There is a certain type of online commentator who rears his head (and they are overwhelmingly male) on issues typically described as liberal concerns: Queer equality, Feminism, social welfare and so on.
I call them Geezer Libertarians. White, male, heterosexual; minimally educated, middle-aged, sub-clinically depressed – their characteristics can easily be read through their statements and their writing styles.
In Britain, these men are caricatured with a supposedly typical signature that might appear on a letter to the editor in The Times or The Telegraph: “Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells”; that city’s name being a byword for everything white, middle-class and complacent.
Wherever they exist, their default posture is outrage, in varying degrees; their emotional stance, scorn for anything that benefits or even pays attention to another demographic; their identifying sound, the splutter.
Their grumbling, carping responses, their symbolic pats on the back and “here here!”s, are the male bonding exercises, the tire-kicking, of men stuck at the emotional and intellectual level of alienated teenagers; the surreptitious glance at the next guy in the shower has been replaced online with a quick glance at his neighbour’s irrelevant opinions; the hope in both cases being that he will measure up, by which he really means, “belong”. At the root is self-imposed male isolation and fear.
If you read the comments to this article, you will see that heterosexual males went approximately crazy with the idea that the police should issue a formal apology for harmful actions in the past. The fact that it concerned (mostly) gay men was the cherry on the red flag – if I may mix my metaphors…
(Backgrounder: On February 5th, 1981, Toronto Police raided three bathhouses, causing substantial property damage and arresting 300 men on “bawdy house” charges. These shocking events galvanized the gay community, who staged a protest to voice their outrage. The events led to Toronto’s first Gay Pride, in June the same year. Fast-forward to June 2016, 35 years later, on the eve of Toronto Pride – now a massive and world-famous event taking place over a month, and drawing over a million people to the city – when Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced that he would formally apologize to the gay community for the raids.)
My favorite comment: “How about everybody apologize for everything!” – a comment so devoid of meaning or substance, of anything except a pathetic cry of “Me too!!”, that I marveled that anyone would actually think they had contributed to an intelligent discussion by posting it. The option of saying nothing when one has nothing to say had apparently not occurred to him.
An apology? Of course. The original actions sent the message to society that gay men were not worthy of respect or dignity; that it was OK to mistreat them. The apology sends the message that it’s not OK, and that we are worthy.
Equal, in fact.