The editor of the tiny Desert Dispatch in Barstow, Calif., recently published an editorial about his support of gay rights issues, including gay marriage. Now, coming out in support of gay rights in a community like Barstow is going to make you as popular as a vegetarian in Oklahoma. But that’s not why editor Scott Shackford has drawn the ire of readers.
Shackford didn’t just come out for gay rights – he came out, period.
If Shackford had been editor of the Los Angeles Times few would have cared. Okay, maybe they would have cared, but then they would have gone back to watching the high-speed chase on Fox or checking Blondie to see how the big anniversary plans were shaping up (the latest is that Mr. Dithers is going to speak at the party, should be fascinating).
But this is Barstow we’re talking about, a town whose only distinctions are being home to a road no one uses anymore (Route 66) and a destination for people on the way to another destination, Las Vegas. You stop in Barstow to gas up, eat up, and rest up – and then get the hell out.
So instead of bliss, Shackford got ignorance. Here’s an excerpt from one of the Dispatch’s letter writers:
“A society that loses its community-held faith and becomes broadly permissive, multi-cultural, multi-everything, fuzzy as to morality, character and principals, and humanistic, is going down the tube…Scott, there is a God, the One who inspired the principles upon which this country was formed and built, and he hates homosexuality.”
First of all, let’s set the record gay, I mean straight: Yes, there is a God, but he hates Harvey Fierstein, not homosexuality. God is okay with Richard Simmons but wishes he would get rid of the damn skin-tight shorts already. And God loves Tommy Tune, but only after downing a few Cosmos.
Most of all, God could care less about Scott Shackford’s sexual preference. And Barstow residents shouldn’t care either.
Shackford’s admission was part of an editorial about three California ballot initiatives that Shackford felt would “strip away legal rights California currently grants to same-sex couples.” It’s not like he was writing an editorial about Downtown sewer repair and at the end dropped in, “oh, by the way, I’m into guys.” His comment was in context and not meant to stir the community pot unnecessarily.
I agree that saying, as Shackford did at the end of his editorial, “if I ever find the man of my dreams, I expect that we will be able to make a family” was over the top. But not because of its homosexual nature – it was just cheesy, weak writing, and would have been so if a male writer had said, “If I ever find the woman of my dreams.” That’s another thing – God hates clichés.
Shackford says he’s staying in Barstow, which is a much braver act than the editorial itself. But that’s his right, and so is the right to express his personal views no matter how much hate those views unearth.
I don’t know what will happen to gay rights in California or in the county. I just hope nothing ever happens to the right to talk about them in any way Scott Shackford or anyone else sees fit.