We hear the word “apocalypse” a lot. A whole lot. Like so much so that if I had a dollar for everytime I hear the word, I would stop getting those phone calls from Sallie Mae saying that I owe them money.
But despite how much it has been talked about, especially with December 2012 upon us, I think it is safe to say that the word has lost a lot of its original meaning. As our dear friend, Wikipedia, tells us, the Apocalypse, in its Greek roots means “uncovering”. As a religious term, the Apocalypse refers to a time of revelation of a meaning that is “hidden from human knowledge in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception”. If we look at this event in these terms, then dare I say we are about to experience the apocalypse, or rather an apocalypse (sans fire, ice and zombies).
Back in 1998, the world saw two heartbreaking hate crimes. One was of 21 year old Matthew Shepard of Casper, Wyoming. Shepard was driven into a rural area, where he was then robbed, tortured, tied to a fence and left to die because he was gay. As if the situation was not tragic enough, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church made their appearance at Shepard’s funeral with signs reading “No Tears for Queers” and “Fag Matt in Hell”. A few months prior to that, James Bryd Jr. a 49 year old man from Beaumont, Texas fell victim to a hate crime. A group of white supremacists offered Bryd a ride only to take him to a country road where he was chained by the ankles to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death. The three attackers all expressed their pride in committing the crime. It’s crazy to think that this was all happening in the late 90s! There is no reason that much hate should have ever existed.
However, it seems that things are changing, albeit slowly, but for the better. In 2009, President Obama signed into action the Matthew Shepard and James Bryd Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This stood as an extension of earlier laws to protect citizens despite race, religion, gender, sexual identity, or disabilities.
Our way of thinking about the world is radically changing. If we look a few years into the past, we can see that as a society we are making some huge strides towards becoming more accepting of others. This past election alone was huge evidence of that. Marriage equality measures were passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, which in addition to the Senate’s first openly gay woman Tammy Baldwin’s election, marked a significant advancement in the fight for LGBT rights. Mazie Hirono is now the first Asian-American woman in Senate. These ladies represent just two of the 20 women who will be serving in the Senate, a record setting number. Not to mention that we re-elected America’s first black president. Governor Mitt Romney represented the Latter Day Saints, something that we had also not seen before.
This more accepting attitude is being reflected all over, especially when you turn on your TV during prime time. So many TV shows are redefining the family (Modern Family, The New Normal, and Glee, to name a few). These shows are portraying strong messages of universal equality, regardless of the things that make us different. They tell us that the days of a society dominated by older white males are becoming a thing of the past.
In September of 2010, rising from the multiple suicides of bullied LGBT youth, came the It Gets Better Project. The project embraced social media as a way of telling LGBT youth that it gets better and that they are not alone. Videos were posted to Youtube, as well as the project’s own website, from people of all different sexual orientations; they ranged from everyday people, to celebrities, and even the President. It opened a huge dialogue that spread hope to those who faced bullying and hatred. In President Obama’s video he said, “We’ve got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage; that it’s just some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.” The world is not the same as it used to be. We are evaluating these inequalities and fighting them.
So yes, in a way we are facing an apocalypse, in an “end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it” way. We’re entering a new era of progressive thinking, and I for one, could not be happier. This past year has been full of international tragedies, from natural disasters, to scandals, and to terrorist attacks Looking back upon a significant amount of news headlines over the past year can be rather upsetting. In order to deal with all of these tragedies, we need to become accepting of others regardless of their differences. Despite it all, this past year has shown us that we need to embrace equal rights because everyone deserves them. So take note; it’s 2012, hate isn’t okay anymore.