Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Are you as open minded as you think out loud NYC???
;">A bashing in New York City and Politics make strange bed fellas
by Cody Lyon
This past Friday night, in New York's east village, the performer Kevin Aviance was assaulted by a group of men who taunted him with numerous anti-gay epithets. Aviance's face was beaten so severely, that he has to have his jaw wired shut for healing. Kevin's beating has resulted in outcry among the gay community, but also local public officials, including the Mayor, who called it unacceptable.
A brutal violation of dignity, not only adds another statistic to the hate crimes roster of NYC, but another grim reminder that quietly simmering homophobia, is still spewing fumes in homes and halls of power across America. Often, it appears that the gay community itself forgets, falsely assured by comfort zones like the Castro's, Christopher Streets, 8th Avenues or high profile television shows and celebrities. But then, along comes an incident right in your liberal bastion’s front yard.
New Yorkers are busy living individual lives, forgetting that like it or not, as a community we are involved, directly and indirectly, in a tug of war that is a battle for the full civil and individual rights of our very own self identity and being.
Over the past few months, there have been other allegedly hate based physically violent assaults involving friends or acquaintances that hit close to home for myself. It's been a blood boiling experience to hear about each of them. Face it, any attack that is motivated by the attacker’s perception that his victim is gay, is an attack on every individual gay person, regardless of how big one’s "gay" badge is. Hate crime perps may perceive a less masculine looking victim as weak and a prime target for violence, but, the hate, anger and insecurity motivating the behavior is directed towards all members of that group.
(IN spite of all the gains, you still gotta respect the kids with the big badges, cause they put themselves out on the frontline.)
Most people, regardless of sexual orientation, have the same angry reaction when they hear about violence, and even more outrage when it’s motivated by hate. But among most gay people, there is also a cruel flash of awful self-doubt, the sense that somehow full acceptance by society is generations away. Currently, a symptom of the disconnect from full equal acceptance is spelled out, in sometimes very shrill language in daily newspapers and talk radio or tv programs around the country.
Of course it would be wrong to politicize the actions of five young men who beat someone to a pulp, peppering their viciousness with anti-gay language. A deplorable crime can’t be simply written off as a reaction to high profile issues like gay marriage or gays in the military etc. Nor can we neglect to consider the sad upbringing that leads to an individual capable of such madness. Instead, an attack like Kevin’s could be seen as a violent example of homophobia's most virulent tip. And unfortunately, it is homophobia that happens to be the most basic fundamental component that is now located at the very base of those who loudly express opposition to gay marriage. Although, a number of people would say the argument is over the definition of marriage, not the gays, the fact is, much of the opposition to gay marriage, the very language itself, can serve as a barometer of the acceptance of gay people in America. (well at least portions of it!)
When a Senator from Oklahoma can stand on the floor of the senate proudly proclaiming that none of his 30 children or grandchildren have ever been involved in homosexual affairs a clear example raises its ugly head.....Senator "Okie" puts on a show, contributes to the sharp divide over gay marriage for CSPAN listeners across the land, goes home a hero to many of his "right" leaning consituents. His name is Senator Inhofe and just last week, he stood in front of a rather large picture of his brood, and lambasted gay marriage, by claiming his family was "gay free". The Senator provided another solid piece of evidence that the state of gay acceptance in America is a long ways off, because if he can get away with that kind of talk...wrong, sorry....if he can win votes with that kinda talk, that's a bad sign.
Politicians serve as spokespersons for their constituents, which leads to an even more compelling fact of the matter... Violent attacks on gays motivated by hate, are rooted in a society that still accepts or at least tolerates homophobia. Enter exhibit B which is provided by a desperate President and his political party. Republican leaders are smart, and love going for the shrillest denominator (fear, manipulation, sin, flags, tittle tattle). That’s why, when times get tough in the polls, it might be politically strategic to use a hot off the press issue like gay marriage as a tool of engagement and jockeying for votes. The pool of proof is available for inspection in the passage of anti-gay marriage amendments in 19 states from coast to coast. And, as we’ve witnessed during this debate, a true test of any politician’s real resolve and commitment to fairness shows up in the political arena, forcing many of the nation’s more supposed “enlightened” liberal political leaders into an uncomfortable corner, when the motto "What would Jesus do" turns into "How would Jesus win" often resulting in courts taking the heat, changing the world for the better and making life a little more just. (just google Judge Frank Johnson sometime)
(All of that is a little grain of dust when compared to the legacy of anti gay sentiment of this ol world of ours...but truth be told, eventually political grandstanding trickles down through the complicated and messed up economic inequity and ignorance floating through streets,valleys into homes finally ending up minds and hearts or filters or perhaps even fanning flames of intollerance....or worse defining acceptable objects (people) for discrimintation, ridicule and abuse.)
Most perpetrators of violent hate crimes are not as politically engaged as a Senator. But several Senators and the President are politically wise enough to know that many Americans are not “fully” accepting of homosexuality, and sometimes, politicians choose to be real cheap and capitalize on the intolerance, fear and religion.
Considering the truth, that the hate of someone who is perceived as "different" begins at home and is then subtly cultivated by a culture’s long held disapproval or non-acceptance, we can make a safe assumption that politicized social issues and violence do function in a cooperative manner. Politics often reflects deeper lying truths, and politicians have been known to rubber stamp violence, usually through antagonistic divisive policy.
Gay marriage probably didn’t have a direct role in the Friday night beating of an innocent, productive and talented soul on a busy east village street. But, at the root of the passionate defense of heterosexual couples only marriage in America, there is a volume of evidence that speaks to the subtle homophobia that still quietly cooks its poisons in homes across America.