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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Straight Pride at My Son's Highschool

Maybe you heard or didn't hear about Straight Pride. The T shirts worn at my son's High School has ignited a fire storm. It is strange when a controversy erupts that pulls you in as a parent and you really do have to take a side. The T shirt wearers (three initially) complete with a quote from the bible claiming punishment for being gay “If a man lay with a male as those who lay with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and shall surely be put to death,” see their right of free speech infringed upon when the school administration asked them to take the shirts off or at least cover up the bible quote.

This all came about ironically during anti bullying week when students were supposed to be mindful of the student who killed himself over a YouTube video outing him as gay. I would like to see this as some sort of free speech issue for the students, but unfortunately this is just intolerance hiding under the same old free speech issues. Straight Pride White Pride it all neatly skews the Pride and goes right to the intolerance and intimidation. The truth is the students are not interested in expressing their right to have Straight Pride what they are all about is intimidating students who are gay. This everyone knows.

The real question is where does this come from? The high school resides in a conservative Republican town fifty miles west of Chicago. I moved here five years ago from Oak Park, a very progressive liberal Democratic town. I went from Oz to Kansas and I knew the minute I arrived I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Forget the Tea Party rally on main street. Forget the man who yelled at the Democratic Party marchers in a St Patricks day parade screaming Bums, Bums I really hate you guys. Forget the man who barged into the local Starbucks screaming we have to get rid of the Communists in the government. You could put that all down to a small town of rural white people in a down economy who feel under siege--but the school is an affluent High School of mostly Chicago what is going on here?

The climate of the country is extremely intolerant. We are going through a real retro age now brought on by sustained hard times and if you don't believe me just look who was elected. But the real question is where were the parents of the these three students? Did they know their sons were coming to school with a bible verse saying it is alright to kill the gays? Of course they did. You know what your kid is wearing. So we have to assume they were alright with it. If there is one thing that is striking about today is the polarization but also the hatred of "the other." Theories might run from our black President with his Progressive agenda to the fact people are just plain scared now. Scared of losing their jobs. Scared of losing their homes. Scared of their future. Fear makes people look for scapegoats and intolerance blasts through the roof.

But these are kids in high school. Yes, they are us in our best years supposedly. They are mini versions of us with our prejudice, beliefs, dreams, aspirations intact. Somebody had sanctioned adolescent fear of the other and in this case gays and said sure it is OK to fear these people. They are different. The school does seem to be making an effort to foster tolerance by defusing the issue and making sure these T shirts are kept under wraps. Supporters of the T shirt wearers (the students themselves) scream their freedom of speech is being trampled. I'll say to them what I say to my own son when he screams about his freedom of speech. You're right, it is being trampled, now shut up and go to class.

Books by William Hazelgrove