I know this is going to sound like a sermon, so I beg your foregiveness first. But I am so tired of people assuming that someone close to me, like my son or daughter, must be gay, just because I’ve written a novel about marriage equality. Why make that assumption? Do we really need to experience first hand or damn near close to first hand, the pain of inequality and intolerance, before we can understand the harm they cause, much less before we affirmately speak out?
The pain of inequality and intolerance cross all human boundaries. Many groups and individuals have felt that pain at different times and under different circumstances. We shouldn’t need to be close to someone in the targeted group to understand and be compassionate. Intolerance is just plain wrong, and nobody should be made to suffer its pain. As Americans, we should know this viscerally.
But even if the appearance of our better self is only triggered by the pain of knowing someone well who is suffering, then rest assured each of us knows such a person. It might be our daughter, mother, wife or sister experiencing sexual harrassment or unequal treatment; our African-American, Muslim or Jewish friend or family member experiencing the hatred caused by prejudice; or our grandparent or great uncle or aunt manueving the uncharted waters of age discrimination at a time in their lives when they may be least able to handle the pain. In fact, if you think about it, you, personally, may have felt the sting of intolerance at the office or in your home. Are you too heavy, too blond, too “gay”? Simply, people hate for many reasons, and we are not ammune from them all.
Inequality and mistreatment are general concepts. They follow naturally from prejudice and intolerance. It’s unnecessary to experience first hand the suffering they cause, because intolerance of someone else is truly “but for the grace of God go I”. It’s just right to care about intolerance and the mistreatment of others. Do what’s right. Don’t wait for the pain of intolerance to hit home, because it’s hitting someone’s home, if not yours.