Thursday, June 30, 2016

Botherhood (for Brotherhood)

Do you ever find brotherhood to be too much of a bother? How about sisterhood? Or even cis-terhood (which may or may not be a coinage just yet.) All of humanity can be a pain in the vanity sometimes, whenever "identity politics" threaten to eclipse what we all have in common. When the struggle against oppression is mistaken for moral superiority; when we spend more time trying to elevate hurt feelings and absurd neologisms than we do identifying actual social and political problems; or when it fails to become obvious that all violent crimes are motivated by "hate," not just those where the victim is a "minority" and the victimizer is one of the "lucky ones." Besides, there are too many shifting and overlapping categories involved here and Lady Justice, after all, is famously (supposed to be) "blind." Back in the eighties, when AIDS activism was the central cause and organizing principle among me and my friends, we would blithely call heteros "breeders" (and "heteros" too, for that matter), even if we were of that particular persuasion ourselves. We were all about proudly preserving those sexy/dicey political and cultural divides, while at the same time actively decrying them in the streets. It seems there was a certain frisson in the suggestion that straights had something to be intrinsically ashamed of, while gays (and really, anyone who cared to call themself "queer") did not. It was an intoxicating role reversal and it all made sense at the time. A few years earlier, women had been doing the same thing with "male chauvinist pigs" and a few years before that, blacks with clueless "honkies." But it seems like it might be time now to take a step back and look at progress and unity for what they really are. Time to remove a few chips from our shoulders, say that all lives matter (and mean it), and start working to implement the human and civil rights that have already been fought for and won in this country—for gays, blacks, women, and yes, even for those bothersome straight white brothers among us. Our typo for the day came up once in OhioLINK, and 37 times in WorldCat.

(Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, marching in a procession on May Day, 5/1/1914, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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