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Liberty and Justice for None

Liberty and Justice for None


My name is Thomas Dekker. I am 22 years old, and I tend to live under a rock. By this, I stress, I am usually the last person to hear about, let alone vocalize opinions or feelings on, political, media-related, religious, or societal interests in general. Take this as a pretentious rebel-like attitude toward subverting topics of current interest or probably, in essence, good-old fashioned laziness and inaction regarding the importance of societal decisions.

Sadly -- wait for it -- I am an actor. And the only reason I write this meandering, pointless preamble about myself, in something I wish to not center on myself one bit, is so that I at least know that any of the two and a half people who might read this, and certainly the one and a half who might have an opinion on it, adverse or otherwise, will hopefully at least have an entrance to my opinion, through my own words of character. That way, I can't bitch later to my friends, saying, "Why did this one person who sort of knew me from a TV show I was on that got canceled accuse me of being political for publicity?" Now you know, from my own lips, I could give two shits about gaining any fans or haters.

I write this because I have had an emotional reaction to something, a deep reaction, that I feel should have struck me harder a long time ago. This being the night of August 4, you might have guessed that my words are in swift conjunction with the throwing out of Proposition 8 here in California. I'm assuming, seeing as even I know what this prop was (imagine that), that you already know what this meant for human beings. It was a proposition that condemned same-sex marriage, breaking a constitutional right, and more importantly, the idea that God had a scrap of forgiveness ... or love. When the proposition was passed, I was living here in California (working away on the aforementioned canceled television series) and was hearing much about it. As I work in an industry that is at least thought to be driven by quote-unquote "artistic types," you can guess I was surrounded by a lot of interest in humane and, I suppose, by the state of the rest of America's opinion, "out-of-the-box" thinkers. However, and this is where I get all self-sabotage, I didn't really care about it. I wasn't moved by it. It didn't register with me ... I did protests with my good friend Lena Headey, a heterosexual married woman who now has a beautiful child with her husband, my good friend Pete, but it didn't really upset me. I chalk this up to youth and a lower level of understanding. I have known, and know, that in the eyes of many conservative, established, religious constitutions, homosexuality is deemed wrong, depraved, perverted, and against God himself. Because I knew this, my pessimistic attitude leaned toward the idea that right and wrong, always lost in the face of organized bigotry, and thus the fight for something greater was a losing battle. Maybe subconsciously that was part of my influence in my lack of interest and energy at the time.

To equate a deep personal discovery with something as mundane as a job seems even further disgusting, but I am going to do just that. I did a film called All About Evil (I'm sure the Mormon Church would have a field day with that one) in April of 2009. We shot it in San Francisco. This was an independent film that spoke to the love of the subversive, the transgressive, but more importantly, the love of community. The love born out of a community made up of people who needed to build their own home, as the, if you will, larger, stately home of politics and religious morality, did not have a place for them.

Now, the prevailing "types" I am speaking of consisted of performance artists, drag queens, cult film and music lovers, and supporters of the strange and the "queer." These people don't really in essence have anything to do with religious or political movements in the face of societal importance and doctrine. I mention this world, as it refers to me. Because it was here that I suddenly understood what the anger, desperation, and pain of those affected by something like Prop. 8 were really going through. One of my costars and good friends told me a funny story while we were filming. A distant aunt of his had said, "This is so great you are getting to enjoy an acting career, what you love to do. But I have to ask, as you have done a horror film, and now this, a celebration of cultlike entertainment, are you no longer a Christian, and have you turned your back on God?" This really struck me. The idea that people of all kinds, gay, straight, alternative, a girl who liked hockey, and a boy who liked opera, had to automatically have rejected the notion of God, and yes, I'll take the plunge, Jesus. That they were sick, unhappy, and above all, so misguided that it leads only to depravity and cruelty in the eyes of God. Suddenly I understood how something like Prop. 8 actually did apply to me and those close to me. Just maybe not in an overtly obvious way.

Since I'm not about to make my opinions any less convenient to subsidize, my parents, who raised me through and through, were freethinkers, open-minded, and yes, let's make it easy to condemn, "hippies." No, they didn't go around painting the house with flowers or teaching me how to make my own fucking yogurt, but they did believe that peace and love came through acceptance, and the ideal that all were equal in the eyes of God. My father, married three times and quite a notorious womanizer, (sorry, Dad, you know it's true) was often picked on, beaten up, and dismissed as, yes, a "faggot." This was because he was a painter, an opera singer, and a lover of all things brewing with sensitivity. He told me of these instances when I was very young to illustrate to me that each person has their own set of rules, their own set of emotional directions, and yes, their own place in this world.

My parents are not atheists. They're also not in church every day. And neither am I. That said, I and they believe in God. A higher power. A higher truth. Something that concocted all the beauty and complexity that drives humanity. I have suddenly, at my ripe old age, become aware of what a gift it is, to be raised by people like this. To know that if some massive transformation hit me tomorrow, I could tell them I was now Jewish or a Catholic priest or a homosexual. I put these three together, even though they might seem to be in opposition to each other on the "nature versus nurture" theory, because I believe who you are is what you are born as. And yes, there are ex-Catholics, ex-Jews, and ex-gays, but what lives in your heart, whatever rules, regulations, disputes, and prejudices that you may come to disagree or agree with cause, you are born with an unchangeable and fervent pull to certain ideals, thoughts, emotions, and instincts. My family had gay friends, gay colleagues, gay couples, and several of my childhood friends were adopted by gay parents. And yet, (wait for it!!) ... none of them molested me. None of them, at any point, turned me or my parents gay. None of them made me think Prince Charming was the boyfriend of Cinderella the drag queen.

If you really want to know the truth, and no, I have never spoken of this publicly, I was molested for a long period of time as a child by a retired marine who was happily married with two children. Maybe these experiences have lead me to the personal outlook I arrive at now.

I am less interested in the religious/political "qualifications" of something like Proposition 8 and more interested/terrified by the true root of where the desire for such propositions come from. And you can call it preserving marriage, pleasing God, saving our future, or whatever bold Thomas Hardy novel-esque title card you want to place on it, but this fear, this plan, and this hope of the people behind the proposition comes from hate. I recently (as I have been on a documentary kick of all kinds lately) saw 8: The Mormon Proposition and beheld in the film a pro-Prop. 8 picketer saying, "I don't want to get fucked in the ass by a queer," and in my mind, I screamed, "There it is." Beyond all the propaganda and bullshit, that is the true root of this desire to deny homosexuals happiness and equality. In the eyes of a man like this, they are disgusting, vile, and perverted creatures of sin. Well, on a personal note, I am surrounded by gay people. Singles, couples, families, artists, and accountants, and, hey, guess what, my asshole is doing just fine. It's been uninvaded. It's almost as if, oh, my God, it's not a fucking infectious disease.

Now, those last few sentences were rather accusatory and angry. I do not want that inescapable route of emotion to cloud what I feel is a rather ambivalent opinion I have on the situation at hand. I respect religious beliefs. Even those that do not pertain to me. The same goes for societal standards. But just as I have never, and neither has my family, gone knocking on the doors of nuns, priests, or evangelical crusaders, telling them how their beliefs are wrong, I will not accept those people doing the same to me and those I care for. When this proposition went through, it blurred the lines of decency, opinion, religion, and politics. Politics are boring in comparison to faith. And vice versa. Something as complex, emotionally driven, and life-changing as a relationship with a power that is deemed to be so much stronger than we little humans could ever be should NEVER tangle with the likes of paperwork, media, mass ruling, money, and rudimentary condemnation. This brings me back to what I said about the world I was a part of, making this film in San Francisco. These, yes, even self-proclaimed "freaks of nature" that surrounded me have turned out to be, some of the most decent, kind, understanding, and loving human beings I have ever known. All of those words being the fundamental gifts of Jesus Christ.

As ridiculous as I feel even mentioning it, I have been vegetarian since I was 11. People always ask me if it's for health reasons. Which always forces me to fall into hysterical laughter, seeing as I am an open chain-smoker, hate hiking, and love a nice glass of wine. But neither am I a crazy animal activist throwing cow's blood on children in protest. My theory is this: I have two dogs. They are my friends, and I love them. I am not friends with chickens. However, I'm sure there are parts of the world that would think of eating dog the same as they would chicken. Why would I let my location on this earth differentiate between what is right and what is wrong?

This applies to my feeling on religious condemnation. It seems, at times, the Americans who hate homosexuals are just as quick to bastardize Muslims. Well, I'm sure they would find a lot more links and holes in beliefs in common than they would hope to find. Women, African-Americans, the handicapped, and all of the so-called, at one time or another, second-class citizens have been punished and then years later, as human progression catches up, forgiven and respected. Even if it is only on paper.

Teach your children the word of God, right? Forgiveness, love, understanding, and compassion. Maybe I cared less about this when it all began, because I was incapable of fully understanding that something so archaic and so full of fear and ignorance could possibly be set forth in a serious way in my lifetime and in the new millennium. Where does it end? is the question I pose. Forget human rights and constitutional law and delve deeper into human compassion. In the name of Allah, fly into a couple of towers; in the name of Jesus, rip desperate children from good homes. We are all the same creature. And I ask of you, my fellow age bracket, to hold on to your beliefs and opinions, whatever they are. But let them be your own. Don't place all of your thinking on a line in the Bible. Because at that rate, let's go stone our wives, and above all, don't eat shellfish. They're of equal importance, those teachings, right? Pretty soon, if you're not listening to the radio or watching Transformers 3, you'll be condemned too. There'll be some other line discovered that talks about music played backward and movies that play at one-screen theaters. You will be going to hell.

As a return to having had to state the sad fact that I am an actor, and thus supposedly a more prominent voice to be heard in society (and God knows, I don't believe that crap), I'm sure the three people who might stumble upon this will find many typos, supposed clues to my sexuality, say I'm a raging liberal, asshole, queer, West Coaster; whatever, man, bring it. I'm just a guy who has seen so many people -- religious, straight, atheist, gay, artist, political, believer -- be hurt so badly. They have been told there is no place under the eyes of God for them in this universe, heaven included. Even if you want to believe that Jesus did not plan for or want differences ranging from your taste in food to your taste in partner, and it is some horribly misguided turn that takes place in your youth, I'm sure your big pull for change is the fact that Jesus died for our sins. Well, if he was willing to die, I'm sure he's willing to widen his breadth of forgiveness, don't you? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a gift for all. Let's not abuse it.

To my brothers and sisters, who are gay, straight, preachers, "different," you have my vote for your happiness. For all we know, it may be short-lived, but Wednesday was a small victory for all of you as Proposition 8 was overturned, and I celebrate with you on this. I march for you, and I pray for you; may the cruelty of man's judgment some day reach the divine grace that is God's judgment.
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