“Look, I appreciate what you kids did. I really do. But this isn’t what I wanted. I’m proud to be gay. And I’m proud to be in a country where I’m free to express myself. But freedom is a two-way street. If I’m free to express myself, then the scouts have to be free to express themselves too. I know these [scout leaders]. They are good men. They are kind men. They do what they think is best for the kids. No matter how wrong we think they might be, it isn’t right for us to force them to think our way. It’s up to us to persuade and help them see the light, not extort them to? I will continue to persuade them to change their minds, but this is the wrong way to do it. So, I am hereby dropping my case and allowing the scouts their right to not allow gays into their private club.”
Big Gay Al is wiser and more liberal-minded than most.
When my kids were in scouting they grew up and established long friendships with scouts who were gay. It was never an issue, for the kids or the leaders. In fact, when the subject came up ten years ago or so, I recall a scoutmaster spelling it out pretty plainly: regarding gay scouts, it mattered not at all, and as long as a leader was there for the troop and to be a scouter, and not just to advance a political agenda, who cared? That’s the BSA we have known and have supported for many years.
Increasingly, it seems to me that understanding, acceptance and peaceable, respectful human relations must be built by meeting people one-on-one — not by identifying them as a part of a “group” other than the one you belong to, and immediately turning on the hate — but actually getting to know the people behind an organization, because every organization, every church, every corporation, every trade union, every fraternal group (even the “private” ones, be they the Boy Scouts or the Augusta National Golf Club) is made up of people. And once you get to know people, you can suddenly see the human being behind the policy and then — oh, well look at that…we just have different outlooks. Let’s dare to say, “so what”?
There was a story earlier this week about Sir Elton John and his friendship with Rush Limbaugh. It’s a friendship that would seem incongruous on its face, but the two men have met each other as human beings — not as representatives of a suspect-and-fearsome “other.” They both take a measure of heat from their “clubs” for publicly acknowledging their friendship. They both say, “so what?”
In her column this week, Elizabeth Duffy writes about the Grounding Power of Grace, and she makes a sound point:
“. . . the ego is the enemy of human relationships. It allows us to build imaginary castles around ourselves, to define our own realities, to carry on relationships behind a veil where any time the demands of others become too much to bear, we can retract ourselves, unplug, and return to the privacy and independence we hold so dear.
Only grace allows us each to extend a hand towards the other.”
It’s so easy to be angry — it’s the cheapest and easiest thing to do; like hate, it requires nothing much of us, and gives us even less. It’s more difficult to extend a hand to someone else and say, “I see you; you see me; we are not bad people, we just disagree.”
That takes grace.
The brilliance of our constitution is that, in explicitely naming a freedom of association, it says no one can become the prisoner of someone else’s insistence. No one needs to be (as Big Gay Al says) “extorted” into thinking “correctly.” If a group chooses to limit its membership, well, the excluded members are still completely free to create their own associations and assemblies. Thus, the founders provided for the nation to find a way for people to be both together as a nation, and apart as individuals; together to one degree, but still “alone” to another.
It’s sort of the right to choose your friends, or — if you prefer — the shared right to discriminate.
If people are unhappy with the BSA, why not start another organization and call it the “BSA: Better Scouting Association”; let it live or die on its merits, and let the BSA live or die on its own. That seems reasonable to me. When did “community” start to mean “we all must be together, all the time?” That sounds unhealthy and suffocating, to me. There’s something to be said for going Groucho and saying “I refuse to belong to any club that will have me as a member”.
“. . . let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
— Gibran, The Prophet
It is nothing but a polite fiction to suggest that human beings do not sometimes crave to be with people who have similar interests, inclinations and outlooks. Even families cannot constantly be together and in each other’s faces; they must have time apart. It’s not an awful thing, in and of itself. When I was a little girl my brother built a fort. I wasn’t allowed in. Instead of running to my mother demanding that she “make him” let me into his crummy fort, I made my own.
It gave me…fortitude.
UPDATE: Okay, either people are NOT reading this post all the way through (in which case they won’t read this either) or they’re so busy being emotional while reading it that they’re missing a very large point I am making here, which is that the constitutional right to freedom of association is a good thing. Stop hyperventilating, folks. It’s not possible that I am both “homophobe” and “fag hag.” I’m neither.
UPDATE II: How to NOT make friends and influence people