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Otto Fong and To Kill A Mocking Bird September 11, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
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” You never understand a person until you see things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” Atticus Finch

 Despite being published in the 1960s, Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mocking Bird, continues to be relevant to society. Themes of empathy for the fellow man, tolerance continue and will remain applicable notwithstanding the changes in society.

In TKMB, an african american is convicted of a crime he did not commit; he is eventually killed trying to escape. Meanwhile, a recluse is often harassed by pesky children and demonised by gossips. Underlying both situations is a blatant lack of tolerance and understanding; the former due to pure bigotry and the latter due to a lack of respect of the individual.

Having said that, let us now turn to the situation in Singapore. While racism appears to be an isolated affair, in so far as the constitution is concerned, there is a lack of protection of other groups of people; namely the homosexuals. In fact the law at present (Section 377A) places homosexuals at the same level as criminals. The fact that there is a hate campaign against homosexuals going on from religious and other quarters make matters worst. In fact if Harper Lee was living in Singapore, it is possible that TKMB would be about “sexual” prejudice rather than racial prejudice. Atticus Finch would probably be defending a homosexual Tom Robinson; and as the trial progresses the fundamentalists would be writing letters to the forum and beating their chests with self righteous fury.

And it is this issue of prejudice which Otto Fong’s letter deals with. Prejudice against a fellow human being. The ruthless dehumanising of a fellow human being on the account of his sexuality.  Then claiming that its not your fault; that you discriminate because some supreme being willed it.

In light of the letter, the earlier quote of “climb[ing] into” a person’s skin becomes extremely appropriate. It is true that at times the debate on homosexuality gets extremely ugly, with gay activists tarring all Christians with the same brush. However before one becomes critical, it is necessary to, as Atticus puts it, see things from their point of view. And then you will start to realise that homosexuals are, at the end of it all, fellow human beings who have their own dreams, aspirations and so on. And it really galls them to be treated as scum of the earth by people who, while professing to be upright, continue to deride them and, to borrow Otto’s words, go around:

actively preying on innocent people, recruiting them to their cause by spreading fear and misinformation. I hope thinking people will quickly see that it is this small group of vocal objectionists who have a more dangerous agenda, that their fight with gay people has nothing to do with what’s right or wrong, but is merely a litmus test of their political influence.

Indeed, such a situation is analagous to the Crusades of antiquity, whereby Pope Urban II preached a holy war against the Saracens in the East. His aims were manyfold, including but not limited to: restoring political control over the Eastern Orthodox Church and  gaining control of the East. While I will not presume to know what goes on in the minds of these vocal objectionists, I do believe that Section 377A is dangerous as it gives the greenlight to these people to continue spreading misinformation and hatred. The retention of 377A essentially gives these people ammunition to launch their hate campaigns and this is not conducive to the development of a more tolerant society.

Of course, it is undeniable that aversion to homosexuals cannot disappear overnight. Society has generally conditioned its members to frown on homosexuality and the prevalence of those mega churches do not make things easier. Furthermore there is no doubt there are homophobes in those countries who have gone on to legalise gay marriages. Nevertheless there comes a point in time when society needs to take the baby step. As the Chinese saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a few steps”. And in this case the baby step would be the repeal of Section 377A. And that is that.

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