asking of questions that says more about who we are as human beings that any answers ever could. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What do I stand for? What will I accept from the people around me?

It's a privilege to be awake, to be sober and clear-minded enough to ask questions. It means I have the opportunity to examine my life, the people in it, and the world around me. It means I have the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in and take action on causes I care about. It beats the hell out of mindlessly going along with whatever is thrown at me.

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