The Wrong Side Of History

If North Carolina saw this picture, Amendment 1 wouldn't have passed.

As both a history buff and a big fan of worrying about totally pointless things, I spent a lot of time in high school worrying about just how big of an asshole I would’ve been if I’d been alive in another time period.

For example, I’ve never really given Thomas Jefferson a pass for owning (and fucking) slaves while simultaneously penning the ‘all men are created equal’ parts of the Declaration of Independence. A lot of people in my AP US History class in high school argued that he was alive during a different time, and his actions were reflective of a society that erroneously believed that black people weren’t people, just like how nowadays we erroneously believe that Kim Kardashian is newsworthy.

I always felt like that was sort of a cop out, though – there was an abolitionist movement at the time and all of the other founding fathers eventually freed their slaves, so clearly some people were feeling guilty about the whole deal, but there’s Thomas Jefferson, one of the architects of freedom and democracy, basically acting out the lyrics of Brown Sugar until his last dying breath.

What I think is that he knew, on some level, that slavery was bad news, but that it was such an inconvenient truth that he kept it buried and tried not to think about it that hard, seeing as slavery was making him and his friends very rich. In the end, Jefferson had the good fortune to die long before it became clear that he was on the wrong side of history.

That’s the thing that I worried about – The Wrong Side Of History. I like to think of myself as a pretty open minded guy – a 21st century liberal looking back and condemning a couple centuries of America’s truly impressive prejudice – but there was always that voice in the back of my head:  

Get off your high horse, asshole. The rude voice would say. If you were born and raised in a time where everyone you knew took some grave social injustice for granted and only an entrenched minority opposed it, you’d probably go right along with the flow. Remember how stoked you were for Snakes on a Plane?

I mean, it’s a valid thing to ask – if, say, I grew up in an upper middle class white family in the Deep South in the 1960s, would I just be cool with racism, or do I, Truman Capps, have some sort of superior ethics hardwired into my DNA that would make me realize the injustice of it all regardless of what society thought?

I’d really like to think that I’d recognize the evil of discrimination and post lots of Martin Luther King Jr. quotes on Facebook or whatever the hell people did back then, but if I’d grown up in a loving family where the Civil Rights Movement was looked on as a bunch of rabble rousing and I had no interactions with black people to teach me otherwise, I can see how easy it’d be to go with the flow and wind up on the wrong side of history.

Now, I don’t want to draw too many parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and gay rights today, because there’s a lot of differences between a thoroughly disenfranchised minority group descended from slaves struggling against a violent establishment for the basic rights to life and Neil Patrick Harris having to go to New York to get married, save for the fact that both are shitty things America has done to people who should’ve been treated as equals.

That being said, I think the gay rights movement now is certainly the closest we’ve been to that sort of upheaval in some time. Unlike abortion, which is going to divide America forever, public support for gay marriage has been steadily growing, and I predict that those of you who have children will one day tell them about when gay rights had to be fought for and weren’t just taken for granted - sort of a How I Met Your Other Mother situation, if you will.

I mean, people at my high school were publicly saying things about gay people that you wouldn’t say now. During a class debate, one of my teachers pointed out that if we legalized gay marriage, next we’d have to let people marry their dogs. When Measure 36, Oregon’s equivalent of North Carolina’s bullshit, was up to a vote in 2004, a girl in one of my classes blurted out, ”Gayness is wrong!” when the teacher called her name during roll call, and most of the class was fine with it.

Hell, one of the most popular people at my high school was openly gay, and his best friend was a conservative Christian girl who I watched argue against gay marriage right in front of him, talking about how it was against God’s will or some bullshit like that.*

*Gay marriage is as much against God’s will as wearing a polycarbon shirt. Leviticus 19:19.

That sort of bigotry is becoming increasingly taboo outside the Bible Belt. Alternative lifestyles are moving closer to the mainstream, thanks to Lady Gaga, Glee, and It Gets Better, among others.

I’m not 100% clean, either – the word ‘fag’ gets bandied around a couple times in Writers, which, while far from a massive affront to the gay community, is still considerably less acceptable now than it was when we wrote and shot the show four years ago. At the time, we didn’t think twice about having Mike call me ‘faggotpants’ in an episode; now, although I may be overly sensitive, I don’t know if I’d write that line again. Yep, 2008 was a simpler time… 

So yeah, what happened in North Carolina makes me mad, and what President Obama said made me happy, and the Republican response made me mad again, but in the end I’m smiling, because I know how all this is going to end.

I try with limited success to present my political opinions as just that – opinions. I can understand why some of my friends will vote for Mitt Romney or post Tea Party images on Facebook, and I they’re not necessarily any more right or wrong than I am for feeling the way they do. But gay marriage is different.

If you’re opposed to gay marriage, you’re wrong.

You’re on the wrong side of history. You may disagree with me, but in 15 or 20 years you’ll know that we were right about this thing and you were wrong. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It does mean you might be a little sheepish about admitting your support for a number of contemporary politicians and public figures in your later years.*

*If this offends you, feel free to shoot me a Facebook message. I’d really like to discuss this with you in a rational, profanity free manner.  

Rick Santorum will be the new Strom Thurmond, while the rest of the GOP will, in the coming years, tone down their anti-gay rhetoric and pretend it never happened, just like they do with literally everything else. The next generation is going to be shocked that Rick Perry could ever be a contender for the presidency after releasing a commercial where he says that gays serving openly in the military is destroying America.

”It was a different time,” we’ll explain. ”His actions were reflective of a society that erroneously believed that homosexuality was an unhealthy lifestyle choice. People weren’t too bright back then – Truman Capps’ blog was getting, like, over 100 hits a day at the time…

Truman Capps wasn’t kidding – he’s seriously topping 100 hits a day.