Tennessee is embroiled in a three-ring circus, and if you're not clued into this story you're missing the greatest show on earth. The State Senate of Tennessee just passed a "Don't Say Gay" bill, which would prohibit the mentioning of homosexuality in elementary schools. The bill was sponsored by Republican State Senator Stacey Campfield, who is 42 and unmarried, and considered somewhat of a loon by both Democrats and Republicans alike in Tennessee. We could write for days about this topic, but we'll try to keep to the highlights of the story.
In response to the bill's passage, former "Star Trek" cast member and openly gay George Takei made a video in which he joked that if the children of Tennessee aren't allowed to use the word "gay", that they could feel free to use his name Takei instead. His video was posted on Yahoo's main news page, and in response, all the right-wing, Christian, nut-job homophobes came out in full force, posting hundreds and hundreds of comments in Yahoo's Comments section. The tone of the hatred in their comments for the gay community was stunning, but what was even more unsettling is that there is still, in 2011, so much unbelievable ignorance and sheer, profound stupidity out there about what it means to be gay. We posted our own Yahoo comment in which we said, among other things, that "the people who hate minorities have been around forever; first they hated the Irish, then Native Americans, then Jews, then Blacks, then women and now gay people." One guy actually responded to our comment by replying, in all seriousness, that we didn't understand what we were talking about because all those on our list were born with that ethnicity or gender while "gay people aren't born that way, they choose that lifestyle". Wow.
Faced with that kind of jaw-dropping ignorance, it would be easy to start ridiculing the entire State of Tennessee as a bunch of backwoods rubes, and believe us, the more liberal folks who commented on the story when it appeared on the pages of The Huffington Post did just that. But as easy as it would be to write-off an entire state as hopelessly stupid, it's important to remember that many in the state of Tennessee have been working their butts off to defeat Sen. Campfield's bill, and to call it out for its stupidity. Evidently, hundreds of Tennessee high school students protested the bill every morning for weeks at their local high schools, wearing t-shirts and holding signs with slogans which detailed their opposition to the bill. So before you contact your local Congressmen and ask them to support a bill which would kick Tennessee out of the United States for "crimes against intelligence", remember that there are a lot of people in the state who are deeply embarrassed by the actions of their state senate.
For those who follow national politics, Tennessee's actions shouldn't come as a complete shock. This is the state which elected Marsha Blackburn to Congress, who combines the dopiness of Sarah Palin and the looniness of Michele Bachmann with all the self-righteous fervor of a demented Sunday school teacher who is just itching to sentence others to burn in hell who don't think like her. That woman is just fucking scary.
And for those who understand history know what we were talking about in our Yahoo comment. The people who are afraid of "those who are different" and who lash out in hateful ignorance are not new. The same people who are screaming about gay people now are the same people who screamed at the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who integrated Little Rock's Central High in 1957. Unfortunately, in our society, these screamers never go away, (and they certainly never learn anything), they just change the "others" who they hate and at whom they scream. The same women, pictured at right, who screamed in Little Rock in 1957, (aren't they attractive?), are the same people screaming hateful comments on the pages of Yahoo in 2011. It's profoundly sad that these people never learn anything. Once, many years ago, Oprah Winfrey had a show in which she hosted members of the Little Rock Nine, and unbelievably, even managed to find some of those White Little Rock Screamers, and every Screamer related stories of how deeply ashamed they were of their behavior back in 1957, and they were deeply apologetic for how ignorant they had been in 1957. What's amazing to us is that it always takes the "screamers" a couple of decades to understand the shocking ugliness of their behavior and the recessive backwardness of their thinking. Why is it that the screamers in 2011 never learn anything from history? Especially in a state like Tennessee, which was already the laughing stock of the nation once before in the 1920's with its Scopes Monkey Trial.
In the end, as we were laughing at the comments about Tennessee on the pages of The Huffington Post, one comment in particular stuck in our heads. One lady said that it was a shame that the much-hyped "Christian Rapture" didn't actually come yesterday, or we would have been rid of these Tennessee rubes. Which led us to think, maybe the rapture did occur, and all these hateful homophobes were "left behind". Maybe that should tell them something.