Am I still in High School? Lately, the real world has been letting me down on the promises it made to me during that time. Maturity, equality, and civility — all things classically absent from the high school experience — have begun to elude me in the real world. I was told to expect a harsh, cutthroat reality upon graduation, but I was also told that the world of adults would be free of the slander, bullying, and pure, hateful judgment adorning the halls of high schools, more noticeable than dusty trophy cases.
A pandemic of hateful homophobic remarks has been spreading among people of influence lately. Like a swarm of killer bees, those who wish to inject comments of ignorance and prejudice into the media have been doing so overwhelmingly since the beginning of the year, each comment more painful a sting than the one preceding it.
Last month we had the oh-so eloquent, ex-NBA player Tim Hardaway’s Valentine’s Day slur. “You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” he said in response to fellow player John Amaechi’s brave decision to come out. This resulted in an immediate media backlash, causing the NBA to remove Hardaway from the Las Vegas NBA All-Star festivities. For the first time in memory, being labeled homophobic became a curse, not a right of manhood.
A few weeks later, Republican mouthpiece Ann Coulter turned the recent positivity of silencing homophobia into homophobia itself when speaking about Presidential nominee John Edwards. ''I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I—so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards.'' Her slithering tongue is of no surprise, but her words still cut.
Most recently, The Pentagon’s highest-ranking General publicly stated his belief that homosexuality is immoral. General Peter Pace sat in front of a bouquet of microphones and clearly said, “I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts." Though free speech is a right, it is also a responsibility. This particular General is the acting General of an army full of diversity. Statistics have shown the numbers of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community service men and woman to be significant. How irresponsible of General Pace.
Light is beginning to filter in amidst this darkened time of hate. The media’s response to each of these horrible slurs has been immediate and harsh (hence Coulter’s joke of homophobic rehab – revenge for reformed gay camp maybe?). Politicians eager to distance themselves from Bush have been comfortable in saying, “Hey, it’s not okay to incite hate.” Even General Pace’s unfortunate remarks have met criticism from his military peers. “Now look, you know I think personal opinion really doesn’t have a place here,” rebuffed Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The reaction of American culture to the spread of hate speech has been promising, though, take my word for it, the words themselves still hurt. The irresponsibility of spreading such comments among the public sphere can be disastrous (i.e. gay teen suicide rates).
As long as there are imbeciles willing to take their right of free speech to a hateful, judgmental place, there needs to be the response that has been forming lately. It takes me right back into my mother’s arms after running home from school, crying because the jocks screamed “faggot” to my face. It’s consoling.
Not having a swift enough condemnation of homophobic comments can scar as well. Recently, Senator Hillary Clinton responded to an ABC News question regarding her views on Gen. Pace's comments. "Well I'm going to leave that to others to conclude," she said. The GLBT community, which Clinton usually is an avid supporter of, quickly became skeptical, and pressured the Presidential Nominee to issue a formal restatement. "Well I've heard from a number of my friends…I disagree with General Pace completely. I do not think homosexuality is immoral," Clinton clarified.
Although those who feel prejudice towards the GLBT community have somehow recently been given public platforms to voice their hate, the collective American backlash has been there to defend the equal rights and safety of all it's people. Let's keep it up! If you feel the same way I do, please write to Senator Clinton and support the Human Rights Campaign.