(You really should click on over to meet our Purple friends and read this there. John Marks, half the dynamic Purple due, will be coming to Tallahassee on August 19th for a super-duper cheap dinner event that you won’t want to miss.)
In Tallahassee we’re smack in the middle of a debate on a proposed human rights ordinance designed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals from discrimination. Since we just kept opening our big fat mouths telling people from here to Kingdom Come that The Village Square could do a whole host of impossible things, we jumped into the frackas with a forum.
At our forums we don’t just casually eenie meenie to see who gets on our panel. In this sea of partisan fury, I’m looking for the exceptional panelist who can articulate his or her view with statesmanship. Then I assemble the speakers like a jigsaw puzzle into a panel that (I hope) can sing.
In the process of all this panel-finessing, I come to have sincere affection for each of my panelists, even if I just don’t see it their way. I like them because if I’ve done my job correctly, by the time they’re on my panel I’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
It would be instructive if everyone in our audiences could experience my growing affection for each of my panelists, since in it lies a lesson: People, assuming you understand their unique life circumstance, usually really make sense. That we can be completely different at the same time as we’re really exactly the same is what makes a hometown work. I think it’s an quiet triumph of the human spirit.
With a topic as apparently challenging to us as gay rights, we need the community glue that binds us to be holding.
Some of the culture war is what we sincerely disagree about, in our very hearts. But too high a percentage of it is noise; junk we made up, statistics we lied about, dishonest cutting and pasting.
The forum brought us a vivid demonstration of this when someone in the audience began reading aloud from the “Homosexual Manifesto,” which apparently had once, decades ago, been read into the Congressional record. But because he started with an excerpt containing big fat ugly word bombs in it we just cut him off.
But our Village Square motto is “facts matter” so I felt compelled to do a little post-forum super-sleuthing.
Turns out that the essay entitled “Gay Revolutionary” and renamed for effect was written by one gay man by the name of Michael Swift. A man with a pen does not an army of darkness make, no matter how much you want it to in order to support an immovable opinion you might hold.
But this distortion doesn’t stop with warping the scale of the “threat.” Michael Swift’s essay was, in reality, absurd satire, the author’s (poorly executed and obviously ineffective in retrospect) comment on how mistaken he thought the people who see homosexuality as threatening were. Stuff like: “We shall raise vast private armies, as Mishima did, to defeat you.” Approve of the essay or not, it is tongue-in-cheek to high heaven. And just in case you don’t do nuance, he wrote a disclaimer at the top of his essay telling us it wasn’t real.
But dang if his disclaimer was removed from the infinitely echoing reverberations of this essay across the internet toward its ultimate immortality as a sliced and diced weapon of the culture war, landing in many an unsuspecting inbox. (Here’s an example of where they’ve gone to the trouble of printing the whole essay verbatim with the tiny little omission of the disclaimer at the top, else you actually understand what you are reading.)
I believe that the person who read the excerpt from this satirical essay believed sincerely he was warning us of something true and big and looming. Instead he was just unwittingly recycling a lie. “Tremble, hetero swine” should have tipped him off.
If there is any hope we can understand each other (without running my panel-screening gauntlet), we’ve got to start with what is true. The very least we owe each other is an honest conversation.
I think the people we really are in our hearts – the ones where we turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor, walk a mile in their shoes – can do it.
Or we can let the highly paid professional contortionists have their way, you know the ones who will pick over the carcasses of our communities destroyed by their infernal racket.
(Photo credit. And in case you’re a youg’in the pic is of Orson Welles of War of the Worlds fame… another satire run amok.)