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JOSEPH N. BELL

How's This? A Program to Offer Healing to Bigots

February 08, 1990|JOSEPH N. BELL

To tell you the truth, this idea didn't originate with me. Actually, I copped it from the Rev. Lou ("just spell my name right") Sheldon, the Anaheim evangelist who is saving the world from homosexuals.

See, last October, he had this secret meeting in Orange County of prescreened attendees whose biases were all shored up by a traveling stock company of speakers who blame most of the current ills of this country on homosexuals.

Apparently Rev. Sheldon enjoyed the attention this event attracted so much that he decided to go national with it. So two weeks ago, he held an all-day meeting in Washington, D.C., called the "National Summit on Homosexuality: Healing and Public Policy Implications."

The same cast, starring, as always, our doughty Orange County Congressman William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton), orchestrated familiar themes. Sheldon and his touring company explained that homosexuality is an acquired rather than a genetic state, and they offered all sorts of insights into how it can be "healed" before it brings this country to its knees.

Well and good.

This is a plural society and all that. At this point, I'm not so much interested in the content of that meeting (although, of course, it nails down Orange County's reputation as Kook Korner) as I am in the technique involved. Why, it occurred to me in a blinding flash of inspiration, can't the same format be applied to letting the country in on other dangers that are nibbling at our vitals? So I'm thinking about putting together a seminar based on the Sheldon technique.

My tentative title is: "The Public Policy Implications of Bigotry and How We Can All Pull Together to Heal the Bigots in Our Midst." That probably needs shortening some, but I'll deal with that later. "Bust Bigots" occurred to me, but that maybe a little too short.

Anyway, I'm presently trying to come up with a program, and I'd be happy to have any input that those of you reading this would like to offer.

I figured I would lead off with a panel of black Jewish homosexual women physicians discussing the question: "Is bigotry a genetic or an acquired disease?" The panel would examine the claim that bigots are born that way and have no choice about the life style they adopt in later years. Although medical evidence is confusing on this point, leading to the generally held view that bigotry is an acquired disorder that can be successfully treated, the panel will examine both sides of this issue objectively.

Then we'll have a panel of reformed bigots to discuss quite frankly the excesses--including sexual--of that type of life style. They will tell how their lives were turned around after undergoing tolerance treatment. We had hoped to get Rep. Dannemeyer for this portion of the program, but he clearly isn't ready yet.

Next, a panel of psychologists who treat bigots will discuss and describe "reparative therapy to heal bigots and return them to the mainstream of tolerance and adherence to the Golden Rule."

The tentative chairman of this panel, who would prefer to remain unidentified for fear of reprisal from organized bigotry, told me: "The bigot agrees there are two sides to every question--his side and the wrong one. His mind is like the pupil of the eye: the more light you shine into it, the more it will contract. But in spite of these difficulties, we believe the disease to be treatable."

The final session will feature a major speaker in the anti-bigotry ranks who will sum up the day and stress the following points:

* It's time for adherents of the Golden Rule (as paraphrased from Jesus of Nazareth: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you") to come out of the closet to fight the bigots' attack on family values;

* The nuclear family cannot survive public approbation of bigotry; it's either our way of life or theirs;

* The bigots will win their goals of public acceptance and legal inroads unless community leaders of America are willing to affirm tolerance and adherence to the Golden Rule. Also to the Bill of Rights.

If the local seminar goes well, we will hope to stage a similar affair in Washington, D.C., and go from there to a national campaign to raise millions of dollars to support lobbyists all across the nation who will be raising hell about bigotry in our halls of government.

My biggest concern is that Rev. Sheldon and his followers won't understand the intent of this new movement. Those of us involved in this project really love bigots and are simply doing this to help them. It's not our intention to inflame hatred or condemnation just because bigots deserve it. Our purpose is to shed light, to stimulate clear thinking, and to facilitate reasoned thought and conclusions.

Once bigots find their way into our recovery process, they are going to feel much closer to us and their resentment will fall away. And we, in turn, will be able to feel even more sympathy for those who have been traumatized by bigotry.

I'll keep you posted on progress.

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