Doing The Right Thing

May 18, 2012

I’d like to think that I swooshed out into the world and immediately, placentally embraced diversity and an edifying spirit of uniqueness. All that peace, love and understanding Elvis Costello would sing about a couple decades later.

That would be a lie, of course.

In the sleepy south-western Ontario suburban town I grew up in during the 60s and 70s, racism, sexism and homophobia was, not rampant, we’re not talking Alabama here, but very much present. ‘Y’fag’ was hardly an unacceptable point of mockery. Eenie-meenie-minie-mo catch a tiger by the toe was a later, patched on variation of the schoolyard chant used to pick teams. Difference was not seen as strength. It was suspect.

Some suggest that hate is taught. I’m not sure I agree. Hate can be refined, massaged, encouraged but I think that like most species, we are hardwired to be wary of the other. What we actually undergo (hopefully) is a transformation of thinking that slowly drains this atavistic instinct from us. It might’ve served us well when we were fighting for our survival out on the African savannah but nowadays it’s simply detrimental to the proper functioning of a civilized society.

A widening of experience helps us shed our primitive impulses. Moving outside our comfort zones, challenging our preconceptions that (again, hopefully) develops a fully evolved empathy muscle. With such ongoing interactive experience we inevitably arrive at one basic conclusion: we are all of us striving for the simplest needs. To be loved, sheltered and given the opportunity to pursue a way of life that makes us happy, fulfilled and gives us purpose.

It is a journey that we each undergo at different paces. Sadly, some of us ultimately shy away from it entirely and retreat back into our caves of fear and disappointment. But the optimist in me hopes and believes that outcome is increasingly a minority one. Our society’s embrace of diversity is truly breathtaking when looked at through the lens of the past 40 years or so.

This is how I view Mayor Ford’s appearance and reading of the proclamation marking the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia at the PFLAG’s flag raising yesterday. It was a step forward, a small step admittedly, but one in the right direction nonetheless. Watching it happen, I tried to summon all the cynicism, snark and dismissiveness I could. It just wasn’t there.

Whatever political motivation that might have been behind his move, if there were any political motivations, seemed unimportant. The mayor reached out and was greeted warmly by the crowd for the effort. Mayor Ford should be applauded and encouraged for this gesture.

That wasn’t so bad, was it? You didn’t wake up today married to a dude. The sun rose in the east. The world continued to spin the right way on its axis. There’s even a glow of approval outside of Ford Nation that must seem as positive as it is rare.

There’s been some talk in certain circles about the m’eh of the mayor finally clearing what was a low bar of expectations. He simply was doing his job. A big ol’ snide bravo and facetious slow hand clap.

But Ivor Tossell tweeted an important point during the proceedings. “Of course, one symbolic appearance isn’t enough: One can’t support the LGBT community and keep hosting the likes of David Menzies.” This low bar of expectations is not a one way street. By stepping forward and making the proclamation, it’s now going to be difficult for any homophobic recidivism on the part of Mayor Ford. If that happens, this one gesture on his part will rightly be seen as nothing more than a stunt, a mere playing of politics.

Until such a thing happens, if it happens, let’s accentuate the positive here. Sure, it would be nice if Mayor Ford realized that there’s only an upside to him continuing to behave like a big city mayor and to exhibit the leadership responsibilities of his office, if he decided to appear at the Pride Parade or any other Pride event at some point during his time as mayor. Yesterday’s goodwill toward him will only extend so far.

Still, today, I’m going to acknowledge someone taking that important first step outside his comfort zone, travelling into unknown territory. Territory he’s previously contributed to making hostile. It’s seems unhelpful to do otherwise. Everyone needs to be praised for doing the right thing even if it’s long overdue.

So, good on you, Mayor Ford.

happily submitted by Cityslikr