Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Snickers & "The Bus"

The other evening my Angela commented that she was worried about our cat Snickers. Several times she had caught him just suddenly falling over. We started watching him closer and, sure enough, there's something wrong with the little guy. After we both saw him suddenly flop on his side I looked into Angela's face and saw the same anguish I was feeling. We started talking about him. The funny and crazy experiences we'd had with him...walking him to the groomer strapped into a baby walker...Angela sleeping all night at the bottom of a tree that he was stuck in. In all of that there was strong, painful emotion. We didn't want to lose him, we castigated ourselves for not enjoying him more, and in the days that followed I found both of us deliberately spending more time with Snickers. The typical cuddling and petting that he loves took on a greater urgency as I was determined to appreciate him while we still had the time.

A few weeks ago I met James Lantz. He is a professor, a playwright, a father and a husband. He wrote a play called 'The Bus". It was received so well that he was invited to take it to an off Broadway theater in New York for a few months. "The Bus" is about two young men, their relationship, and the tragedy of social pressure on gay relationships. James decided that he wanted to also try to take the play to Topeka and perform it in close proximity to my family so he asked me to read the play and perhaps support his efforts. I read it and I wept.

Not long ago I came across an interesting article that explained the latest scientific discoveries about how the brain responds to ideas that are contrary to our existing beliefs. It seems that the emotion part of our brain responds more than a half second before the logic part kicks in. It seemed to support the idea that we are prone to find justification for a belief, and defend it for emotional reasons, before we will look unflinchingly at any evidence that challenges it.

What do these three different topics have in common? Well, I'm still trying to work that out. I know that all my life I have led with my emotions. I know that it is the things that I feel that cause me to make changes in my life. And it seems to me that it's something worth considering and pointing out on this topic of gay rights.

When James flew to Calgary to meet with me we spent several hours just talking, getting to know each other. He told me some of the things that motivated him to write "The Bus" and one of the issues he raised was this spate of suicides by gay people last year. I had the thought then that we spend so much time making cerebral arguments about the pros and cons of bringing ourselves out of the dark ages and finally treating another group of people in our society equally. But do we ever talk openly and publicly about the struggle to live life as a gay person? Do we consider the incredible effort and energy that the best of them must expend just to feel okay about themselves?

It's easy to get people's attention when five or six young people take their lives because they can't imagine continuing that battle. But what about the thousands and thousands who continue the fight, ever hopeful that one day, the world will get it: This is not an issue to vilify people over! There is zero evidence to suggest that we are threatened or harmed by this lifestyle, Yet we persist in scapegoating them and pointing to their differences as the cause of all our woes.

Something has to touch our hearts. Something has to stir our emotions and cause real, lasting change in the ideals that we embrace. Perhaps experiencing "The Bus" is one of those things. I spend my days asking this question over and over: What can I do to impact people and cause them to reconsider their prejudice toward the LGBT community?

I think it would be a positive response for James to bring this drama to Topeka and help that community combat the heart of hatred that beats there at my father's home and church. Think for a moment about a young child sitting alone, in the dark, in their room. They have encountered my family's message of divine hatred for who they are and they are afraid and hopeless. There are enough messages, both overt and subtle, in their lives to help reinforce the unthinkable, that they don't have a right to be who they are. Whatever it takes, pause for a moment and imagine that suffering. Now imagine what you can do to improve the heart and mind of that child. Imagine supporting James Lantz and "The Bus". Do something good while you still can.

Snickers just came over and rubbed himself against my black pants. Now I gotta get all the damn hair off...what a pain in the @#$! On the other hand, I think I'll stop here and spend a few minutes with him while I still can.