The Real Problem

Ugggggh. I really would like to do a Knesset ruling coalition or a French President Francois Hollande blong. But, our domestic news has been dominated by sexual orientation news and debate. And, it seems irresponsible not to say more about it. In two days, we’ve had NC adopt a constitutional amendment forbidding the legal recognition of any sort of same-sex civil arrangement; President Obama was “forced” to admit his support for same-sex marriage by the admissions of his Veep, Joey B.; and Mitt Romney has been accused of shearing a fellow classmates hair, in high school, for the classmate’s perceived homosexuality and against his will.

As I’ve confessed, I’m constrained, most notably by my day job, from commenting too specifically about the legal aspects of the matter. And, I’m personally wary of offending some or all of my audience. It’s hot button. And, my courage is not red badge.

But, the Romney accusation exposes a blind spot in the dialogue of the right and among people of faith about the homosexual issue. As the story is told, Romney became obsessed with what he perceived as the inappropriate length of a blonde classmate’s hair (circa Ronnie Bass of Remember the Titans). Witnesses say that Romney took a pair of scissors, held down the classmate, and cut it off — the hair. Romney first claimed that he didn’t remember the event but then offered that homosexuality couldn’t have been any sort of motive because that was “the furthest thing from [their] minds back in the 1960s.”

The rejoinder misses the mark.

Ducking the hate crime or homophobia accusation doesn’t save you from the most damning one.

That you’re cruel.

When I was about 11 I saw an advertisement for the television premiere of the movie, The Elephant Man. I BEGGED my parents to VHS tape record it for me. They kept saying, “You know it’s really sad, right?” But, I was apparently so intrigued by the sort of sideshow aspect of it that I insisted.

As best I recall, in the movie, the Elephant Man builds, out of match sticks or cards, a replica church. One night a group of drunken revelers comes by his hospital room. They destroy his model, pour alcohol over his face and body, and then show him his own misshapen face in a mirror.

In that moment, I ran sobbing convulsingly from the room. Like couldn’t catch my breath, ran into the wall type crying. It was abhorrent cruelty. It was gut level, my reaction. Pure grain empathy. No real analytics or moral processing. Just base sadness. I spent 2 hours swinging on the playground. I couldn’t sleep for an actual week. (It didn’t help that my dad thought Poltergeist was a “comedy” and that I had seen it that very same week. The irony is that my parents were, and remain, about the most prudish movie consumers I know. I didn’t see Robocop until I was 27.)

That scene is, for me, the emblem of cruelty.

Mitt Romney is an old man. (Sorry Dad.) He went to high school FIVE decades ago. I would never hold him to account for basically anything he did then, including this alleged incident. “Every five years or so I look back on my life and have a good laugh.” – The Indigo Girls

That Mitt Romney might have disagreed with homosexuality in the 60s or that he disagrees with it now or certain civil benefits for the same, should be permissible in our public discourse. But, this alleged story epitomizes the problem with those that would — disagree that is.

We don’t stop at disagreement. All such opposition is eventually marked by a type of metaphorical “holding down” and “shearing.” In private conversation, in political strategy, in the voting booth, we don’t seem to stop at disagreement. It nearly always morphs into cruelty.

I saw a girl in high school who lived in Toms River, NJ. And, by “saw” I mean so in the Biblical sense, if you get my drift. She was a devout Christian and her father was a pastor. I was visiting with her family one summer and they began talking viscously about “faggots” and “queers.” At that time, I probably shared nearly identical theological and political views concerning the LGBT community. But, I was just stunned by the rhetoric. Even then, at 17 or so, there was this impassable gap, for me, between the viewpoint and the hatred. And, trust me, to be completely above board, at that time and even now, much of the pattern and practice of the LGBT community illicits from me only revulsion. I was not, and am not now, any sort of specific behavioral sympathizer. My instincts, in other words, have never been ones of appreciation and understanding. But, the hatred to it is simply foreign.

Hate crimes, bullying, dirty politics, name calling, talk radio. These are symptoms of something more universally disgusting — our inclination to cruelty. But it’s not just freaks and gays we treat meanly. We invite underclassman teammates to the back of buses, through dark tunnels, strip them naked, duct tape their ankles and wrists, and send them back to their seat. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) We build whole stand-up and talk-radio and late-night television careers out of ridicule. We love a good prank show. Clever condescension. The snide. Cruelty can be so cool.

I have been plenty cruel in my life. I don’t mean to cite some set of silly anecdotes to distinguish others from myself.

But, in our moral policing and proselytizing, let’s make sure we don’t find ourselves straddled over a classmate, taking hair against his will.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s song blog here:


4 thoughts on “The Real Problem

  1. Interestingly, I’d have loved to hear your thoughts on those other things as well. Maybe you can hit me up about that stuff…

    Cruelty. I’m glad you focused in on that. I’ve actually spent a LOT of time this year in conversations that are always focused on “symptoms” and not the “source” of such things. Our love of cruelty, in its variety of forms (I believe) speaks to a vast majority of the “issues” that our news covers. In actuality, I think THAT is much more largely a part of what this whole media maelstrom has been about, even though people use certain issues or terms as their…I guess “polarizing lightening rod” would be a good visual. The big secret (said sarcastically by this lion) is that we all hate being the victim of cruelty. That’s why people gather up about (or around) issues and make huge fusses to indicate how wrong it is. We don’t want to feel bullied or called “names.”

    But then…we turn around and use similar tactics, deeds, actions to others.

    Aren’t we something?

    Personally (and I’m easily going to lose fans here) I have trouble signing off on the issue at hand. The terminology that is being used, at times, I disagree with. To me, anyone who uses the term “Civil Rights” makes me think of the ideal of a race that was…well, “discriminated” is also WIDELY used all a sudden too, huh. Anyways I guess, because there were once live members of my family whom walked right beside the most historically recognized “Civil Rights leaders,” my view of the term is skewed by the closeness of the reality of its origins.

    Sorry…I’m sort of getting off subject…loosely.

    Your point was cruelty and, regardless of the names we give things (boy, are we obsessed with labeling or what?) whether your black, hispanic, “gay,” fat, skinny, nerdy, a musclehead, dumb, intelligent….etc to the nth degree on what you could be, we’ve all be labeled, pushed, and even villified by our fellow man. And we hate it.

    We put a big ole’ fuss about “Bullying” but, honestly, lets face it: It’s SO American to bully. We say its not cool to socially do but our comedy is rampant with it. Music too. We teach our atheletes that heckling and that boisterous attitude is part of how things are done on the major levels. Its cool. Our obsessive love of being cool overrides any “movement” to be more accepting and NOT create animosities by those whom aren’t “the same” as whatever standard arises as the most “normal.”

    To me, its all sort of a futility in play here. THIS is the hot-buttoned discussion at the moment. Soon it will drift off to some other “set of people.” Weren’t we just on some hype about bullying kids in schools recently? Soon it will shift to something else and, honestly, the same base issue drives these “symptoms.” And, during the moment, more people build resentment because everyone wants to win their argument on “issues.” Everyone wants their “perfect world” to exist over others.

    So, as much as its cruel acts, words, and thoughts, its also Selfish ones. Things done and said to benefit the “me, now” without regard to the past or the future…and certainly not to the righteous benefit of building up others true worth.

  2. oh, funny note about your written part: My bestfriend is a girl from Tom’s River NJ and, outside of her and this post, I’d never know the place existed. haha. Not sure if you’ve heard of her but, she’s an emcee named Realistikk. Funny how things connect in odd ways.

  3. Thanks so much for all this man. I’m sorry to leave it hanging. I like to logout to make my replies and I need to be more prompt with it. I appreciate all the thoughtful comments.

    I had no idea Realistikk was from TR. That’s seriously nuts. I thought she was west coast. That’s pretty fresh. Never met her but I def know who she is.

  4. Pingback: 2012 Year in Review & The 1st Annual “Press Junkies” Blong Awards | the press junket

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.