Thursday, March 13, 2008

To Sally Kern: Words Have Meaning

I haven't posted yet about Sally Kern's recent anti-gay rant over in Oklahoma. But, unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you've heard about it. I can hear the "hate the sin" argument until my ears bleed, but what many people like Sally Kern fail to realize is that words have meaning.

Sure, she didn't tell anyone to call gays names. She didn't tell anyone to beat a gay person, and she obviously didn't suggest to kill gay people. But in the end, words do have meanings, and what she did do, very clearly, is tell people that gays are worse than terrorists. She put normal Americans that happen to be gay on the same (no worse) footing as murderers and killers.

Sally Kern is claiming that her words were taken out of context, but I simply can't imagine any context that would make such inflammatory words acceptable. And while she'll get the backing of the far right claiming that she is simply exercising her free speech rights and that her words certainly aren't inciting or advocating violence, I'll know that her words have had an impact. Somewhere (probably lots of somewheres), those anti-gay folks that do like to taunt gays, beat them up, and even kill them feel just a little more vindicated when they here words like Sally's.

I'm not alone in this. Over at Pam's House Blend, a high school student named Tucker shares similar sentiments and offers a first-hand account of what kind of impact speech like this can have on impressionable youth:

On April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City a terrorist detonated a bomb that killed my mother and 167 others. 19 children died that day. Had I not had the chicken pox that day, the body count would've likely have included one more. Over 800 other Oklahomans were injured that day and many of those still suffer through their permanent wounds.

That terrorist was neither a homosexual or was he involved in Islam. He was an extremist Christian forcing his views through a body count. He held his beliefs and made those who didn't live up to them pay with their lives.


Let me tell you the result of your words in my school. Every openly gay and suspected gay in the school were having to walk together Monday for protection. They looked scared. They've already experienced enough hate and now your words gave other students even more motivation to sneer at them and call them names. Afterall, you are a teacher and a lawmaker, many young people have taken your words to heart. That happens when you assume a role of responsibility in your community. I seriously think before this week ends that some kids here will be going home bruised and bloody because of what you said.

Words really do have meaning, and as long as this kind of hateful speech continues, I'll remain unimpressed by the far right's claims that their hands are clean of any anti-gay violence that just "happens" to take place.


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