Once in a while someone comes along who fills the crack in our collective consciousnesses and speaks for all of us. Will Rogers was that someone. He was a lasso twirling, Oklahoma born showman/comedian/political humorist. He was also a Native American, one of the few survivors of a civilization destroyed by our “civilization.” He had to fight for every right he had. Yet, despite his personal history, he maintained an inoffensive, folksy humor that kept our nation entertained during the Great Depression.
Rogers particularly enjoyed poking fun at Prohibition, a law which imposed a strict moral code on Americans. The law banned the purchase, manufacture, transport, or sale of alcohol in the free market. So, Americans made it themselves. They bought and sold alcohol illegally and generally consumed as much as or more than before Congress enacted the law.
Rogers excelled at ridiculing politicians in their zeal to control American morals. And since interfering with the personal lives of Americans didn’t play well with the public, Congress eventually repealed this intrusive law.
But the same moralistic pro-Prohibition frenzy that gripped America in the 1930′s is fueling the flames of anger and hatred toward LGBTQ individuals today. While Interference in our personal lives comes in a different package now, many state and federal politicians want to control the lives of the LGBTQ population. Maybe they think that civilization is the denial of rights.
But the denial of rights to LGBTQ individuals creates a separate category of people. It fosters the perception that it is acceptable to denigrate, emotionally batter, physically harm, and even kill those who are unprotected under the law. The most vulnerable in society often make easy targets.
Recent headlines documenting LGBTQ hate crimes demonstrate the enormity of the problem:
–Texas teen couple shot in a park, presumably because they were lesbians
–Gay homeless man in Los Angeles severely beaten after he told his attacker that he was gay, homeless and had AIDS
–DC police charged a woman and two men with assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly stabbing a 16-year-old man during an argument, listing the incident as an anti-gay hate crime.
Apparently, we have not learned from our history how destructive the denial of rights is, not only to individuals, but also to our society.
Every attack against an LGBTQ individual in this country reinforces the need for equality. Yet, many wish to prohibit equality for all. They quote the Bible. They cite the moral decline of our nation. But mostly, they instill fear.
And fear is like cancer. If allowed to grow unchecked, it takes over; eventually killing everything else that is healthy.
We cannot allow this uncivilized cycle of moralistic fear mongering and hatred to destroy all that is good about this country. We must demand equality for all Americans. I know that may be extremely difficult and, in some places, even risky to do. But, if we do not; if we allow the attacks against the LGBTQ community to go unchecked, we risk losing all and gaining nothing. We risk, too, the loss of any hope for a civilized society.