A few weeks ago, millions of Americans became aware of Governor Mike Pence when he signed Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Reaction was as swift as it was vociferous. All the “Hey, Pence, why do you have such a problem with LGBT folks?” postings I read were not surprising. I wouldn’t have bothered to ask, because I already knew the answer.
I wasn’t surprised by the license to discriminate that the RFRA potentially allowed. The act, in a different form, has been around for years in many states. Its title is hilarious. As if some freedom has been lost or deprived and was in need of restoring. Please.
I wasn’t offended by the postings from those who stood up for the freedom to be prejudiced, even when they lacked the intellectual courage to come in through the front door and state their business, as the Westboro Baptist Church does. But even the WBC can’t say what it really means. It should change the wording of its now famous slogan by replacing “God” with “I” and finally tell the truth, but it can’t. No guts.
It reminds me of an incident I witnessed last year in Washington, D.C.. A seemingly drunk white man was yelling into the window of a taxi, repeatedly calling the driver a “nigga.” As I watched, I became annoyed at the white man’s lack of commitment to the moment. If he was really into it, he would have switched out the “-a” to “-er” and let it burn. But, just like the WBC crowd, he lacked courage, or was perhaps somewhat disgusted with himself. Either way it was depressing as hell to endure.
After the first wave of backlash showed up on Gov. Pence’s doorstep, he stood his ground. I assumed he was doing this for all those people whose lives have been made miserable by the tyranny of LGBT retail experiences. I thought to myself that this dipshit is dull-minded and regressive enough to be a GOP frontrunner or, at the very least, a go-to veep candidate for 2016. I could almost hear Michele Bachmann hyperventilating with excitement.
I was truly looking forward to how Indiana was going to deal with the heavy lift of devolving forward. I was hoping for all kinds of signs on the fronts of retail outlets. “Won’t serve LGBT (unless you’re a cop or fire/rescue, but while you’re in here, don’t ‘act out’ on your fucked-up impulses!)” “Will serve those with LGBT friends, but you’ll get meh service. Please don’t Yelp this.”
So many ways to go! Bigots would have to get busy. Imagine being the boss of an LGBT-intolerant shop and having to train your minimum-wage employees to evaluate every single customer that comes in the door. How does that line of inquiry go? “Good afternoon, sir. I notice you are impeccably dressed and perfectly coiffed. You’re not a homosexual, are you? It’s not that we have any hate for you, it’s just that, well, my boss thinks that you all are disgusting. No offense.”
That’s a long way to go for “freedom,” but humans can get up to all kinds of stupid bullshit. It would have gotten so absurd so quickly that Indiana would have become a perpetual comedy roast.
But before things went too far, the will of God got its mic cut, as the real force of America roared. The money threatened to leave and take the long way around Indiana. That’s when Mike Pence woke up.
And this is where I got offended.
Can you imagine being a self-respecting, God-loving citizen of Indiana who also happens to be prejudiced against LGBT people? (Which I bet describes only a tiny fraction of Christians in the state; let’s not indict all for the opinions of a few.) Finally, you think, your voice has been heard! You’re not a bigot! You’re standing up for religious freedom! You have a couple of righteous days and then … your governor caves! It’s back to the oppressive grind of dealing with LGBT people, with their appetites for pizza, cake, decency, equality. Will this liberal intolerance never end?!
Gov. Pence knew what he was signing, why he was signing it and who he was signing it for. Pence threw God under the bus. As the Australians say, “Weak sauce!”
It wasn’t even the outcry of people in his state and the rest of the country that made him blink. It was money! I liked him better when he was dug in, head down, only dimly realizing he was suddenly a small man on a big stage.
By requesting a new bill that was slightly modified, did Mr. Pence evolve, or just learn who not to mess with?
This dreadful ignorance will be in America for years. You might be cool, but “We the People” are, for now at least, stuck in the gunked-up cogs of a primitive machine. It’s not as if it isn’t easy to walk away from; it’s just that some people are, as James Brown used to say, “coming from some funny places.”
But things can change, and there doesn’t have to be a single punch thrown or voice raised in anger.
More summer music festivals. A lot more. Like all over America, every damn weekend until school starts again. Fill the stages with bands from all over the world. Make tickets insanely affordable. Light up Indiana and the whole country. Voter registration booths at every event.
Apple and Microsoft should have a free festival in every state once per summer. Let’s have young people getting together in large groups more often and seeing the real future of their country looking back at them. The leap from being inspired to being the inspiration.
I hope you’re having a happy Coachella.
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