Sometime in the late 70's, I was watching a television program with my mom. The program, "That's Incredible", warned that sensitive viewers may not want to watch their next segment about the poaching of elephants. I turned to my mom and asked if I was "sensitive."
"Yes, you are," was my mother's gentle reply.
And so I remain. I can easily look back on my life and see my development as somebody with strong feeling about almost everything. As uneasy as it makes me, I can recall those times when I was, and sometimes remain, hyper-sensitive or a bit too self-centered in my feeling. I thought, however, that at least regarding the outside world, I had, over the years, toughed up.
Yet tonight I'm nursing a wound that wasn't directly targeted at me or that I had anything to do with at all. A letter that I was privy to really unnerved me. In it, a person went on a virulent, wide-ranging homophobic rant, regarding an incident that involved no gay person. This person simply took their complaint about one issue and then springboarded into the evils of gays and gay-friendly organizations.
Now, other comments in the letter clearly mark this person as lacking any kind of general sense or stable perspective on the world, but nonetheless it bothered me. I am disturbed about how emboldened this person felt to express their bigotry so freely to a person whom he had no idea if he was gay or not. My heart actually aches to think that this person is so insensitive and callous to not care who the letter recepient was (or too dull to consider it). I'm troubled at the aggressiveness and spite of this person. I fear for the legacy that this person is leaving for future generations. I'm saddened that this person is proud of his hate.
This person's value structure was, to me, considerably misaligned. The threat of entitlement oozed from each sentence. Swift and merciful justice was implied upon all wrong-doers towards this man. A miasma of superiority infested the message. And, yet, based on certain statements in the letter, I envision this person as a "pillar of the community" and admired God-fearing Christian. And if I'm right, this person knows nothing about Christianity; certainly this person would trumpet the merit of traditional values, yet he has no aquaintance with morals or values of any worth.
My flowerly language clearly illustrates the sensitive chord this letter struck in me. I think perhaps the problem for me is that this letter, affecting people near to me, so personifies the very worst of our current climate. This letter is the epitome of the hypocrisy of so many in power and so many conservatives. To see such a personal example of the empowered, elitist, ignorant and intolerant attitudes that exist, chips away at a hope I hold. I need to believe that the majority of America, while not comfortable with gays and some aspects of gay civil rights (such as marriage) do hate us or seek to marginalize us to the degree that this person clearly would. But this letter threatens to rend the veil.
My rational side tells me that I'm over-reacting; that I'm over-personalizing, and that I'm over-sensitive. This person didn't actually hurt any gay person; nobody got beaten or had their job taken away. Yet here I am, Mr. Sensitive, and the scar remains.