Sunday, November 8, 2009

A difference of opinion.

I have been taught from early childhood to honor equality, "equality" meaning that all people are created equal, and all people deserve equal treatment and rights. No one is worth more or less than anyone else, and to believe or act otherwise is an act of injustice and incivility. Freedom of speech is of vital importance when treating people equally. All people deserve the dignity and respect of being heard, no matter how ludicrous you may find their beliefs or unpopular their viewpoints; even if you don't agree, you can at least say you listened and hopefully that you understand.

The blessing and burden of freedom of speech is that all people have the right to say what they want. For me, it can be immensely frustrating to listen to the likes of David Duke, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck; I find their opinions and condemnations infuriating. It might surprise some people to know how much I listen to those individuals; I don't listen to every broadcast or watch every show, because I value my sanity, but I do follow them. I do it because I believe that you can't exist in a vacuum of ideas, that to maintain intellectual honesty you MUST know what the opposition is saying, within context, and not simply label them as fanatical extremists. I don't want to be considered a fanatical extremist simply because someone doesn't believe what I believe, and I can be just as sure of my convictions as they are of theirs. Their actions and words may be despicable to me, but at least I can say that I hear them...and in the same breath, I can also say "I disagree." It doesn't mean that they are necessarily bad people, or uneducated, or ignorant...they just have different opinions than me. I say that fully understanding that they undeniably fuel the fire of inequality...they fund actions and initiatives that deny me basic rights and dignities in America, and feed the anger and fear that people who want to hate are hungry for. I know this, and it makes me angry, but I still listen to them. It fuels MY fire so that I attend protests, sign petitions, vote in elections and talk about the issues I feel so passionately about. This is how informed opinions are created.

The Carnival Kings have done ALOT of listening over the past 3 years, and in particular, over the last 3 weeks. We have heard, truly heard, what people have had to say about our drag, good and bad. We attended the IDKE pre-Town Hall and Town Hall meeting and only did about 15 minutes of talking, compared to 1 1/2 hours of listening. We have listened, even when people wouldn't tell us directly about their opinions and beliefs; we've read the personal comments and public discussions about us and our performances on Facebook and MySpace, and listened to third party accounts of conversations by performers who didn't think it was important to tell us their viewpoints directly. We have read the allegations and discussions on the "Dragstars for Social Justice" Facebook group, and read Michael Normand's essay regarding his actions and beliefs about the drag that the Carnival Kings do. I feel confident in saying, we have done a lot of listening.

We simply disagree.

We do rap and hip hop for the same reason we do rock, country, punk and alternative...because it's what we listen to, and what the audience wants. We do any kind of music we actually listen to and appreciate. Simple as that. If a song is offensive to someone, we are open to listening to why, and better, we will engage in a dialog. That's what we did in Tucson this year. Here's another important part, though...we have to be heard and respected, too. People don't have to agree with us, but I object to the allegations that we are ignorant and uneducated simply because we don't agree with opposing opinion.

It has to be okay to disagree. It has to be acceptable to stop and say "Look, I just don't agree," and that should happen without people calling us stupid, uneducated or racist. THAT is dismissive and disrespectful.

Don't agree with that assertion? That's your right, but I disagree. And I don't have to think you're uneducated, racist, classist, sexist or elitist in order to disagree.

I simply disagree.

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