I spend a lot of time thinking about intolerance and the various things that I do to combat it. I mean, that's what a lot of this blog is supposed to be, right? I'm trying, in my own small way, to fight against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other isms and phobias that people, even nice people, even good people, throw at each other. And I think that I do an OK job for the most part, but it's easy to fight this battle online, isn't it? I mean, comparatively. Sure, the relative anonymity of the Internet tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, and I've been told all kinds of awful things, some of which have hurt pretty badly. I've been told that I'm a waste of oxygen, that I should kill myself, and there have been a whole litany of comments, tweets and even entire blog posts by other people dedicated to what a terrible mother I am, and yeah, that sucks, but still.
Being a loudmouth who speaks out against hate on the Internet very rarely results in physical violence.
Being a loudmouth who speaks out against hate in the real world is much more likely to result in broken bones, a smashed up face or even worse.
And I'm not saying that online threats or mean comments aren't scary, because they definitely are, but also when it all gets to be too overwhelming I can just shut off my computer and walk away. But raising my voice publicly, in the middle of, say, a crowded bar full of drunken bigots, doesn't afford me that same luxury.
There was, in fact, a crowded bar full of drunken bigots last night. And maybe this is a fairly normal occurrence -- what do I know, I'm in bed by 10 most nights, and when I do go out it's to one of the genteel pubs in my genteel neighbourhood. And probably these guys are really super nice guys in real life, not the kind of guys to yell "faggots!" at a bunch of guys just because their band isn't playing whatever kind of music it is they want to hear. I mean, unless they're out late at night and it's someone's birthday and they're all drunk, belligerent and three seconds away from a brawl with any given person that they encounter on the cramped dance floor.
So what do you do? What exactly do you do if you're in this bar, and you hear people yelling the word faggot, and you're sure that saying something, anything will result in getting punched in the face? What do you do if that's your friend, or at the very least the friend of your friend, on stage, playing his bespectacled, skinny jean-clad heart out? Seriously, what the fuck do you do?
If you're me, apparently you sit there grimacing and whispering to the girl next to you, demanding to know where the fuck all these terrible drunk dudes came from. If you're me, you hunker down in your seat, and hope they don't come anywhere near you. If you're me, you hope that if they do make their way over to you, they somehow manage to keep their hands to themselves.
If you're me, you die a little inside when you think about how you're totally not standing up for what you believe in, and you hate yourself for being a coward.
And if you're my friend Nathan, you get up and dance.
You get up, you stand dead centre in front of the stage, and you fucking dance to the spastic beat of the music.
For some reason that I can't fully articulate, what happened last night was one of the nicest things I've ever seen. There was just something really lovely about seeing my friend standing there, trying to figure out how to move to the pseudo-eighties synthesizer amazingness coming from the stage. And as weird as this sounds, there was something both aggressive and earnestly affectionate about his body language as he danced -- aggressive towards all the assholes behind him who were now demanding that the band play "Wonderwall," and affectionate towards his friends onstage, who were trying their best to ignore what was going on. And Nathan just stood there, as steady and unmovable as a rock. And it was really, really nice.
And I got up and joined him, and so did a few other people, and the drunk assholes slowly backed off.
Afterwards, Nathan said to me, "I just didn't want Drew to have to look out and have to see all those douchebags. I wanted there to be at least one friendly face out there."
I'm glad he had the instinct to get up and dance, because I definitely didn't. Maybe I only know how to fight with words, and when I feel like I can't do that, I'm at a total loss. Or maybe I should be more willing to risk my personal safety for the stuff that I believe in. Regardless, I'm glad that he got up, because I think that it was the best thing that anyone could have done in that situation.
And, in the future, I really want to be able to remember that there are other ways of fighting intolerance besides my usual bag of tricks. Sometimes you can do it by standing there alone and, with great purpose and love, just fucking dancing like there's no tomorrow.