Saturday, October 2, 2010

countering the protesters!

"the laramie project," a play based on the murder of matthew shepherd in the late 1990s, was giving the last performance of its revival at the cutler majestic theatre, which is owned by emerson college, one of the two colleges at which i teach.  shepherd, as i'm sure most of you know, was a gay college kid, murdered hideously by a pair of homophobes.  as if his family hadn't suffered enough, members of a local christian church came to the funeral, bearing signs proclaiming that shepherd's death was god's punishment for his homosexuality and that the young man was now in hell.

the  good christians of westboro church apparently can't let go of their anger at shepherd's homosexuality and at the stubborn insistence on his humanity by supporters of gay rights [or, for that matter, of opponents of murder], and were planning to picket the theatre today.

if they weren't so foul, i could almost have felt sorry for them today.  they had really picked the wrong place.  emerson college has a lot of gay students, and a lot of other students, staff, and faculty who are perfectly happy these kids are here.  emerson isn't fond of bigotry.  so some of the students organized a counter-protest and publicized it on facebook.

about 800 students showed up--i think even the organizers were surprised at the numbers.  college kids, after all, have a lot of things to do on a gorgeous spring saturday.

it was a high-energy, excited demo, 'gay' in both senses of the word, by kids who seemed truly angry at homophobia and  truly joyful at the chance to act on their pride and/or their identification with their gay friends.  but there was no ugliness in their gusto.

for me, it was both a glorious time warp and a boost to optimism in the midst of a social and political climate that doesn't lend itself much to hope.  i could almost believe myself a 20 year old among my peers, 40 years ago.  the chants were different, and to my ears pleasanter.  "love is louder!' these kids cried. it was an energy slightly different than either my generation's civil rights and anti war energy, or the later brasher ambiance of the gay pride demonstrations: something of each, but very much its own, colorful in a way that would be recognizable to both groups. passers by--including the driver of at least one tour bus--honked their horns and cheered us on. lots of them--more than i'd ever seen, and i've been to a lot of demos in my life.

several of the demonstrators were students i know, and seeing them was a double  joy. it reminded me of something a friend said at another rally, ten years ago.  'other people have class reunions: we have rallies and marches."

our poor homophobes never did show up.  their van drove by, and seeing us in our hundreds apparently intimidated them.  one opened a window long enough to announce the upcoming end of the world, which pleased one of my students because it's the day of her birthday.  [don't worry, gentle reader, it's not till next may, so you have time to prepare].

so the moral of my story is,  yes we can!  if these 800 kids could come out for a barely publicized demo and scare the loonies away,  that famed apathy that will supposedly put the teapartiers in power november 4 doesn't have to be.  however disappointing the Democrats in congress and the white house may be, they're there, and they're what we need to keep the scarier right wingers at bay. the climate will be a lot more conducive to movements for progressive change than a political power structure committed to getting rid of homosexuals, muslims, abortionists, and the poor.  [the poor, as they become even more powerless, will also become more numerous.]

i hope these kids today got a sense of the excitement of self-empowerment, of joining to fight for what we believe in.  and that others become inspired by them.

they may be right; love may be louder.  if we make it be.


Ken Goldstein said...

Yes! Great to read a positive story. The counter-protest that scared away the haters! Haters are cowards, after-all.

Pelvis Costello said...

Lord, this makes he happy. It's moments like this that continue to give me hope.