On tolerating homosexuals and such...
Almost two decades ago, a group of mostly men proposed to march through Half-Way-Tree in Kingston in support of tolerance for homosexual rights. When the news got around, the group was forced, in the interest of its safety, to abandon the plan.
That we've come a long way since then is evident from the report in yesterday's edition of our sister title, the Observer West, concerning the inaugural tolerance walk sponsored by Jamaica Aids Support for Life (JASL).
According to JASL, the march was designed to engender goodwill, support and tolerance for persons living with HIV and AIDS.
However, the truth is that many of the marchers were homosexuals and prostitutes, groups that have not quite gained wholesale acceptance in our society. Indeed, if we care to be honest about it, the practical difference between yesterday's carefully worded exercise and an outright march for gay rights would have been razor-thin at best.
Yet march they did -- safely -- through a very public route in a country that is still largely intolerant of homosexuality and judgmental by any standard. Now that is progress worthy of comment. Because the years of hostility towards these particular minorities, as well as others, have done little to better our society.
Jamaica is no safer, holier, or healthier than it was decades ago when these groups were further back in the closet.
Indeed, there is a valid argument that the suppression of these groups through legislation and other societal pressures has facilitated the spread of the deadly HIV/AIDS virus which is often mistakenly associated with them.
The coarsening effect of our culture of intolerance has made our society almost impossible to govern.
The courts are creaking under a case load that owes much of its weight to murder and other violent crimes; the behaviour of the executive has, over the years, descended into a crassness that makes for embarrassing reading; and our legislative legacy is replete with anachronistic laws which are simply being ignored by much of the society.
That we cannot continue this way is beyond dispute.
We will, eventually, fulfil the prophesy in the very late great crooner Sam Cooke's lyric, A change is gonna come.
Maybe the change won't take the drastic and sensational format of a complete overhaul of the buggery laws just yet, but over time the dialogue will become more informed and the stigmas which have undermined our progress will continue to fall away.
Wednesday's walk was but another stage in the process.
In time there will be other such events.
It is our hope that they will meet with the same amount of tolerance, not because we carry any brief for them, but for the sake of our development as a nation.
Because whether we like it or not, the fact is that even as we continue to hang on to the past, the world is moving on... without us.
At the same time, the homosexual community needs to cease its offensive attempts to ram acceptance of that lifestyle down the throats of the majority of people in this country. For that will only perpetuate the hostility that people feel towards them.