Our friend from Detroit, Jacob Appel, thinks that gays need government reparations and the Detroit Free Press was so enamored of his idea that it published his plea in its April 7 issue. One has a suspicion that they missed a deadline because this story would have more properly been published on April 1, a day well known as April Fool's Day. This one simply must be a joke.
Appel is so filled with absurd pronouncements, anti-hetero bias, and outright hatred in his piece that one simply cannot take his central thesis seriously. But his mode of thinking here does highlight the illogic of his position on the issue, so it is instructive to review it.
Appel begins with a heresy that I think should make black Americans infuriated when he lumps the history of homosexuals in America with that of black American's oppression during slavery. He feels that one day the "struggle" of gays in America will be seen as "unspeakable and inexplicable to my grandchildren as counting a slave as three-fifths of a human being."
To say that homosexuals have been treated as badly as blacks were during slavery is a conceit on the part of gays that should not be tolerated in polite society. Slavery was a true oppression, a true crime against men. The minor inconveniences that gays as a group in America have witnessed pale in comparison. It's as outrageous to compare gays and slavery as it is to compare the Holocaust to PETA's laments on how farm animals have been treated. It is a disgusting hyperbole to do so.
The truth is, gays haven't had it much worse than many mistreated minorities have. In fact, the argument could easily be made that Catholics in America have been treated worse than gays ever have. Catholics didn't start seeing their mistreatment abate until sometime in the mid 1900s after nearly 200 years of hatred, suspicion, and downright oppression against them. (I am not Catholic, by the way.)
After that display of moral equivalence (or immoral equivalence as the case may be) Appel warms to his point.
What is not so clear to me is whether homosexuals will be adequately compensated for their mistreatment. So while I recognize that other battles remain, I think the time has arrived to place economic reparations for gay and lesbian Americans on the political agenda.
"Economic reparations"? For what? Have homosexuals been denied work? Have they been kept from schools, forced to second-class status, prevented from voting, kept from healthcare entertainment or government? No.
Appel goes on to pad his piece with historical information about past reparations and then tries to shoehorn the "plight" of gays into that history offering a few tried and true canards along the way -- such as the gays can't visit each other in the hospital tale. Appel even amusingly cites deportation laws as anti-homosexual because illegal immigrant gays can't marry in order to stay in the U.S.A. Now there is a stretch for you. He sums up his list of grievances with a hyperbolic, "all the funds in the national treasury could not make full amends."
Now we get to his hatred of heterosexual folks:
You've got to be kidding, right? The only reason reparations won't work is because of all those gosh darn "unscrupulous straight people" trying to cash in on the gayperations? Is this guy serious? And what "techniques in our society" is this guy talking about that have so long been used to "ferret out gays and lesbians"? In what land of paranoia is Mr. Appel living?
The only danger in such a proposal is the possibility that a minority of unscrupulous straight people might claim homosexuality in an effort to defraud taxpayers. My instincts tell me that this fear is unfounded. In the first place, we are still at least half a social revolution away from the day when the sort of American who would cheat his gay and lesbian peers, possesses enough confidence in his own sexuality to impersonate a homosexual. Moreover, I am confident that the government could establish an effective system to screen for straight impostors. What an amusing turn of events it would be if the techniques our society once used to ferret out gays and lesbians were someday turned upon straight men and women pretending to be gays and lesbians. Some ironies are priceless.
It is also interesting that as he advocates for the payment of reparations for gays he firmly lays the reasoning to deny them to black Americans for the past evils of slavery.
Of course, even I recognize that these payments should not last forever. When there are no gays and lesbians remaining who have known the insult of second-class citizenship, that will be the appropriate time to stop the checks.
So, where are all those blacks living today that suffered directly under slavery in America? Since slavery was eliminated 150 years ago, there aren't any, of course. So, according to Appel's logic, no black American should ever expect any reparations as the time limitations have long since run out.
Regardless, the entire logic of reparations lacks standing no matter who they are levied for in most cases. Let me use my own heritage for an example. My last name is of long-time Scottish origin. So I wonder... where are MY reparations from the English for having oppressed Scots for so many generations? Should Rome pay Germans for the oppressions that the Roman Empire perpetrated against the "barbarians" from that country? What about South American natives? Should they demand that Spain repay them for the generations of enslavement after the discovery of the New World?
Where does it stop? How far back do we go? How do we determine when that "payment" is satisfied? Who judges what is just the right amount? What criterion pronounces a class of people worthy of reparations, anyway? Should men who liked leisure suits in the 1970s get reparations from people who made fun of them then? If so, I had a nice white and red checked leisure suit in 1974 that my Mom made me wear to a family gathering once. My uncle jabbed me pretty hard about it calling it a suit made from an Italian tablecloth -- I was oppressed, man! So, I demand that Sears and the U.S. government pay me reparations for that oppression. I can't get a thing from my uncle because he passed away recently. So, I want government money, dang it! And why not?
Here's a better idea. Instead of focusing energy on past sleights, let's move forward. If society deems gays the new normal, then let's move forward on that basis, older and wiser as the case may be. One thing is sure, though. Militant gays demanding everyone pay them faux reparations will not make them a more acceptable member of society. It will simply keep the anger flowing on both sides.
But, then again, like the worst race-baiters in the country today, maybe that is just what Mr. Appel wants? Perhaps he wants the hatreds and anger to keep flowing? That way he still has a late arriving April Fool's Day article to publish every year.
Let's just say no to reparations of all kinds. Not just gayperations. There is no "justice" for slights made by history. There is only correction as time rolls on. If living in harmony is the true goal, let's not force today's generation to pay for what people did in yesterday's, or in a hundred yesterdays ago.
Let's take the bite out of hate, Mr. Appel, shall we?