I am always amazed at the things we have to teach people, or, worse yet, remind them of. Take last month, for example: while I am always happy to see NFL players running up and down the field in pink shoes, it does make me wonder if they believe that there is really anyone left out there who doesn’t think that breast cancer is a BAD thing.
The same goes for last month’s Wear Purple Day, which was a day where everyone was encouraged to wear purple to show their support for all of the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered teens in their lives. As I put on my purple shirt, I couldn’t help but thinking thoughts similar to the ones I had had about National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Really? There are people out there who don’t think that bullying is a BAD thing?
And then I started checking the news, and I was appalled at the number of people who were not only denying that there is a problem with bullying GLBT teens, but would actually prefer that there be a little bit more of it. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Clint McCance. (In case George Takei hasn’t shown up in your inbox to bring you up to speed, Clint McCance is the Arkansas school board member who posted a message on Facebook stating his wish for even more GLBT teen suicides. Nice. Perhaps we should have a separate social network for people like that—may I suggest “Douchebook?”)
And yet, it’s not people like the aforementioned Douchey McDouche that are the real problem. At least he was upfront and honest about his hatred. (And probably always was and always will be—turns out the same people who shoved you into the lockers when you were seventeen are the ones who won’t let you into the hospital room to see your life partner when you are seventy-two). No, the real problem is the people who hide their hatred behind a facade of “protecting our children,” which is ironic, because they are the ones who are refusing to take the steps necessary to ensure that all of our children are protected. Steps like teaching respect for other people’s gender and sexuality choices as far back as kindergarten.
Take for example what happened last summer in Helena, Montana, where school officials suggested new tolerance guidelines that taught first graders that “human beings can love people of the same gender.” This was anathema to a local pastor, who complained from the pulpit that “We do not want the minds of our young polluted with the things of a carnal-minded society.” Yeah, better not teach six year olds to be nice to each other—because who knows better than a christian how crazy talk like that can get people nailed to a couple of pieces of wood?
Or what about what just happened in Michigan, where a teacher was actually suspended for taking a stand against anti-gay bullying at school? (And where a totally awesome openly gay fourteen year old went to the school board with his plea that “just like Dr. King hoped that one day his grandchildren would be judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin, he hoped to one day be judged by who he was, and not by who he loved.”)
Actually, it was that fourteen year old boy who got me thinking about what the real purpose of those pink shoes was: they were about hope. And my hope is that one day, NFL players will be running down the field with purple shoes on their feet. And that people everywhere will look at them and say to themselves: “Wait a minute: is there really anybody left who doesn’t think that bullying is a BAD thing?”