Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why the Hate?

Today’s post is not going to be about my Photo a Day July pictures.  I’ll still post them, but they’re not the focus today.

There are two things bouncing around in my head trying to sort themselves out.

Actually, one is just sitting quietly in the corner reflecting.    That’s the fact that yesterday Sally Ride lost her battle with cancer and passed away.  I’m saddened by the loss of such an amazing woman.  Look at everything she’s done.  She flew on the Shuttle.  She wrote kids science books.  She was an advocate for science programs, worked on promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) excitement for kids.  And I got to actually hear her give a lecture at West Chester University when I was in high school.  I don’t remember everything she talked about, but I remember the confidence she had.  I remember her conviction and enthusiasm.  I wanted to be just like her.
So, yes, right now a small part of me is reflecting on the loss of such an amazing woman.

But, another part of me is trying to come to grips with, or at least figure out how to deal with all this rampant homosexuality bashing and homophobia that’s rearing its ugly head right now.

First, a week or so ago the Boy Scouts reaffirmed its ban on gay members and gay or lesbian leaders.  And it saddens me.  It saddens me because I know how wonderful a thing Girl Scouts has been in my life.  How much I learned, grew and experienced.  How much confidence and all those other intangible things we want our kids to have I gained from my time with Girl Scouts.  And then I think about all the wonderful women I’ve known through scouts who are lesbian or even transgender.  I think back to my two summers working at resident camp, living, eating and working with these amazing women.  I learned something from everyone I worked with those summers.  Sometimes it was just something as simple as a new song.  Sometimes it was something bigger and more profound and deeper.  Sometimes by knowing these women, I learned something about myself.  About how to love, how to cherish the individual, to see beyond language or culture barriers and that yes, we’re all people no matter how big or how small.  And that’s the important part.

And I can’t help but think how damaging it is to a young kid, who’s struggling with who they are and why they feel the way they do and what this thing called life really is and what’s expected of them and how they’re supposed to live life and be a good person to be excluded for something they didn’t choose.  And speaking from experience, it’s all young people who go through this.  We all question who we are and how we’re supposed to live and what it means to be a good person and how we fit into the community at large.  Some of us have easier answers than others. 
The lucky ones have family, friends, teachers and groups of peers and adults that help us on our way.  The unlucky ones get told they’re horrible just for living and breathing and that everything they believe is wrong and that they, on a human level are wrong.
How anyone can do that to another human is beyond me.  And how they can do it to a young, scared, confused kid who’s just trying to figure out which way is up (the opposite of down for those who are wondering…) sickens me.
I’d like to think that’s the way the majority of the people in the world feel just as sick at that thought.  Maybe it’s me being a “tree-hugging hippy” as I’ve been known to call myself, but maybe not.  I know, I know, there I go being an optimist again.  Sorry, it’s in my nature.

I will continue to believe that on an individual level that the majority of Boy Scouts and Boy Scout leaders are decent human beings who can see beyond the labels and honestly care and care for the boys they work with.  I will continue to believe that on an individual troop level, most will let any boy in and help them find their way in the world.  But, I cannot reconcile this with the national level policy.  If Boo asks to join the Boy Scouts later in life, I will have to think long and hard on this one.  I want him to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence that the program can help him find, but I don’t want him to think that excluding anyone just because of their sexual orientation is acceptable.  I know, and am related to, too many wonderful people who don’t fit the “traditional” heterosexual mold.  I wouldn’t want to exclude a single one of them from my life. 

And then, if that wasn’t enough for me to gnash my teeth over and try and come to terms with, then the shit hits the fan with Chick-fil-a.  And yes, this is tied directly to my thoughts about the Boy Scouts.

You see, apparently Chick-fil-a at the corporate level has very strong anti-gay ties and policies.  And recently they’ve apparently been putting up billboards promoting their stance.

I will not deny that I love their food.  I mean, they’re the one place that I can actually get grilled chicken nuggets.  How awesome is that?  And Boo can get applesauce, fruit cup or French fries for no extra charge with his meal.  And they’re good, quality ingredients.  And they taste awesome.

I will also say that I know the owners of our local Chick-fil-a personally and they’re wonderful, nice people who care about their family and their community.  No, I’ve never asked their stance on homosexuality, it’s not something that I really care about as long as they’re not trying to shove a view down my throat.  But Pat and Stew are two wonderful people who are always asking about Boo and take a moment to say hi whenever we would go, or when they would go to the UPS store to pick up their mail.

I know that they do a lot in support of the community.  Almost every week it seems that some school group (public and private) or church group or community group is having a “community night” fundraiser.  Yeah, it’s good for the store, but it’s even better for the groups.  They also do other things around town and show up at various local events.

The hatred that Chick-fil-a has been spewing has prompted the Muppets to withdraw any and all support from the company.  Think about that for a second, the Muppets pulled their support from a large company.  The Muppets will play with anyone.  They’re the most inclusive (and fun) group on the block.  I mean, look at Sesame Street, Jim Henson’s crowning achievement in my eyes.  There are so many different, differently abled and unique characters on that block that it’s amazing.  And no one cares that their best friend is a monster or a 7’ tall yellow bird, or black, Hispanic, or deaf.  They all live, work and play together and that’s the important part of life.  That’s what I want my son to learn.  It’s not what’s on the outside that matters; it’s who they are as a person that matters.

But, again, I want to believe that the bigotry and hatred that’s being spewed all over is either a few misguided individual owners or some big corporate mistake and that, like with the Boy Scouts, the majority are good, decent human beings.

And trust me, the question of if I will eat at Chick-fil-a ever again is a much more pressing question than if I will let Boo join the Boy Scouts.  I’ve got at least another 2-3 years for the Boy Scout question.  Tomorrow night is “pay-day Wednesday” and we often go “visit the cows” for dinner after Gak deposits his check.  And Pat came by the UPS store a few weeks back saying she hasn’t seen Boo in ages (she hasn’t… it’s been a while since we’ve gone and the last time she wasn’t there…).  So, it’s a knife in my heart of what to do.  Support a local business owner and family I know and indirectly support policies and vitriol that I despise or go somewhere else and possibly support some other corporation that I don’t know where they stand on some bigger issue?  All I want is some dinner, hold the guilt!

I was wondering out loud about the sudden rise in anti-gay garbage being spewed this morning.  I was wondering why now?  It seems kinda sudden to have such a dramatic increase in hatred.  And then Gak gently reminded me that it’s an election year, 99% of this is politics.  And that just makes me even more ticked off about the whole thing.  We’re talking about people.  We’re talking about friends and neighbors and fellow citizens who are being bullied and beaten (verbally, physically and emotionally).  Just about everyone I know wouldn’t stand for this for any other sub-group.  Why is it OK to hate gays when it’s not OK to hate Blacks or Asians or people with blue eyes?  Why are we allowed to, even encouraged to, hate one group of people?  What can they possibly “take away” from “us”, the “normal”, “decent” people?  What do they represent that sends fear into the heart of so many small minded people?

Am I saying everyone should live their life that way?  No.  But I am saying that people have the right to choose who they love and how.  I’m also saying that my way may not be the right way for everyone.  I’m thinking a little tolerance and understanding would go a long way in fixing the bigger problems that we’re facing in this country.  What about education?  What about infrastructure?  What about the bank/lending fiasco?  What about the fact that so many people are out of work?  What about the fact that people like me, who make more than the average salary for the area still feel like we’re being pinched between a rock and a hard place?  I don’t make much more than “average” for the area, but I make enough that I should be comfortable.  What about the fact that the marriage status of celebrity X, Y or Z is more newsworthy and important than the fact that the funding to the local fire station is being cut?  Or that Jane Doe did something terrifically awesome for her neighbors with no gain for herself?  Why has politics degenerated to spewing hatred, name calling and party segregation instead of cooperation?  What ever happened to what we all learned in Kindergarten; that sometimes you have to compromise in order to have something that works well for everyone? 
We as a country are fixating on the wrong things and it frustrates, angers and saddens me.  I can’t fix it.  I can’t even pretend to fix it, but I can make my own little corner of the universe a little bit better, a little bit more tolerant, and a little friendlier.

Ok.  I’ve ranted long enough; I’ll get off my soapbox now.  You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for pictures.  Yesterday’s (mirror) is still on my camera and I haven’t taken today’s (stranger) yet.  And no, this isn’t the thought that was bumping around in my head on Friday and wouldn’t settle down.  That one is much tamer and is quietly waiting its turn.

Peace to all and may you listen to your heart and not the hatred.


Grumpy Joe said...

I enjoyed your thoughts and meanders Addey. Many of my same concerns and unresolved issues.

I have to admit that I am still trying to be a better person and more understanding. Think I'm nearly there. I don't know what to think about the BSA ~ that's a tough one. They are so frightened of bad press and lawsuits that I don't believe they can see straight.

Anyway, thanks writing and enjoyed your thoughts as always.


Chelsea said...

I haven't eaten at chik fil a for so many years, and it's so hard, there's nothing else like it on the market. The BSA thing is complicated, too. I was generally of the mindset that "BSA is bad, but the individual troops can be good," especially in small towns where there's little to no other option for the kids to group up like that. But I was listening to the radio a couple of days ago, and a caller had a good point; if there was a national organization that unashamedly discriminated against black people, or Jews, or the handicapped, we'd have no compunction about boycotting them. So why is discriminating against gays less of a defining issue?

It's still complex, and hard, but that's the argument that pushed me over the side. I wouldn't let my (hypothetical) son join Hitler Youth, who had the same attitude toward Jews that BSA has to gays. I'm not buying BSA popcorn anymore (but I'll stop short of lecturing the kids who try to sell it to me, I promise).