In response to this apparently outrageous suggestion on my part, a 16 year-old girl commented, “He [meaning me] deserves to be beaten, just like trans women get beaten worldwide, and murdered even. . . . I would like to do a lot of violent things to him too. I would horse kick him in the [expletives] while wearing high heels. I hate that man. YES!!!!! He is a [EXPLETIVE] IDIOT!!!!! Don’t you just hate him??!!”
And how did she describe herself? “I’m a 16 year old girl, who is fairly intellectually mature; I’m probably the most intellectually mature teenager in my school. I am open minded, and a loving person.” Indeed!
The sad fact is that these individual voices reflect a prevailing sentiment: Extreme intolerance, even to the point of rank hatred, is justified when it is directed against those perceived to be intolerant. As I have been told more than once, “It’s a good thing to be intolerant of the Nazis and the KKK, and you are no better than them.”
And what does this look like in practice? Just ask Martha Boggs, manager of the Bistro at the Bijou in Knoxville, Tennessee. When Republican State Senator Stacey Campfield came in for breakfast, she made clear to him that he was not welcome there. Why? He introduced a bill that “prohibits the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8,” and he has stated that AIDS is primarily a gay male disease, with apparent sordid origins.
According to Campfield, who exited graciously, Boggs greeted him with these words, “I’m not serving you, you’re a homophobe and hate gay people.”
As she explained, “When I saw him at the front door, I told him to leave. It’s just my way to show support for the gay community and stand up to somebody I think is a bully. He’s really gone from being stupid to dangerous. I think he needs to know what it feels like to be discriminated against.”
There you have it. “Senator Campfield, you deserve to be discriminated against. You’re a dangerous homophobic bully, and I have every right not to serve you” – in Knoxville, Tennessee, of all places, where blacks used to be refused service because of their color.
For her actions, Boggs has received thousands of affirmative posts and emails, and she is being hailed as a hero in the LGBT community.
What was that about tolerance being a two-way street?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.
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