Another Brick in the Wall - Richard Cheese (mp3)
passed a law that requires the LGBT community be positively represented in future history textbooks in public schools. It also, according to news reports, “bans materials that reflect negatively on gays.”
I remember adults in the late 1980s talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. I don’t remember which adults, but I know they were white, and I know they were members of my church and friends of my parents and neighbors, and I know they were less than exhilarated about the man getting his own federal holiday.
“He was a serial adulterer,” they’d say.
“He was a Commie,” they’d say. “A real member of the Communist party!”
“He had bastard children and wouldn’t acknowledge or support them,” they’d say.
A lot of white people felt threatened by the holiday. Like acknowledging MLK’s greatness was just another way of telling them they were bad people, their parents were bad people. Their reaction was defensive. Not an excuse, but an explanation. In hindsight, I wish I had somehow realized the truth sooner.
It’s taken decades of experience and wisdom to get beyond the racism I witnessed or overheard as a kid. Most of it was relatively mild, lingering in my experiences like cigarette smoke in a hotel room. One could reasonably argue that I'll spend the rest of my life without ever fully getting past it all. I wonder if any laws could have prevented or further restricted this pollution from my mind, this reminder of who we are and who we aren’t, of black and white and different and better.
Somehow the racist mutterings around me never quite penetrated my circle of closest friends. Having a circle that included representation by several minorities didn't hurt.... but none of my friends were gay. Or, at least, I didn’t know it if they were.
Homosexuality wasn’t obvious to me in the '80s. I didn’t have a “gay-dar” as a kid. The first time I ever remember fully realizing there were actual gay people walking and living around me -- not just singing rock songs or taking homoerotic photographs, but actually going to school with us and stuff -- was 1985.
The more comfortable I became with my own sexuality, the less homosexuality frightened me, the less it felt like some problem. The more I saw friends from childhood and high school come out, the more I felt convinced it wasn’t some fashion statement or attempt at rebellion and instead a long-overdue disclosure of their real being.
As a kid, homophobia was the Godzooky to racism’s Godzilla. Gay culture was still very hushed and hidden around me, and I don’t know if people felt threatened by it the way they were in the 90s and this past decade.
This California law, requiring positive examples of LGBT people in history and forbidding negative ones, is a frightening attempt at thought control, and there’s no other way of putting it.
I recently wrote about Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, an absolutely fabulous book for high school kids to read, for both its historical information and its compelling story. If our state had passed a law similar to California’s, and if this law was about the Japanese rather than homosexuals, would we be able to read this book, a book that is frank and fair about Japanese both good and bad, both soldier and citizen, a book that identifies many horrific acts yet also acknowledges their culture and humanity?
Or, to put it another way, as a friend quoted on Facebook: “Propoganda must not investigate the truth objectively... it must present only that aspect of truth which is favorable to its own side.”
When your actions reflect the words of some dude named Adolf, it’s probably a bad idea.