Bryon Widner is the subject of a recent documentary, Erasing Hate. Widner, once a racist skinhead, tattooed himself to make his disposition clear. The documentary follows his hours of painful procedures to remove that ink, reflecting his transition away from all that anger. Painful for Widner, but a feel-good story, nonetheless.
Of course, he's gotten death threats from white supremacists still trapped in their own cages that hate built.
Symon Hill was also in need of redemption. He found it by walking 160 miles from Brighton, England, to London last year. He calls that trip ''a pilgrimage of repentance for my former homophobic attitudes and behavior.'' Another feel-good story, right?
Not for some, probably. At least one person is too angry to forgive Hill his trespasses. On the Guardian.co.uk site, a post about Hill was answered with, ''This guy should fucking crawl the distance for his forgiveness. I forgive him nothing.''
In some people there is this expression. Maybe it's hate. Maybe it's anger. Maybe jealousy or fear or arrogance. While it's evidenced in some, we are certainly all capable of embodying this negative pain. That's what I thought of as I watched the lines of people – people who no doubt believe they were doing the right thing, making a righteous stand – line-up to support Chick-fil-A.
Whatever they may have thought, they weren't standing up for freedom of speech. They were standing up to oppress gays and lesbians. They were standing up to support donations being made, as tracked by Equality Matters, to the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. They might have thought otherwise, but just what did they think had everybody so upset? If you're going to take an action against a community – even if you'd prefer to believe it's in support of free speech and in opposition to no one – you know what you're doing. And I forgive you.
I really wish, however, you could forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for whatever shortcoming, whatever sin that has made you so strident. If you're anti-gay because your kid is gay and you blame yourself, stop; you had nothing to do with your kid's sexual orientation. If you simply think two dudes getting it on is gross, forgive yourself. That's okay. We don't take it any more personally than you do when your kids get grossed out by seeing you kiss your spouse. If you think you're not being dogmatic enough in your religious beliefs, that God will smite you for loosening your grip, just please stop. Forgive yourself. If most people's gods are famous for anything, it's forgiveness. At least, as an observer, it seems to me I've heard plenty more about love and forgiveness than about righteous damnation.
There's no need to give up your beliefs to give up some of that anger. If you think God frowns on romantic love between people of the same sex, that's between you and God. If, however, you think marriage equality is the harbinger of societal downfall, lighten up. Consider that you're the Jewish parent of a straight girl engaged to a nice Mormon fellah, and she's going to convert. It may distress you, but it's not the end of the world. Let it go. To the guy demanding the former homophobe ''fucking crawl,'' take a breath. Mr. Hill didn't put a bomb in a gay bar. Just count to 10 and give him a small salute for trying to make things right.
Our lives are short. As everything moves forward, your hate will do little but hold you back. I'm not hoping you'll leave it behind for my sake. I'll be fine, either way. But I am hoping you'll do it for yourself.
Will O'Bryan is Metro Weekly's managing editor. Reach him at wobryan@MetroWeekly.com.