Saturday, March 31, 2007

Beware: A Rant

Last night I went to see Adam Rapp's latest play Essential Self Defense. It was hilarious in a crazy, quirky way (one of my favorite scenes was performed on roller skates) but also had an underlying serious message about the institution of fear in our country. This "culture of fear" has been discussed frequently in the media for several years now, with no real change yet.

Today, I finished up The Commitment by Dan Savage. This book discusses Savage's own family relationships, especially with his boyfriend and adopted son, while also tackling the political and social issues related to gay rights. In one section, he writes, "While the rest of the world moves toward full civil rights for gays and lesbians (even overwhelmingly Catholic Spain has legalized gay marriage!), here in the United States we're banning books with gay characters, relegating gays and lesbians to second-class citizenship, and doing all we can to further isolate and terrorize gay and lesbian teenagers."

Much like my feelings about the Skywalk in the Grand Canyon from my last post, I wonder what has happened to our priorities. I'm starting to think that America is developing some sort of social hypochondria: because the majority of people in our society don't face the real difficulties and fears that many around the world live with daily, many of us are developing irrational, unrealistic fears about our nation's social health.

I used to say that if the mayor had to spend a week as the teacher in my classroom, his policies would be radically different. If the policy-makers had to spend a week living in real fear, whether it be in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, as a closeted homosexual in high school, or as an unemployed undereducated parent trying to feed four children, they might see what is really important in relation to policy.

The more I'm thinking about and connecting recent things I've read or seen, I'm just getting angry. To live in such a wealthy country with innumerable resources at our fingertips, and choose to focus on denying someone's sexuality rather than helping those who are less fortunate receive at least the basic necessities is unconscionable.

So what has this culture of fear wrought in me? Well, what do you know? Fear! But not of homosexuals or local crime or God or (as in Rapp's play) a howling wolf in the woods. I am afraid of the short-sighted people who feel no shame in spending the hours of their lives spreading hate through speeches and legislation rather than using that time, energy, and creativity to improve the world in real ways, such as getting foster children into loving homes, ridding our cities of high-rise government housing projects, or (gasp!) spreading a little acceptance of our fellow men and women.

1 comment:

Jody said...

Thank you! I wish more people thought that way.