News & Opinion
David Mixner: Permission To Hate
October 10 2010 8:00 PM EST
February 05 2015 9:27 PM EST
Over the last month, hate seems to be in the air. The news is filled with acts of violence directed toward LGBT citizens around the world. Everywhere we look we can see hate toward homosexuals pouring out of the woodwork. Suicides, torture, riots, fire bombings and beating all have taken place within weeks. We have witnessed an epidemic of our young killing themselves, mobs roaming the streets of Belgrade, Serbia chanting "death to homosexuals" and the unspeakable torture of three members of our community in the Bronx.
These stories are the ones that get covered but the incidents of violence and hate seem to be growing by the day. Bullies feel free to push students to their death. Politicians use the results as a political football or, even worse, remain silent. Commentators, in a rush for higher ratings, escalate their rhetoric to extreme levels of hate without regard to the consequences. Outrageous proposals to separate LGBT citizens from the rest of society seem to be flourishing. The word 'fag' is used as if it had no power on other's lives.
There is no question that some of what drives such open and unrestricted hate is that the closer to freedom the LGBT movement comes the more the haters will come out of the their closets. We have seen in previous movements in history just such a pattern. We are winning in the courts, with public opinion and at the local levels of every community. Quite honestly as we march to that inevitable victory, the road will become more and more difficult the closer we come to that moment.
Also even more important is that the haters have been given permission to hate. Anytime a candidate distinguishes us from the rest of America they are saying to other Americans we are different from the normal rules of civilized behavior. When elected officials say "marriage is between a man and a woman" they are sending a signal that full equality is wrong and should not happen. In a vacuum it seems like a harmless statement but in the context of an epic struggle for freedom, those words take on real power and give people permission to hate.
Failure to take courageous stands only gives those who hate permission to express that hate unchecked. Yes, they have arrested those who tortured those three individuals in the Bronx. The police protected Serbian LGBT citizens. The entire country is responding to the suicides. The fact of the matter is that none of this should have happened if people everywhere would stand as one for LGBT rights.
When elected officials look the other way or remain silent those less in the know feel their hate is justified. When newspapers come out for marriage equality and then openly endorse those who bitterly fight it, their message of tolerance has lost its power. When commentators can simply apologize for hate-filled messages and then continue with their campaign of hate then the apologies are meaningless.
Let's face it. Those who duck and weave politically to avoid standing by our side are giving permission to those whose hate against LGBT people is simmering under the surface. Many actually might believe that people will approve of their brutality. After all, even the most respected leaders don't believe we should have the same rights as other people. They preach tolerance but their actions and silence fuel the flames of intolerance.
There was an old civil rights anthem called "Which Side Are You On?" Now is the time for people to chose and to be unwavering, courageous and forceful in not just condemning past violence but to take action to avoid future hateful acts. Leaders can no longer duck and dodge this issue. They can no longer put an asterisk by our rights making them conditional. The battle has been engaged, people are dying and the time is now. The time for compromise has long passed. You are either with us or against us. Our leaders must chose now and act accordingly both in words and in deeds.
In "Poetic Edda" Havamal, verse 127, it says:
When you come upon misdeeds
speak out about those misdeeds
and give your enemies no peace.
For more from David Mixner, visit his website, DavidMixner.com.