News Item:“Last weekend, Alix Genter found the perfect wedding dress. But on Tuesday the store’s owner called and refused to sell it to her.“She said she wouldn’t work with me because I’m gay,” Genter told The Philadelphia Daily News. “She also said that I came from a nice Jewish family, and that it was a shame I was gay. She said, ‘There’s right, and there’s wrong. And this is wrong.’“
Apparently, after Genter left Here Comes the Bride, a Somers Point, New Jersey, wedding boutique, the store’s owner, Donna Saber, took a moment to look over Genter’s customer-information sheet. That’s when she noticed that Genter had crossed out “groom” and written in “partner” and her fiancée’s name—and decided that she wasn’t going to do business with her.
When Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky called Saber to get her point of view, not only did Saber confirm Genter’s story, she accused the bride-to-be of “stirring up drama.” Polaneczky writes:
She said that your writing the word ”partner” was basically a provocation, evidence of a need “to show that she’s different.”
“They get that way,” she [said].
By “they,” she meant women who were fed up with men because “men can be difficult,” and so now they “experiment” with female relationships because they’re tired of having men boss them around. … “It’s a lot of drama.”
(Lylah M. Alphonse | Shine – Fri, 19 Aug, 2011 2:38 PM EDT)
Let’s call this what it is: bigotry. Let us recognize it. Let us name it. Let us speak out against it. And the sooner, the better.
The boys on Golding’s island (Lord of the Flies) did not reach the final stages of savagery in a single step. It started with the approval Jack won with the first taunting of Piggy. It was okay to hurt Piggy, just as the shopkeeper felt it was okay to hurt her lesbian customer. They didn’t like him; she doesn’t like lesbians. They, (Piggy/lesbians, your choice) are different, so they don’t matter. They are them; we are us. As both Golding and history show us, if we believe this, terrible things can follow: a progression, which if unchecked, will inevitably continue, from insults, through threats, to physical assault, theft, even wholesale torture and murder. (Homophobia? Racism? anti-Semitism?) Witness the holocaust.
Anywhere up to, and including, the first physical assault on Piggy, the boys could have stopped things from going any further, had they chosen to speak up or to act. But they did nothing. Worse than that, at the earliest stages, at least, they colluded in evil with their laughter and their approval. What happened at the end, was as much their fault as it was Jack’s.
Some would say the shopkeeper’s actions did not constitute hatred; that she simply had her own set of values; that she acted within her rights. And, after all, no great harm was done. Genter, (the customer) could simply have taken her business to another shop. Those people would be mistaken..on all points except the last. She did take her business to another shop.
We must say to people such as this shopkeeper, (as gently and as lovingly as possible,) “No, this is wrong. We will not accept this.”
What, I wonder, would her response be if we were to congratulate her on taking a principled stand against lesbianism, and then ask her if her principles would allow us to consider a solution to the “Jewish problem” as well? (Not to mention the black, the asian, the Spanish, the aboriginal, and the Peruvian problems. Good heavens, there are so many of them!)
We must recognize bigotry for what it is: a belief that there is a distinction between them, and us, and that somehow they are less worthy than we are, so we can treat them however badly we wish. We all belong to a minority of some sort: (shopkeepers, for instance. Or…maybe jewish shopkeepers.) Do any of us remember Krystallnacht? The horrors of that terrible night, and the years that followed can be prevented, but only if we recognize bigotry for the falsehood it is. Only if we recognize it in its earliest and most deceptively innocuous forms: (say) the refusal to sell to a customer who is different…not one of us, only then will the march to catastrophe be possible to stop. And stop it, we must. We only need to look at the final climactic scenes in Lord of the Flies, or to history, to the images and stories that come to us from the death camps of Nazi Germany to realize the terrors that await us all, if we do not.
In the end, there is no them. There is only us.