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ANDERSON: Why I voted against a rainbow crosswalk

Image Credit: Contributed by author
October 27, 2016 - 12:00 PM

THE RAINBOW HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS A SYMBOL OF INCLUSIVENESS. BUT IN FACT IT'S BECOME ONE OF THE MOST DIVISIVE ISSUES I'VE SEEN IN THIS CITY.


OPINION


I usually try to keep my position as Councillor separate from my columns, but I'm going to break that rule this time. The question of rainbow sidewalks came before Council recently. 

The way this works is that someone makes a presentation to Council and then asks for some action to be taken. At the following meeting, Council can either vote to "receive" the presentation, in which case nothing is done and it dies abornin', or to receive it and take some specified action. As it turned out, another member of Council made a motion to install a crosswalk, as requested by the presenter. We all voted on it and it was passed. I'm the only one who dissented, and this is a modified version of the speech I gave against it:

There are any number of valid reasons to say no to the crosswalk. The cost is significantly more, the precedent it sets gives Council no logical grounds to deny other requests for special signals, distraction, lawsuits, vandalism... all of them are perfectly valid and worthy of discussion. But those reasons, frequently brought up by folks who object to the crosswalks, skirt the real issue in my opinion. And no, it's not "homophobia."

First, we were given meanings of each colour in the rainbow, and it was very informative. So informative in fact that I looked it up, and it turns out there are dozens of interpretations of the colours of the rainbow, some of them conflicting. Red, for example, in one interpretation, stands for Eros, Greek god of love, and in another Mars, Roman god of war.  Be that as it may, the thrust of the presentation was that the rainbow signified inclusion, and "doesn't just stand for LBGQ."

But it does. The colours may have specific meanings on their own, but everyone understands very well that taken as a whole, the rainbow has been adopted by the LGBQ cause as a flag, and it is universally understood to stand for that cause. To the extent that it's a symbol of inclusiveness or diversity, it is only as a subtext to the larger meaning it holds. There are literally hundreds of symbols out there for diversity, many of them without appeal to race, gender, sexuality or any other exclusive category. The rainbow symbol is not one of them. That is neither good nor bad, but it is a fact that ought to be recognized.

Second, identity politics has done more damage to social relations in north America in recent years than anything else I can think of.  And there's a reason for that... it emphasizes differences rather than things we share. For example, I'm a heterosexual. I'm also a white male, a father, a city councillor, a writer, a businessman, a fisherman and a host of other identities. When someone asks me who I am, I would never answer that I'm a heterosexual. That alone doesn't define me. That defines only what I do in the privacy of my own home, not who I am. No one I know defines themselves solely in terms of their sexuality alone. Let me quote a paragraph from an article by Andrew Coyne about identity politics: "There’s a certain reductionism in defining people solely in terms of one or even two dimensions of identity. Each of us is the unique intersection of any number of different group identities. To elevate the relatively trivial differences between different groups over the profound differences between us as individuals can only be achieved by ascribing a false homogeneity to members of the same group: as if there were a woman’s view of the law, or a man’s for that matter. It is the very opposite of inclusivity."

Third, a former Prime Minister once said that the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, yet here we are contemplating painting the bedrooms of the nation in the middle of the street. It is not the business of any level of government to wade into the culture wars. Our society is made up of diverse groups of people who believe a diversity of opinions, some opposed to others. Most people are quite willing to accommodate the beliefs and lifestyles of other people, and our ability to function as a society depends on that willingness. But it is NOT the place of city council to use peoples' own tax dollars to tell them what they should believe. 

Which brings me to the fourth point. The rainbow has been described as a symbol of inclusiveness. But in fact it's become one of the most divisive issues I've seen in this city. Local social media is filled with vitriol on both sides of the issue. As a council, we have had more emails on this issue than on almost any other issue, about 90% of them against the crosswalk. Personally, I've had numerous phone calls and emails... all of them asking me not to support the crosswalk, and not one a form letter.  So I have to ask...is this truly a symbol of inclusion? Because it sure seems to have caused a lot of unnecessary divisiveness. Imagine for a moment if a Christian group or an Islamic group asked us to paint their symbols on crosswalks, and told us, quite accurately from their point of view, that they mean them to be symbols of love and inclusiveness. Imagine the backlash if we endorsed one of them.

If we truly want to paint a symbol of inclusiveness, it should be a neutral symbol and not a symbol attached to an ideological or moral cause. If we want to paint a symbol of inclusiveness that's not going to get anyone's shorts into a twist, I can't think of a better symbol than the Canadian flag. 

When I posted the above reasons for my vote on a local community Facebook group, most people received it like adults whether they agreed or not. It generated a mix of reactions, both pro and con, and I even had a couple of  private messages from gay/lesbian people who agreed with me: one because he thought it was a "waste of money" and another because she thought it singled her out rather than made her feel included. But the usual suspects - the would-be social justice warriors - spewed the usual bile and vitriol, invoking Hitler and visiting all the demons of whatever special hell they believe in on anyone who disagreed with them for any reason at all... proving my point better than I ever could. It will not change anyone's mind about anything, or "educate" anyone away from whatever belief system they adhere to, but it will certainly engender a backlash.

Whatever good intentions the idea of the crosswalk may have begun with, it will do nothing but cause disharmony.

— Scott Anderson does a lot of stuff. His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, Counterterrorism, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode. Not surprisingly, he is also an unashamed knuckle-dragging conservative, or so he's told all the time.


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