Our brutality breeds brutality


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Category: Reflections 05 Jul 15

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.

—Carl Jung; Memories Dreams and Reflections.

In London last Sunday, in the humidity of a heatwave, I decided to walk through the park to the National Portrait Gallery. I walked slowly, stopping first for a takeaway coffee, I noticed a man and woman sitting across from one another because they were holding hands, not across the table, not under the table, but slightly suspended over the table, making an arch. She was of Indian origin. Dark, short hair. He was slightly overweight, with white, blonde hair leaning into her as she was to him. They saw no one. They looked at one another as if trying to memorise the other. I looked away. Even though it was a public space, I felt I was intruding on a private moment.

It is these moments, I thought, walking down my secret steps to the park, that make all the frustrations of the world bearable. Connecting with somebody so completely that you shut the world out. As I walked through St James park, the courtyard white with sun, the palace guard soldiers, stoic in red uniforms, unsmiling, impervious to the antics of tourists who tried to break their veneer by making monkey faces at them, I thought of dignity. Then I saw dignity; the gay and lesbian couples.

We were walking in sunshine, looking at the profusion of summer flowers, the daisies sloping by the lake, the formal bluebells in the garden beds, heavy green branches dancing in the sun, throwing its shade about here and swans gliding by the willow.

It was a day to be in the open with someone you love. It was not a day to be holed up in a closet. I saw them then. Same-sex couples holding hands. Unlike the couple in the coffee shop, these couples looked up at the passersby to see their reaction. You could see the hesitations. This was new to them. This time, I didn’t look away but spoke to them, the women holding hands with women, the men with men, with my eyes, with complicity.

“I’m so glad you’re free.”

I thought of the idea of a closet. Airless, shut, dark, secret, menacing. I thought of the hate crimes towards gay and lesbian people in Jamaica; that homosexuality remained illegal in T&T; of the gratuitous cruelty towards the gay and lesbian community with derogatory remarks the homophobic wouldn’t use towards their dogs.

In London, the community was speaking with their eyes. Once I began looking, I saw them everywhere that Sunday. Gay and lesbian couples walking hand in hand, heads held high. It was new to them to be demonstrative in public. They were exuberant, sheepish, defiant, emotional, relieved.

It wasn’t the unselfconscious tableau I witnessed in the coffee shop because the dominant emotion was relief. The freedom was so fresh, so new. The US Supreme Court made marriage for same-sex couples legal nationwide the Friday before, declaring that refusing to grant marriage licences to gay and lesbian couples violates the Constitution.

The majority opinion in the five-four decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,”

Kennedy wrote. “As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.”

The Whitehouse was awash with rainbow colours. In Trinidad, there is a taboo associated with writing about the gay and lesbian community because homosexuality is still illegal here. We are that backward. I sense the anguish, the loneliness, the persistent sense of being outsiders in the gays and lesbians.

In our crude, largely illiterate society where machismo has destroyed so many boys, sent them to prison, and abandoned girls to early pregnancy, it’s time we stop being bullies, look at our own infractions and allow equal rights to all our citizens.

Because I’m telling you, if the gay and lesbian community is not being treated equally, well, neither are the poor, nor are domestic workers, nor are the ill, nor are the elderly, nor are the lonely, nor are people in remote rural areas, nor are the illiterate, nor are the disabled.

Our brutality breeds brutality. Our attitude towards the gay and lesbian community shows intolerance for everyone who is discriminated against. The forgotten, the spurned, the invisible amidst us need healing hands. They have been suffocated, judged, ridiculed. That tells us everything about us. Can we look within our hearts and unlock the prejudices within us that will ultimately make us all free? I was thinking all this and when I arrived at the National Portrait Gallery, I saw a flag above it; it had rainbow colours. Art is the embodiment of freedom of expression.

I remembered Obama saying, “When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.” Once we help our lonely friends out of the closet we celebrate with them because even as they emerge from darkness, they will allow each of us in our own way to confront and free ourselves from the loneliness of the skeletons in our own cupboards.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur