I have thought long and hard about whether I was even going to blog about this. I think the likes of Peter Madden and Bob Katter get too much airtime for their bigotry and discriminative antics as it is.
And “antics” is what I’ve finally settled on calling it. There is nothing logical about the arguments they pose against marriage equality, and after having firsthand experience attempting a conversation with Mr. Madden last Sunday, all I could do was walk away shaking my head.
There is no doubt that many of the statements that Mr. Madden has made over the course of his “political” career have been nothing short of sensationalised media ploys, which in my opinion have worked. After all, we all know his name!
In particular, the media coverage that “That Truck” generated, especially within our own community media, which dominated stories and news feeds for days. This drew much more attention to the message he was spreading, and without doubt seeded the large amount of submissions made to the senate inquiry earlier this week, which I would like to think impacted the quantity of submissions from both sides.
There is no doubt in my mind that the messages the truck was spreading were discriminatory and ill-informed, and I can understand the passion and emotional distress that these messages would bring to members of our community. Messages promoting a so called “dark side” of same-sex marriage and a perceived link between homosexuality and pedophilia are not appropriate in today’s society.
But as many sources tell, including his own, his freedom of speech allowed him to do this.
Kristina Keneally this week spoke against the O’Farrell governments “Get Clover” bill and I quote from her opening paragraph:
“I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.”
Unfortunately this concept, this principle of democracy, is one that I hold dear. If it was not for this democratic principle we would not be on the cusp of equality. Period.
It was not that long ago when we were the sole figures in a park suffering the barrage of anti-gay sentiment. The members of CAMP, the Mardi Gras 78ers all suffered, at times brutally, for their voice. In fact, their voice was illegal by nature of what they were saying, and many were jailed and institutionalised for their freedom of speech.
So to that end, I must defend and respect Peter’s right to speak his truth, even though I, like many many others, don’t like it. I defend this right as it also affords me the right of reply.
I’m still not really sure why I went to Hyde Park on Sunday. I think I expected to see a peaceful sit-in of marriage equality supporters and a structured and civil display of debate between Peter Madden and equality supporters. After all, Peter Madden was going to the park alone to talk with anyone who questioned his messages. Whether or not this was yet another stunt by Madden only he knows.
And a peaceful debate it should have been. We are fighting for a world where we are all free, equal, accepted and respected, regardless of our differences.
What I experienced was a display of activism gone a little too far. We were clearly the majority, and I would say by 200 to one. What a contrast this seems to the meetings of CAMP in the 70’s where members of our community were the minority to a very loud crowd.
It was hard to move my way through the angry protestors to speak with him. While I do not debate our right to speak in response, or the anger of those present, the constant drowning out of the crowd with loudspeakers and chanting made conversation with the man near impossible. Additionally, the crowd went into waves of uproar over statements he made, which made debating these statements equally challenging.
The deafening chants and disrespectful comments thrown back at him were in my opinion a little over-zealous and unnecessary. The opportunity to present a different side of what he was saying to him was mainly lost from the over-zealous protest attitude of the crowd. Loudspeakers being used one foot from his ear to get a point across multiple times, chanting, screaming and yelling.
In my opinion we only gave him further fodder for his description of angry and hostile “screaming homosexual activists” as described on stand4marriage.org.au.
When I finally did receive an opportunity to meet him face to face, I introduced myself to him and I shook his hand. Not because I respected him, but I did so to show that I came to talk to him with peaceful intent. If he is representing the teachings of God, then I was adamant I would speak to him with my idea of what those teachings are too.
He seemed shocked that I would do this. Not many of those who where speaking to him were treating him in a peaceful manner.
I have always said that in order to win this battle, the greater battle of equality, acceptance and respect, we must act toward each other, as well as those who do not accept us, in the way to which we want to be treated.
How can we expect the values we are so desperate to achieve when we cannot display them ourselves?
So to that end I met Peter with acceptance, respect and tolerance for his difference of opinion.
As I asked him questions, asked him why he feels a certain way, what he believed and what he wanted to achieve, I quickly realised that this was never going to be an argument I could respectfully win. At the very least I could present my point of view and move on, and I am proud that I have met such an oppressor head on and managed to articulate my disappointment towards his “antics” and messages yet remain calm and respectful to the messenger.
I was going to provide a re-cap of our conversation here, but really it is pointless. His arguments fell down when presented with correct statistics and logical arguments, and I really don’t want to give his messages any more air time except to say that I found him extremely frustrating.
I have noticed though, that he hasn’t blogged, press released or updated his websites since Sunday. Maybe the news of the amount of overwhelmingly positive submissions to the senate inquiry has silenced him? Maybe for a while anyway. I am sure he will return with another truck, or website or message linking hate to those who are different in the not too distant future.
In the end we agreed to disagree, but we did agree that we were on opposite sides of an ideological war. That there is a social evolution taking place (where he correctly reminded us that he did not believe in evolution) and that we would come out the other side either victorious of defeated.
I just hope that the side that comes out on top does so having won the battle with respect, openness, acceptance and tolerance for these differences of opinions.
Because it was not so long ago that we were the oppressed solo figures in a park, trying to get our point across to the majority whilst being shouted down. And isn’t this acceptance, this respect, this civility, this freedom to be who we are, what we’re fighting for?