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March 14, 2001     Beverly Hills Weekly
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March 14, 2001
 

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HE RING The public opinion forum where Beverly Hills dukes out the issues PRO Joan M. Garry ii It's getting harder to hate the right people. As you read :: through almost any newspaper, it's easy to find several examples of how hate moves people and events along. My confusion about whom it is acceptable to hate, then, is not because of a lack of choices, but because the choices seem to "morph" so erratically. If you're thinking that I might bi~ too harsh or dramatic in my choice of words, I think it is time we call 'em as we see 'era. Dancing around the real word -- hate -- is part of the confusion. Hate usually is swaddled in so many caveats and qualifiers that it can be rationalized away if the user gets caught too close to the real intent. We've just seen such a display of double speak on the stage of this year's Grammy Awards. Performer Eminem released a CD last year with some of the most dangerous and ~'iolent lyrics I've ever heard. His reward, presumably, for advocating harm against Women, gays and lesbians was to be given a featured spot on the Grammy broadcast and three awards. Eminem's promoters are quick to qualify his lyrics about killing, maiming, and dehumanizing as being taken too literally; surely anyone must know irony when they hear it, especially Eminem's pre-teen fans. Or you're just not in on the joke. If you are still reading this, you likely are waiting for me to "wink" in print, or to give a gentle verbal jab to the ribs to let you know we can all poke some fun to make a point. But I'm doing neither. Because it's not funny to me and I'm tired of being the butt of some- One else's idea of a joke. I Will spare you a dos, e of statistics on this or that or documented research to support why I believe as I do. I m going for something more intrinsic, more primal, more secret. It's that taboo in you. blow did you learn to hate whom you do? Cut away the when of it, the excuses for it or the pride or shame in it. Just think back to the how. rm guessing it probably began with a Word. The first time any of us heard the "N-word," let's say, we were so young it probably had no specific association for us, other than the signal that whomever used it meant it to be bad or mean or scary. We learn the emotion of a word before we learn the definition. Oddly, as the meaning becomes more known to us, we often get another serge of emotion - One of power. By using this word or that one in the presence of someone else, we can assume the mantel of privilege, the power of putting someone in his or her place if you Will. Any word or name for something is not a thing in itself. It is born and lives in the con- text of how it is used and by whom. Who endorses this word; who tells us what it means; Who encourages us to use this word to get our way or to prove our power or superiority: Who rewards us for using it as they do? So if us eas uckct to status and be' " "j t a word can be an y " " " power, the seduction of its use can irresistible. And too often, the intent of who shouts it loudest or most often is the defin- er of the difference between the labeler and the labeled. This is why I believe so strongly that "faggot," the current epithet in vogue in school COrridors, is so dangerous to tolerate. To me, tolerance of prejudicial slurs implies a pas- .Sire endorsement. And almost worse than those who know full well what they are saying Is the increasing acceptance of this word to mean just about anything inferior, wrong, or StUpid. If the origin and meaning of a hate word is diminished or ignored, the price for its USewheniS devaluedne asaysthWell at he doesn't necessarily mean anything defamatory to gays when Eml'orm S'aggot," s ltodefin " " " thin on heUsesthew d"f t he just mean " t e the most lowest degradmg gy can say to a man" - this explanation is meant to absolve him from responsibility for the W ' tn-,"Lard,- s Impact. Once our society_ blurs the line of commonly accepted meanings for words ', hurt and the responsibility for their use, we have lost our mutual respect. So the next time any of you is called the "N,word," "wet-back," "kike," or any other slur d~ jour, perhaps you're supposed to just wink at the hate-monger. And I mean that in the nicest way. JOan M. Garry is the Executive Director of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against CON Paul Katz Wouldn't it be convenient to believe that notorious rap- per Eminem aka Marshall Mathers is really guilty of being a demonic, misanthropic, hom'ophobe, white trash racist, who most likely rips the tags off the bottoms of mattress- es, and refuses to ever, ever buy Girl Scout cookies'? This is an image that many find quite easy to believe, but to steal from the ad campaign of the film "American Beauty," Look Closer. Emincm is a master satirist; gleefully push- ing the boundaries of what is socially and artistically acceptable in an effort to provokc, inflame and instigate discussions about issues that normally remain firmiy ensconced on the campuses of liberal arts colleges. Anyone who has gazed on the art of Georges Seurat, the nineteenth-century pointillist painter, played with an Etch-A-Sketch or even seen Crop Circles knows that the only way to understand a work is to step back and examine it in its entirety. Fake the details out of context and the point is completely missed. Certainly, the language that Mathcrs uses is not especially palatable, but each word is an individual thread used to make up a much larger tapestry. Read a passage from Mark Twain's, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and the racial slurs in the text would lead one to believe that Twain was himself a racist. However, once it is understood that it is the voice of the characters being expressed and not the opinion of the author, the use of the epithets take their prop- er place. Elton John, who recently performed with Eminem at the Grammy's, is a gay man who is able to pierce through the veil of controversy to make his own choices. John states, "As a gay artist, I'm asked by a lot of people, 'But what about the content of Emincm's music?' It appeals to my English black sense of humor" Elton John perceives that Eminem is a performance artist who is attempting to follow in the footsteps of the late, great Andy Kaufman. Kaufman, a pioneer in blurring the line between entertainment and reality consistently refused to ever "wink" at his audience by acknowledging that his out- landish statements were all part of the show, and Eminem continues in this same tradi- tion. Occasionally a glimpse behind the curtain of his parody is provided, as from the lyrics of "Who Knew?" "Get aware, wake up, get a sense of humor. Quit trying to censor music. This is for your kids amusement. But don't blame me when little Eric jumps of the to;race. You should have been watching him. Apparently, you ain't parents. " Eminem is an imp and a provocateur - a role that he clearly relishes. But tt~ give valid- ity to his tongue-and-cheek extremism by believing that he is, as George W. Bush puts it "the most dangerous threat to American children since polio" is to assume that the learned behavior that leads to homophobia and misogyny is culled from the airwaves and not the home. The seeds that grow into an ideology of hate are never planted by artists like Eminem; Look Closer, Paul S. Katz, a New York City-based freelance writer, grew up in Beverly Hills / 1 I March 8 - 14, 2001 " 5