"People love the idea of free speech, until somebody goes and uses it."
The idea of fighting for gay rights feels ridiculous to me, it's pathetic that we haven't embraced complete equality at this stage.
I have nothing but admiration for transgender people. My day-job allows me to encounter them on a regular basis. I see them walking around, carrying on with their day-to-day lives as we all do, and all I think is, "Every time they step out of their houses, they must know they're walking into a world of judgement and possibly endless abuse on just a walk to the shop." If you'll excuse the expression, that takes balls. I can't claim to be able to relate to what drives them to be this way: as a heterosexual man, I get gay people, the only difference is that they're attracted to people of the same gender. It's still just attraction, it's still just love. But to feel like you were born in the wrong body? It's just not something I can ever truly begin to understand. I'd love to be friends with some so I could pick their brains on their daily struggles and tell them my admiration.
What I do understand, though, is that they feel strongly enough about it that they are willing to walk through that wall of judgement each day. That fills me with more respect for them than I do most of the other people I know and do understand in my day-to-day life. To have the, let's face it, majority of people you walk past in the same day have an instant, negative opinion of you...that's not something anyone would choose to force upon themselves if they had a choice. And yet, unlike vast sections of society that we've denied equality and freedom to in the past, they do have a choice. Women, black people, gay people; they either couldn't hide or change who they were. Transgenders could easily just pretend to be the person society wants them to be. And they don't. And they must pay for that. Yet they endure and continue. That takes more strength than any of us will likely ever know.
Occasionally, during songs, I'll drop an N-bomb. Only if it's a lyric of course, I don't unnecessarily add it to songs that I don't absolutely have to, "You're beautiful...n****". Though that probably would be funny if it wasn't offensive. To any of my friends/colleagues of colour reading, probably isn't a revelation to you that white people do this. But I feel like I should say it anyway, in the spirit of being honest. I hope you've no problem with me doing so. I just really, really like singing along to Jay-Z sometimes.
That said, if people around me drop it in conversation with offensive overtones, I cringe. Then I feel angry and want to shout that person down, to make them feel as small as they'd happily make the people they're referring to feel if they had their way. Usually I just bite my tongue and move on. What's the point? Am I really going to change the view of this person in one conversation, or is it just going to be an unpleasant encounter? More often than not, any encounter with these people is going to be unpleasant anyway. I'd rather just limit my intake of them and hope they either update their views to the 21st century or grow old and bitter with them, whichever they choose. The only one's I'll even try and correct are the one's I already give a shit about, if it's at all feasible.
I write all of this because I want you all to know, in the strongest possible terms, that I am absolutely not a racist homophobe. I give you my views with such blunt honesty, that I probably could've dialled down, because it's important that you see they are true.
That's not important because I want you to have a favourable view of me, I'm going to post all references to this article in deliberately inflammatory tones so people pay particular attention to what I feel is a crucial, shades of grey argument. The inherent risk in that is that they won't bother clicking and will read the title then conclude I am a racist homophobe. Those people's views don't matter to me. It's important that you understand those views are true because I'm now going to argue in favour of those who do espouse those views, and I need you to see how strongly I loathe those views personally to realise why that matters.
John Waters has left his job with the Irish Times after an, at-times, fractious 23 year employ within the company. In that time, he has never shied away from controversy and has often been subjected to vitriolic criticism for his unflinching views. He has done a lot of good work too, I particularly admire his long-standing fight for the rights of single fathers. But recently he's dealt a killer one-two to his career, by first going up against the formidable freight train of goodwill that is Panti Bliss (who I very much admire), then in this week's edition of the Sunday Independent arguing that depression doesn't exist and is a bullshit "excuse", whatever that means.
Ron Atkinson is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me he will always be remembered as the United manager before Fergie and the dithering football pundit on ITV. He has a lot of experience and insight that still has a place somewhere within the footballing community, as well as being good on TV, but his career is now non-existent after he referred, off-camera, to Marcel Desailly as a 'lazy n****r' and was caught (that and the fact that he agreed to do Celebrity Big Brother).
Richard Keys and Andy Grey are two other victims of their own backwards views. Yet you can't help but miss Andy's frantic cries when a goal goes in on a big Sunday clash.
The most ridiculous banishment from public life, in recent times, for me came when American TV chef Paula Deen half-admitted, in as clumsy a way as you can admit something and still be taken seriously, that she 'may' have used racial slurs, 'occasionally', in the 60's. 50 years ago! And, even then, as her brain farted and she stupidly admitted to a crime (that wasn't a crime when committed) that she wasn't even sure she committed, she saw her entire food empire come crumbling down.
Abusing John Waters into exile does not help the gay rights movement. Sending Richard Keys and Andy Grey to Abu Dhabi won't stop sexism. Forcing Ron Atkinson and Paula Deen to live out the rest of their years in hiding won't bring an end to racism. In short, pretending these problems don't exist and playing happy families helps nobody.
I want racists, sexists and homophobes on my screen on Prime Time every week. I want them to be well-spoken and well turned out. I want them to be fairly questioned on their views and to be given an equal amount of time to espouse these views in their fullest, no matter how ugly they may be. Then I want to see them destroyed by an equally well-spoken and well turned out opponent, who will win by virtue of them simply being right. Even if the person is too stubborn to change, or gets too caught up in the pedantic, to fall victim to a full KO blow, the public are intelligent enough to know who won and act accordingly.
Let the best of the ignorant defend themselves, give them their right to an opinion, then disprove it. Not only does that make for great television, but those watching at home seeing their best and brightest getting tongue-tied by pure, unflinching logic will be forced into either updating their views, or at least know that those around them now have clear, well-spoken arguments to either recite or point to on YouTube whenever they try and spread their bile.
Pushing these people into the shadows is ignoring the problem at hand instead of dealing with it. It actually empowers those who share the views by not allowing the world at large to see that they're very much wrong. This allows them to spread those opinions onto their children and play the victim's card when it comes to not giving 'the other side of the story'. Let them have their say, they're wrong anyway. You empower people through education and intelligence.
Not to mention that, but now single father's are denied a loud, vocal advocate because Waters has been blacklisted. Did Keys, Grey and Atkinson's dark side ever affect my enjoyment of football before mass media was telling me to burn them at the stake? And I'm sure there are millions of kids out there who lived for their mother's making them some of Paula Deen's killer mac and cheese recipe. These people were never paid solely for their views of the opposite sex, gay marriage or black people. We never asked them to be perfect, just to write thought-provoking columns, scream "TEK-A-BOOO SAN!" and come up with fun ways to make a meatloaf. Yet we crucified them professionally when it turned out they weren't perfect anyway.
21st century society probably thinks I'm a swell guy now because I'm pro-LGBT and anti-racism. I'm sure there is plenty you could crucify me for, if you did enough digging. I'm far from a perfect man and I've never claimed to be. But I'm damn good at my day-job, I write decent columns, make fun podcasts and run events that people seem to enjoy. So I get by, same as these people did. I'd hate to think that all of that would stand for nothing if people learned that I could be a bit of a neat freak at times, or something else that the world unanimously decided was punishable by professional exile now. Seems a bit pointless, no?
One more confession: I've met racists before in my life, and I've liked them. Not because of their racist views, which I abhor and cringe at as discussed, but because their views on people of a different race represented such a minuscule part of their personality that it was vastly out-weighed by their positives. Being an intelligent, well-rounded person, I could see that it was merely their own ignorance speaking, and they weren't in a position to do any damage. The vast majority of intelligent people can make the same distinction too.
I'm not suggesting we write racism and homophobia off as a "Nobody's perfect," issue, certainly it's one that needs to be challenged. But we also need to stop the witch-hunt and learn that engaging these people on an intellectual, respectful level and not forcing them to hide away their ugly views out of fear will do a lot more good in the long run. Cut off the problem at the route rather than pretending it doesn't exist.
Answer me this one question before you go: if, one day, society deems it such that an opinion you hold today and can defend in-depth becomes, overnight, unacceptable, how would you like to be treated? Would you like to be able to defend your view and calmly hear opposing views so that you can understand why people leapt to this change, then choose for yourself where you'd like to go from there and be respected for whichever choice you make? Or would you like to be shunned without question and treated like a dumb fuck even though the world changed while you weren't looking?
If it's the former, then keep in mind that racism was probably perfectly acceptable when your own grandparents (and possibly your parents) grew up. Let's end the hysteria and discuss it all like adults. We might get somewhere then.
Rick Nash is a former pro-wrestler who currently host the Low Blows podcast on iTunes, DJs for hire, makes piss-poor sports bets and runs WWE-related events. Altogether, he's a real bum, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you thought this piece was in any way insightful or entertaining. But still, follow him on Twitter and stuff.