At bedtime tonight my daughter and I read Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. She had a lot of questions as we read that no matter where people are-- we are all the same-- we are all people who hurt and love and laugh, even when we look different, talk different, or live differently. This was the first conversation we have ever had about the difference in the color of skin. She pointed to the person and told me their individual colors, what their hair looked like and if they seemed happy or sad on that particular page. We talked about how people have different languages, how we speak English but are learning Spanish, how there are many many other languages and differences around the world. We talked about how some kids live in different kinds of families and have different kinds of houses, and on and on. I loved it. I ate up every moment of this moment because I recognized that this is where the foundation is laid. These moments are what shape our children's thinking, what impacts their tolerance and acceptance of diversity -- even at the innocent age of two. I tucked her into bed with the book in hand and as I am typing this I can hear her reading it to her Chic Baby.
I had no sooner left her side when I received this link: "Openly Gay Mayor Candidate Beaten, Set on Fire & Dumped." I was ill when I read about the horrific and tragic death of Marco McMillian suffered. March 4, 2013. I read and reread the date. It did not say 1913, not even 1953. It said 2013. Why the hell is this happening in 2013? How could hate crimes such as this still be a part of our reality? How many more innocent lives must be lost before we stop the hate? The details of this mans death should disturb both conservatives and liberals. Even though many people oppose gay marriage or dislike homosexuality,I believe the vast majority would agree that hate crimes are beyond unacceptable.
My younger brother played the lead in high school when his thespian club enacted The Laramie Project depicting the heinous murder of young gay man from Wyoming. I had never heard this story before and it moved me deeply. This murder occurred in 1998, and 15 years later the same exact barbarism lives. Matthew Shepard has never been far from my mind since I learned of his story, as has Marco McMillian. This is such a tragic loss of a talented and well educated politician who carried great promise to impact our world for the better only to be murdered for being gay. This story is all too familiar and I am left wondering how many more times?
As I read through this article I am reminded of the Broadway show Memphis. Two lovers are depicted struggling against the prejudice and violence of their time as they look to solidify their love for one another. I sobbed my way through it, especially the scene where the African-American leading lady is beaten within inches of her life. This was an era when people were so filled with hate because of their differences that they were capable of inhumane brutality. Apparently, though so are we. Again, I believe that the majority of us can agree that no one deserves such treatment. No one deserves to die because of their differences. Yet people are still being murdered for the supposed crime of their sexuality.
The words penned by Mem Fox run through my head:
Little one, whoever you are,
Wherever you are,
There are little ones just like you all over the world.
Their skin may be different from yours, and their homes may be different from yours...
But inside their hearts are just like yours,
Whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world...
Joys are the same, and love is the same.
Pain is the same, and blood is the same.
Smiles are the same, and hearts are just the same-
Wherever they are, wherever you are,
Wherever we are, all over the world.
Some write blogs for equality, some wear pro-gay t-shirts. Some write lyrics and some march in parades waving rainbow flags. But not everyone. I understand that this type of activism is not for everyone. Some take a more neutral stance. I recognize that many readers may not even agree with the very basis of the debate and many take a vehement stance in protecting the sanctity of their definition of marriage.
What we can all agree on though is the sanctity of life.
So even if you cannot stand up and speak out for gay rights, you can fight this same fight for life. We each hold the ability and carry the obligation of impacting our world for the better. Even if murders such as the one suffered by Marco McMillian are minuscule per capita, one more death is too many. We must be willing to bridge this great divide between those whose moral convictions lead them to stand against homosexuality and those who are fighting loud and proud to advance equality for all. Life's inviolability transcends religious differences, political views, or sexual orientation. In spite of our differences, we don't have to compromise our religious or political beliefs to endorse the dignity that life deserves. Education and advocacy for change starts young and starts now. The messages we are sending to our children will shape the future of our nation. We have the ability to impact and advocate for a better world even if it is as simplistic as instilling a message of respect for life into our children.
Stand with me and stop the hate now, whoever, wherever you are.
At the time of publishing this blog there is controversy over whether Marco McMillian was murdered because of his sexual orientation. While the circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear, the underlying message of this blog remains relevant.