Monday 22 July 2019

Tolerance works both ways

One of my favorite sitcoms has always been Will & Grace and I can happily watch repeats over and over again, even though I know exactly what punchline is coming up next. And you know why I have always enjoyed it so much? Because the witty, very well-written scripts managed to take even homophobic attitudes and make them funny, thus deflating their impact. It made it OK to laugh at jokes about gays just as easily as we do as when we poke fun at the hang-ups of people who are straight.

Grace and Will, and especially Jack and Karen, had free rein to mock the gay lifestyle (and even feed into) the worst of gay stereotypes, some of which, as it turns out, were not that far-fetched after all. Will and Jack portrayed two different “types”, from the gay guy who could pass for straight to the openly camp gay guy (while new characters introduced each week portrayed the whole gamut in between). Basically, it handled gay characters in the same way most sitcoms handle characters who are straight: some are caricatures purely played for laughs while some could be our unassuming next door neighbors who are funny in their own quiet way.

The comedy gave us permission to laugh at the absurdity of human nature no matter what the person’s sexuality happened to be, and by doing so it defused a lot of the tension which surrounds what is or is not politically correct.  Humour has a way of doing that. Political correctness, let’s face it, when taken too far, can quickly become very boring, turning us all into robots who are afraid to do or say anything which might go against the grain or offend someone.

So while I’m pleased for all of my gay friends and acquaintances that the introduction of civil unions is making it possible for them to make their relationship legal, and I can understand why they wish to celebrate this significant moment, I do hope that after today, the gay community will take a deep breath and…just be.  I realize that this is a huge breakthrough for Malta (just like divorce was) but I think that now that the day has come, and once tonight’s partying is over, everyone can relax and take a break from the whole issue. There is nothing worse for a cause than going on and on about it once the aim has been achieved. (And just for the record, I felt the same way once the divorce vote went through).

I also wish that the gay community would now show some tolerance towards those who do not agree with them. When my good friend and former colleague Marie Benoit expressed her disagreement with gay adoptions a few weeks ago she was pounced on with a ferocity which pretty much contradicted what it means to be “liberal”. Marie hardly needs me to defend her, as anyone who knows her will vouch for, but I still feel the need to point out that the very vociferous gay lobby is risking turning into the very thing that it purports to hate: a segment of the population which demonstrates a vicious kind of intolerance. It was not  enough to disagree with what she wrote – there were some who made it personal and yes, mean.  Come on, is that what equality means? That gay people now all have the “right” to shout down and try to stifle voices which do not agree with them by attacking the person rather than the argument?

So while wishing all the best to those who have decided to tie the knot, please remember that tolerance works both ways. Not everyone agrees with your lifestyle and they never will, but it is not fair to shove your views down other people’s throats either or make it impossible for anyone to dare show a hint of disagreement. The important thing is that, in the eyes of the law, you are now considered equal. So live and let live.

After all, that’s what it was all about in the first place, wasn’t it?






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