Political Anti-Gay Rhetoric Fuels Anti-Gay Violence
Welcome to Anita Bryant’s America. Gay kids are being taunted at alarming rates. Violent incidents against gays have spiked in culturally tolerant cities like New York in startling numbers. And politicians are openly denouncing the “gay lifestyle” and campaigning on keeping gay teachers out of schools.
What’s wrong with this picture? It’s bad enough to have to count the anti-gay witch hunt of the ’70′s among our nation’s disgraces. But to re-visit such ignorance and hatred is unthinkable. Despite a generation of advances and positive openly gay role models in public life and in the popular culture, despite having gay marriage legalized in a handful of states and the troublesome Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy winding to a slow dissolution, discrimination and taunting are still prevalent in our schools, playgrounds and streets. High profile incidents like the humiliation suffered by Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide after being outed by his roommate in the most despicable way, underscore the bullying and discrimination millions of people still endure.
Whether fueled by ignorance or cynical pandering, election season always seems to ignite intolerance’s ferocious flame as politicians seeking to curry favor with the so-called “family values’ voters, invariably attack gays. Last week Jim DeMint, the obstructionist senator from South Carolina, said gays ( and single women who engage in out of wedlock sex) shouldn’t be allowed to teach. Whoa! Anyone who can make a statement like that shouldn’t be allowed to roam around unsupervised in the year 2010, let alone serve in Congress. Why is this an issue? Teachers–regardless of sexual proclivities–shouldn’t be discussing their sex lives with students. If a teacher is teaching chemistry or English or history, how is his or her sex life relevant?
The real fear, of course, is the bogus notion that gay teachers will indoctrinate or brainwash kids into following a “homosexual lifestyle.” Let’s forget decades of scientific research that clearly supports the biological theory of homosexuality. In other words, either you’re born gay or you’re not. Some people are bisexual. But no one chooses to be gay anymore than you choose your race or gender.
Watch this snippet from New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino:
His spewing the idea that “students shouldn’t be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally successful or viable lifestyle” speaks to this cynicism. Coming on the heels of a weekend in which two gay teens and a young gay man were brutally beaten by a gang of thugs in the Bronx, such remarks–given before a gathering of Orthodox rabbis–are outrageous. Politicians have a responsibility to the sweeping spectrum of society not just their small constituency. To further incite hate is unconscionable.
Crazy Carl, of course, made the rounds of the morning talks shows, deflecting blame and offering up a gay nephew as his version of the infamous “some of my best friends are….” defense. He stands by what he said, but insists he’s not anti-gay. “The gay lifestyle is a hard choice. There is too much discrimination. There should be less discrimination against gays,” he said on “The Today Show.” The fact that the Tea Party endorsed nut–notorious for physically attacking a New York Post reporter, sending sleazy e-mails and campaign mailers that smell like garbage, and whose platform consists of unfiltered anger and herding welfare recipients into vacant prison dorms to learn personal hygiene–doesn’t recognize or acknowledge the correlation between his reckless comments and the discrimination he claims to abhor, is par for the course during the election season. Lest we forget Karl Rove successfully trotted out the gay marriage bogeyman back in 2004. And Paladino has vowed to veto a gay marriage law in New York.
The wave of anti-gay violence isn’t limited to the United States. On Sunday, 1000 Serbian gay rights activists were met with the violent throttle of bricks, bottles and taunts by 6000 anti-gay rioters. Incidents are on the rise in places like England, Chile and Slovakia, with Neo-Nazi groups usually behind the attacks. This somehow makes the gaggle of rabbis standing by Paladino’s side ever more disturbing. And yes, let’s not misquote Crazy Carl; he did preface his comments by saying he’s not out to hurt gays, he has a “live and let live approach.” But come on. Both Paladino an those religious leaders should realize that such a mixed message is seen by extreme groups, already hellbent on hate, as a tacit approval of their heinous acts. For Jews –who have been persecuted for centuries–to stand by and let another group be targeted–is an utter shame.
Tough economic times breed the sort of scapegoating that led to the Holocaust. How disheartening to find America in 2010 scapegoating immigrants, Muslims and gays. Tolerance has no season, no party affiliation. It is an American ideal, one sadly, that has yet to be fully realized in a nation that still tosses around anger and prejudice in a society that remains more salad bowl than melting pot.
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