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Your right to disagree does not cancel my right to be.
Increasingly we seem to be living in a world where, if we disagree with someone or something that they are doing, we feel we have the right to stop them.
The term cancel culture has been bandied about by so many people and perhaps we are no longer living in a world of live and let live.
The situation is not new. Back in the 1980s, at least here in New Zealand, and I understand elsewhere in the world, there were witch-hunts against male teachers. There was a time when male teachers were branded paedophiles and charges of inappropriate behaviour were levelled against many innocent men. At the time, I knew a teacher who decided to leave the profession rather than be falsely accused of anything inappropriate. He told me that if he saw a student stranded in the rain, he would simply drive by rather than offer a ride. Any accusation was unlikely from the student, but rather from an outraged parent, that their child was alone in a car with an older man. The risk of being accused outweighed the socially responsible thing of helping someone in need.
In 1991, there was a famous case here in New Zealand, where childcare worker Peter Ellis was accused of serious and increasingly bizarre sexual offences against children. Some of the accusations were suppressed as it was felt that they wouldn’t have been believed. These included statements from children that he kept giraffes (real ones) and that he turned a child into a frog. He was convicted in what has subsequently been accepted as a gross miscarriage of justice and served 7 years of a 10-year sentence. He maintained his innocence for 26 years, until his death of cancer in September 2019 at age 61. Ellis’s conviction was quashed by the supreme court in October 2022.
The Peter Ellis case is a detestable example of what can happen when mass hysteria takes hold and society wants revenge for a perceived offence rather than an actual one. The outcome resulted in men abandoning the teaching profession en masse. Even today some 40 years later, in New Zealand 85% of teachers are women. Good male role models in teaching have been missing for generations, and continue to stay away from the profession. There is some debate as to the wider social effects of this, but it is generally agreed to be a problem rather than anything to celebrate.
As I watch the hysteria surrounding such issues as drag queens reading to children, books containing depictions of nudity being banned in schools and television programs showing normal naked bodies being protested, I am left feeling that we have learned nothing from past examples of knee-jerk reactions to issues.
We are no longer prepared to listen to reason and argument, preferring the protest banner and screaming into loud hailers to drown out the messages that we don’t want to hear.
What amuses me, is that the knee-jerk reactions of those looking to curb the behaviour of others can have consequences for the very people screaming for change.
Recently a parent in Utah successfully challenged the availability of the Bible in schools, as it depicted the same broad categories of content as other books that had been banned. The School had no option but to ban the bible on the same grounds it used to ban other texts.
Subsequently, the school district board reversed its decision and allowed the Bible back on the shelves. It seems that the protests of the local Bible-wielding community were too strong for the board, despite the abundant hypocrisy of the backdown. This is a clear example of pandering to those who shout the loudest rather than making logical and rational decisions.
I accept that you might not want a convicted child abuser reading to your child, but being a drag queen does not make you a child abuser. Given the history of child abuse by the church, I could suggest that it might be better to have a drag queen read to children rather than a priest.
Before I get cancelled by my Christian followers, let me say that all the Christians I know would likely never abuse the trust of a child, but my point is that branding all drag queens as paedophiles is no different to labelling all clergy as such.
Child abuse is abhorrent no matter who the perpetrator is and research has shown that 90% of the time, the offender is most likely a member of the child’s family or a trusted family friend.
As a straight man of a certain vintage, I admit that I found some of the recent displays at the Toronto pride march a little too challenging for public consumption. I am not opposed to people identifying however they like, and what they get up to in their own homes is their business, not mine. I felt that some of the images of overtly sexual behaviour at the march were inappropriate in public. More disturbing to me than the behaviour of a minority of participants at the march, were the calls from people to ban future pride events and label the participants as child abusers. To be fair to the pride community, it could be argued that if you are likely to not want your kids to see things, you shouldn’t take them along.
Labelling gay people, trans people, nudists or drag queens as child abusers simply because you might not like what they believe or how they behave, is a cheap shot without any merit. As a naturist, I understand only too well the scrutiny and criticism that minority groups can experience from a largely intolerant public.
If the threshold for cancellation is simply that we don’t like something, then we need to be more measured in our objections to it.
I am not suggesting that we live in an “anything goes” society, but rather we make decisions based on evidence rather than emotion. Where there is evidence of harm, or harm being caused by something, then rightfully seek to have that harm removed.
History has shown the horrendous injustices of litigating and legislating based on emotional motivation rather than evidence-based reason.
"We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist."
- James Baldwin
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.