Monday, August 10, 2009

Politics of Fear and the Equal Rights Debate

It's nothing new; fear tactics have steered political debate for several years now. Most even-minded individuals dismiss these irrational diatribes as pure fluff; but for those who blindly accept the opinions of the Limbaughs of the world, America becomes a world of cornering walls. What starts as a political ploy to divert supporters of a bill can turn into a swirl of hysteria and anger, to which the likely end result is violence.
One of the most disturbing images from the "Town Hall" protests was a lynching effigy of Congressman Frank Kratovil [D-MD]. An anti-health bill protester stood beside the wooden post, smiling from ear to ear, as a clothed, cardboard cutout of the congressman dangled from a noose. Frankly, just looking at the picture makes me sick to my stomach. It doesn't matter that it was an effigy, the imagery of someone being lynched and then posed beside as some sort of accomplishment is unfathomably monstrous. The idea that anyone would think lightly of one of the most grotesque actions in American history, is not only disconcerting, it's a symbol of how far we still need to go in this country.
Although health care is arguably wider in scope, the gay rights movement would be remiss to think that scare tactics will not aim to circumvent our efforts. We have seen it already in 2008 with Prop 8 and virtually throughout every gay-flavored debate in the last 30 years. Even though there is a lot more visibility of the gay community in the media, outside of Logo, we have a long way to go to change the public perception.
It's similar to what the Cosby's did in the 80s; a successful, middle-class African American family on television allowed people to see the diversity in the community and further engendered the idea that all black people weren't from the hood. Today, gay characters on television and movies are moving closer to establishing trademarks in society. People are slowly beginning to realize that we don't wear rainbows everywhere, that we are essentially, the same. I like to call this process humanization; it's a counteraction to the kinds of ideals that make people think it's okay to hang people from trees or drag them from trucks.
We are moving in the right direction, our efforts and community outreach will not only aid our efforts but will generate allies and promote visibility. Rest assured, the scare tactics are coming our way, most likely stronger than before. It's intolerable and abhorrent and it needs to stop. We can stop it with something as simple as a handshake. Don't just be out, live out; support your friends, rally your community, lobby your representatives. It is out job to get our bearings before the wave rolls in, I say, let's surf!