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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

Tolerance and Lines in the Sand

It’s all President Obama’s fault. Last week he made his speech in which he finally openly supported gay marriage, and really, that was pretty amazing. I mean, yes, most of the people who won’t vote for him because of that one issue probably wouldn’t have voted for him anyhow, but still, wrap your head around the enormity of it: the first Black president of the United States, in his first term of office and coming up on what will likely be a tight election, had the balls to stand up and say, ALL people should be treated equally. ALL people should have the right to marry the person they love. Yes.

Several times over the past couple weeks, I’ve had comments in my feed that were decidedly anti-LGBT and/or anti-gay marriage. Twice in the past couple months (and a few more over the last year or so) I’ve had people from whom I’d accepted friend requests — I think all of them were friends-of-friends or the like — send me private messages bashing me for my support of LGBT issues. Last week there was one about how moderate Christian Obama supporters should reconsider their support because a vote for Obama is more or less a vote for Satan, and then came a charming private note from a friend of an acquaintance who felt compelled to let me know that she had added me to her prayer circle list of people “struggling with sin.”

In the last week this issue has come up more than a few times in my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and some heated discussions have ensued. A couple times I’ve been pretty shocked by things people have said in these discussions; it’s hard for me to even wrap my head around the anti-gay perspective to begin with, but when you mix in the hate and bigotry and bullying, it’s just stomach-churning. A couple days ago, the photo at the top of this post went around Facebook, a picture worth a thousand words for its simplicity and its sad truth. A news story popped up about an old college friend, now Oklahoma Senate Appropriations Committee chair, who authored a resolution reaffirming support for defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Another about a Kansas middle school teacher who posted an anti-gay rant to his Facebook page — a page that was accessible to some of his students. Several friends have gotten into heated discussions on gay rights issues with someone else on Facebook and angrily and promptly de-friended people.

How quickly we sort ourselves into “us” and “them.” And that’s not a judgment, but an acknowledgment that I do this, too. As a Unitarian Universalist, I belong to a church built on tolerance and respect. We are a welcoming congregation for the LGBT community, and providing a space where LGBT people feel comfortable and welcome and wanted, a place where an LGBT teen can safely come out and be supported, not judged, is one of the things I most value about this church. We may not have as much Jesus in our Sunday service as my Christian friends might think we should have, but I would submit that UUs actually practice the values of love, acceptance and community Jesus espoused far more than many churches that call themselves “Christian” do. And yet, even within a community that embraces diversity and tolerance, do we always practice what we preach?

We’ve discussed this with our middle school youth group more than once this year as we’ve engaged in discussions about relevant social issues. What does tolerance mean? Does it mean that we have to tolerate hatred? Tolerate racist or homophobic points of view? Tolerate the oppression, the bullying, the targeting of laws against an entire group of people for whom we offer a safe harbor in a world that often hates and discriminates against them? No, we do not. There are times when you have to draw a moral line in the sand, when you can’t sit on the fence. You have to choose sides. That doesn’t mean you stop talking to the other side, because sometimes you will make a difference. President Obama himself has said that his own views on gay marriage shifted as he engaged in conversations with LGBT people about this issue.

But you also have to decide where your own energy is best used, and I’ve decided that it’s a better use of my time to put positive energy out into the world through things like my volunteer work with youth at church and at the theater, and into raising my own kids with the values in which I believe, than it is to engage in arguments on the internet about LGBT rights or gay marriage. I’ll write pieces like this from time-to-time, but for the most part I’m going to do try to avoid the rabbit hole of Twitter or Facebook arguments.

Consequently, yesterday I posted this on Facebook, and it’s generated quite a discussion:

I try not to base my friendships strictly around political or religious leanings, and I like that I have friends from all across the spectrum. And I realize that discussions are likely to get more and more heated as the election nears. Discussion and differences are the cornerstone of engaging in political debate and I appreciate that.

However, I need to say this: Anyone who publicly comments or privately messages me, with ANY anti-gay rhetoric — and in this I include “I will not vote for Obama solely because of the gay marriage issue” will be immediately de-friended. Post or send me anti-LGBT crap, you are attacking my family and my very dear friends. And that I cannot and will not tolerate.

End. Of. Freaking. Line.

Thanks for understanding. Peace, love, pax, namaste, and all that. But I mean it, folks.

Am I being intolerant of intolerance? Yes, Virginia, maybe I am.

This awesome speech about gay rights and women’s rights by Black Panthers co-founder Huey Newton is going around the internet, and with good reason. Not only does this speech, given waaaaaay back in 1970, address women’s rights and gay rights, but Newton explicitly paints these issues not as religious issues but as CIVIL RIGHTS issues on par with the issues of Black civil rights the Black Panthers were fighting for. In this speech, he gets that oppression is oppression, period:

Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say ” whatever your insecurities are” because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

Read the whole speech. Really.

Newton’s speech from over four decades ago is still relevant today because we are still fighting the same issues, folks. We’ve come a long way with gay rights, yes. But for every step we take forward, we get pushed another two back. These battles we are fighting now, these laws being passed that oppress a whole segment of our society, these attempts to define civil rights and personal freedoms by imposing the religious views of one group on the rest of us — this, my friends, is one of THE defining issues of our time, as surely as rights for African Americans and access to birth control defined the 1960s and 1970s. The issue of gay marriage and gay rights generally continues to be a divisive political issue among the Black and Latino communities, and we need to be united in this election, not divided. Newton understood the relationship between Black rights and women’s rights and gay rights — we need leaders in the minority community (and hey, President Obama isn’t a bad start) who understand that too.

Here’s the thing about LGBT rights. It’s not an abstract issue or set of issues, it’s about real people and their real lives. It’s very simple: So long as there are laws that limit the rights of LGBT people to do ANYTHING that hetero folks are entitled to do — marry the people they love, provide health insurance benefits to their partner, have or adopt children, serve as foster parents, teach, serve in the military — the whole kit and kaboodle, kids – there is oppression, and that is a problem. When laws are being made to oppress the rights of a group of people — particularly when the impetus for those laws is a set of religious beliefs — that is a problem. The United States is not a theocracy, but if the GOP gets its way, it very well might keep us heading more and more down that path.

If you are LGBT, or have family members or friends who are, can you truly be friends with someone who thinks gay people shouldn’t have the same right as hetero people to legally wed the person they love? Because I just don’t know how to navigate that anymore. I’m growing intolerant of intolerance. I’m not talking here about the right of a church to decide whether or not to marry any given couple and to call that “marriage,” I’m talking about legal marriage, and we cannot accept the “separate but equal” civil union path here, folks. Either every adult, gay or straight, can legally marry their partner, or every adult, gay or straight, can have a legal civil union and we do away with the term “marriage” outside however any given church wishes to define that.

We deserve better. And we are going to have to fight like hell for it. And maybe to ask ourselves where we draw the line.

6 Responses to “Tolerance and Lines in the Sand”

  1. Bill W says:

    Kim,
    Your ‘intolerance of intolerance’ is neither intellectually, logically, nor morally defensible. How does de-friending anti-gay-marriage friends advance the debate any further than banning Manny Pacquiao from an LA mall–or jailing pastors for preaching Biblical truth, as has happened in Canada?

    Do you not see the poisonous irony inherent in this slippery slope? “You refuse to agree with my position, therefore–in the name of tolerance–I must silence you and take away your ability to disagree with me.”

    I’m not even getting into who’s right or wrong on the marriage issue here: I’m talking about defending the most basic, precious right ANY of us have–from the Westboro freaks to the Dan Savage freaks, and everyone in between.

    The right to speak. The right to express ourselves. Our freedom of speech. Are you willing to become selective with the first amendment?

    Should I not even expect to see this post up for long?

    I would just encourage you to do the hard thing, Kim. It’s easy to censor and ban and shut out dissenting views (it’s been done in benighted dictatorships for thousands of years). Much harder–but ultimately much more rewarding–to put on your big-girl pants and engage.

    Isn’t changing hearts and minds the most noble goal to which we can aspire? Hard to do that when your opening argument is, “Shut up.”

  2. Kim Voynar says:

    Bill, I believe you’ve completely misinterpreted everything I wrote, so I’m going to take a brief minute to clear a couple points up, and then moving on.

    I never said or implied that anyone shouldn’t have the right to speak or express themselves. Totally support the First Amendment and the right of everyone, including the Westboro crazies, to say whatever they want. They can protest, they can write their own opinions on their own blogs or Facebook or Twitter or wherever. Freedom of speech is awesome.

    I never said anything about censoring dissenting views — that would imply I have the power to shut people up, even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. Everyone has the right to their opinion, and the right to state that opinion. What everyone — including me — is NOT entitled to is the right to expect or force anyone else to listen to them, or to engage in discussion with them.

    Life is short, Bill, and my bout with serious illness a few years ago made me rethink how I choose to spend the hours I have each day for life, love and productive work. I have six kids ages 8-16 at home. I homeschool three of them. I’m founding a secular homeschool co-op in my community to help fill a gap there. I co-lead the middle school youth group at our church. I’ve volunteered countless hours at the youth theater in which my kids are active over the past ten years. I shot a wrote, directed and produced my first short last year, which is now on the first circuit. I have two feature scripts I’m actively developing, in addition to my work at MCN. My husband occasionally appreciates me engaging in conversation and spending energy on him as well. I also spend time with my parents, and we frequently host dinner parties and BBQs with people we enjoy spending our time with. All of these things take up time.

    Look, I debated in college. I enjoy arguing and hearing other perspectives and having diverse friendships. But as I’ve evaluated over the past couple years what I spend my time on, and how much time I really need to carve out to get a feature written, directed and produced amid everything else I have in my life, I had to ask myself what chunks of time I was spending on other things needed to go.

    The single biggest non-productive time suck for me is getting sucked into arguments on Facebook (and sometimes Twitter) over socio-political issues with people I don’t even know. With people who don’t think I, my child, my friends, should have the same rights they do. With people who would vote for laws to oppress me. My friends. My child.

    I want positive, productive energy in my life right now. I’m just done dealing with people who have that mindset. You, Bill, can aspire to change their hearts and minds with your words and spend hours in rabbit hole debates on Facebook or in blog comments if that’s your choice. Totally respect that. Go for it.

    I choose to just live my life, love my friends and family, raise my kids to be good people, volunteer my time working with other youth, and generally try to do good and creative work that fills my soul. And if you think that means I don’t have my “big girl pants” on, well, tough. I’ve been engaging with these people publicly through my writing in various forums for well over a decade. I’m choosing to spend my time in other ways for now.

  3. Bill W says:

    Kim,

    We can agree that life is too short. I am really glad to hear about your recovery and what sounds like your full, meaningful life. You (and others who read this) might dismiss these words based on our disagreement, but it’s true.
    The thing is, what I’ve found in life is that the ability to disagree with someone and still maintain a friendship (or at the very least a modicum of civility) is a very rare and teasured quality. With absolutely no disrespect to you intended, most people take the Kim route: they stake out their positions, post guards at the towers, and then pull up the drawbridge so they can just mingle with other citizens of the kingdom who think just like they do.

    I understand that way of thinking and its attraction, I really do. I used to be on your side of this issue (and some other issues). Human logic alone did not persuade me, but it played a part. And the humans who helped persuade me first had to engage with me in order to encourage me to see things a different way.

    I suppose that is the main point I’m trying to make. There truly are reasonable, kind people on both sides of the marriage issue (and on both side of most issues).

    I realize this is probably one of those ‘time sucks’ you are referring to, and so this will be my last word. I wish nothing but good health and long life to you and your family. But for your sake I also hope there will continue to be people of good will in your life with whom you don’t always agree and who challenge your positions occasionally.

    And by the way, I think you write about movies really well; I wouldn’t have read your piece otherwise.

    Bill

  4. Hallick says:

    “Do you not see the poisonous irony inherent in this slippery slope? ‘You refuse to agree with my position, therefore–in the name of tolerance–I must silence you and take away your ability to disagree with me.’”

    If you see a slippery slope where not wanting someone else’s bigotry on your Facebook page leads to nationwide censorship and oppression, what you’re talking about here is the other side of that slippery mountain top where protecting free speech rights gets into extending them across that line where someone’s personal space gets invaded. Kim’s Facebook page is not the public square or a crucial line of communication in this country for unpopular opinions. As much as she has the right to screen a phone call, she has the right to control the messages she receives and the comments that are made to her on Facebook or any other PERSONAL page.

    If someone from the anti-gay movement stuck a sign in her front yard espousing anti-gay opinions, would you say that she was being an intolerant hypocrite if she threw it in the trash?

  5. Daniella Isaacs says:

    What Hallick says. My Facebook page is kind of a big social mixer for me, as it is for many people–sort of an online party–and we all have the right to decide who gets to come into our lives in that way, just as we have a right to decide who to invite to our houses for parties. Most of us wouldn’t invite someone to a party who was going to argue with us angrily about our core beliefs–which is not to say I won’t invite someone over who has profound disagreements with me; I just won’t invite people over who want to argue with me about them. I’m sort of surprised that so many people have Facebook friends who disagree with them in so many fundamental ways, something which leads to the negativity Kim describes and that none of us really want on an everyday basis like that. When I am looking for a debate (or a fight), I might come onto something like MCN and mix it up, but Facebook is, as the proto-Facebook site wisely called it, my space.

  6. MEAM says:

    I agree with you. Marriage is for people who love each other, not for a man and woman. Love is for all, not for a boy and girl. If people love each other, they should be allowed to be together. Loving your own sex or both or whatever is not a sin. Love is for all, no matter the gender.

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