HAVANA TIMES, March 13 — Luis Miguel (better known to readers by his nickname “Luismi”) is an excellent reader, commenter and an occasional blogger with Havana Times. Some time ago, motivated by his intelligent, lively and the peculiar use of language in his comments, I was compelled to write a post complimenting his viewpoints (“Luismi is My Favorite”).
Today, however, I have to honestly disagree with him. I’m referring to a comment by him concerning the post “Orgasms, Prostitution and Monika Krause,” by my colleague Maria Matienzo.
His comments were unequivocally homophobic. In his first sentence he wrote, “…I’m not sure that sexual diversity is normal,” and he then continued his comment by saying, “One of the possible causes for the extinction of Neanderthal man was homosexuality. No wonder a law was established in Athens requiring copulation with women.”
He reached the limit a few lines on down when he tried to re-clothe his philosophy with what was nothing other than intolerance, incomprehension and stigmatization. He stated:
“As you can see from this letter, in the strict sense of the word, homosexuality represents a rupture in the continuity of a system. In medical terms, it is a disease.”
“It’s clear that we must not blame anyone for contracting it, just as no one is reproached for succumbing to cancer or other diseases,” he added.
Luismi caps off his horrendous comment by saying, “No one (gay) should be recriminated,” and then contradicting himself by launching a direct attack against Maria Matienzo he wrote, “The problem is that this girl (Maria) bothers me with her exclusively sexual (homosexual) articles. By the way, all that about her having fallen in love with a woman bothers me that much more.”
With such an unfortunate comment (one that would be expected from such sinister inquisitors of Cuban culture in the 1970s like the censors Luis Pavon, Papito Serguera or Armando Quesada, but never from a young man who presents himself to all of us as a philosopher), Luismi is calling into question his condition not only as a thinker, but also as someone capable of basic respect.
Philosophy is an art, a profession and a science that contains all its grace — perhaps its only grace — in its wealth, refinement and, above all, in its unbiased ideas. This is why his ideas catch ones attention.
It’s an extremely dictatorial act to ask someone to change, and much more so when it involves something they cannot change. If homophobia, sexism, racism, nationalism and the many other isms are not constantly watched and attacked by thinking people, what will remain for those who don’t see themselves in any of those categories?
I would like start my criticism of Luismi by telling a personal though simple story that could illustrate to him the wrong and harmfulness of prejudice.
Two years ago, chatting with a friend and his wife, I showed them the pictures of my girlfriend at that time. When seeing the photo, the wife of my friend automatically asked me, “But you have a BLACK girlfriend!?” She was horrified.
The wife of my friend, a woman who appears to everyone as unprejudiced and intelligent, automatically revealed through that attitude that she wasn’t. Her “openness” was no more than a front useful for appearing to be an interesting person so she that could get ahead in the unprejudiced art world.
The wife of my friend — despite being a young woman with a career that requires an open mind, and regardless of her being a respected professor at the Superior Institute of Art (ISA) — has at least one unresolved prejudice in her life, which she reveals despite herself: she’s a racist.
Luismi, I didn’t ask the wife of my friend why I couldn’t have a black girlfriend, just as I wouldn’t ask you why Maria Matienzo can’t fall in love with a woman?
To me, one can only respond to such questions concerning prejudice with awkward, poor and embarrassing answers, and therefore in both cases it would be disrespectful to put someone on the spot like that – at least that’s what I think.
I never thought I would have to explain something like this to you, Luismi, it seems too obvious. Maria Matienzo has the right to fall in love with whomever she pleases.
Luismi, if we vilify Maria for her decision, then what reason would we have to oppose those who hate blacks, beat their wives or hate easterners in Cuba or Jews throughout the rest of the world?
I’m the son of parents from whom I inherited certain positions, attitudes and thoughts that are truly excellent. These are the results of the good side of their upbringing, attributes that I will try to preserve and exalt all my life, until my very last minute.
But, inevitably, I also inherited other ideas, thoughts and behaviors (prejudice) from my parents that I now find unacceptable. I struggle against these every day, because they limit me and could turn me into the person who I don’t want to be, who I cannot be.
This is why, Luismi, I’m convinced that from my parents, just like from school, government, friends and books, one should take only the good. All the rest, all of those things that compel me to practice rejection and disdain for others, thereby making me a poor human being, I refuse to allow a place in my mind. This is my experience that I’m conveying to you, I only hope that you find it useful.
Jose Marti said that people can be divided into two camps “Those who love and construct, and those who hate and destroy.” Hanging onto prejudices — whatever they may be — automatically separates us from those who are loving and constructive.