This past Tuesday some conservative Texas state lawmakers joined by the Lt. Governor of Texas and other conservative leaders held a ceremonial cake cutting celebrating the 10th anniversary of legislation outlawing gay marriage in Texas. The cake cutter was Texas State Representative Cecil Bell, who has proposed a law that “would withhold pay from government employees who conspire in the issuance of a same-sex marriage license.” In essence Rep. Bell wants to criminalize having a caring heart and doing the right thing. But that’s Texas…it’s elected officials want to live in a world where people are only allowed to be exactly like them: white, straight, and fundamentalist Christian. Dan, Patrick, the Lt. Governor of Texas, addressed the hateful cake cutters and media encouraging Texans to rally to the defense of “traditional marriage.”
But it’s not traditional marriage, my hateful, fearful Lt. Governor. It’s marriage defined by fear and prejudice and the religious preferences of those in political power. What happens when laws are made to enforce one group’s set of fears and prejudices and hate? Well, it’s always cliche to invoke the Nazis, but since this spring is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, let’s do just that one more time.
NPR recently ran a story about teaching the holocaust as history. Middle and high school teachers from North and South Carolina met at Duke University and watch video comparing Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow south.
“July 1938: Aryan and non-Aryan children cannot play together.”
“In Alabama, all passenger stations shall have separate waiting rooms,” intones the video, “Cause and Effect.” It was created by Centropa with teachers from the U.S. and Europe.
“1938: Jewish children are no longer allowed to attend public schools.”
“In Georgia it shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone but another white person”
The NPR story pointed out that the teachers were NOT drawing moral equivalency between Jim Crow and genocide, but I am. If not an equivalency, there is at least a distinct and clear connection between Jim Crow and genocide, and for the sake of letting them eat cake, gay marriage.
The common factor is dehumanization. When we dehumanize, we make the other – the religious other, the racial other, the GLBTQ other, the female other, the cultural other – less human than we are. When another person is dehumanized, it is much easier to hurt them, abuse them, deny them access and privilege, even kill them. When it becomes easy to kill the other, we get genocide. That’s why the Texas Cake Cutters are so evil and so dangerous. They mask the dehumanization in religious language and the defense of tradition. And yet, hate is hate, no matter how much you try to dress it up or deny it.
Perhaps the Cake Cutters could learn a lesson from Mr. Spock. When the actor Leonard Nimoy passed away this week social media was filled with video clips of the actor’s most famous character, including this one, where the character Mr. Spock, dies in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Spock’s alien character is a Vulcan, a race that is beyond emotion and functions on pure logic. William Shatner’s character, Captain Kirk says of Mr. Spock during his funeral that of all the souls he has met in his travels across the galaxy, “his was the most human.”
Blogger Vikki Tikkitavi wrote on her Bells On blog:
Spock was my character. As a alien in a ship full of humans, he endured taunts about the ways in which his looks and his thoughts differed from theirs. He endured the prejudices of people who thought that because of who he was, he could never understand, or excel, or speak with a voice that others would recognize.
He made mistakes. He learned that his philosophy of reason must serve the greater good, or it was meaningless. He remained himself, even as he came to value loyalty and compassion above all else.
Indeed as Spock dies in the clip above, he tells Captain Kirk, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few …or the one.” We’d all do well to gain this bit of perspective. Everyone who is other than we are has similar needs and deserves similar respect and to have their dignity and respect protected by law. That is why the needs of the few, such as fundamentalist Christian Cake Cutters, are supposed to give way to the needs of the many in our society; the reason why we have freedom of speech and religion. This is a lesson Mr. Spock can teach all of us, including the Cake Cutters.
Then again, maybe not – before the Cake Cutters listened to anything Spock said, they’d want to know if he was an illegal alien. God help us, we’ve still got a lot of work to do before we’re all allowed to live long and prosper.