Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The recent trouble that NBA basketball player Tim Hardaway has found himself in gives us lots to consider (“NBA sanctions ex-star Hardaway following anti-gay tirade,” February 17). Firstly, since when does a single sentence (“I hate gay people.”) amount to a “tirade?” By definition, a tirade is a long, vehement speech. And in any event, Mr. Hardaway is free to like or hate anything he chooses. So are we all. But perhaps he said more in his radio comments than was printed in the newspaper? Or, maybe in today’s world any criticism of anybody amounts to a “tirade?” I hope not, because it unduly infringes on our freedom of expression, and it is just plain silly to misuse a word like that. But it may indicate the intolerance with which a society now regards its own citizens exercising their legitimate legal rights.
Secondly, no doubt Hardaway’s remarks are also called “homophobic” by many, despite the absence of any sense of fear in his expression. But that’s the way it is, isn’t it? Lacking any word in the language to describe “dislike” of homosexuality, any expression of dislike is immediately translated, reported and absorbed by society as fear, or“phobia.” I think it has become an ideological association. Dislike equals fear, and one’s preferences are used as a kind of litmus test to evaluate not only your deepest, heartfelt ideas, but your entire social suitability as well - suitability to run for public office, suitability to be a high-profile,
role modeling athlete, suitability to be an educator, suitability to be a television personality, etc.
Thirdly, America has a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. That means that people are mostly free to say with impunity, not just think, anything they please. And yet, employers, schools, governments try to deny impunity and control thought by rewarding (sanctioning) desirable language/ideas and, alternately, punishing (sanctioning) undesirable ones. The administration of President Bush does this on the national security front by sanctioning acceptable political expression, and punishing unacceptable ones according to Washington neoconservatives’ thinking on the matter. In the case of Hardaway, money is a prime motivator - deny him product endorsement contracts, participation in lucrative league events, etc. to control his thinking, or at least his speech. It’s an easy tool to use in America, because they love their money so.
But I feel that the whole thing is really silly, although I could be wrong.
Published on Sunday, February 25th as “Freedom to dislike anything.”
This brings up a point that I have tried to make in conversation with people for years. I almost got into an argument with my minister back in Canada over it. There is no vocabulary in our language to express dislike of gays, so any expression of dislike is translated in the popular language as “anti” gay language - which in today’s North American environment is an easily osecutable offense. I think perhaps we ought to find a word - make one up - that expresses dislike of gays, and make it an acceptable alternative. The onus is not on those who oppose gay rights or gay lifestyle on the basis of dislike to change their views. The onus is on everyone else to stop mislabeling dislike as antipathy. In Japan there is a tendency to equate understanding with agreement, so a distinction like the one I am proposing - between affection for homosexuality and acceptance of it - might be a more difficult
idea to communicate.