Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fear & Ignorance

Today is only my second day as a blogger and I've already had an "Oh-my-God-I-have-to-go-home-and-blog-about-this" moment. Unfortunately what I am dying to write about isn't a cool vegan recipe for muffins, or hilarious viral video, but a very disturbing experience I had on the Muni today.
I was on my way home from work, sitting on the Muni, reading my book, when this very large gentleman squeezes in next to me. This man was very large, so when I say squeeze, I am not exaggerating. He was invading my space to the max, not intentionally, just because he was a big guy. He was older, wearing really thick glasses, had thinning hair, a distinct odor and was a classic mouth breather. He wore a t-shirt with the American flag on it and whipped out a handheld video game (something to do with wizards, from what I could tell) and proceeded to prod me with his elbow every time he slayed whatever mythological creature he was battling (which lead to an obnoxious celestial beeping sequence.) All I could think was "Ewww." And then, I thought again. Why was I judging this guy? I didn't know him. For all I know he could be a genius, a veteran, a member of the peace corps, or just a regular nice guy. I was so upset with myself for having these preconceived notions about him, based on his appearance. In my head I apologized to him: "Sorry dude, I didn't realize you were a doctor! I'll never judge a book by it's cover again. Hey while I have you here, I have this pain in my wrist would you mind taking a look at it?"
Just then we pulled up to Castro station (For those of you who don't know, the Castro is the gay epicenter of the city, if not the state.) As the doors opened, the man said, rather loudly "Fag street, Fag street! AIDS district! Thank God fags can't marry in this state! Sodomizing in the streets..." And when the doors closed he went back to his game, mouth breathing and all.
I was stunned. A woman sitting near by made eye contact with me and we exchanged our silent expressions of disbelief. I felt so angry, and shocked and sad. I wanted so badly to say something to set this idiot straight (no pun intended). I wanted to really tell him off- and I knew I'd have support from most of the others passengers. I started rehearsing what I'd say to him. 

"That's totally ignorant and offensive!"
"How dare you?"
"You're a a fat, ugly, stupid, slob! Fuck you! Go to hell!"

I even fantasized a scenario in which I dramatically slapped him just before getting off the Muni.

But, alas, I could not bring myself to do it. It would not be worth the scene it would inevitably cause, and was just crazy altogether. Also, I was afraid of this guy now. Not only because of his flawed beliefs, but because he actually chanted those hateful words, and seemed so pleased with himself while doing so. Not all bigots and homophobes proclaim there beliefs on a crowded subway car, in the most gay-friendly city in the country,  so I figured this guy must be somewhat unhinged.
The rest of my subway trip, I was totally preoccupied with what I had just seen. I could not longer focus on my book, but rather stared blankly at the page, my fists were clenched as was my jaw. I'm sure my face was red, and I was sitting on the very edge of my seat, so I could be as far away from this monster as I could. I was so angry. 
I have participated in the AIDS walk, No On Prop 8 rallies, fundraisers, I'm on every mailing list about gay marriage there is and I happen to be close friends with several gay people. I just thought of this issue, and how long it's taken to get where we are today, and that there is still so much fear and ignorance, even in the most progressive cities.
Then I thought about something I heard Larry Flynt say in an interview. (This was probably related to that joke about some senator losing his virginity to a Nun or something in Hustler back in the 80's.) He said: "Free speech doesn't protect the speech you love. It protects the speech you hate." Granted, I'm sure Flynt in quoting someone far more intellectual, but I'm too lazy to look up the original. I think this is totally relevant though. I hate this man for what he said and what he believes. It's not as if we root for rival baseball teams, but I can still go hang out and grab a beer with him despite our difference of opinion. I think this guy is pure scum. Ignorant, bigoted, hateful, God-fearing scum. But he has a right to be scum. He has a right to his own opinion, be it faith or logic based. He has the right to say what he wants (So long as he doesn't "incite a riot") and I guess I have to be OK with that. Talk about a tough pill to swallow...

I got off a stop early to walk off my anger. I still can't believe it. What can you do in those situations? If anything I am more motivated that ever to participate in educating people about tolerance and acceptance.
Love and peace to you all.

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