Bridging the Gap of ‘Respect’

Dear Senator Bond,

I write to you today amongst economic turmoil to discuss a couple of different issues that I find of great importance and will probably be discussed in the new 111th Congress.

It should be of no surprise to you that the gap between the GLBT community and the far right wing has only gotten bigger since the November 4th election.  Both sides have dug in their heals for the fight that has only begun.  But I am reminded of something that President-elect Obama once said…that even though we might not agree on the overall goal of same-sex marriage, there are other issues – to which I personally consider just as important – that we should be able to find common ground on.

When any of us find someone to love, we are with them in good times and bad…through sickness and in health.  You trust your wife to make medical decisions in the event that you are unable to do so, and she trusts you to do the same.  However, in the GLBT community, we don’t have the right to make those same medical decisions for our loved ones.  It’s usually something left up to a family member whether it’s in the person’s best interest or not.  A case in point….my grandfather is currently in St. Louis University Hospital where he has been for almost two weeks.  My grandmother is allowed to stay in the room with him.  The hospital staff got her a cot to sleep on with blankets and pillows, and they even bring her food when they bring his.  She talks to the doctors and asks all the questions.  She’s the one that gets to make the decisions since my grandfather doesn’t always comprehend what is being said to him.  And as I got and sit in the room to visit with them, I have to ask myself, would I be allowed to do the same thing if this were my loved one that was in this room?  Would I be allowed to stay in the room?  Would I be the one that information is told to, and would I get to ask questions and get the answers?  And would I be the one that would be making the decisions as to his best-medical care?  There is now law that protects this right, and more often than not, all of those questions that I just asked would all get negative answers. If my loved one was dying, would I be allowed to be by his side?  Probably not….not even if he was calling out my name and wanted me there. This is not the way this should be.  You should stop for a moment, Senator, and put yourself in our shoes.  How would you feel if you couldn’t make medical decisions for your wife or be at her bedside in her time of need?  My guess is that you wouldn’t settle for it and neither should we.

Here in the United States, we value having the ability to elect our public officials as we value having the freedom to voice our concerns in a peaceful manner, and we value being able to think freely as we choose – so long as those thoughts don’t make us do something that is physically illegal.  The current hate crime laws that are on the books didn’t make it illegal to think certain things. It just made it illegal to act upon those thoughts. And that is why I ask you to support that Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill.  Yes, I’m aware that most crimes are hate-oriented, but certain crimes are far worse than others.  What happened to Matthew Shepard was brutal, malicious, and hateful.  And it probably wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been gay.  Hate crimes against GLBT citizens are on the rise all across our nation, and it is appalling to say the least. And there are places where law enforcement is willing to turn a blind eye to it, and no one gets punished for the act of violence they have committed.  This can lead to more people perpetrating these acts of violence thinking that it’s OK to take out their hate on a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender person by any means necessary and that they won’t be punished for it.  This is no different from when local law enforcement agencies, mostly in the South, used to turn a blind eye to racial hate crimes during the late 19th century and most of the 20th century.  The federal government had to pass hate crime laws then to make sure these crimes were investigated and the proper people were held accountable.  And this course of action needs to be taken now….today…. in regards to the GLBT community to help bring down hate crimes committed against us.  The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill doesn’t tell people what they can and can’t think.  I don’t think any law could do that.  But it does sure that local law enforcement enforces the law equally on everyone and makes sure that those that are guilty of these heinous crimes are punished to the full extent of the law. And hopefully, with it, we can bring down the number of hate crimes committed.  I ask you, what do you think Matthew Shepard could have accomplished with his life had he not been brutally beaten and murdered simply because he was gay?

I know you are religious man. And I will say that I am as well.  And I’m sure the two of us could go around and around on quoting things from The Bible and such.  We both, very much, have our own personal beliefs and that is a good thing.  I normally don’t speak too much about my religious views because, to me, it’s quite personal, and I keep them deep within me near my heart.  I am not one to attack someone for what they believe in simply because it doesn’t agree with what I believe in.  And doing so would get us no where.  Besides, who am I to say that I’m right?  We all come to our own conclusions with things. So I never feel that it is my place to cross that line. But what I write to you today about is far more basic, and, in my opinion, stays away from the religious side of the argument.  Both sides feel threatened by the other and can cross the line and say some pretty mean things. Somehow we’ve all forgotten something.  It’s called ‘respect’.  Sure we might all believe in different things, and we might even see things differently, but that is no excuse for either side to disrespect the other. To do so will only worsen the situation that we are currently in.  I’m not asking you to change your beliefs or the way you see things, but I am asking you to look beyond your own personal beliefs and feelings to a sense of compassion for your fellow man.  For if we can respect each other and the differences we hold, then I believe that we can truly start bridging the gap between the two sides and focus on the smaller issues that we can agree upon.

Former Senator Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”  Though it’s doubtful that me and you can change the course in which history is going, we can take the smaller steps in doing the right….in doing the American….in doing the humane thing when it comes to the things that I have addressed here today.  Open communication and respect is key to dealing with all of it, and we need to remember that.  Though we won’t change history alone, history will remember what we do here and now. So let us, together, start bridging that gap between both sides.

I thank you for your time and have a wonderful day.

Sincerely,

James>>>

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