Fear is a powerful emotion. It can guide you out of trouble and keep you safe, but irrational fear has the opposite effect.
When I was a child I had an irrational fear of insects, perhaps because I once swallowed a June bug while trying to emulate a frog. I was just a toddler, but I remember the event pretty clearly.
For years after that, any bug, particularly those that flew, sent me into a panic. I would dodge and weave every time I saw a honeybee or wasp, convincing myself they were targeting me.
Once coming home from school, I passed a honeysuckle bush which was in bloom. Bees were busily gathering nectar, but to me they were lying in wait. In an effort to avoid them, I fell off the front porch into a holly bush. I suspect the scratches I got there were worse than any bee sting would have been.
In truth, the bees didn’t give a damn about me; they had work to do, and unless I was a flower, they had no interest
LGBT people are much like those honeybees. We have lives to live and work to do and just want to be left alone. Yet the right-wing treats us as though we are intent on swarming over them.
Why are pundits and politicians cranking up the rhetoric and stoking that fear? Simple: If you are conservative, you are inherently resistant to change. You want to preserve the status quo and change scares you, especially if it is change that you do not understand.
For years conservative politicians — both Republican and Democrat — have known this and used the fear tactics to motivate their constituents.
During the 1960s it was fear of integration. The idea that black and white Americans would share the same facilities and services frightened people who had been indoctrinated in the myth that the color of your skin could be an indicator as to your trustworthiness and civility.
It was expressed most blatantly in the fear of miscegenation. The very idea that black and white couple could marry sent chills through down some voters’ spines. The “white race” must be preserved, and diluting it with “colored blood” was horrifying, if you wanted to maintain things as they were.
The Supreme Court buried that fear with Loving v Virginia, a ruling that made marriages legal in all states, no matter what the race of the participants.
After a few years the fear of racial mixing subsided and the right turned toward other fears. As our country’s population became more diverse, the fear of “the other” was a fruitful tactic.
The most obvious “other” in Texas was the large Mexican-American population and undocumented immigrants. They were all lumped together and again politicians used them as a specter to signal a “vast change” that was happening.
That change was nothing new; immigrants had always come to our country and would continue to come to our country. But when they had accents or looked slightly different than white Americans, they could be used as pawns in the Fear Game.
Well, welcome to the world of being a pawn. Now that same-sex marriage seems to be almost a “fait accompli,” the fear engine needs stoking. And LGBT people are still active on the board.
Irrational fears about what “the gays” will do next will become more and more prominent in the rhetoric of the right wing, especially as elections near. It’s the only tactic they have left.
As pieces in this nasty game, we can either play along like good little pawns, or we can leave the board entirely. What I mean by that is, we can refuse to be drawn into the framing used so well by the GOP and their operatives.
We must not fall prey to the “fight for marriage” which the LGBT community was pushed into and fight for full equality. We will be demonized, harangued and accused of a multitude of fictitious sins in coming months, and we have to refuse to be drawn into it.
By stopping to rebut a specious claim, we only serve to reinforce the framing. If you want a primer on this. read George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant. It explains this in detail and offers alternatives.
Personally, when I hear the insane claims of the right-wing pundits and preachers, I usually laugh and then change the subject to what I want: equal rights. It takes persistence and resolve, but it’s possible.
And next time Tony Perkins or his clones say things like LGBT activists are going to “start rolling out the boxcars and carting away Christians,” respond with, “As LGBT Americans, we are very concerned about freedom and equality. Let’s talk about equal rights for all Americans.”
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board member for the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.