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The Lighter Side of Gay Bashing

January 18th, 2010 No comments

By now you may have heard of this story. Notre Dame’s school newspaper, The Observer, ran a horrific “comic” strip, pictured in the linked story. The text (which leaves nothing worthwhile out, considering how untalented the artist is) went like this:

Character 1: “What’s the easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable?”

Character 2: “No idea.”

Character 1: “A baseball bat.”

Get it? Bash a “fruit” (read: gay man, probably not lesbian) hard enough and he’ll spend the rest of his life in a coma. Could it have been worse? Well, that depends on what you mean by “worse.” The editorial board actually changed the text of the “punch” line from “AIDS” to a “baseball bat” (further showing that gay men are the group targeted). After all, the values of this proudly Catholic school couldn’t countenance wishing a deadly disease on someone. Well, actually the virus you’d give the fruit is HIV,which, in most cases today, isn’t fatal for people of means. So the beating is in fact much worse. But never mind….

When GLAAD jumped all over this, sincere apologies, at least one resignation, and the rending of garments ensued. OK, good. But here are a few lines from the apology you might have missed:

Allowing this cruel and hateful comic a place on our pages disgraced those values and severely hurt members of our Notre Dame family — our classmates, our friends. For this, we sincerely apologize.
Unfortunately, the language of hate is an everyday reality in our society. Earlier this week, surprising comments made by Sen. Harry Reid about President Barack Obama’s accent and skin color were made public and caused uproar. Now, at Notre Dame, a comic strip including hurtful language was printed in this publication, also causing — and rightly so — serious concern.

So the comic was no worse than Harry Reid’s benighted comments, according to the editors. I don’t expect great political sophistication from an undergraduate newspaper, but I can’t give this a pass, either. To do so would be both condescending and wrong. Reid’s comments (on Obama’s light skin color having helped him win the Presidency, which is surely a valid point) have also been compared to Trent Lott’s astonishing statements of a few years ago about how the country would have been better off had Strom Thurmond’s vision — of an eternally segregated society — become reality. This facile conflation of such different statements, in tone and context, betrays just the kind of tit-for-tat thinking that has come to dominate political discourse. No one’s any worse than anyone else, every statement on one side has its counter on the other, it’s all just one big game.

It isn’t. Just read the comments to the apology and see how thin the veneer between what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Some readers criticize the apology, while others use the occasion to rail against gay activism.

Bile is in many mouths, even if most dare not speak it. Instead it comes out in the code of legal and social oppression, justified by religion, natural law, and specious appeals to public welfare.