By Jeff Gberg
“Little Alice fell down the (rabbit) hole, bumped her head and bruised her soul.” – Lewis Carroll
If you were an outsider, a newcomer, or someone looking to find where they belong… what would you think based on what we have seen, read, or heard the last many weeks, months, or even building over the last couple years? Calling it “in-fighting” casts too gentle a light on what is going on… almost like calling cancer simply as “not feeling well.” For a sub-culture of society that has for decades been on the receiving end of insensitivity, insults, oppression, bigotry, and hatred; we have now become the masters of turning these traits of intolerance onto our own. Terms like misogynistic, racist, and ‘whatever’-phobic (insert your own personal favorite identifier here) have been tossed around so much, that they have lost the seriousness of behaviors which they are to represent. Instead, they have become easy labels to paste onto someone that we disagree with, no matter what level of disparagement has occurred.
HAS THIS BECOME OUR NEW NORMAL? IS THIS WHAT WE HAVE BECOME? Is this the modern legacy of the Stonewall riots of 1969? Has the intense cohesion of the Community caused by the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the 1980s withered away?
We used to come together in our local communities at the few safe places we had, local gay and lesbian bars. We used to have to hide in secretive clubs and house parties to enjoy our fetishes and kinks. We had to live in the shadows… but we did so TOGETHER. We supported each other. We recognized that what turned you on wouldn’t necessarily turn me on. We respected individual play spaces. We encouraged people to try new things. We realized that we could be separate, but also had shared larger goals. Finally, we gathered under a common flag whose colors did not represent individual races, cultures or nationalities, but rather qualities and characteristics we held as ideals and goals for us all.
And then we fell down the ‘rabbit hole’…
Instead of having social media become a tool to bind us closer together, to share the uniqueness of our local communities with each other, it has taken over as our modern means of predation with each other. We have developed our own “friend” cliques to become even more divided. Now, when something happens in Ismay, Montana; within hours or even minutes, from Seattle, Washington, to Los Angeles, California, from Chicago, Illinois, to Austin, Texas, or from New York, New York, to Miami, Florida, individuals are injecting their personal opinions into the “conversation.” But it’s not conversations that are occurring, and it’s not opinions with reason and thought that are being expressed. Instead it’s rapid posts filled with instant condemnations for not agreeing with the social media warrior. It’s calls for near evisceration, massive intolerance, and in some cases, pure hatred for someone expressing a difference of opinion. Rarely do these rapid-fire comments have any direct knowledge, but instead rely on second-, third-, or worse-hand information from others. Instead it becomes a race to see who can be the first to condemn and post the greatest revolt against. No longer do people reach out to a person individually and have a calm, respectful conversation. Instead it’s blind posts online or ganging up on someone publicly, that do nothing but cause more harm and fan the flames. It seems like suddenly everyone has some beef with someone else, and everyone is screaming to be the loudest to be heard. No longer are ideas welcome, but merely wanting you to “jump on the bandwagon” to condemn and persecute someone or something that someone has a beef against. The echo chamber has become so loud that true issues can no longer be heard. People have become tone deaf from the cacophony of noise that many are making the decision to tune it all out. But wait, deciding not to be part of the noise has also become unacceptable, because to those making the noise, if you aren’t sounding off in support of their latest post, you can be criticized and described as being in favor of the atrocity. It has all become too much, and it’s no wonder that so many are stepping away.
If a person truly wants to make a difference, and if we truly want to be a community, quite simply… in the immortal words of the 1990’s Susan Powter, “Stop The Insanity!” Enough is enough! We are all human, and we all make mistakes, act inappropriately, say hurtful things, and can be assholes… but we also have the ability to change. Demanding that people believe like you do, support all the causes you do, or can become enraged like you do only makes people less open to hearing what you have to say. If behaviors continue over a period of time, despite people making an effort to help a person potentially change, then we as a community can and should remove them from our social norms. But the instant condemnation and intolerance only makes you as wrong as they are. Pick your battles, if you are angry about everything, then all you are is angry. Let’s start acting like and behaving like adults! If we can be mature, then those that can’t will be quickly seen for what and who they are and will be left behind. Spring and Summer are soon to be upon us, let us all shed our darkness and heaviness of cold bodies, hearts, and minds, and be what we should be. Let’s be what our predecessors wanted us to be. Let’s be the people that those outsiders, newcomers want to be around. And let’s make those looking to find where they belong feel welcome and not hesitant to being judged.