I turned two years old in 1963 on the day before The Reverend, Doctor Martin Luther King Jr wrote his Letter from the Birmingham Jail and I was eleven days away from turning seven when he was assassinated in 1968. Because Dr. King dared to speak and march and make real his dream of equality for all people, I am able today to enjoy rights and freedoms not dependent upon my gender, race, sexuality, age, economic class, or any of the other labels we use to divide and define one another.
I am in Dr. King’s debt. Thank you Dr. King.
Still, as far as we have come since 1963, it would be disingenuous to pretend that the dream of equality has come true. People are still discriminated against because of gender, race, sexuality, age, class, and many another arbitrarily assigned label. In fact, there is some not little evidence that a concerted attack has been and is being made to disenfranchise, deny, and demonize those who have long fought hard to win equality by claiming that said equality is somehow a disparagement, depreciation and debasement of some “natural order” – code-speak for those who wish to continue dominating others by keeping in place the patriarchal-heterosexist-gender-biased-bigotry-fueled-classist structure under the boot-heel of which most “others” (and do not fool yourself that you are OTHER than OTHER, my friend) of us have long been enslaved.
All politics are personal (a phrase which was, by the way, attributed to feminist Carol Hanisch based on the work of C. Wright Mills: thank you both) however and so, I, who am sexually attracted to my own gender and this gay-identified, have been particularly troubled of late not only by the careless speech of some public figures, but, worse, the defenses mounted after the fact by people whose thinking ought to have evolved beyond specious apologia conveniently citing sources and theories irrelevant to the bigotry being spewed.
It hasn’t just been the homophobia and racism of the Duck Dynasty fellow. Joining him in his careless hate speech have been Sherri Shepherd, of ABC’s The View, and Liam Payne, member of the boyband, One Direction, and Juan Pablo Galavis, from ABC’s The Bachelor. And while these people are just flashes in pop culture pans, they are parroting things voiced by those with purchase in the power structure, politicians and religionists, one of the worst of which currently is Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and creator and defender of hate laws targeting homosexuals.
It is the kind of biased regurgitation of bigotry and ignorance as promulgated by Mr. Robertson, Ms. Shepherd, Master Payne, Mr. Galavis, endless Tea-Party conservatives, and President Putin, that creates an atmosphere encouraging of hate and violence toward those who are “other” and, worse, to exacerbate the hatred by trying to justify it using “free speech” and “religion” as excuse is not only ridiculous, but offensive. And those who do so are culpable and guilty for things like this:
And this, Kaique Batista dos Santos:
a 16 year old, tortured and teeth pulled out with pliers, assassinated. Because he was gay (CLICK HERE FOR STORY).
And the millions of lesser indignities suffered every day by “others” – as privileged as is my life, still, I have been on the receiving end of the same sort of dismissal and abuse because of my sexuality, class, age, hell, even because of my beliefs about those things. It is bad enough to be beaten and denigrated by strangers, but perhaps even more insidious are those attacks and derogations of a more subtle variety, those that come from unexpected sources, those that come from acquaintances, friends, even those who have claimed to love you. I have been whisper-campaign-insinuation-slandered using cultural-biased-based-bigotry about age and sexuality and class, and by people I trusted.
It is not easy living in this world no matter who you are, but if you add into the mix any sort of “other” to any degree, things do become exponentially more difficult. The more “other” you are, the easier it is for people to dismiss you, to ignore you, to belittle you, and to treat you with a lack of respect. Because of who I am attracted to; because of my beliefs about money and class and capitalism; because of my philosophical positions; because of my spiritual beliefs, because of my age and beliefs about age; because of my place in this world, this society; because of who I am, I have been targeted and trashed and talked down to, dismissed, betrayed, lied to and about, defamed and mocked and abandoned.
Because Dr. King marched and dreamed and died for us all, I am able to write about it. And because he died, because he dreamed by example, I am trying – and not always successfully – to respect even those with whom I completely disagree, who I think live in ignorance and bigotry and blindness; because while I find the words and actions of Mr. Robertson, Ms. Shepherd, Master Payne, Mr. Galavis, endless Tea-Party conservatives, and President Putin, to be repugnant and abhorrent, I do not want to create an atmosphere or world in which they would be targeted for the physical and emotional violence and abuse, the assassinations that killed Dr. King and so many others of the “others” among us.
Respect. Everybody. Thank you, Dr. King.