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Collateral Damage

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Collateral Damage

I don’t know if Eddie Long is gay; I don’t know if these allegations of sexual abuse are true.  I suspect, however, that on some level they are, and that Eddie Long, again  on some level, probably enjoys the (sexual) company of men.  As a rule, I think just about everybody is a little bit gay, especially those who shout their homophobia the loudest.  That said, there are plenty of internet sites and Twitter accounts blabbing on and on about either issue, so I won’t belabor either point here.  Yet I would like to make–or perhaps simply echo–something that may or may not be receiving as much attention as the speculation about Long’s sexuality and the validity of the claims made in the lawsuits against him.

What continues to baffle me about these kinds of stories is the level of damage that is inevitably unearthed as these men are exposed.  Let me explain.  As a general rule, I do not believe that anyone should have to come out.  Even as a someone who conjectures openly about the sexuality of certain celebrities, I am not an advocate of goading folks out of the closet.  There is safety there.  And the risk of coming out, for many, is simply too dangerous.  I understand that.  Sometimes the monsters in the closet are less frightening than the ones outside of it.

I also know that being and remaining closeted can be taxing on a person, and that the emotional toll one must pay not to live a certain kind of truth is sometimes unbearable, resulting in various forms of self-hate and -abuse that occasionally make living a task.  I get that.  Yet what I simply cannot understand, what I find intolerable are those who choose–consciously or not– to project their self-hatred onto others, thereby destroying so much more than themselves.  I just can’t go for that.  (Hall and Oates.)

For me, it’s not enough to discuss the sexuality of Eddie Long or the abuse allegations.  There’s a third part of this story, one that often gets obscured.  What I find most infuriating are the number of folks he hurt in order to maintain a lie.  Let’s suppose, for the moment, that Eddie Long is indeed a gay man, one who, for perhaps a myriad of legitimate reasons does not want to openly express his sexuality.  He would not be alone.  Yet as my friend said as we discussed this over dinner, “Fine.  Don’t be openly gay, but why do you have to get married?  Have kids?”  Exactly.  I hope I’m echoing my friend properly here when I repeat her point that folks like Eddie Long should just be gay by themselves without hurting other people in the process.  But they don’t.  Instead, their repression–or whatever it is–compels them to engage in sexual behavior that more than likely endangers the women in their lives, and the words they spew from their soap boxes not only push those like them deeper into the closet but also engender homophobia-inspired violence.

The desire to live dishonestly enables such terrible things.  Like, for example, choosing to wear a jheri curl wig on the day you decide to “confront” the allegations that you are sexually abusive.  Seriously, Eddie?  I wanted to be sad for and extend some compassion to the folks in the congregation and perhaps his wife.  Then I realized they were supporting a man who rocked a lace front while he was trying to be serious, and I just couldn’t do it.  I tell my students not to generalize, but I’m convinced these folks are voluntarily being duped, allowing this man to press their emotional buttons while pressing mute on the logical ones–you know, assuming they exist.  How else could they explain cheering as the man conjured major gayness in front of them?  First, the aforementioned jheri curl wig in combination with dropping the microphone after he spoke indicated that clearly Long had not been reading the Bible but rather watching Coming to America before church service.  Apparently, Long draws inspiration from Randy Watson, who isn’t the manliest of men.  Secondly–cue my serious tone–Long likened himself to David, saying “I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven’t thrown one yet,” and then left the stage.  (In my head, Beyonce’s “Diva” started playing as he walked away from the pulpit.)  Although I am a heathen, I’ve read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations and am well aware of the myriad characters Long could have chosen.  Yet he picked David, an Old Testament favorite.  Many Christians love the story of David and Goliath.  They don’t seem to love the story of David and Jonathan as much, though, despite the fact that it has to be one of the most eloquent love stories I’ve ever read.  It’s too gay, I suppose.  As I watched the internet stream of the sermon, I wondered how many congregants thought of Jonathan as they cheered their pastor off the stage.  I thought how many, if any, knew the story at all.

But I digress.  (Sophia Petrillo.)  Eddie Long may not be a perfect man, but he has more than likely made a tremendous mess.  And even if he is found guilty, I seriously doubt he’ll have to contend with the level of damage he has probably caused.  Neither will the folks who probably enabled him.  Because if the charges are true, and my instincts tell me they probably are, some of the same folks in that church house on Sunday kept those secrets and further enabled a situation that was incredibly damaging to the young men who trusted Long and people who had never set foot in New Birth.  Such behavior is un-Christian like.  Unfortunately for white Jesus and others who believe in him, that’s exactly what many of us have come to expect from that ilk.  Perhaps the thing one should hope for is not a guilty verdict but for those who choose to behave similarly to somehow find the strength to only damage themselves.