Friday, September 23, 2011

Don't Ask. Don't Tell. Good Riddance

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for September 23, 2011

If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.
                                                                         Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What was the problem? No, really. What was the problem? Gays have been serving in the military since before Christ was a corporal. Rome did not conquer the known world with a gay-free army. Alexander the Great? C’mon. Sparta? Don’t even go there. Really.

And now that our hysterical, last-gasp patch job, the ridiculous “Don’t Ask” policy, has gone the way of all such desperate measures that demean and deny our fellow citizens their full humanity, aren’t we embarrassed? Ashamed? Don’t want to discuss it? Nevermind.

Isn’t it always that way? Always. First the absolutist mind set that takes nonsense as The Received Truth: Everyone knows that Negroes aren’t human, they’re some sort of inferior sub-set species; Women are too feeble-minded and weak to be given the right to vote. They’re fit only for motherhood and making breakfast. Mexicans? See how suitable they are for stoop labor? No white person could do that kind of hard work. It’s in their blood. Ditto for the Chinese. They can build our railroads but are too inscrutable to own property and run businesses. Gays are an abomination to God. Jews, too. And all Muslims are evil, murdering jihadists bent on killing Christians. And God forbid if any one of these God-despised, not-quite-humans should marry our white sisters.

They’re endless, the excuses, and more often than not, always backed up by the claim that God agrees with our ridiculous pronouncements, too. It’s all part of His Plan, see? Until it suddenly isn’t. Then slaves get freed and women get the vote and gays are officially allowed to serve in the military and Mexican farm workers seize the power of the ballot box and Chinese people start winning Nobel Prizes, and Muslims build mosques next door to churches and their congregants share pot-luck suppers while watching their kids play little league baseball.

And the world doesn’t end and the sky doesn’t fall and it soon becomes clear that God had nothing to do with all these phony, self-serving “truths,” all of which are so small and pinched and mean and stupid that God couldn’t possibly have been behind them all since that’s not how God rolls, that’s how humans roll. So everyone looks around all sheepish and feeling foolish and refusing to look at one another, heh-heh, and they blink at the brave new world – which is actually the same old world but with one more layer of Stupid scraped away – and say to themselves, What were we thinking? Really? What were we thinking?

And it’s always the same dynamic. First comes the blood sacrifice to the God of Mean, the God of Stupid, the God of Fear, the God of Demagoguery, all the small, smarmy evil Gods that rule the dark human heart. And after much struggle, much sacrifice, and so much suffering, the God of Light removes the scales from our eyes and the world changes, we change, and then puzzle over how bizarre and silly our former beliefs and behaviors were. Who were those idiotic people? we ask. Surely, not us!

But it is us. It’s always us. It’s hard-wired into our little monkey brains, the free-floating fear that constantly seeks an “Other” du jour to target: Blacks, Jews, Gays, Women, Mexicans, Muslims, whatever. There’s an inexhaustible supply of people to despise. Take a number. Everyone gets a turn in the barrel. And though the target may change, the ritual stays the same: Fear, hatred, sacrifice, suffering, struggle, then suddenly –change.

And afterwards, which always comes far too late, we blink and look around and ask, What was the problem anyway? Really. Does anybody remember? What was the problem?


Patrick O'Hannigan said...

Starting with an epigram from Bonhoeffer? Awesome. I'm going to have to up my game!

Sandra Gore said...

Are we really hardwired to worship the God of Mean? Maybe that idea will go the same way as the other fear-based absolutisms. Too much to ask? Seems like we'd soon be running out of groups to hate...