Sunday, November 16, 2008

In Each Other's Moccasins

You lost your leg at the hip. I merely lost mine at the knee. Do we have to fight over which one of us deserves more pity?

Sometimes, there are hyperbolic claims that should be shot down. Imagine how a concentration camp survivor feels when hearing the religious right call abortions a “modern day Holocaust.” Screw that noise. An insulting insensitive trivialization of a 20th Century lowpoint in human degradation.

But when you hear people complain that gays have no right to call the same-sex marriage issue a civil rights issue, because they are white boys who’ve always had it made in the shade, well, do you wonder why gays start increasing the volume from any orifice that will make noise?
"Blacks used to be slaves in America. How does that compare to Homosexuals?”
one innocent writer asks. (At least he gave us a capital letter.)

[Can't seem to get that link to work: it's ]

Since you asked, I’m going to tell you.

If you’re only interested in making a gotcha point, you can set things up so that you have black men hanging from trees on the one hand, and bourgeois urban white boys having to return their wedding gifts to Tiffany’s on the other. Then you can smirk away while your friends marvel at your insight and your genius.

But you’re comparing apples to oranges when you do things like that. You might also compare the hate crimes against gays or the death of Matthew Shephard, the young man tied to a fence and left to die in the Wyoming cold with a black family (or an Arab family or a Chinese family) shunned at a church picnic.

Many of these inept and insensitive comparisons are not done maliciously. Just as lots of Catholics really do not know the history of anti-semitism in Catholic Europe over the centuries (and Jews do), lots of straights are not aware of the statistics of gay teenage suicide familiar to virtually any gay man with a consciousness. We all remember the self-loathing and the wee hours in the morning when we had a moment of recognition that there but for the grace of God… OK, maybe it was Ganesha.

If we seem a tad hypersensitive to homophobia, there’s good reason. Most whites still don’t know about Tuskegee. As black history gets taught to whites as well as blacks, that lacuna will be filled. Some day, one hopes, gay history will be taught to straights and they will come to understand in their gut what it feels like to face a person with a smile on his face who he tells just because he hates the sinful life you’ve “chosen” doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you the sinner.

And you're not supposed to spit.

Just because you’ve chosen to be black doesn’t mean you can’t change your criminal ways.

Just because you’ve chosen to be Jewish doesn’t mean you can’t come to Jesus.

Just because you’ve chosen to be Hindu doesn’t mean you can’t convert to an American religion.

Man, if we could only get into each other’s moccasins for a day!

Why can’t you gays just let these religious people have their word marriage? Take your legal right to be in a civil union and we can all go back to more important things.

Why can’t you blacks just stick to your separate-but-equal schools?
Your perfectly fine black neighborhoods?

Why can’t you Jews form your own country clubs?

Why can’t you Chinese stay in Chinatown instead of buying up all the best real estate in San Francisco?

When I had to sit on the floor and you offered me a chair, but not the couch, I said thank you.

When I was not allowed to learn to read and you let me go to a colored school but not a white school, I said thank you.

Why are you people fighting over one little goddam word?

Calm down. Calm down, gay people. Stop fuming and just answer the question.

It’s not the word, it’s the right to be equal partners with you who would take a right for yourselves and keep it from others.

It’s the right to live in a fully equal society, not a separate-but-equal condition, especially in a country which has had decades to learn that separate is never equal.

It’s the right to be fully American, fully human. Not an “other,” not a “you people,” not a “sinner” to be tolerated.

Did you really think we would buy into your claim that you are “protecting” marriage? You protect good things from bad things. The nation from terrorists. Villages from tigers. Children from predator priests.

We are not terrorists. We’re not tigers. And, damn your eyes, we’re not the kind of people your children need protecting from, no matter how hard you try to work that vicious old slander.

If anything, it’s our children who need protecting from people who would try to persuade them their families are not real, not good, not ready-for-prime-time families.

We’re your fellow citizens. Live in the same neighborhood. Eat at the same table. Ride in the same bus. And not in the back, either.

When the Supreme Court overturns this unjust attempt to both cut the pie and then take the biggest piece, some will dismiss them as irresponsible “activist” judges. Those who remember their civics lessons in junior high school, however, will recognize them as the third branch of government besides the executive and the legislative – the branch entrusted with the duty to protect minorities against the tyranny of the majority. Men and women looking out to ensure there are no first class, and no second-class citizens.

God bless you, as the politicians say.

And God bless the United States of America.

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