“When senseless acts of tragedy remind us / That nothing here is promised, not one day.”
In the wake of a tragedy (or even resistance), we learn a few things. We learn that hate remains within some of us. We learn that our political structures remain imperfect and sometimes incapable of giving human emotions the pedestal they deserve. We learn that the easiest and yet the most difficult method to tackle the hate is through an incredible outpouring of love. This is what we’ve seen when there had been criticisms and “laws” hurled against Pink Dot, a celebration of love. This is what we’ve witnessed after the purported worst mass shooting incident in US History. But we often get lost in celebrating the solidarity that unites us and glaze over the hatred which still resides in the hidden corners of our society.
We often dismiss hate as irrelevant – we think perhaps they’ll see in our perspective, that they may learn how to see in our perspective. Eventually. But we forget that hate is an emotion so strong that it overcomes everything and it only hits us when tragedy strikes. It’s this realisation that slams into our gut when we read the news about the Orlando shootings or a case of unwarranted racism or misunderstood homophobia. This article in no way attempts to discount how crucial gun law reforms are or disregard the other socio-political underlying reasons. To contemplate the political workings of US and its fourth estate will take far more than a simple op-ed piece. More than anything, this article contemplates the very basis on which love is questioned in this country and attempts to understand why a simple emotion is often warped into seeming like much bigger demons to tackle.
Simply put, this article attempts to put a number of logical explanations (apart from the same few we’ve heard rehashed time and again) as to why love remains nothing more than a sensational controversy in this country. To mention it as LGBT or to point out specific communities is equal to dissecting the nature of this love and putting labels on it, thus “categorising” it. We, as a nation, are prone to over-analysing the smallest of things. Sometimes perhaps all we need is a giant step back to realise that the details we are picking out to death belong to a much larger canvas.
When your world becomes encumbered with rights and wrongs, law and order, prisons and punishment, it becomes almost too easy to forget the basic emotions which make us tick. Instant gratification is available in small bytes of consumerism at the very tips of your fingertips and it dulls all other senses – for real emotion seems pale in comparison to the bright lights and sounds the internet can offer. It’s the crux of the Huxleyan debate. The consumerist culture overwhelms our senses and numbs us to the sensation of what it means to feel.
Perhaps the dilution of real emotion goes in some ways to explain the increase in the amount of internet vitriol. We come across vitriol every day in our lives – a lot of it senseless but some harmful. The invisible restraints in the form of culture and decorum stop this vitriol from manifesting as physical violence. This is what we’ve seen occurring in the US, of course. When the hate propels one to emerge from behind the screen (where it’s so much easier to hide, behind an ever changing profile picture and a semblance of distance), it tends to have a devastating impact. I am, of course, referring to the Bryan fiasco that occurred recently – where a foolish and spur-of-the-moment comment led to national outrage and even police action. A rare incidence for a country where police action tends to be an oxymoron.
But the timing of the incidence is almost laughable. We dilute something as pure as an unrestrained emotion when we warp it into other forms and give it different names. This is the debate that arose quickly after the news that “foreign” sponsors were no longer allowed to fund events held at the Speaker’s Corner. It had been a statement by the Interior Ministry – foreign entities have been warned against interference in domestic issues with political overtones. It’s a statement that should very rightly start ringing bells: for when love is warped into a political matter, that is when the divergence within a country grows.
There are some merits behind the idea perhaps. It’s important to gain internal solidarity before attracting the giants who are more than willing to push behind a liberal cause. It’s crucial to recalibrate and negotiate the beliefs of a country and align our values together. It’s necessary that support for what is deemed to be “controversial” must come from within before it is crutched on external support. There is no denying that despite the oddly phrased release, the Interior Ministry perhaps had a valid point in pushing for the (seemingly) randomly implemented rule. But yet it’s hard to shake off the word comeback when one reads the press release, especially when followed up by a very successful Pink Dot 2016 and the thwarting of its inane “rival” White Dot.
When you plot everything on a linear timeline, it becomes glaringly blatant that Bryan was – is – nothing but a common scapegoat in taking away the edge of a dubious press release. We are a country skilled in illusions and this is another magic trick that we might not even notice occurring. Like I said, it’s a Huxleyan world: give the people their dose of much needed entertainment, and everything else will be forgotten.
We see the hate manifest in small manners, some which slip from our gaze completely because we’ve become conditioned to it. It’s in the local news reports which fail to make any mention of the LGBTQ. It’s in the clever omitting of the origins of the Orlando night club as the news presenters prattle on about gun restrictions. Look what we have better than them, it almost seems to scream. So many of us have become so adept to pretending anything other than monogamous mainstream love is not real that we still keep up the ruse by editing it out from our lives. Trying to kill Pink Dot, refusing to mention the mere existence of LGBTQ. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
But as Lin-Manuel Miranda puts so eloquently in his acceptance speech (if you haven’t watched it, then where have you been?) that love “is love is love is love is love is love” and it “cannot be killed or swept aside.” We as a country need to recognise the emotion for what it is and perhaps find the courage to face up to the purity of it – we easily distance ourselves by throwing in different names or citing religious sources or even turning it overnight into an apparently political issue. (But yet in the very same breath, we resist the term homophobia because that suggests perhaps there’s something wrong with us and not them.) And as long as we continue to differentiate ourselves and put our own perception of love on a higher pedestal, we’ll forever be stuck in a mirage. Because love, by any other definition, is love and it’s high time we learn to accept it.