I like to think of myself as a patient man.
That being said, this past year has brought numerous opportunities where my patience has been tried, none more vigorously than the latest electoral diatribe and lack of communal anger that usually accompanies such an affront.
If you would, indulge me for a moment and imagine the following: A preacher takes to his pulpit on a Sunday and pronounces that he has found the way to get rid of colored people. He doesn't use politically correct terminology because he finds it acceptable to use more derogatory terms when discussing "these people." He continues to espouse his views on how to eradicate these purveyors of moral decay and social immorality. To him it's quite simple: First, separate the men and women into two groups. Then place them each in camps, surrounded by electrified fences to keep them in line and prohibit escape. Yes, electrified fences. In time, with a certain amount of mandatory feeding, the coloreds would start to die off because, you see, they couldn't reproduce if they were kept apart. Then, finally, we could all live in a world free from these heathens and their inferiority. Of course, this would all be done in the name of bettering societal morals and the wishes of a higher power. After all, it wasn't because the preacher hated the colored people. He loved them. It was just that he knew that this was the way God wanted it.
Then, at the pinnacle of his fury, imagine that this harangue was greeted not with derision from those in his congregation. Imagine that they start to chant "Amen!"
What thoughts are going through your mind right now? Are you thinking that I've invented an exaggerated scenario that could never happen? Or maybe you're thinking that it smacks of Nazi Germany, with a person in an authoritative role calling for the death of a people in the name of moral superiority? Perhaps you're thinking that there would surely be some sort of outcry. That people would see the inconsequential nature of all previous political backstabbing and name-calling and see this incident as different, for what it truly is -- a crime against humanity.
At least I can hope that you would.
Last week, Pastor Charles L. Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina gave such a sermon described above. The only difference was that he wasn't referring to African Americans but to gays and lesbians. Indeed, the Pastor proclaimed from his perch that he had found "the way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers." That we gather the separate groups into camps. Surround them with "a great, big, large fence -- 50 or a 100 miles long...have that fence electrified so they can't get out...fly over and drop some food...and you know, in a few years, they'll die out."
Whether or not you believe in the civil or moral rights of gays and lesbians to marry, adopt, teach -- it doesn't matter. Whether or not you're an advocate for their rights is not at issue. What you should ask yourself is why you aren't enraged at the very thought of such persecution, and why you don't speak out against it? Is it simple apathy or a lack of tolerance for those who are different from you that leads you to accept death wishes voiced without compunction or remorse? Wasn't it only 70 years or so ago that a similar, rising lack of intolerance had the world eventually proclaiming "never again?" Well, it's here again.
However, this intolerance is not an isolated incident. I have upheld my patience throughout the past year as primary candidate after primary candidate has pushed the rhetoric against the LGBT community to the brink. Just some examples to refresh your memories:
Newt Gingrich -- When being asked by an associate professor at William Penn University asked how, as president, he'd support the rights of gay and lesbian Americans, Newt responded by telling the constituent that he'd be better off voting for President Obama. Newt followed up on this by reaffirming his support for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and his desire to reinstate "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
Michele Bachmann -- After signing "a binding contract with Jesus," in which marriage was explicitly defined as being between one man and one woman, Michele went on to explain her beliefs at the National Education Leadership Conference: "Any of you who have members of you family that are in the lifestyle...this is not funny...it's part of Satan...if you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage...and that's why this is so dangerous;"
Rick Santorum -- So many gems exist but some highlights include when he suggested that same sex marriage would lead to the legalization of polygamy; that children would be better off having a father in prison rather than being raised by lesbian parents; that the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell means we're "playing social experimentation with our military. And that's tragic." And, of course, who could ever forget that he feels that that homosexuality is just one step away from man-on-dog sex?
Mitt Romney -- After signing the 2012 Presidential Pledge against gay marriage, Mitt told the Conservative Political Action Committee, "When I am president, I will preserve the Defense of Marriage Act and I will fight for a federal amendment defining marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman." Previously, Mitt said, "Call me old fashioned, but I don't support gay marriage nor do I support civil union."
These are the men and women who want to run our country. These are the elite few who are elected to speak on behalf of everyone.
But yet, through it all, I sustained my patience. You see, while all these politicians are loathsome in their refusal to move beyond their own limited worldviews, I am not sure any of these candidates would have gone so far as Pastor Worley. At least not in public. In the public view, all profess the sacred American values of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. So why doesn't the demonization of a select group, the calling for them to be rounded up and exterminated, be cause for anger from these purveyors of American superiority? Do they simply place more value on those similar to themselves and less on those who differ? Are these "lesser-than" people simply less worthy of their attention?
Just taken at face value, if the words spoken by Pastor Worley were said in reference to, for instance, the African American community, rather than the LGBT community, I don't believe people would be complacent. This incident would not be discounted because of Pastor Worley's fringe player status, but it would rightfully take center stage with protests and calls for his dismissal. References to Nazi Germany would, in this instance, actually be warranted and shouted from all corners of the media, public squares, and religious institutions. So, where is the outrage from these people who preach that all are made in God's image, or that freedom belongs to every man in our country?
Well, I, for one, am outraged. You can talk all you want about people's "evolution," or that the course of acceptance for LGBT rights is moving at an unprecedented pace. Right now, the only thing that matters to me is that someone has called for my death. My extinction. And that these statements, having been spoken in a church, no less, are greeted with a round of hearty "Amens!"
The truth is, having the majority dictating the rules of life for the disenfranchised has tragic implications for all of us. Being accepting of calls for the elimination of any one group cannot be blithely noted and then dismissed. Pastor Worley may feel as though he can toss off comments and proclamations in so carefree a manner but this should not be met with indifference. Not by any of us.
Yes, I have felt my patience tested over the past few years. But this -- this blatant desecration of my human right to simply BE -- has caused my patience to be shattered. Those words by Pastor Worley are actually an affront to all of us who claim this country to be a land of equality. I'm not talking about the sanctity of marriage here. I am speaking of the sanctity of human dignity. As such, no one should stand on the sidelines while another uses hatred and ignorance as primary reasons to judge others whilst proclaiming another race's superiority. We have seen this before and we know how it turned out.
And so, the buck stops here, with me. And yes, I have now run out of patience, as should you. We all need to speak up for decency in public discourse, not incendiary targeting of those different from ourselves. If history has taught us anything let it be that, in the face of such animosity and persecution, we are all accountable for silence.