June 29th, 2011
Maggie Gallagher loves to pretend that all gay people are screaming “hater” and “bigot” at every person who disagrees with us over full marriage equality. We aren’t. In fact, most gay organizations and a good many bloggers avoid using the words “hate” and “bigot” partly for just that reason and partly because using such terms loosely leaves us nothing for when true evil is encountered.
But sometimes we do see hate and it’s useful to know what it looks like.
Hate has an intentional desire to see harm or hurt come to others. Hate delights in the misery of others. Hate refuses to empathize, seeing the other as an enemy, someone so vile that you can’t put yourself in their shoes. Hate prioritizes the ill treatment of others, even above what is in its own best interest. Hate assumes the worst about others, ignoring any chance of decency.
Which brings me to the Batesville Arkansas Daily Guard. Now I’m not suggesting that Batesville (population about 10,000) is any less fascinating or newsworthy than any other similarly sized community, but a quick glance illustrates that obituaries make up a sizable chunk of the Daily Guard.
And it was to the obituaries that Terence James turned when John Millican, his partner of the past decade, passed away. And the Daily Guard ran Millican’s obituary complete with reference to parents and distant siblings, but no reference whatsoever to Mr. James. In the view of the Daily Guard, he simple didn’t exist.
When criticized, the Daily Guard responded with the usual “It’s not a gay thing. We don’t list unmarried couples, in-laws, or pets in the free obituaries.” Just real family, you know. But, even so, I’m not willing to call this hate. Ignorance, yes. Prejudice, certainly. But not necessarily hate.
However what they did next is simply unforgivable.
The Daily Guard promised to apologize and to reconsider their policy. Instead, they decided to humiliate Mr. Jones and to defame him. Seeing him in grief, they decided to compound the pain and to delight in his misery.
On June 27, the Daily Guard ran this editorial:
It was brought to our attention Terence James had a problem with our policy because he was not listed in the free obituary as a life partner. Once again, free obituaries do not list life partners or significant others, nor does it list in-laws or ex-spouses. Our local funeral homes know that if the obituary is not marked “paid” it will run to our free format.
Because we wanted to have all the information on the allegations, we did what any good newspaper would do: Our homework. After speaking with the funeral directors who assisted Mr. James, we learned he was REPEATEDLY told he would not be listed in the free obituary. (Contrary to what Mr. James said in a television interview, his mother was told the same thing, according to the directors.) The funeral director went on to say MR. JAMES MADE IT CLEAR TO THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR HE DID NOT WANT TO BE OUT THE EXPENSE OF A PAID OBITUARY.
After obtaining a copy of the paperwork filled out by Mr. James at the funeral home, we learned he listed two cats as daughters and a dog as a son. Once again, Mr. James was told by the director the Guard does not list pets as survivors in a free obituary.
We deal with the death of loved ones on a daily basis and our established policy allows us to do that with consistency. Listing pets as children is a direct slap in the face to every grieving parent who has buried a child, young or old.
This begs the question of exactly what MOTIVE Mr. James had when he began giving out FALSE information to news channels and various organizations in order to promote his own AGENDA.
Because of Mr. James, the Guard has come under fire for the policies that are in place for EVERYONE.
The Guard does not owe Mr. James a free obituary or an apology.
We can ignore all the nonsense about James listing pets. After Leona Helmsley’s obsession, those people who think of their pets as children may seem sad or silly, but they are hardly slapping anyone in the face. That was just gratuitously included so as to disparage James.
The motivation of the Daily Guard can be seen in two clauses “in place for EVERYONE” and “promote his own AGENDA”. To the Daily Guard, Terrence James – and indeed any surviving partner – is not part of everyone. Everyone has no need to include a life partner, Everyone doesn’t have one. Everyone is heterosexual.
And as for those who might have such a need, well clearly they have an AGENDA.
So take that, Terrence James. You can’t criticize the Daily Guard! They’ll put you and your agenda in its place. You think you’re grieving now, you just wait til they get done with you.
I can understand an ignorant and thoughtless policy. I can sympathize with the Daily Guard feeling unfairly challenged. But there’s no space for berating the grieving. There’s no good reason for trying to make Mr. James feel pain over the Guard’s own inconsideration.
That is just hate.
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Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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