That fucking Michelle Shocked. She ruined everything.
I have always had a special place in my heart for her first few albums and their “folksy with an edge” stylings. So when she had an anti-gay meltdown (despite having professed to be bisexual and in a relationship with a woman some years earlier) during a concert a few months ago, I found myself having to reevaluate my feelings toward her, caught up in an unwanted inner debate of whether or not to remove her from my playlists.
Like most people I am often disturbed by the cognitive dissonance events like this stir in my personal sense of ethics. What do you do when someone you like or support does something that affects the way you feel about them — and when do you take them to task or walk away?
These are questions those of us in the queer community, who are constantly under attack from some quarter, need to ask ourselves more often. We are very grateful to those who support us, are loyal consumers and cherish our icons. But, as my conflict with the Shocked episode illustrates, we can sometimes be put in situations where it’s far too easy to default to a silent double standard that continues to support what we liked about someone or something while ignoring the potential harm they, or it, might be doing to us as individuals and as a community.
This is equally endemic in larger society — the saturation of information on social media has made its commonness clear. What else it makes clear is just how partisan we all are.
The most obvious example of this is those on the left who criticize Harper’s government for the missing $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funds while remaining silent on the $600 million wasted on the cancellation of two gas plants just prior to our last election by the provincial Liberals. At this point, it appears the Cons lost the billions through ineptitude, while the Liberals cancelled the gas plants for political opportunism. Both are unforgiveable, but it’s the second one that is the most ethically questionable to me.
I understand perfectly why Paula Deen is being roasted for her admitted casual racism however long ago it happened, but I don’t understand why Alec Baldwin, who has a proven history of using homophobic slurs when he’s pissed off, isn’t treated the same way. I understand why people believe a woman’s body is her own to do with as she pleases in any instance or situation, but I do not understand why many of those same people support male circumcision and the ritual mutilation of a child’s body for religious reasons rather than proven medical requirements. I understand why people are offended by the use of blackface, but I don’t understand why, when a drag queen does it, that lampooning (or debasing) of race is seen as something much worse than the lampooning (or debasing) of gender that is the drag performer’s stock in trade.
Due to the war on logical thought and informed debate that has been waged predominantly by the right, we have been forced into polarizing factions, with each side believing it alone is correct. However, the spirit of a working democracy and positive change can be fed only by the sharing of opposing ideas and opinions. Our political parties are not rival sports teams invested only in their supporters. They are a group of people elected by the citizenry to oversee the running of our entire country in a cohesive, forward-moving manner. Compromise is an important part of the process.
This is not to say anyone needs to countenance the crazy arguments of right- or leftwing lunatics concerning individuals' rights to do with their adult bodies and lives whatever they want and to say whatever they like. But to address the real challenges we’re facing, morally, environmentally, economically, politically, we have to ask ourselves some very difficult questions and, perhaps, make some equally difficult decisions. If one believes something is truly wrong, then it’s truly wrong whoever does it. People shouldn’t get passes because you like them or they’re nice or they happen to run the political party you support. This doesn’t always require a complete rejection of said person, but it does require a conscious acknowledgment that what he or she did was wrong and continuing to do so will result in a withdrawal of support. After all, we can’t demand consistency and logic from our governments if we don’t demand the same thing from ourselves.
As for Michelle Shocked, I don’t play her music anymore, but sometimes, when “Anchorage” happens to be on in the background somewhere, I catch myself singing along, but sadly. One part of my brain tells me what she did was wrong, but another part, the part that responds to music and not logic, doesn’t care.