“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Even if you do not appreciate the sagacious words of the one Yoda, his words are spot on with regards to the recent Family Research Council shooting that occurred almost a week ago. Floyd Lee Corkins II walked into the Family Research Council’s headquarters in D.C., spouted remarks about the Council’s political and social stances, and then opened fire, wounding a security guard in the process. Before I get into the meat and potatoes of my post, I want it explicitly known that I do not condone the actions of Corkins – nor violence as a solution to any problem – and I have nothing but the deepest sympathies for the employees of the Family Research Council for the trauma that they endured. They did not deserve to have their lives put in danger because someone disagrees with the policies of their place of employment. Much of the discussion after the fact has centered around the Southern Poverty Law Center’s classification of Family Research Council as a hate group for their stance on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community. The Center’s labeling of the Family Research Council as a hate group, some have suggested, gave license and agency to Corkins to do what he did.
The Family Research Council is infamously known for their derogatory, discriminatory, and unscientifically based remarks toward the queer community. Looking at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, I see a litany of anti-LGBT quotations, beliefs, and sentiments from various members of the Family Research Council’s leadership. Some of the topics of said quotations include, homosexual men are more likely to engage in child abuse, letting gays into the military could damage effectiveness due to homosexuals assaulting officers, and part of the homosexual agenda is to do away with age of consent laws. These statements are presented as scientific fact with no evidence to support any of their claims. I believe that hate speech – which I would classify as those quotations as – increases the likelihood of hate crimes. Hate speech serves to rally believers around a common cause or belief while dehumanizing a segment of the population. Research shows that when an individual is dehumanized it is much easier for someone to take horrific and inhumane actions against them. While the Family Research Council has never advocated outright for violence against the LGBT population, their rhetoric certainly paints a colorful picture of queer people as demonizing, child molesters with our secret gay, gay, gay Liberace gay agendas. What sort of environment does that create for someone struggling with their sexuality? What messages does that send them about their morality? They must own their part in breeding a culture of fear and anger toward LGBT people. There are many individuals, who do not support LGBT equality that do not resort to inflammatory lies and degradation.
Even though the media would like to make it seem as if a grand majority of Americans share these values and beliefs, the truth is that they don’t. There are plenty of religious affiliated individuals, conservatives, and Republicans who proudly support and advocate for equity for all people not just members of the LGBT community. Their efforts often go unrecognized or overshadowed by their more extremist peers. Through positive interactions with queer people their attitudes and beliefs begin to shift.
Often, when news travels down the grapevine of some extremist religious figure denouncing queer people as minions of Satan, my activist friends will lambaste their Facebook pages and twitter feeds with vile comments about “Stupid Republicans”, “Evil Conservatives”, and “Homophobic Christians”. One of my friends went as far as wishing that people would choke on their “Chick-Fil-A”s, as funny as that imagery is, it is not beneficial to the movement and ultimately sabotaging our efforts toward equality. We need to be careful in scapegoating and generalizing an entire community of people based upon the radical actions of a few members. Vilifying the “opposition” is not the answer to achieving social equity. Respect and understanding create the foundational groundwork needed to build friendship as we move forward. Disagreements are permissible in a healthy relationship but name-calling, threats, and violent actions will only lead to more of the same. As we move forward toward healing and rebuilding America, I hope we learn that vicious animosity will only continue to breed anger, misunderstanding, and continued violence. I pray that even if we disagree on some social issues, there is a firm belief on both sides, that harassment – both physical and verbal – is unacceptable as a means to achieve one’s goals.