Free Speaking Controversy6:03 AM
Normally I don't comment on socio-political upheaval. I consider my insights more fit for the every day melodrama. But when every day melodrama equates to national news, even a homebody like me has to blog about it.
I drive to our public high school several times a year -- plays, kindergarten chaperoning, standardized tests. I know teachers, students and staffers personally. The superintendent even judged a speech I delivered for an oratorical contest. My town is just as typical as any -- so it blew my socks off to see it all plastered across national television, to read the combox vitriol against people I could run into at Walmart on any given Saturday, to have firsthand knowledge of events so divisive that a woman in Wyoming wrote into the newspaper to share her opinion. (Wyoming, to me, is the end of the earth.)
The controversy? Gay rights. At least, it turned out that way. It started with a pair of pro/con editorials in our little high school newspaper. One side took the position that gay couples adopting was a perfectly acceptable and loving option, backed by science and common sense. The other strongly disagreed -- and cited Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, God and Christian morals as legitimate reasoning. Big oops.
Long story short, a gay couple with children in the area complained that the boy's article was hateful. The superintedent apologized, reprimanded the student and labeled the article as unacceptable "bullying." It doesn't take much imagination to guess how the internet exploded.
The day after the local newspaper covered the story, a front page article detailed the exploits of a gay college student who filmed a video set to Lady Gaga's "Hair" at another local school, from which he graduated. The video followed the student in his high school years getting pushed around and going to the junior prom with his gay date. Its message was to bullied gay students: accept who you are and keep your chin up -- it gets better.
I watched the video. It's a strange feeling to see such a viral YouTube video with footage of a hometown school. I sat in the parking lot of that school a couple times. I drive past it whenever I pick up our twelve-passenger van from the repair shop (which you big family people know is more often than not). I have good friends who walk those halls and eat at the lunch tables the actors danced on.
Being so close to the action -- I have mixed feelings. Mostly I'm plain frustrated -- frustrated with the PC bias against a fifteen-year-old who made the mistake of taking advantage of free speech, frustrated that ignorant people bully gays, frustrated that this aberrant lifestyle has been rammed through as if it's a done deal.
It's not. The discussion is still wide-open. The science and the American people have not unequivocally agreed that the gay lifestyle is healthy, that gay couples should adopt and that gays are born the way they choose to be. We're still hashing out the theological, sociological and psychological implications of something heretofore considered inappropriate and detrimental. Much is at stake for all people involved, gay, straight or somewhere in between.
That's why it frustrates me to no end that the discussion ends up so childish and shallow:
Someone disagrees with the homosexual lifestyle. You bigot! You're such a hateful person, and I hate you! "Yeah, well, you know what?" the opposition screams. "You're disgusting and I hate you too!" Gays commit suicide! So ha! You're wrong, hater! In wanders a confused Christian: "But God loves everybody, right?" Or if there's some semblance of a respectful discussion going on, someone invariably enters with a slew of profanity and rudeness and everyone pig piles onto each other in a full out brawl.
So much for not bullying.
The issue becomes either hush-hushed by government intervention or derailed by rudeness and illogic. Nobody's allowed to appeal to morals or God. Nobody's allowed to enter by common sense. Nobody can bring in scientific evidence, as each side shouts down negative evidence as twisted bigotry. Apparently all we have to offer is hatred and loud mouths.
While I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle, it's my deepest concern to reach people with the truth. Yes, people -- not instigators of an agenda to pollute America and usher in the anti-Christ. I don't pretend to understand the feelings, outlook and identity crisis of someone who identifies as gay or lesbian. It breaks my heart that there are bigots on both sides and that people would be cruel enough to belittle another human being made in the image of God.
But there are two levels to the discussion -- the personal, where we reach out to the individual, and the larger cultural and moral implications. To hate a homosexual person because one hates homosexuality in no way contributes to decency and discussion. That's disturbing and disgusting. But to try to argue "That's the way I'm made" or "God loves everyone" doesn't even scratch the surface of the real problems people have with homosexuality. Anyone -- from the five-year-old cookie stealer to the pedophile, murderer or prostitute -- can claim the same. Because someone in the school district is gay does not silence another person's right to disagree with that lifestyle. Because someone feels comfortable and confident in their chosen identity does not make it morally right.
This is the biggest problem with the homosexual discussion. Defenders of traditional morality bash gays as purposeful perverts; homosexuals slam dissenters as bigots. The problem is not bigotry and bullying only. The difference between a "straight" person and a "gay" person is not his sexuality -- it's a significant and legitimate moral difference. Gays honestly believe they are right. Disagreers honestly believe they are wrong. On both sides there are hotheads and ignoramuses, but the real solution does not fall in compromise or name calling. It lies in serious evaluation.
And that takes dialogue. I mean to say, opening one's mouth little and listening much.
No good comes of silencing either side in a volatile discussion. Nobody is proved right or wrong by the triumph of an oppressive majority or a stifling minority. Everyone needs to listen. Everyone needs to quit slinging the bigot card. There is no gap of humanity between homosexuals and heterosexuals: we're all human, we're all biased, we're all finite people with a penchant for misunderstanding. So let's admit it -- and get on to the real controversy.
P.S. Shout out to Jasmine, who wrote about her encounter with a gay young man -- and how each learned from the other.