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PEOPLE & THINGS: Worlds apart . . .

Peter Wickham

PEOPLE & THINGS: Worlds apart . . .

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Reactions to last week’s article were fascinating and have prompted a follow-up, especially as the French parliament approved gay marriage last week. This progressive move on the part of the French comes on the heels of a similar move by the New Zealand parliament a few weeks ago.
These two parliaments are following a global trend of progressive legislatures in places such as Argentina, Canada, Spain and South Africa, which have all come to the conclusion that their citizens should be able to marry the person of their “choice”. 
It is important to note that the French now join 12 other countries in defining marriage as a lawfully recognized union between two people of any sex.Noteworthy is Britain, whose Conservative prime minister, Liberal deputy prime minister and Labour opposition leader all unreservedly support gay marriage.
Across the pond, President Obama has “evolved” and is now also speaking in support of gay marriage while the United States Supreme Court is examining the issue. 
That court is speaking to human rights matters in which it is constrained by the Declaration of Independence’s stipulation that “all men are created equal”. Against this background Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concern about DOMA’s (Defence Of Marriage Act’s) inadvertent creation of “skimmed milk marriage” speaks volumes about that court’s likely verdict.
Dairy preferences aside, the direction of the “First World” on this issue is clear and our local Boy Scout debate typifies the extent to which we occupy an entirely different mental space here.
“They” are concerned that “all men” should be treated equally, while “we” are not appalled that our state and organizations like the Boy Scout movement practise discrimination. 
As such, in New York two men can get married and the police will defend their right to live peacefully together, while four hours away in Bridgetown our laws allow for the privacy of these same men’s home to be violated on suspicion of unlawful activity. Sovereignty sanctions “us” having rules different to “them”. However, I am forced to ask why “we” think that our position makes “us” better than “them”.
In pursuit of this conundrum I was assisted considerably by comments on my Facebook page last week from the mothers of two sets of sons, one European and the other Barbadian.
The Barbadian mother said, “As the mother of two sons who [are] scouts, I would not be comfortable sending my sons off to camp with someone who is attracted to men or boys, whether the man was openly gay, secretly gay or attracted to both sexes. If your children choose to be gay as adults then that’s their choice, but I would not want them to be influenced as children to choose a gay lifestyle.” 
In response, the European mother said, “As the mother of a gay son, I find it very hurtful to read you would keep your children away from him if you’d known him only because of his sexuality. My son is as precious to me as yours to you. He is funny, understanding and a truly good person, so to hear that people like you are scared he would “turn them gay”, as a mother, same as you, is heart-wrenching . . . I feel for you.”
I share the European mother’s concern that the Barbadian mother has basically determined a person’s character based on a single factor about which she has entrenched prejudices (and clearly knows little).
Moreover, it is sad that we are not mature enough as a society to see the overwhelming damage that is done when we pass judgement on an individual based on generalized prejudices. I entirely respect the right of any mother to protect their child from danger, but I suspect that the Barbadian mother would be appalled if I said that I would prefer “my” kids not to ride on a bus driven by a woman because “everyone knows that women can’t drive”, or that I don’t want them associating with Muslim kids because “Muslims are terrorists”.
As a highly literate post-slavery society it is unfortunate that we are unwilling to appreciate the extent to which these myths are no different to those which once argued that black people had smaller brains.
Worse yet, incidents like the “Jerry Sandusky” debacle demonstrate that the threats to children appear more likely to come from sexually dysfunctional “happily married men” or closet perverts that the Boy Scout movement appears to have no difficulty with now.
• Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).