This term is at last coming to an end, which means I will definitely now have more time for blogging. The only problem is that while my time is plentiful, my ideas are not. So at least in the immediate future, I’m grasping at straws as to what I should write about. You may point out the obvious solution and say, You’ve gone so long without blogging; why start now? Why does it matter? And I’d be hard-pressed to give you a convincing answer. But I think the salient part is that I must write as long as I have two hands and ten or so fingers in front of me, and that’s what I’m doing!
I have some vague desires, blog-wise: I want to write, for example, about visual arts (fim, comics, painting), sexuality, social norms, something along these lines. Yesterday, while conducting some desultory online searches, I found this abominable website, Defend the Family, which is basically nothing more or less than a hate site. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to websites so full of hate – I think it’s the same, unquenchable curiosity that drives a lot of people who investigate and write about radicals, maniacs, terrorists, cultists, and what have you. It’s this desire to find out just what drives these deranged, misguided passions.
What can lead someone to throw their life away on totally futile, objectively worthless pursuits, whether it involves hurting others, hurting themselves, or just harmlessly wasting time and money? They’re definitely relevant, important questions, since they speak to the darker sides of human nature, how easily people can be drawn into supporting malicious plots that cause unspeakable horror. (Nazi Germany is a tragic object lesson is this willingness to follow and believe no matter what the price.)
So it’s a desire to answer these questions – to figure out how and why people can do and think these things – that leads me to the atrocious, horrifying white supremacist website Stormfront (trigger warning of all kinds) and to, again, Defend the Family. Which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t really have anything to do with defending anyone’s family; a more appropriate name for the site would be “Persecute the Gay.” The question here is really, What isn’t wrong with this website? A banner ad along the side hawks books like Redeeming the Rainbow and The Pink Swastika, which the website claims to be “a thoroughly researched, eminently readable, demolition of the “gay” myth, symbolized by the pink triangle, that the Nazis were anti-homosexual.” I am not making this up. Somebody actually wrote this book, and this website is selling it at $16.95 a copy. The other side of the page has a big, bright, apparently family-friendy image:
Because it turns out that sunsets, smiles, beaches, and holding hands are to gays like garlic to vampires. Who knew? For you see, in a world where homosexuality is legal and publicly accepted, men and women won’t be able to embrace each other – brides won’t be able to wear veils! – children will be forbidden from sitting next to each other. Is that the kind of world you want to raise children in (except you won’t have children because the gays will illegalize it)?! Dear lord, how terrible.
You may notice that I revert to sarcasm a lot when dealing with this kind of idiocy. Possibly explanations may be that 1) I’m a pretty sarcastic person in the first place, or maybe 2) it’s so frustrating and ridiculous it’s hard to encounter with a straight face. And yes, I know that sexual identity isn’t the same thing as race or gender, but still, I’m so tempted to imagine. What if this were, say, the 1860s, the 1910s, the 1960s, or some other era when America/the world is poised on the brink of increased equality? Could you imagine a reactionary website from back then with an image like that?
“A storm is coming. Do you want teachers telling your kids that black kids are just as good as they are?”
If you don’t want to be obligated to acknowledge the equality of others, that’s too bad for you. It does not mean that everyone around you should be bent to your will. Yesterday I read a blurb on this inane website mentioning something called the “Riga Declaration.” It goes like this:
Whereas freedom of religion has been protected in human rights law from antiquity, including the Charter of Human Rights of King Cyrus the Great in 539 BC, the British Magna Carta in 1215 AD, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789 and the American Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution in 1789…
[blah, blah, blah]
Whereas natural law recognizes a natural order in sexual and family matters…
Therefore, relying upon more than 4000 years of legal precedent and the moral and religious principles we share with the vast majority of the citizens of the world,
We Declare that the human rights of religious and moral people to protect family values is far superior to any claimed human right of those who practice homosexuality and other sexual deviance, and
We Call for the European Union and the international community to immediately abandon any campaign to create a human right for homosexual conduct, and to restore religious freedom and family values to their proper superior status.
Now, for one thing, this so-called “Declaration” isn’t actually anything real or significant in any way. Still, it’s pretty upsetting that some people think it is, or that it’s saying anything legitimate or intelligent. So what’s it really saying (not very coherently)? “We have a religion so your rights don’t matter.” This whole line of thinking is so obviously contradictory to the whole way democracy works; it’s impossible to reconcile wanting to live in a free society with wanting to deprive a group of their rights on such a shoddy basis – i.e., because we don’t like them.
And you know what’s even more sad about this? These claims and “declarations” and bullshit are all illogical and pointless, yet they hold sway over national law. (Just think about what happened in Maine a few weeks ago.) Recently, together with my school’s Gender and Sexuality Center and Cinema & Media Studies department, I helped out (very slightly) in bringing award-winning filmmaker Johnny Symons to campus, along with two of his films.
Daddy & Papa (2002) was very cute, based largely on Symons’ own experiences raising children and those of his friends; Ask Not (2008) was inspiring in its account of youth activism against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and thoughtfully presented numerous counterarguments – from data, from experience, etc. – against the failed policy. I highly recommend watching these movies if you can track them down.
In the end, people like these fuckers for “Defend the Family” are simply on the wrong side of history. Freedom of religion is very important. But so are other freedoms, and there’s no good reason why anyone’s prejudices should cause others to be penalized for private, consensual behavior. (Reality check: Lawrence v. Texas struck down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional in 2003.) Within a few decades (at most), I dearly hope that gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states, and this whole absurd debate will be a thing of the past. Till then, I suppose, it’s just a matter of keeping the activism going full force, and not getting discouraged.
(Before I continue: I saw this great website listed on a poster in a high school a few days ago; I plan to glance over it in more detail, because I think this is a fantastic idea. As long as homosexuality is equated with negative attributes on schoolyards across the nation, there is not tolerance. Besides, thinking b4 you speak is just a good idea in general, whether you’re going to spout homophobic shit or not.)
And so, along these lines, I thought I might continue my ongoing investigation into the life and work of Jack T. Chick. The last time I wrote about Chick, I received this very pleasant surprise; if you haven’t watched the documentary yet (it’s very short and informative), I highly recommend you do that now. Chick is endlessly appealing, yet endlessly repugnant, and it’s not unexpected that his stance on homosexuality follows this trend.
Being the wacky fundamentalist he is, Chick has consistently addressed “the gay agenda” in his tracts, using the same overblown, puritanical fury he uses for everything from Halloween to not preaching exactly the right type of Christianity. His most direct take on homosexuality was 1984’s The Gay Blade, where he proved that not only was he behind the times, but that he viewed gay culture with all the accuracy and understanding of a 16th century Spaniard documenting the West Indies. Which is to say, typical Jack Chick. I think I’ll spend the remainder of this post analyzing The Gay Blade; his other two tracts primarily on homosexuality, Doom Town and Birds and the Bees, are similar in structure and content. (Wounded Children is, sadly, hard to find online, but it’s a demented classic.)
So The Gay Blade begins with a scene that you’d think would be out of some futuristic nightmare, but no! It is, in fact (I guess), a current event: a man marrying a man. Chick dismisses the fact that same-sex marriage was recognized nowhere in the U.S. in 1984, and pretends that men getting married to each other, and then rushing into waiting vehicles framed against indistinct gray backgrounds, is the greatest threat to Christendom since whatever else has made mothers cover their children’s eyes while thinking, “Gulp!”
(Incidentally, I think Chick’s tendency of making his characters think onomatopoetic words instead of say them, like normal people do, is one of his most hilarious artistic quirks – he’s consistent about it, too!)
After expressing anxiety about guys with big hair holding hands, Chick puts the issue out there: “THE GAY REVOLUTION IS UNDERWAY. To most people, it’s a big joke… but is it really?” This is pretty symptomatic of Chick’s indecisiveness: he can’t quite pick whether gays are hated now and should keep being hated, or if they’ve got the full support of our sinful society and the government behind them. He flip-flops repeatedly over the next few panels.
Note the proud lesbian – apparently being leered at by guys with crooked heads? – wearing her requisite shiny black dyke uniform. So what is it, Jack? Are homosexuals “in a display of defiance against society… suffer[ing] the agony of rejection, the despair of unsatisfied longing – desiring – endless lusting” (yes, it really says that)? Or are they basically in control, as page 6 would indicate? He seems to want it both ways. They’re oppressed (good), but they’re oppressing (bad). If you’re confused… welcome to Chickworld.
The scene then changes, as Chick takes on a trip into the past, to the last time gays were given free reign to be their bad gay selves: SODOM. We see some valiant archaeologists uncovering millennia-old carvings and immediately covering their faces. One of them cries, “Good Lord, I can’t believe my eyes, we can’t publish this. It’s filthy!” The discovery of this ancient gay porn lets Chick segue into one of his usual long Bible stories, one he’d later recount in far more graphic detail in Doom Town. Lot lives in Sodom, gets visited by angels, the Sodomites get pissed, demand that he send the angels out “that we might know them (sexually),” and in the end, everyone dies.
Chick underpins this section, which is not all that artistically interesting, with a lot of Bible citations (Genesis 19:10, Genesis 19:11, Genesis 19:24, etc., etc.) and bullshit archaeological evidence. Then, mercifully, we return to the present day, where “new laws” are encouraging gays to take the offensive by grabbing people’s arms and refusing to let go, while simultaneously resisting Christ’s power. It also leads into one of my very favorite pages from this tract.
Is it just me, or did Chick somehow make his condemnation of the gay lifestyle unintentionally sexy? I’ve heard of unintentionally funny before, but – I mean, look at her, an attractive young lesbian, defying the idiocy of the very comic she’s in! Sure, she’s got a confusingly-worded biblical passage beneath her, but your eyes wander away from “…did change the natural use…” and you start thinking, Wow! She cannot change, and she doesn’t want to! I’m convinced. Gay lifestyle it is.
After this page, the tract mentions some old canards – gay men die young because they’re violent and get AIDS (and remember, it’s just because they’re gay men, has nothing to do with centuries of systematic oppression) – quotes some more paragraph-long Bible verses, and kind of gives up and goes home. “Homosexuality is one of many sins,” explains the second-to-last page. “There are also murder, lying, adultery, drunkenness, etc.” A scathing indictment of homosexuality, to be sure: It’s in the same ballpark as murder, lying, and stuff.
So what can we learn from Jack Chick’s outdated rampage of silliness and illogic? I see it as a glance into this madly homophobic thought process that helps drive shit like what happened in California and Maine. Men holding hands are different. They’re icky. They’re the Other, and we – being good normal straight white Christians – just don’t like ’em. Besides, they’re all proud and angry and God hates them and eww, they sleep with others of the same sex.
Ultimately, what evidence does Chick really have other than pages of gay caricatures far removed from reality, and reams of vague, randomly-applied Bible quotes? His main line of argument amounts to “Gays scare me, and that makes them bad.” Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to one crazy-but-massively-influential cartoonist. If you glance over some of these help-defend-marriage websites, as I sadly have, or even just look at the one I linked to above, that’s their argument. “My religion says gay people are bad. So take away their rights.”
It’s a pretty depressing viewpoint to think about. Hatred is all over the place. Thankfully, the tide is turning, and equality is going to win the day. We just have to keep fighting, keep arguing against this hateful bullshit, and soon the day will come when kids will call each other “gay” about as often as they call each other “straight.”