I rarely think about religion these days – I haven’t learned anything in the last 43 years to tempt me back into the fold – but I do think about good and evil quite a bit, especially when I learn of children dying. That’s when words from the new testament come floating back to me. Words like ‘suffer the little children to come unto me’.
Call me a stupid atheist but surely those words are an invitation to be loved, not an exhortation to make children suffer before they come unto him?
Kenneth James Weishuhn certainly suffered. The mother in me would like to believe that he is in a better place now but I know that heaven and hell are right here on earth so my only consolation is that he is no longer living in hell. But thoughts like that do not lead to peace of mind. I start imagining what must have happened to him to turn his life into hell and I want to hit something. He was a happy kid by all accounts. I imagine him as being like my nephew at that age – a bit of a terror at times but also full of fun, popular too. And then I imagine how all of that must have changed when he hit puberty and admitted to himself that he was gay.
According to reports on the net he ‘came out’ and then everything changed. His closest friends stuck by him but others turned on him like a pack of rabid dogs. Did he expect that? I very much doubt it for they did not just abandon him, which would have been bad enough, they began a campaign of malicous bullying that eventually lead to his suicide. And the hatred did not stop with his death. Those kids still hate him. Those kids have publicly said that they are glad that he’s dead. Yet they are no older than he was. How can children hate so much? What could they possibly have experienced that would make them hate gayness so much that they would turn on someone who used to be a friend?
When you look at those little monsters in that way the answer is obvious – no child is born hating anyone. Every child learns to hate from their older siblings, from their cousins, from their parents, from their parents’ circle of friends, from the attitudes of their teachers and preachers, from the politicians who represent their communities. There are even organizations whose stated aims are to send gays back into the closet.
One Million Moms is one such organization. Those loving, caring mothers are determined to stamp out every sign of gayness from the media to protect their little darlings from ever believing that gays could possibly be normal people like you and me. I can just imagine the dinner table conversations :
“Guess what I did today hun! I sent lots of letters to the [insert name] organization to get that awful Ellen DeGeneres banned!”
“But why Mom?”
“Because she’s…[lowered voice] gay!”
“What’s gay Mom?”
“You’re too young to know what gays are, just believe me, they are horrible, evil people [shudder].”
“You’re Mom’s right, now eat your greens.”
Multiply that conversation a thousand times in hundreds of different contexts and it’s suddenly easy to see how such a subliminal hatred can become embedded in a child’s psyche. Then add a fateful moment when a friend announces that he is [gasp] gay and you have the makings of a tragedy.
Imagine it. Those kids have been brainwashed into believing that gays are the next best thing to the devil and suddenly they find themselves right next to a ‘gay’ and not just any gay but one of their own. Did the boys wrestle with Kenneth when they were little? [I touched a gay!] Did they laugh at his jokes? Did they like being with him? [OMG am I gay too?] Did the girls have crushes on him [he’s so cute!]? Did they secretly imagine some heavy petting or, god forbid some actual sex with him? Did the experimentation include some heavy petting? [OMG I touched a gay!] Perhaps they felt betrayed. Perhaps they felt contaminated. Perhaps they feared that if the other kids found out they’d be tarred with the same brush.
Whatever the actual reasons may have been those kids distanced themselves from the horror the only way they knew how – by trying to stomp it out of existence the same way I’d squash an ugly, hairy, horrible spider – with revulsion. Except that this spider was a beautiful boy whose only crime was a sexual orientation he could not change.
And what were the adults doing while this one-sided war against gays was being waged? Did they know and turn a blind eye? Or did they just continue life as normal, subtly reinforcing their kids’ hatred the same way they had been building it from the beginning? Did the preachers give any sermons on brotherly love from the pulpit? Or did they just rant about Sodom and Gomorrah and the evils of homosexuality? Did any adult try to stop the persecution of Kenneth James Weishuhn? He died so I guess the answer is that no Good Samaritan came along to extend a hand of kindness to this tragic child.
Nothing can undo what was done to Kenneth James Weishuhn but perhaps his face can become the banner to unite all good people in a fight to stop this senseless evil from ever happening again to some other child who has the ‘misfortune’ to be born gay. Being gay is not a sin or a crime or a disease. It just is. Yes it is a difference but in the grand scheme of things it’s no bigger a difference than growing up to be short instead of tall. It is meaningless. If we must stigmatize difference then let it be the kind of difference that makes people cruel or aggressive or so full of hate that they can allow a child to die just because he is gay.
Stopping cruelty and hatred and bigotry is not really hard, all that’s required is a little more christian charity and whole lot less old testament bible thumping. Instead of vilifying gays at the dinner table why not explain that gays are people who love peope of the same sex instead of the opposite sex? Is that not the truth? And instead of spewing hatred from the pulpit why not talk about ‘loving thy neighbour as thyself’?
But let’s not stop there. Wouldn’t it be uplifting if all those militant moms against gays just did what all mothers are supposed to do – protect children, ALL children?
I would love to see One Million Moms putting out a statement saying how much they regret what happened to Kenneth James Weishuhn. And then I’d like to see all 40,000 of them make a pledge to start acting like real mothers. It all starts with us. That is our power. We can change the world. We can make it a better place for all children by just saying enough is enough.