Ok class, how many of you would be willing to vote for a gay president?
(six hands out of twenty go up)
Today during class we had a discussion about how ideas or concepts we aren't used to make us uncomfortable. Somehow we got onto the topic of whether or not people would vote for a woman president. A lot of the class said no, that women were too emotional. I asked the same thing about a black president, and most of the class said no, though there answers weren't very satisfying. It was when I asked whether or not the class would vote for a gay president that things really got noisy.
I was actually pretty horrified at the sentiments expressed. Even if the candidate was otherwise qualified, most of the students would not support him or her because of their sexual orientation. Nobody was able to give a decent answer about what this had to do with being a good president. They all pointed to their religious beliefs. I more or less asked whether or not it was ok to treat these people as subhuman because of their orientation and most of them didn't see a problem with it. After a while I asked whether or not they would vote for someone who committed adultery. They had less of a problem with this then the sexuality issue. What bothers me the most is the attitudes of some of my otherwise normal students. One in particular said that gay people made him so angry that he wanted to punch them in the face. Statements like that frighten me. That's how we have the Matthew Shepard incidents. That's how wars begin. That's how lynchings happen. That's how the Holocaust is allowed to happen.
At the moment, I could care less whether my students appreciate Shakespeare if it meant that they'd be more open and accepting of their fellow man. It's difficult to teach tolerance, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop.