Last year, I started (that’s about all I did) a series of posts on this blog that would chronicle how music has influenced my life and why I now hate music. Its funny that I would start a series of blog posts with this focused and interrupt it with 31 posts (if I can make it that far) about different artists and how their music has influenced my life.
Music has always been something that I knew had the incredible power to change people, usually for good but sometimes for ill. I watched in the church I attended as a youth, how the musical movements would be where people decided to finally make changes in their lives. The sermons might have given the congregation the logical reasons, but it was the music that moved the heart. Even when it wasn’t always done with the most polish, it was what brought people down the isle.
I think it was watching music being the instigation of change that really drew me to it. As I grew up, I saw how this would play out in my own life. Those times in my life that have the most vivid memories, you can always hear a soundtrack playing along. These slices of living memory are always slices not only of the moment, but of the general themes of my life at the times of greatest change.
Today’s entry most definitely follows this pattern. I think my first knowing interaction with a gay man was during my high school senior english class when a guest lecturer for the day was a gay man who had AIDS. Was there some fear? Sure; I was an ignorant kid from a backwards town, so how could there not be? But by the end of that hour, I realized something very important, that he was just another human being; someone who had more in common with me than was different.
This was so different than what I heard every day in my culture. Sadly, even with all the changes that have happened in our society in the last 23 years since that classroom, we haven’t changed enough:
If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates meThere is a reason that my web browser is configured to hide all message boards and comment threads on the internet. Its almost always a stream of the most vile thoughts in our society and while I never want to forget its there and work to remind us all that we’re better than that, I can no longer let that into my life. There is too much evil passing me by every single day to not block out that which has little to redeem it.
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ‘em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
I know all about that world because, even though I knew it was wrong, when I was younger, I occasionally participated and often just let that bad behavior occur when I could have stepped up and stopped it. Despite that classroom experience being so close in time, for a while, I let myself participate and condone such awful behavior.
But music changes people, and it changed me. Long before I heard this song, my views on homosexuality shifted far away from what you see in internet message boards (and thankfully they were never really that close to those beliefs to begin with). While my views changed and I no longer participated, I also didn’t step up and work to bring equality for those who had suffered so many wrongs.
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religionIt was these lines that really drove home that it wasn’t enough to have right belief; it had to be backed up with right actions as well. For a few years prior to this, I had realized gay marriage was going to happen and wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. I had many gay friends and they were people, just like anyone else. It didn’t make sense to me that they wouldn’t get the same tax benefits that I get, just because the state wouldn’t issue them a piece of paper. That is having your rights stolen. But did I want it to be called a 'marriage’? Couldn’t they just be happy with 'civil union’?
Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom 'til we’re equal, damn right I support it
Frankly, no, they shouldn’t, and in large part, this song is responsible for me really internalizing that lesson that I had been learning for a long time prior to hearing this music. I remember hearing this song the first time, realizing there is something here I’m not understanding and looping the track enough times that it finally sank in. I was almost back to my home on my afternoon commute when the lesson sank all the way in. It was a beautiful day outside and it had finally become one inside as well.