When I was a kid we had chickens. The chickens lived in a coop in the barn, but during the days we let them roam about the lawn, an activity they seemed to enjoy until the day a neighbor’s dogs came for a visit. The dogs did exactly what dogs will do to chickens when given the opportunity, and after they were finished the yard was covered with masses of mottled chicken bodies, bloodied and torn.
Feathers were everywhere, and I can remember closely watching a chicken die. It’s body was ripped and broken, and it flopped about the lawn as thick clots of blood bubbled in its beak. If you’ve ever watched an animal die a violent death, it isn’t pretty— there’s a lot of struggle and agony as the will to live loses out to the inevitable.
I was reminded of this earlier in the week as I watched the furor develop over the “religious freedom” law recently passed in Indiana (surely a dubious term in a country where a pledge to the Almighty appears on the currency, but we’ll leave that for another time). On the off chance you’ve been living in a quonset hut high in the Sierra Madres, the skinny is that parts of this law, as well as drafts written in other states, seemed intended to permit a business to discriminate against gays and lesbians based upon the business owner’s religious beliefs. In other words, if your religion tells you that homosexuality is immoral, then you don’t have to make a pizza for the hungry gay couple.
Though the initial headlines were absurd enough to make you wonder if The Onion had finally pulled off its coup de grace, in fact it was not a gag. Quickly and furiously did the dust rise, and as it slowly settles it looks like this law will be amended, and similar ones in other states will be likewise adjusted. Curiously enough, the big drivers for the change appear largely to have come from the business community, which teaches us that commerce really can help to determine morality… or something like that.
While the clear majority of Americans are quickly moving beyond this conversation and believe that all people should be treated fairly, regardless of who they love, there are still those who are holding out on the subject of gay rights. Sadly such people are usually of a type, the most prominent being conservative evangelical Christians, who oppose marriage equality and believe homosexuals and their families shouldn’t receive the same legal protections as straights.
I don’t want to spend much time debunking their position. Such opposition seems an unfortunate holdover from a diminishing era, one based on a piecemeal and ahistorical reading of the Bible, and rife with contradictions. The reality is that morality evolves; think of slavery and the subjugation of women, both of which are fully supported in the Bible, but neither of which we’d ever consider acceptable today. That many conservatives haven’t caught up with gay rights isn’t surprising; that they will be forced to is inevitable.
(For a little context—and context only, which is far different from justification—it’s important to note that our collective attitudes toward homosexuality have shifted very significantly in a very short period of time: when I was a kid there was almost zero acceptance of homosexuals, and now, a mere thirty years later, the majority of Americans are on-board with gay rights. We might soon see the day where “coming out” will be a thing of the past because people will never have been required to hide anything in the first place.)
What got me thinking about the dead chickens was the legislation itself. In the same way that those chickens in our yard were flapping about in a futile attempt to cling to life, it seems to me that legislation such as this is the dying screech of a group of people who are appealing to an era that is just about gone.
The era I’m referring to isn’t only about gay rights—opposition to which is falling fast just about everywhere in the US—but the Era of Straight White Males running the show. The most recent census data indicate that in roughly thirty years whites will no longer be a majority in America. I’m not attempting to conflate white population representation with opposition to gay rights, and to be fair it’s conceivable that any group could enact such stringent measures (the data indicate that conservative evangelicals, white, black, and hispanic, are the true holdouts against gay rights); rather, I’m trying to situate this present legislation within a larger and quickly-changing context.
That said, take a quick look at who’s writing and passing these things—straight white dudes. Like morality, America is always evolving, and the winds of change are clearly blowing in the direction of greater support for gay rights.
Thirty years isn’t long—in fact, it’s just about the same amount of time that’s elapsed since the 80’s, when our country began its slow come-around on gay rights. And while there are certain to be holdouts against this flowing tide: so be it. If you’ve ever tried to swim against a tide, you know that eventually the tide wins. Every time.
So to all the gays and queers and homosexuals and etc. out there, as well as your loved ones and advocates—while I’m certain it’s got to hurt to see legislation such as this not simply drafted but actually signed into law, try to keep in mind that although nothing likes to die, it’s clear as can be when that’s the case. Silver-linings can be glib, but the reality is that stupid acts such as this are simply the death knell of those who stand against you; sadly, there are plenty of injustices out there so deeply entrenched that they’re barely registering. Things such as income inequality, poverty, racism, domestic violence, environmental concerns, immigrant rights…
Those opposed to gay rights will screech and caterwaul and hyperbolize and whinge calibrated nonsense. The unfortunate reality is that conservative evangelicals get a disproportionally loud voice, especially as we head toward the 2016 election (notice that none—as in zero—of the Republican front-runners for President spoke out against this law). Along the way we can hope to educate conservative evangelicals’ misguided notions and stridently oppose their absurd laws—think of it as constructively determining the evolution of our country. But no matter what, remember that all the harried and screaming flailings coming from these folks are simply the last dying gasps of an animal most of us will never, ever miss.