Woo, boy, it's that time again already, is it? As the first week and a half of Pride Month went by relatively quietly, I had begun to get my hopes up that maybe, just maybe, things were starting to change. That maybe it wasn't such a big deal anymore. That those who had once so vehemently opposed it had come to accept it, or had at least found more worthy directions for their anger. Ah, to hope.
A few days ago, several friends who still live in our hometown posted photographs of their local Pride-painted sidewalks covered in burnout marks and what appeared to be tar thrown across them. People began raging about flags being raised where they "shouldn't be" (see: anywhere). My debate haunt is seeing the yearly influx of "why gays are bad", thinly disguised as a valid topic of discussion. The rainbow emoji on Facebook has single-handedly started an online war between Christians and the LGBT community. Disappointingly, this year is just as every year before it has been. Full of vitriol and spite. And this year, just as every year before it, I can only ask: why?
I mean, I know why. I'm neither stupid nor ignorant, and this is a topic I've spent many years discussing. I'm well aware of the religious, political, cultural, and ideological reasons people do not accept alternate sexualities or gender expression (from here referred to as "LGBTs", because I'm lazy). And, to be honest, I get it. There isn't a person on Earth who doesn't have a belief someone else would find offensive, who has never had an irrationally visceral reaction to something, who has never felt something was wrong for reasons that would not make sense to anyone else. Over a thousand years of religious and social opposition has molded the minds of those alive today, and it isn't something that's going to disappear overnight. No, it's not the reasons people still fight against the acceptance of LGBTs that baffle me, it is the insistence. The determination. The passion so many have for this particular "social ill". It never ceases to amaze and confuse me, the amount of time and effort people invest in this specific group of people. The literal billions of dollars that have been spent trying to deny basic rights to people. The violence that has been leveled. The single-minded dedication so many have to opposing this and only this. The unbridled hatred and condescending pity forced upon people who deserve neither. I am perpetually in grotesque awe of how much attention is paid to what should be insignificant.
I've read the Bible. I've read the Q'uran. I've read political manifestos and philosophical treatises. I've learned about numerous cultures and what they value, both directly and indirectly. While many of these ideologies and value-sets differ greatly - some even being in direct opposition to one another - none of them, not-a-one, places sexuality front and centre. Most dwell far longer on much deeper topics - what it is to be a person, what more there is to existence, how to live well, how to best serve God, or the universe, or yourself. Existential concerns, economics, and evolution get far more attention than which individuals another individual finds most attractive, and for what I hope is an obvious, and damn good, reason. Those topics affect everyone, deeply, whether we want them to or not.
So why, why, the determined obsession with sexuality and gender? Why not greed? Why not hunger? Why not war, or bigotry, or capitalism, or healthcare? What, exactly, makes so many focus on perhaps the least significant part of their belief system? Is it because LGBTs are easier targets? I mean, it's easy to tar a Pride flag - it's a lot harder to revolt against the banking system. Is it because LGBTs are visible? That there is something physical, something tangible to revolt against, while concepts like greed and dishonesty take some effort to challenge? Is it because we've become so apathetic to our real societal ills that frothing at the mouth about gender is the only thing that gives us a sense of accomplishment anymore? That we can walk away, wiping our hands, feeling like we've done something to serve God, or society, or biology, or...whatever, without having to really get them dirty? I genuinely do not know. It's a question that has bothered me since the very first time I ever asked it, and I've never heard a satisfactory answer, as I don't think anyone will ever answer it honestly. I have my suspicions, I have my theories, but ultimately, the only people who can answer it won't. And maybe that is an answer in and of itself.
But maybe, just maybe, we've also been asking the wrong questions. Maybe, instead of asking why these folks can't accept LGBTs, we should instead ask why they spent millions of dollars on opposing equal rights, when that money could have been raised to feed the hungry, educate people, and provide healthcare to those who cannot afford it on their own. Maybe we should ask why they spent time protesting some temporary paint on a piece of pavement instead of protesting the fact that 200,000 Canadians will experience homelessness this year. Maybe we should ask why they are more concerned with love than with hate. For every gay person that exists, a victim of domestic abuse exists. For every gay person that exists, a victim of a hate crime exists. Maybe we should ask why many are more willing to fight against the former than the latter. Maybe we should ask if they want "I told gay people they should not be gay" to be the ultimate accomplishment they can boast at the end of their lives. Maybe, instead of asking these people why they spend so much time opposing LGBTs, we should ask why they do not spend time opposing things that matter so much more.
This Pride Month, I will not ask that you join in a parade. I will not ask you to pin a rainbow on your jacket. I will not ask you to suddenly change your mind. I will, however ask that you all go visit that tarred crosswalk, that torn down flag, that building with FAG spray-painted across it, and ask yourselves if you are truly comfortable with what you are looking at. If you really want to continue making this your life's work. If your passion could not be better spent. I want Pride 2017 to be the event that finally points people in a better direction.
Please, be the rainbow, not the tar.
Divide and conquer.
It's a phrase that has existed, in some variation or another, for well over two thousand years, and an idea that has existed seemingly forever. As a strategy, it is as brilliant as it is perverse - keep the people fighting amongst themselves, and they will be too weak, too fractured, to fight you - and it has worked far more often than not.
It's not hard to understand why this strategy is so successful; humans are hardwired to desire an authority figure and to be suspicious of those we see as "different". Any particularly ambitious and immoral person can exploit the latter to become the former. But to maintain that power, to increase that power, that takes some real work. It is easy to remind people of tensions that have always existed - to poke the bears with names like Right, Left, Race, Religion, and Sex. It is a guarantee that there will always be stereotypes, there will always be bigots, there will always be clashing ideologies, and anyone clever enough to manipulate that fact will always have a good chance of grabbing a little power. It's easy to keep hot buttons hot. Real power, real influence, however, comes when you can create conflict between those who once saw themselves as being on the same team. It's easy to start a fight between a left-winger and a right-winger, for example, but what if you could get two lefties to declare themselves enemies? What if you could get historically oppressed people to fight - often viciously - amongst themselves? What if you could get generally privileged people to pick petty arguments between one another? How much easier would it be to control things then?
Way easier. That was a rhetorical question. It would obviously be way easier. Better even yet would it be if that in-fighting happened organically, and I fear that's where we are heading. It no longer requires any real effort on the part of the powers-that-be to create conflict between allies. We now happily, willingly, righteously, throw ourselves into battle with anyone who disagrees with us even slightly. Feminists hate feminists. MRAs hate MRAs. Liberals hate liberals and conservatives hate conservatives. Black activists disagree with black activists, LGBTs fight with LGBTs, Christians battle other Christians. And, on some level, that's a good thing. I do not believe it is healthy to develop a hive-mind, to launch oneself into an echo chamber, and to never duke it out amongst ourselves. It is infinitely valuable to hear different perspectives on the same topic or ideology. When it becomes problematic is when we make a foe out of anyone who does not agree with 100% of what we believe. When we reject would-be allies due to a single difference of opinion. When we begin to see vibrant colours as the fence-sitters in a black and white world. When we are comfortable making enemies and bigots of those who are neither. And that seems to be, if not where we are just yet, the road we are on. It's not a road I am happy to be traveling.
Don't get me wrong - I vehemently believe we must be honest and unflinching in what we truly care about. I do not expect anyone to stand down or compromise on significant, passionate issues. What I do expect is some cooperation. I expect humans to recognize one another as humans, and to acknowledge and respect the fact that we will never be in perfect agreement. I expect us to wake up to the fact that the more divided we are, the easier we are to conquer. That the more importance we place on petty differences, the less likely we are to accomplish anything. I expect us to view the society we live in as a direct reflection of ourselves, and to act accordingly.
Divide and conquer. It is as brilliant as it is perverse. And it works because we let it.
Wherein I say
whatever I want.