I noticed in passing today, on my Facebook feed, that a gay man was a hero. I was in a hurry and didn’t read it, but the thought of it stayed with me all day. Why did he have to be a gay man? Why was he not a heroic human being? I found this article online by Mary Elizabeth Williams, (Salon Staff Writer) who, in her article, listed why ethnicity and sexual orientation matter:
It matters because guys like Arizona Sen. John McCain, who described the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” as “a very sad day,” still think that orientation has an effect on whether or not a person can ably serve in the military. It matters because the notion that two people of the same sex can love each other and build a life together is still considered in many parts of the country, including Arizona, a threat to what is laughably referred to as “traditional marriage” — as if heterosexuals have really mopped up the floor with this whole commitment thing. It matters because last week, when Arizona banned a Tucson district’s Mexican-American studies program, state’s Attorney General Tom Horne referred to it as “propagandizing and brainwashing.” It matters because just last year Arizona enacted a law that would not merely allow but require immigration officials to determine the immigration status of anyone “where reasonable suspicion exists” that the person might be in the country illegally. And “reasonable suspicion,” as many civil libertarians pointed out, might just boil down to having a darker shade of skin or speaking Spanish.
Mary’s article gave me insight into aspects of American society that I was unfamiliar with. It is a well written article, well worth a visit. I feel unable to comment on that, especially as I am not American and don’t want to be a “back seat driver”, so to speak. I do not want to offend.
However, I do have some thoughts that I want to share. When I caught that headline on my Facebook feed I instantly thought is not labelling him by an ethnicity or a sexual orientation serving to separate him from simply being a member of the human race? Putting aside the politics of his now being claimed as the “poster child” for whoever thinks featuring him will enhance their message and cause.
Furthermore, did the station of the person he saved (a U.S. Rep), more important than if he had saved Joe Smith, with no discernible public image or status. A human being saved another human being and that can be lost site of, in the parts of the story pulled out for whatever reason. If an agenda could not be applied to his heroics would it have been a footnote, rather than a media storm. Many people are heroic but there is no message attachable to what they did or who they are, so their story is not told.
As in many instances, he and what he chose to do, has become secondary or a support to the uses of his ethnicity and sexual orientation. I am guessing if I did something heroic I would be “white woman and maybe rape survivor or ex – nurse” would be my news identity. It wouldn’t matter that I am other things, I would become what is useful, and not useful to me, to something or someone else. I would want to chose my labels. I might want anonymity and not become a “poster girl”. The last thing I wanted in my moments of heroism was a media storm, searching my life and then assigning me my place in society or the latest political debate. Thanks goodness it was in a small town and the news of it died down fast.
I am deliberately turning this post to information about me because I think Daniel has been discussed enough and had limited voice that was truly what he wanted said or to say. So lets examine what my self – chosen label is useful for:
“White woman, ex – nurse, rape survivor”
- I am white as opposed to Maori – so maybe my life opportunities led be to be able to be heroic,
- I am a woman and maybe men are more heroic, might help the feminists cause,
- I was a nurse – ahh that’s where my need to be involved and help came in, or I am educated, so again I had opportunities others might not,
- I am a rape survivor – so pretty tough old bird right here. A “poster child” for other women in that same position or needing a hero to keep going
(These labels are being used for my purpose. I mean no disrespect to anyone).
The bottom line for me, is that I chose to do something, that society said was heroic. But that I felt I had no choice, in being me, to do so. Don’t pick over the threads of my life and simply pull out those that help you to create your garment. They are all my threads, all of them contributed to my actions. Don’t steal from my garment to make yours.