Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brody's Scribbles... When Does The Hate & Insanity End?

By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) AUG 28 | There are times that I am purely just worn out by the intolerance of the religious types in the United States and elsewhere across the globe. Indeed, all things considered, the worst misery of the human condition is most often amplified and inflicted on people by religion in the name of good. Ironic? Possibly, yet I still bristle when I see reference to the LGBT community by the religious right in terms that set us apart as something of a sub-set part of the human species.
Today, I had to endure several hours worth of this nonsense as I covered the much touted "Restoring Honour" rally by conservative pundit and Fox Network News personality Glenn Beck. The speeches were annoying enough, but when coupled with the viperous crowd commentary and observations, I nearly had to run to the near-by portable toilets to vomit as these so-called pious Christians vented their vitriolic filled diatribes of so-called Christian Love. You've heard it, I'm sure, "Hate the Sin but not the Sinner," etc.?
I'm not going to rehash today's offerings as there are others who will do so and in such a way as to paint the picture of the rally more effectively.
No, I am going to cover just a small bit of the true cost of this type of intolerance based on a married  conservative couple I met today, who hail from suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. Apparently they had joined a group a month or so ago entitled 'Parents Action League' in the Anoka-Hennepin School District to fight against the so-called homosexual agenda. But, before you roll your eyes, here's the deal: This school district has had a cluster of teen suicides in this past year, including one recently in early July, that apparently has parents and kids alike polarised and squared off against each other. This couple has teens attending high school in the district and although they said its "unfortunate" that those young people killed themselves, it was unfair to blame the religious and righteous people who are simply keeping God's law and the 'normal' standards of the community that they live in.
'Normal?!' Yup, you read that correctly. Now, to understand this complex situation completely, here's the needed background in an excerpt from the Twin-Cities Star-Tribune's staff writer Andy Birkey's article,  published this past Thursday, August 26th, in the Minnesota Independent News:
The woman sobbed as she told her son’s story to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board on Monday. [August 23rd, 2010] “Hi, I’m Tammy Aaberg, the mother of Justin Aaberg, who was a gay student at Anoka High School who committed suicide July 9th of this year.” The school district has become ground zero in the battle between those who want safe spaces for LGBT students and those who want any mention of homosexuality banned from high school campuses.
According to LGBT advocates, Justin’s death is one of three suicides by gay students in the last year, and while the district says it takes bullying seriously and has beefed up discipline against harassment, it has spurned invitations by LGBT groups to do anti-bullying education. To make matters more complicated, a group of parents opposed to homosexuality has formed to put pressure on the board not to bow to LGBT interests.
What I found probably most offensive in conversation with these self-identified Glenn Beck worshiping conservative Tea Party types, is that they honestly see nothing wrong and no harm in their narrow biased view of the LGBT community.  This couple was no different, in fact, the husband echoed the standard mantra heard from all of the Anti-Gay forces that if this poor kid had merely sought out Christian redemption, he might have been saved. Saved???? Then he blamed the so-called Homo-advocates for trying to inject the homo lifestyle into the schools.
Let me share the pain of this kid's death from the view point of his closest friends:

"It really makes me sad that people hate other people for just loving someone. Justin was a great friend to all and the kindest person you could ever meet It kills me to know we will never get to hear or see him again. When a life is take away like this I wish people could stop and think about what they have just done. To bad it will never be like that Homophobic's are the worst of the worst and I'm just so sorry I couldn't have been there to help you if I could have done anything to help. I just really hope you are now happy and have no more pain where ever you are now Justin."
I can’t believe you’re gone.. I don’t understand why you would do that to yourself. You have many friends that love and care for you. You told me; I’m going to be the first singing cell-ist ever! You sounded so excited..
You told me I could sing for you while you played. You are/were amazing at playing the cello. Though you always thought you were horrible, everybody agreed. You were the best in the school. No one could have ever topped you.. You were...Incredible. Why couldn’t you have just not done it?
Not hung that rope.
Not put your neck in it.
Not to have let go."
"Rest in peace, Justin Aaberg. I fucking love you. Justin. Ugh, I miss you beyond belief. To anyone who put you through pain, who made fun of you because you were gay, anyone who made fun of you for anything, they can go rest in hell.
One of the things that scare me the most is what if you got scared? If you had last thoughts, that you didn’t want to go through with this? But you had already slipped your head through that noose and let go. What if you had tried to get out, struggled? Maybe you could’ve still been here. Why couldn’t you have been one of those people that their suicide attempts failed? You could still be here. Your bright blue eyes could still be shining, your smile could still be lighting up the darkness. But I guess you were somewhere dark, you were in a dark place nothing could have lit up. Besides wishing and hoping for you back, I hope and wishwishwish that you are now content with your beautiful, amazing self."
Justin's friends created a moving tribute to him, in the form of this video, that was posted on YouTube the day after he took his life:

As it happens, this particular school district has been in hot water before over its onerous policies regarding the treatment of LGBT people, including those who are perceived to be Gay.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights closed a case on July 2nd of 2009, a year prior to Justin Aaberg hanging himself, in which a mother of a teen brought suit against the district as a result of the following:
Beginning with the start of the 2007-2008 school year, a male high school student in the Anoka-Hennepin School District began to experience harassment from two of the respondent's teachers, who perceived that the student was gay. A female teacher singled him out on nearly a daily basis by making jokes, comments and innuendos about her perception of his sexual orientation. "[Minor child's] fence swings both ways," "[Minor child's] boat floats in a different direction than the rest of the guys in the class" and "Would you like to have [another allegedly gay student] go with you so he can sit in the stall next to you and stomp his foot?" were among the female teacher's comments. The female teacher made her comments in front of other students and allowed them to laugh, and would share her comments with a male teacher. The male teacher would repeat, add his own jokes, and allow other students in the class to joke about the boy's perceived sexual orientation.
The Anoka Hennepin school district acknowledged that the charging party's son had been subjected to regular comments, jokes and innuendo about his perceived sexual orientation, but maintained that the district had adequately responded to the situation.
However, the two teachers incurred only minor consequences for their actions, and the student continued to be taunted by students in his school, as well as students from Andover High school. Ultimately the student was forced to transfer to a school 25 miles from home to escape the harassment.
The department found that there was sufficient evidence to establish that the school district was liable for the charging party's son being subjected to discrimination in education on the basis of sexual orientation, in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. In a settlement negotiated with the Department of Human Rights, the Anoka-Hennepin school district (ISD #11) agreed:
To pay Jodi Merritt $25,000;[ Mother of Minor Son ]
To review its existing policies or develop new policies addressing its obligations under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and submit those policies to the Commissioner of the Department of Human Rights for review and approval;
To submit training materials related to student harassment, its complaint process, and sexual orientation as a protected class for the department's approval;
To announce Minnesota Human Rights Day in its daily electronic mail to staff and on its web site, on the first Friday in December for three years.
The Anoka-Hennepin district denies that it violated the Minnesota Human Right Act (MHRA), and its settlement of this case does not constitute an admission of any liability of violating the MHRA or any other law, or of any wrongdoing.  
Right, so back to last Monday where according to Birkey, a 2009 school board policy that says sexual orientation is not to be taught in the district to wit; "Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions," has now emerged as the battleground for LGBT advocates and members of the religious right.
Back to Washington D. C. today and this couple on the national mall listening to affirmation from Beck and others that its okay essentially to be full of 'Christian' love for the LGBT community along with Democrats, Liberals, the Media, and others...
How does this play out I asked. Where do you draw the line? After all your community has now had at least three Gay kids take their own lives over this issue. The wife echoed the sentiments and philosophy of the Parents Action League:
"PAL wants the district to “respect traditional family values” and to “provide valid resources for students (and their families) struggling with sexual identity and/or same-sex attraction.” It seeks to “ensure that all health curriculum teach healthy sexuality and promote abstinence until marriage.” 
The group also wants the district to “promote the Day of Truth” each year." Birkey notes:
"The Parents Action League also has concerns about the district. It bemoans a “lack of resources and assistance for those students seeking to leave the homosexual lifestyle” and “an increase in pro-gay curriculum materials and resources used in our schools.”
The group is also concerned about “the health risks to students who are affirmed and labeled as ‘gay’ and who may participate in homosexual acts” and “the pro-gay activist teachers who fail to abide by district policies and use their classroom to promote their personal agendas.”
As I was finishing my interview, I had to ask them, why does this matter so much?  Why single out people that just simply want to find love for themselves?  Interestingly, they didn't have an answer and thankfully, didn't quote the so-called 'good book' in defence at me. 
On a final note, when I visited the website of the PAL, today when I got back to my office after the rally and was doing some research, this is what I found:


Trab said...

Quite simply, these people are brainwashing themselves, after getting a good start by means of their priests, ministers and other evangelicals. They feed on each other's mistruths, ignoring reality, science, and common sense.

In a way they are like the 'flat earth' supporters, who feel that any evidence to show the earth of in fact not flat are lies. The difference is that they don't go around trying to persecute all us 'round earth'ers.

Sadly, what seems to be happening is that 'gay' is the latest target of hate, and it has nothing to do with being gay at all. Oganized religion needs a target, and right now it is gays, previously it was blacks, jews, communists, japs, spics, the Irish, the English, the French, the natives, the Protestants, the Catholics, the witches..the list goes on and on.