I gave myself a present this year: I broke contact with people whose beliefs, comments, and opinions made me feel sick, ashamed, and angry. Thankfully, none of them were in my close circle of friends, so it was simply a matter of clicking “unfriend”, such is the world we live in.
You see, I’ve always believed in tolerance. No confrontation, live in harmony, let’s not fight. That’s not quite right, though, is it? If the world had continued to tolerate the Nazis and let them enforce their beliefs on innocent people…
I think I’ll always be a peaceful person, one who is reluctant to argue. However, the gift I’ve given myself this year is the gift of confidence. Confidence in my own beliefs and morals, confidence in my capability to discern right from wrong, confidence in my right to stand up for good, confidence in my ability to take a stand and make a difference, however small. For the first time in my life, I am choosing to be confident that my opinion matters.
In my country right now, a political party is trying to pass a “conscience clause” that will allow anyone to bypass certain equality laws if they claim it violates their religious beliefs. At the start, my attitude (as someone who was once a devout Christian, and was taught that God loves every person just the same) was one of disbelief. A clause that would legally allow a Christian-owned restaurant to refuse service to a gay couple? Really?! Certain that only a few right-wing bigots would ever for a moment think that this was acceptable, I posted a link to the petition against this outrage to human rights, simply to make everyone aware of it.
It did not for a moment occur to me that anyone on my friends list, Christian or otherwise, would actually be in favour of this law. An utterly mind-boggling debate erupted on my Facebook post, and a day later I got a message from a former teacher of mine, someone who I would have listed in my top ten of people who have encouraged and inspired me.
Christian or atheist, this is the sort of belief that I can’t tolerate. I have tolerated it, for the aforementioned reasons (non-confrontational, peace, harmony, blah blah), but I can’t any more. That’s my gift. To myself, and to the world! If people with these beliefs are free (which they are) to express such beliefs, then I am equally free to express my contempt, disgust, sadness, and horror at the fact that they believe such groundless, offensive, judgmental things. I am also free to hit “unfriend”. And then to take a stand against such prejudiced, damaging, potentially extremely dangerous thinking. If everyone adopted these beliefs, Hitler’s vision of a pure breed of people via a drastic solution would once again be a possibility.
The argument seems to be that they should not be forced to ‘endorse homosexuality’ – i.e., even though it’s completely their decision what to believe, and everyone knows that they believe it, they can’t be seen to be tolerating what they believe to be sinful behaviour.
Fair enough. As I said to the lesbian restaurant owner who politely refused to let my boyfriend and me eat there because it would be endorsing heterosexual relationships, oh wait, no, that NEVER HAPPENS.
What business is it of any of us how anyone else lives their life? Who cares if I fall in love with a man or a woman? Does it affect you in the slightest?
There are plenty of troubling, disturbing things in this world. Love is not one of them.
And so that’s my Christmas gift to myself. I am going to fight for good and take a stand against bigotry and discrimination. I am not going to tolerate homophobia, racism, xenophobia, or any other groundless prejudice, simply because everyone has a right to their beliefs and I don’t want to argue with anybody. Sometimes, you do have to argue.
And this post, I suppose, is a gift to the faithful readers who regularly ask me where I’ve gone and when I’m going to write again. I have my reasons for the long absence, and I’ll hopefully be back again before too much longer. In the meantime, Merry Christmas, and please accept this humble blog-post-shaped gift!