My pointâ€”and I have oneâ€”is that there is a connection between murder and love in the current highly charged culture war going on in California around the issue of marriage equality. Ellen almost makes the point.
Today the CA Supreme Court will hear a landmark case that seeks to bring marriage equality to millions of the stateâ€™s LGBT citizens. On February 12, 2008, 15 year-old Larry King of Oxnard, CA was murdered by a fellow eighth grader, Brandon, whom he asked to be his Valentine. My argument seems like a leap, but stay with me.
Ellen DeGeneres spoke up about Larryâ€™s murder on her Leap Year Show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcMEL3_YsVIÂ
Millions of Ellenâ€™s fans watched her thoughtful commentary on Larryâ€™s murder, and over 137,000 have caught it on YouTube. Her arguments prompted over 840 viewers to write a comment on the YouTube site and 14 others to post video responses. Thousands then watch those videos. Well, you get it, the multiplier effect. When Ellen speaks, millions of fans listen and studio audiences go wild. A very good thing.
Ellen talks about the seeds of violence against gay people: punch lines in comedy monologues, gay jokes, verbal and physical abuse that can escalate into murder. I call it The Violence Escalator (see below). Very important information. Had she taken note of the current anti-gay marriage climate that is being whipped up in CA, folks might have made one more important connection. Climates of hate breed violence.
Today in Californiaâ€™s highest court, the Alliance Defense Fund and their ilk will argue that gay people are not worthy of marriage equality. For months, paid signature-gatherers funded by anti-marriage equality groups such as the Colorado-based Focus on the Family and the Virginia-based National Organization for Marriage have been all over California spreading the word of hate against gay people. In shopping centers, outside movie theatres, near coffee shops, the public is learning that they can stand up for prejudice and hate by signing the ballot petition for the November 2008 election to put marriage equality discrimination into the California constitution.
While Iâ€™m grateful to Ellen for what she did say, I wish that she had made that last connection: bigots are actively stirring up hate in California. In a climate of hate, innocent kids like Larry get murdered because they think that they are as free to love as everyone else. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Violence EscalatorViolence starts small but can escalate steadily and rapidly. Here are some of the steps:Â
STEP 1 Jokes that disparage classes of people (i.e. women, lesbians, people of color)
STEP 2 Slurs that demean (i.e. â€œfag,â€ â€œbitch,â€ â€œgookâ€)
STEP 3 Threats and blackmail
STEP 4 Bullying that becomes physical
STEP 5 Psychological threats and bullying
STEP 6 Physical violence
STEP 7 Murder
You have correctly identified how easily — and freely — actions get out of hand in your discussion of “The Violence Escalator.” I have 2 specific comments to make about this escalation and its direct impact in my own life.
My father and I love each other very much. I am a 46-year-old gay man. My father is approaching 70. At this stage in our lives, there is only one thing left that we still cannot discuss openly — at least not without his feeling discomforted… and, believe me, at this age of his life, that’s the LAST thing I would want to do: be the source of his discomfort — and that is my sexuality.
I heard my sisters and brothers-in-law talking about how Dad loves Larry the cable guy. I had not heard of this redneck-come-lately comedian; so, when (a couple of years back) my sister obtained a DVD of this so-called comedian, I made sure that I could attend this “family gathering.” I can honestly say that there is no music as sweet-sounding as the sound of laughter from our aging parents’ mouths.
Within the first five minutes, I was shocked at this man’s routine! No, not just shocked. I was appalled. After the initial jolt, I was deeply hurt.
Here I was, at the age of 44*, sitting with my father (then aged 67), my sister (aged 42), her husband (aged 45), and others of my immediate family — all of us adults.
I had to leave the room quietly so as not to disturb their having fun. I am completely open within my family. My sexuality is no secret. Yet, I could not understand how people who obviously love me could find humor in jokes which were vulgar to say the least.
I know (as has been demonstrated on many occasions) that any one of them would defend me if attacked. So, I pondered in my solitude… and bingo! It is just as you pointed out in “Step 1.” Violence *does* begin with a joke.
Here was my family enjoying the humor. Much later, we were traveling to Daytona Beach in a van. This time, the group was the same. Family Time. Someone initiated a conversation about — as I now call him — Larry, the cable jerk.
Immediately, it called to mine the episode at my Dad’s home some 14 months earlier. So, I inhaled and made sure that I was composed appropriately; then I asked, how can you support a so-called comedian who causes violence and hatred against your own brother?
Silence. No one could answer. 15 minutes of silence in our vehicle as we traveled to our destination. Finally, someone spoke up and changed the whole topic. The opportunity for discussion was abandoned.
It is difficult in certain families (like my own) to work through these discussions when we have so many — like Focus on the Heterosexual Christianist Political Family — who are filling our media with venom in their failing and last-ditch effort to keep us defined as less-than-human. Animals are afforded more dignity and compassion than these so-called Christianists — those who perform all manner of evil in Christ’s own name–afford us who are Gay/Lesbian.
Your progression from Step 1 to Step 7 is quite verifiable; yet, as you say, those with the appropriate platform (like Ellen) fall short of calling to the attention of the collective conscious.
My second point has to do with that final step — murder. I had relocated to Colorado Springs only a few weeks before Matthew Shepard was burned on a fence post in Wyoming. My relocation was connected with my career.
So, I remember going home to my apartment — alone, without any friends nearby — feeling so afraid. I wondered if this tragedy could have happened in Colorado (Wyoming’s neighboring state). The I-25 corridor, after all, connects Wyoming and Colorado.
Colorado Springs is the home to Dobson and his Focus on the Family. Matthew’s murder combined with the fact that I lived only a couple of hours from where it happened affected me greatly.
I watched, in horror, as the story unfolded. Matthew had been flown to Ft. Collins, Colorado. He had survived being burned alive. He died at the hospital! The cyclist who discovered his charred body had initially mistaken him for a scarecrow.
That was horrific. For Matthew’s family. For the community. For our nation.
But — and this is when I began identifying Christianists as distinct from Christians — the horror for Matthew’s family did not stop with Matthew’s murder. An evil Christianist group, known as the Westboro Baptists, had the audacity to attend Matthew’s funeral with signs of hatred and bigotry!
And nothing was done to prevent these “Evil Angels” (aka evangelicals) from demeaning a human institution as sacred as a funeral!
It has taken almost 10 years for state and local governments to start passing ordinances and statutes to fine and otherwise penalize this notorious group — when they continued by demeaning the funerals of service members who had served in defense of our nation!
So, the next time Christianists proclaim that they need to preserve the sanctity of the institution of marriage, we all need to ask them: When will you resolve to preserve the dignity of a sacred funeral?
*for mathematicians like myself, that’s only 24 if you use the base 20 number system! LOL