Dumbledore is gay?
Yes, you heard. You thought he was a kindly old wizard, dedicated to the education of magical muggles didn’t you? Well it seems that his wand bends the other way.
That was probably my favourite accusation from American pastor Kevin Swanson at the National Religious Liberties Conference, which re-emerged on social media earlier this month. A conference attended, incidentally, by three Republican presidential candidates. See Rachel Maddow’s interpretation of events
For the rest of the world, of course, what caught our eye was Swanson’s call to have gay people murdered and not even in a nice way. Death by being pushed off a cliff or stoned in the street. Tough choice. Glad I’m straight.
Hate preachers, because this is what Swanson is, force us to ask tough questions of ourselves and how we deal with them as a democratic society.
Do we carry out a virtual game of whack-a-mole, where we bring down our mallet on every conference, leaflet or website we don’t approve of or do we uphold our ideals of freedom of speech and expression. As a confused liberal I’m somewhere in the middle ((helpful)).
Earlier this year, a charming gentleman known as Daryush Valizadeh or Roosh V attempted to organise a series of seminars in more than 100 cities across the world, including the UK, Canada and the US. I’m guessing you’ve heard of him. If not, let me tell you he advocates legalising rape on private property, writes articles on the benefits of dating women with eating disorders all from the ivory tower of his website. His seminars encourage men to stop asking and start taking, to stop letting women have all the power and to take the power back. Except his mum, he lives with his mum. She’s different. Yada yada. To be honest, I haven’t even got the energy to spare for a proper dose of outrage. His belief system is so warped, so fundamentally wrong, that is he really worth sparing a second thought over?
Well Canada, you did. And good on you. In Toronto, a women’s boxing club basically said: Yep, you go ahead and have your little event but we’ll probably be joining you. We have to tell you, we’re not really big supporters. See The Huffington Post’s report.
Petitions sprung up to have him and his followers banned by getting travel visas overturned. We said a big, fat NO to the Roosh. Incidentally, he’s not a fan of big, fat anything and lists fat shaming among his hobbies. In the end he cancelled most of his gigs as he didn’t feel safe. Try not to trip over that big hulk of irony I dropped just there.
And yet, despite the push back, despite the rallying, despite the overwhelming “no”, there’s something that grates on me about restricting people’s freedoms, even Valizadeh and Swanson’s. In the UK thousands signed an online petition to ban a visit from Donald Trump. It was funny, kind of. It made a point. I guess my concern is that we end up with ‘people like us’ silo communities. The worst thing I can think of is living in a place where everyone thinks like me. Sure, we’d have nice wine but would anyone be able to make a decision about anything? Looting and anarchy within hours.
I suppose it comes down to a fine line. The side of the line which allows our young and vulnerable to be dragged down and at worse, act on hate preaching and the opposite side which effectively builds a huge wall, blocking out anything we don’t want to hear or see. Neither side appeals to me, which again is when being a confused liberal has its downsides.
What’s the answer? Well, we are. We don’t have to shut people out, we just have to show them how to behave in a way that’s socially and morally acceptable. We have toddlers, we know how to do this.
I leave you with the wise words of Dumbledore (sorry Kevin), “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”