"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Values (And This Time I Really Mean It) 

You may recall the scene in the movie Heathers, in which the redneck father tearfully exclaims, "I love my dead gay son!" Hilarious, to be sure, but also meaningful. It's easy to hate a faceless mob - queers, say, or Republicans - but it's much harder to hate a real, basically decent individual you just happen to know personally. A real, breathing person looking you in the eye is always more than his or her rough-and-ready label, and your reactions to that person will always be more balanced, and more (dare I say it?) nuanced, than your reactions to some abstract group.

This is a lesson that we progressives must learn in our dealings with residents of the Really Flat States. And it's hard. After all, they seem to see us as a mass of stereotypes - a "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latté-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show" - and so we return the favor by seeing them as a bunch of snake-handling dimwits with crewcuts and/or bouffants. We get all weepy when their boys get blown up in Baghdad, because (of course) we Support Our Troops®, but we have little use for the ones who are still alive - because, truth be told, they have little use for us. And the world keeps turning, because that's what it does.

As my regular readers know - and, by the way, there are now more of you than there are associates of Tom DeLay under indictment! - I grew up in a small town in a really red state. I know these folks. They're pig-headed, racist, narrow minded knuckleheads, but they're also living, breathing, hard-working Americans who love their kids, their community, and their country. They're my father, and my brother-in-law, and my old prom date, and I love them in spite of myself. They listen to Toby Keith, sure, but they also listen to the Dixie Chicks, John Cougar Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and other well-known treasonous liberals. And they'll even buy you a beer, provided you don't get all up in their grill about Jesus and stuff.

I mention all this to highlight this amazing article from the Washington Post that you should go read right away. It's a story about a small-town faggot who became a target for a bunch of "Christian" hate mongers, and about the family, and the small town - and the small-town Baptist church, in a genuine display of real family values - who rallied around him, even as they honestly confronted their discomfort about who and what he is. It isn't a story about black and white; it's drawn in shades of gray. It is, however, a story about America at its best, and it's inspiring. Props are due to the author, Anne Hull, for a nice bit of journalism. But mostly, join me in tipping my hat to the town of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, for representing the best part of America, while remaining true to their own conservative values. This way to the healing.




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