I want to take a break from the subject of music this week and talk about something else. It’s kinda hard to come up with interesting, music-related topics every week and there’s always the risk of it all becoming a bit boring and stale if it’s all I ever write about.
I don’t want to force the muse. If I’m scratching my head for a topic, there’s always the danger I’ll just throw something together to meet the deadline and that does both you, as the reader, and me as the writer a disservice.
So to jump to a completely unrelated topic, I want to talk about The Westboro Baptist Church.
I know, I know. You’ve been bombarded with stuff about the WBC in the news and on your facebook streams for yonks and it’s possibly invoking yawns but bear with me. I reckon I have a slant on it that you might have not yet been presented.
The Westboro Baptist Church has been one of the greatest things for gay rights to have ever come about!
Did that get your attention?
I’m serious. These guys have done more for the rights of the LGBTQI community than most pro gay rights organisations on the planet put together.
I’m glad you asked!
I’m pretty passionate about gay rights. I don’t think I always have been. Previously it just didn’t really come up on my radar. I never had issue with it as it didn’t really affect me or anyone I really knew directly. (Maybe it affected people I knew directly but the subject never came up as far as I can recall.)
But along came the WBC with their picket lines and hate speech and brought the plight of our gay brothers and sisters smack-bang into view. In doing so we were all given a pure (and brilliant) lesson in absolutely what NOT to do to be a good human being.
The fact of them pretty much missing the mark as far as the teachings of Christianity is concerned is pretty irrelevant. Their grasp of the bible is pretty narrow minded in my opinion. But it’s their stupidity, lack of empathy and moronic dogma that makes them a shining example of what needs to be shouted down in our society.
It has taken the extreme angle and most of us don’t like “extremes” in anything. Extremes tip our hand. We can be tolerant up to a point on just about any subject but once somebody takes an extreme, we can no longer be silent.
For the heterosexual community who, perhaps didn’t really care too much about the plight of the homosexual community as long as they weren’t really getting too rough an end of the stick, there was the ability to stick their heads in the sand on the subject. Until such time as they got truly offended. I think for the large majority of even the most moderate, you could say that the WBC has acted in a way that could be considered offensive. That’s usually enough for people who aren’t directly affected to say, “that ain’t right!” and go from being disengaged observers to genuine advocates. Purely because someone crossed whatever line in the sand they had drawn in their head about how you treat their fellow human beings.
Field of context.
As humans we need a field of context to comprehend anything. There can be no understanding of light without having experienced darkness, no understanding of pleasure without having felt pain, no understanding of the principles of good without at least brushing with the principles of bad. Love would mean nothing if we hadn’t understood its complete opposite. Fear. (You thought I was going to say “hate”, didn’t you? Nah. Fear is the opposite of love but that’s another subject… maybe for another blog?? Meh, we’ll see how this one goes down with y’all first me thinks.)
Anyway, the WBC has gotten masses of media coverage for their antics and, in spite of their intentions to do the opposite, they have proven themselves as marvellous advertising for what the GLBTQI folk have had to put up with. We have a wonderful example to show our kids in them. “See those people, little Johnny? They’re bad, mean people. Don’t be like those people. Treat everyone with respect.” Would little Johnny have been taught that lesson if the WBC hadn’t drawn his parents’ attention to it so that they could use it as an example? We need examples to learn from. Good ones and bad ones.
When I was a kid, we didn’t really know anything about gay people. It wasn’t really discussed, certainly not by adults within ear shot of kids. If you had those kind of feelings you weren’t encouraged to discuss them in any environment or context. You’d just have to keep them to yourself.
It was still illegal in Australia when I was growing up. (and we’re talking the 70’s and 80’s here. Not that long ago. I still can’t believe that. That we actually had laws that made a person a criminal for their sexual orientation right up until only very recently. I shudder to think of it.) There would have been just as many gay people around then as there are now. I doubt the population has grown in that sector per capita in spite of what some people might say. We just didn’t really know about them. They would have been spoken about in hushed tones. They may have been tolerated but never really embraced. As long as they kept themselves to themselves, nobody cared. And that was (and is) part of the problem. Nobody caring.
There were certainly some advocates for them to be accepted into mainstream society as equal at that time but I guarantee that the bulk of those advocates would have been gay themselves. Straight people would have always been the enemy in that fight in the extreme or disinterested parties at least. Now the tide is turning on that. More and more straight people that I know (if my facebook feed is anything to go by) are not only just “not standing in the way” but are truly getting on board and giving a voice to the cause. Why? Because we don’t like to see people being abused. Because if it can happen to them it can happen to us. Deep down we know all of us are equal and should be afforded the right to not be bullied, harassed, vilified or oppressed. Whether it be for our sexual orientation, beliefs, race, creed or colour or anything else for that matter. If the abuse isn’t that bad, we don’t have it register with us that much. It takes something abhorrent. A slap in the face that shakes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to acknowledge a wrong-doing. Sooner or later there’s a ground swell of supporters that’s anger at seeing such things happen gets past the tipping point and they stand up to the opposing force. And, if history has taught us anything (and as it is always written by the victors, maybe it hasn’t… but we’ll go with it anyway…), the oppressed always (eventually) prevail.
Just like the civil rights movement had the Ku Klux Klan as their spokes models for all that was evil in the race argument. Would our race relations be as good as they are now (and I’m not actually saying they are great. Still a lot of work to do there people!), if the KKK hadn’t represented such a reprehensible and downright disgusting display against people of other ethnicity or belief? They took us from our comfort zone and really showed us what the face of evil looked like. They gave us a field of context and taught us a lesson about what we wanted to be…
…basically, the opposite of them.
Society fought back, it grew, it changed, it adapted to a new moral standard. Not entirely, of course. There’s still a lot of crap going on in that arena but it can’t be denied that it’s better than it was.
Back to the WBC. We find them offensive because they’ve pushed it too far. If they had been a little less hate-filled, a little less condescending, a little less… umm.. pickety??, we might have all just sighed and rolled our eyes but not really done anything. Nope. They’ve inspired the formation of an army against them. Gay folk, straight folk, folk who normally would have had little to no interest have risen up because.. well.. because that shit just ain’t right in our eyes.
Thank you Westboro Baptist Church. Your contribution to the change that is coming will not go unrecognised in the history books. You’ll definitely be in there. Right up there with the Ku Klux Klan, Hitler and Tony Abbott. They are to be embraced as “the change bringers”. The inspiration for revolution. The opposite end of the spectrum that shows us the way to better things. A reference point on a map that marks the spot where the furthest place from the place we want to be is.
It’s all good…
…What you do.
Without you, how would we know we want better?
We wouldn’t know what “better” was.