The prompt (from Huck Finn):
“It was a close place. I took . . . up [the letter I’d written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.”
This week, think about Huck’s words and actions in the above scene. Which belief or assumption of the people around you would you like to similarly reject? Why? What can you do to assert your beliefs?
This quote is taken from the most pivotal point in the book. In Huck’s internal conflict, he struggles to decide between helping Jim gain freedom and thus losing his own, or turning Jim in and keeping his lawful conscience but losing his moral equilibrium. Huck felt trapped until he realized he really had nothing to lose in helping Jim and being a nonconformist. However, for many in modern society, the deviation from the norm is not quite as simple as ripping a letter.
In many young LGBTQ adults, the pressure is immense to fit in with the societal norm of being straight and cisgender. Bullying, discrimination, and even laws are set in place to limit the comfort of these LGBTQ people. LGBTQ allies (people that are straight but advocate for LGBTQ rights) face much of this same discrimination. The bullies are most often Christians who use the book of Leviticus from the bible as reference to justify their remorse for LGBTQ citizens. While the bible also preaches loving everybody and refraining from judgment many times more, it does not matter, as the bullies have already chosen the path in which they will lead society to enslaving the LGBTQ community.
Similarly, Jim was discriminated, bullied, and his freedom limited by law. Huck, an ally to Jim, became transparent by ripping the letter, thus making him a target for discrimination too. In the bible belt, where most of the slaves were kept, religion persuaded the majority of people to justify keeping slaves. Leviticus, the same book that supposedly condemns gay actions, also condones slavery. In Leviticus 25:44-46, the book says “As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.” While the bible was written thousands of years earlier, slave-owners still relied on this quote as justification for abusing another human.
Obviously, there are many parallels between the two cascades of LGBTQ and African-American discrimination. I’m against both slavery and LGBTQ discrimination (duh), and I think I’ve done a good job at asserting my beliefs by becoming a co-president of the Gay-Straight Alliance. It is a club that has faced years of backlash. In the beginning, the club had to be held way after school hours in the black box of the theatre room so no one in the club could be harmed by bullies. Years later, while still facing a good amount of hatred, we can have the club in a teacher’s classroom and we can even host the Day of Silence, a day of remembrance and recognition of the bullying at hand. When trying to make a controversial stance, one cannot be passive. It must be a proactive fight for the rights supposedly granted by the constitution. To those who still want to use the bible as justification for hatred, I give you this: the bible vaguely mentions homosexuality less than 15 times…it mentions love 300-500 times, depending on which version you read. If you want to ignore that exponential function of love over hate, go ahead. But to me, that is reason enough to justify my own beliefs, and I’m not even Christian.