Tar Heels across the state reacted in myriad ways to state Sen. James Forrester’s death in October (See story at goqnotes.com/13109/). For LGBT families and their children, news of Forrester’s passing came as a relief. Many said as much, as did I. “Good riddance, bigot,” I noted on Twitter, and for good reason.
Yet, such plain, legitimate emotion can rub people the wrong way.
“Saddened to see some nasty Twitter reactions to Forrester’s death,” tweeted WRAL capital reporter Laura Leslie. “Some things are bigger than politics, folks. Like respect.”
Respect? Really? After nearly two decades of continued abuse from this man, LGBT North Carolinians should take time to pause in reverence? Despite my usual tendencies to stick with good southern traditions of courtesy and civility, on this social more I must take a definite pass.
In the hours and days immediately following Forrester’s death, I couldn’t help but notice all of the unearned respect being thrown toward this man’s hate-filled legacy. My mind raced in bewilderment.
Gov. Bev Perdue ordered that all state flags at all state facilities be lowered to half-mast the day of Forrester’s interment. Honor the bigot, forget the people he harmed.
Openly gay Gaston County Democratic Party Chairman Robert Kellogg said he was “thankful” for Forrester’s service on behalf of the state and Gaston County. That is, unless you’re gay. No service for you; only discrimination.
Democratic Sens. Martin Nesbitt and Bill Purcell said Forrester “brought a necessary level of expertise to Senate deliberations on health care matters.” Oh, yes, let’s forget that time, not too soon before his demise, that Forrester insisted on standing by his medically inaccurate claim that gays and lesbians had shorter life spans than heterosexuals.
Charlotte’s daily newspaper even jumped on the memorial train, providing space for readers and the public to offer written condolences. Too bad for the people who felt the brunt of Forrester’s bigoted wrath; you’re equally valid comments and remembrances weren’t welcome.
“But, Matt,” you plead, “don’t you have any respect for Forrester’s family? What about condolences for their loss?”
A valid point, I’ll concede. It’s always a sad and emotional moment when a loved one passes. No one, not even me, wishes to diminish the pain of death and sense of loss that comes with it.
But, when that loved one is also a longtime public servant who has time and time again used his power and privilege to cause harm and damage to other people, someone must take on the responsibility of reminding others of the true legacy of that person. Someone must stand up against the tide of the memorializing media and public gloss-over and speak truth.
It is important for people to understand the context of these negative — or, depending on perspective, positive — reactions to Forrester’s death. It’s easy to claim such emotional statements are made out of political gain. To the contrary, reaction to Forrester’s death isn’t about politics. It’s never been about politics for all of the LGBT Tar Heels forced to defend themselves against Forrester’s agenda. For us, it is personal. A dead Forrester means one less voice of hatred occupying a seat in the North Carolina General Assembly — one less person with the power to strip us of our dignity and citizenship.
James Forrester was a man dedicated — to death — to one singular cause. Year after year, he stopped at nothing to strip LGBT North Carolinians of their rights as full and equal citizens of this great state. Harsh as it might sound, that is the honest truth laid bare.
In times of death and grief, it’s human nature to pause and reflect upon the positive contributions of a person’s life. But we cannot, simply for the sake of propriety, forget the other side of Forrester — that hate-filled, bigoted side that painted LGBT people as sick, sex-crazed monsters from which North Carolina’s people and children needed protection. No amount of praise or condolence-writing can erase the harmful misdeeds of a man hell-bent on stomping gay people back into that dank, dark closet from which he prayed we had never left.
“Perhaps he was a good man in his time but that time has long gone,” said one commenter on WRAL’s website.
That’s about all the condolence I think I can give. : :