It’s an old cliché, but nonetheless true: even a broken watch is right twice a day. The same can be said for even the most bigoted organizations of the religious right. (Maybe it’s just that if you keep moving to the right, you eventually meet up with the left?) The American Family Association is that broken watch right about now.
I don’t remember the last time I thought the AFA was right about anything, and I don’t ever remember saying the AFA was right about anything. Ninety-nine and nine tenths of the time, they’re not. But their response to the Day of Silence this year, actually had me nodding my head and thinking they might have gotten a couple of things right this time.No doubt, with the murders of Lawrence King and Simmie Williams Jr. still fresh in the memories of so many, the Day of Silence will take on particular significance for LGBT youth and any of us who were harassed while growing up. So, it doesn’t strike me as such a bad thing if the AFA tells its members to keep their kids at home on the Day of Silence.
The American Family Association is urging parents to keep their children home from school April 25, the National Day of Silence. The Day of Silence, first organized in 1996, encourages students to remain voiceless for a day to represent the silence faced by LGBT people and their allies. Hundreds of schools across the country now participate in the event.
“DOS leads the students to believe that every person who identifies as a homosexual, bisexual or cross-dresser is a victim of ongoing, unrelenting harassment and hate,” the AFA said in its mass email.
“Students are taught that homosexuality is a worthy lifestyle, homosexuality has few or no risks, and individuals are born homosexual and cannot change. Those who oppose such teaching are characterized as ignorant and hateful bigots.”
Where to begin?
First, the point is not that “every person who identifies” as LGBT “is a victim of ongoing, unrelenting harassment and hate,” and it’s ridiculous to say so. Do all of us have to be harassed and bashed for it to matter? That’s straw man argument has essentially the same subtext as when Pat Robertson claims there’s no point in protected 2% of the population against hate crimes.
What’s left unsaid is the idea that it’s only significant if it reaches a certain (unspecified) percentage of the population. At what percentage is it worthwhile to protect people from discrimination and harassment? When we reach 5% of the population? Ten percent? Emily K at Ex-Gay Watch did a good job of answering this kind of nonsense.
By Pat’s logic, Jews should not be protected under hate crimes laws because we only make up maximum – maximum – 2% of the population. Statistics actually put us at around 1%. Now, you would be hard pressed to find an evangelical Christian, especially one as publicly outspoken as Robertson, say “boo” about the Jewish people.
It does Pat no help to argue that gays should not be protected because their “lifestyle” is a “choice.” Would he say the same thing about the Jewish lifestyle choice? Make no mistake – I CHOOSE to be Jewish, just like my cousin CHOOSES to be Agnostic. I choose to live a Jewish lifestyle by wearing a kipah and studying Torah.
And Pat chooses to be an evangelical Christian. Should he be protected against discrimination based on his chosen religion?
But I digress. What’s the cut off point for the AFA? Do all of us – every single LGBT person in the country – have to be bashed and harassed before it matters? (Even if we were, we’re such a small percentage of the population that it really wouldn’t matter if we were. Right?) If just half of us face harassment, is it worth speaking out against? (Of course, that would be an even smaller percentage of the general population.) How many of us have to face what Lawrence Kind faced before it’s worth stand up against.
How many must we be before we qualify for consideration as full fledged members of humanity?
The one good thing about the AFA’s advice to its members is the likelihood that there may be at least one day this year, during the Day of Silence, when at least a fewer LGBT youth are harassed at school, because some of the kids who’ve been taught to hate them may be absent that day. And I don’t think that’s being unfair. After all, it’s AFA types who are opposed to anti-bullying programs that are gay inclusive, or think students should be allowed to harass LGBT youth. The Day of Silence may also be a day of absence, and a day of respite for LGBT youth.
That brings me to my last point.
The AFA is asking parents to inform their school that they will not allow their children to attend that day. They also want parents to explain to their children that “homosexual behavior is not an innate identity; it’s a sinful, unnatural and destructive behavior.”
That’s exactly where that kind of teaching belongs, if it happens at all: at home. If the AFA is advising its members to teach their kids to hate, and that’s what they teach they’re children at home, so be it. They can teach they’re children whatever they want at home. It’s when they want to dictate what my children and everyone else’s children should be taught that’s the problem. They – like David Parker – object to the idea or even the suggestion that students shouldn’t be harassed or bullied because they’re LGBT, and seem more troubled when LGBT students aren’t bullied
So, let them boycott the Day of Silence. It will be a better, brighter, perhaps even safer, day without them.