Yesterday I took my boys out for the afternoon to visit the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, one of three “education-type” places that we hold memberships at. Don’t tell my kids, but the places they love to visit are the same ones that I want them to go to – they’ll learn more if they think they are having fun! But before we could begin our day of fun at the museum (snakes and lizards and scorpions oh my!) we had to fuel up. So we stopped at McDonalds for a bite to eat.
As we sat, munching our way through the communal pile of tasty french fries (we always just pile all our fries together and share them all), I could not help but overhear the conversation between two older gentlemen. They started off their conversation talking about the “ladies auxiliary" at their church, and went on at length about how things were going in the church. They veered to hockey and football for a time, before one of them pushed the newspaper across the table to his friend, with a gruff “You seen this yet?” What follows is their conversation, not quite verbatim, but close.
“Nah, what’s it about?”
“New premier of Ontario is a woman. And she’s gay.”
“Damn. Pretty soon, we’re going to be the minority around here.”
At this point, I was almost set to interject into their conversation. That statement, coming from the mouths of able bodied, straight, educated, white males always gets my goat. But I bit down on another fry and tried to mind my own business. Partly because I was having a great time with my boys and didn't want to ruin it, but partly because I just did not have the energy to engage in that debate all over again. Either way, I am damned glad I did keep my mouth chewing instead of talking...
“Maybe that’s a good thing. We had our chance, and we really screwed things up.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Time to give the lesbians a chance.”
“Yup. Don’t understand what everyone is so upset about – it’s just about giving everyone the same equality.”
“Exactly. People get too worked up about stuff that shouldn’t matter to them. Hey, you heard that Mike’s kid is going to school…”
I nearly hugged them. It reminded me of my own prejudices; based on their chatting about their church, their patterns of speech and their age, I had already put them in the “old white Christian bigot” category – a form of discrimination all its own. It reminded me that we all need to revisit our stereotyping constantly – we all do it, and it’s not a bad thing in and of itself, so long as it doesn’t lead to value judgements.
So to all you old white Christian males out there, I’m sorry for sticking you in a box. I promise to try and remember that you aren’t all the same, and that many (most) of you are good and decent people, who care about people and their human rights just as much (and often more) as me and my young, atheist, “liberal” friends. We have a lot more in common than we think, and we have to remember that from time to time.