Sometimes CSPAN can provide a glimpse into just how off the tracks America seems to be these days. CSPAN, a public cable channel funded through fees of cable companies, is a unique experiment, which allows Americans to interact and be involved through call-ins. Each day thousands of average citizens separate into Republican, Democrat and Independent lines to voice their opinions on the topic of the day. Many are frustrated, some seeking more insight and others just to vent their anger and dismay at the state of affairs.
So it was this week when a 90-year old woman, lined up in the republican line called into CSPAN during a conversation about government intervention on Wall Street. One knew this call would be one to remember when she started her comments with, "I want to ask the colored man a question." She went on to express frustration that African-Americans -- or in her words -- colored people were too busy talking about what Whites did too them, and not embracing what society has done for them.
She seemed annoyed that there is too much talk about slavery and not enough gratitude given to the "welfare, free medical, free everything." As an African-American who is paying for his health insurance, student loans for college and doling out dollars for everything from food to rent I wonder where the line to get free everything is -- someone forgot to tell me about that.
It's comical that the host of the show that day was a black man who tried his best to not only keep a straight face but also stay on topic by reminding her that this "is more a conversation about the administration and people on wall street and not necessarily one based on race." The look on his face is priceless, but the fact she ended her call with the disclaimer that she's not a racist is even more invaluable. While she doesn't think herself racists, the comments left in the Youtube.com comment section seems to suggest no matter what she claimed, that's exactly the conclusion of most people.
For the record, I think her not to be racists but the embodiment of the cliche, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. When this frail woman was active in society, colored was the term that was far better than Negro or even Nigger. She wasn't racist -- just simply physically and in vocabulary stuck in the 1940s. She can be excused.
But what is New York Governor Candidate Carl Paladino's excuse.
On Sunday, during a speech to a group of Orthodox Jews suggested that our children not be "brainwashed" into thinking homosexuality was acceptable. It gets worst. In his prepared remarks, according to the New York Times he was set - but decided against it -- to say “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.” For Mr. Palidino, this latest shocking statement joins a slew of others that have turned him into a failed candidate for the Governor's mansion two weeks before the election.
But his proclamation no matter how offensive is just words. It should not be lost that in the very same city that Mr. Palidino made his comments, police were rounding up eight young men who brutally attacked three men for being gay.
The Associated Press reports that before each man was sodomized and beat to near death the young men inquired, "Is it true that you're a f-g?"
It's doubtful that Palidino would endorse such brutal behavior, but his words during the speech give comfort to a society that continues to treat homosexuals in this country as less than citizens. Even the most innocent -- our young people.
His words unfortunatley speak just as loud as their actions.
Simply, because the words of those who aggressively attack homosexuals as "less than" are having severe consequences.
No more is that apparent than in the battle to protect young students from harassment in the halls of schools. Over the past five years states have aggressively passed legislation protecting students against cyber-bullying -- but legislation specifically calling anti-homosexual bullying a crime or at the very least a tactic worthy of stoppage has stalled. Mostly at the behest of cultural conservatives and religious groups, like the Catholic Church.
In Minnesota, a local group connected to the national organization Focus on the Family has been actively fighting any reform of bullying legislation there because adding gay students to a list of those that should be protected from harassment encourages homosexuality. In fact any attempt to pass national legislation has stalled due to this very same issue.
It is amazing the cultural wars against equal treatment and protection based on sexual orientation has made students vulnerable to cruel treatment that has ended in many cases these students committing suicide to end the torment. At least 5 young people have ended their lives in the last few weeks because of the severe hostility to their orientation. What words do we say to their parents.
These actions speak louder than any words from a fringe gubernatorial candidate or preacher speaking from a pulpit.
At some point we have to confront these words with action, ourselves. We must just as passionately tell them their words serve no positive purpose and the active responses that people make because of them are just as much their responsibility as anyone Else's.
If we do not confront these offensive words with an equal level of passion against them, we are just as culpable. Silence in the face of oppression is tacit approval.
Actions speak louder than words. It's time to drown them out.
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