I really debated with myself about writing this. I don’t want to add to the pain, but on balance, it is something that I need to say. I need to write this.
Last week I subscribed to a blog. It was a blog full of lovely things, and I’ve been struggling a bit emotionally lately, and needed something uplifting, so I subscribed.
Yesterday I received my first post. I eagerly opened it and immediately my heart sank.
It was a post that could not have been more exclusionary, more against the very thing I stand for, if it tried.
It was a post that stood resolutely against the rainbow marriage-equality photos adorning Facebook at the moment, a post that openly called homosexuals unnatural sinners, and that marriage equality is not what (their) god wanted.
Shocked and without a second thought, I unsubscribed from the blog.
And then I felt bad about unsubscribing, because I sort of know the person who wrote it through another blog forum that I belong to and I really like this person and I know they are well liked by the other members too. And suddenly, I didn’t want to go into that blog forum because that person would have known that I had unfollowed them. And I didn’t want to be ostracised for that decision. Because I’m an introvert and I really don’t do confrontation very well. Plus I am a people pleaser and I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I really feel strongly about equality for all people, especially people in love. Because love is important. It makes us more kind, tolerant and accepting.
And suddenly, yet again, because of my very strong principles, I felt the need to leave another tribe. Except I really liked this tribe. Even though I hate the word tribe.
It is an accepting group, where we all dip in periodically to find support. In fact, I never so much of thought of it as a tribe as a meeting place where bloggers from all walks of life and of all persuasions would come together to celebrate and commiserate. And then head off again into our own worlds, only to come together at a later date for another chat. It was a microcosm of how I imagined the world would one day look – inclusive, peaceful, tolerant of difference, non judgemental, safe to be whoever you wanted to be. This place was, to me, sacred.
But yesterday it lost its sheen.
A discussion ensued. I feel so uncomfortable talking about this. It feels like a betrayal, but please bare with me. I feel this is so important to say.
A discussion ensued. I didn’t stay for long because I couldn’t. I couldn’t face the exclusion, the justification, the insistence that they have a right to say these things, because it is in their heart. The seeking for solace in that right. I didn’t stay for the aftermath – the hurt, the demolition of the sacred space.
I woke up to that this morning.
People were hurt, they felt excluded, demonised and victimised.
And this is so much the problem with blogging. We feel because we are bloggers that we have the right to say whatever we like in our little piece of cyber real estate.
But we don’t.
As bloggers, we have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to think before we write. Is this kind? Will this hurt? Indeed, is this appropriate?
It’s a fine line, between free speech and hate speech.
Being a blogger does not give us the right to say whatever we want. It just doesn’t. Not when words have the capacity to hurt so much.
Of course, the person who wrote that piece doesn’t feel it is hate speech. For them, their love of their deity supersedes any human pain they may have caused. For them, the decree of a two millennia old bible that a man will not lie with another man is justification enough to write that homosexuality is an unnatural sin and that marriage is only between a man and a woman. It is justification enough that those words sting enough to make any homosexual readers feel less valued, less accepted, simply less.
I wrote about this recently. I wrote how a fundamentalist’s “love” of god can be taken too far. I wrote how if what they truly believe is true, it is not necessary to act as judge and jury on their god’s behalf. Is not the point to love your fellow man no matter what? Is that not the central tenet of faith?
Watching how people responded was very confronting.
And it ripped through the cyber space.
I watched as years of judgement, of not feeling good enough simply because you happen to love another person of the same sex, came rushing to the fore, like a caged tiger on the brink of being let out, finally to be set free, but the master toying with the key.
My heart simply broke.
And yet, as I woke up this morning to the aftermath, to my sacred group piecing together what had happened, processing it, coming together to support those who had really been affected, who had felt yet another blow because of who they choose to love, I could not help but think of the author of that post. I could not help wonder how they were – because none of us likes to feel hated. I could not help but wonder if they had any idea of the power of their words? Did they continue to feel justified, unrelenting in the pain their words had caused? Did they understand the tidal wave and why it happened? Did they understand that their belief in an unprovable god did not justify the declaration that homosexuals are unnatural sinners? Did they even care?
I have no answers.
I only have what I believe. What I have always believed.
That it is your right to believe and do whatever it is you want so long as it does no harm to another human being.
We are humans living a human existence. It is not your job to thrust upon me your belief, nor declare the love two people feel for each other as an unnatural sin because they don’t fit your mould. It is your job to live your life to the best of your ability according to whatever tenet you choose, but it is not your job to make me feel crap for how I live mine. It is your piece of cyber space, yes, but surely kindness above all else should prevail? Surely, in this crazy screwed up world, we should be seeking to build each other up, not tear each other down?
I think it will take time for the sacredness of our space to return. Not for lack of will, but shock takes time to process.
In the meantime, I will continue to write, to stand for those in our society who need a voice, and even for those who don’t.
I will continue to stand for kindness. Simple kindness.
And I hope you will stand with me too.
Much love and kindness to you,