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Overcoming Hatred With Decency And Courage

April 14th, 2011 by Alison · No Comments · community, spirituality & religion

What would you and I do if the law was changed to where gay people could be executed for being gay? Would we distance ourselves from gay people, many of whom are our neighbors, coworkers and extended family? Or would we peacefully march into the fray and identify ourselves as being gay (no matter what we are), forcing the forces of hatred to try to be everywhere at once?

A coalition in Uganda is trying to pass a bill that would make it legal to execute gay people under certain circumstances. Sadly, this poverty-ridden country of 35 milion has been heavily influenced by the most conservative brand of American Christianity — the brand that sees homosexuality as both a willful choice, and a sin.

The question for me is: How have decent, moral people successfully responded to such forces of hatred in the past? My friend Cynthia’s parents lived in Billings Montana in 1993. At that time it had an active Ku Klux Klan that was spewing hate crimes at its tiny Jewish community, threatening their lives. The eventual response was that churches decided to identify with the persecuted. Hundreds of Billing households, mostly Christians, Cynthia’s parents included, displayed Jewish menorahs in front of their homes. Then the Billings Gazette,  and local businesses joined in, with thousands of menorahs popping up. No hate crimes in our town, was the message.

The chief of police at the time, Wayne Inman, acknowledged that these people were taking a risk, i.e., they could become victims, too. “But there’s a greater risk in not doing it,” he said. Mr. Inman was seeing Billings as a community he needed to help protect, rather than a series of rugged individuals each looking out for themselves. At first, the hate crimes spread out to the Christians displaying menorahs. But the KKK could not take on a united town displaying thousands of menorahs, and before long the KKK and its hate crimes disappeared from Billings.

Cynthia’s parents refuse to take any credit for participating. “It was just the right thing to do,” they shrug. I hope to be as clear and matter of fact if I’m in a similar situation, whether with Jews, gays or another oppressed population. I also hope the Ugandan parliament does  not give in to the pressure of homophobic hatred. It would be a step backward in human evolution for the proposed bill to pass.

As a sidenote, here is my theory on the primitive origins of homophobia.

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