Manuel, the Delta flight attendant on my flight back home from Minneapolis today, was sporting a lapel pin on his airline service apron that I recognized; a square presenting a plain yellow equal symbol against a background of royal blue.
The two yellow lines of the pin, being an equal sign are plain in their meaning. Equality. So what’s my beef with that?
But I also know what else the pin represents. His pin is the logo of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a stunningly well-funded DC-based group that is only concerned about the rights of certain types of humans. And such an exclusive view is antithetical to the idea of human rights itself. You see, HRC is a straight-up gay and lesbian advocacy group and their campaign is only for these types of people.
As such, I have two main problems with his pin.
The first is Manuel wearing this pin while he works this flight. Manuel as a citizen has a right to wear any and as many pins as his heart desires. But not on his professional airline uniform. His HRC pin is not the same as the ubiquitous pink ribbon pins that many wear for breast cancer awareness. Moral opposition to curing cancer doesn’t exist. Breast cancer is not a hotly debated political topic. But many Delta customers have well-founded opposition to homosexuality and this employee is telling those he is hired to serve that they are wrong. The workplace, and thus one’s uniform, is not our own political soapbox. And like most people, I don’t appreciate being “preached to” by my flight attendant. He is there to keep me safe.
But my greater concern is the manipulative message of the pin itself. Manuel is not asking me, another human being, to see him as equal. He already has that.
Manuel is equal to me. He is a human. He is a man. I don’t doubt his equality for one moment. My belief system as a Christian tells me Manuel is a being with immense dignity and glory. Regardless of your belief system- whether naturalistic and bound or supernatural and limitless – I hope you can receive Manuel as a remarkable gift and miracle, along with every other human being.
But that is not what Manuel is asking of me with his little pin.
Manuel is telling me that he wants to be respected for his sexuality, not his humanity. And I refuse to assign his dignity to anything less than his humanity. For to do so is both illogical and horribly reductionist, for it seems quite counter-productive to the very high virtue of human rights itself. If we make something other than our humanity the means for demanding another’s respect, we have diminished the very virtue of human rights itself. And this is why the Human Rights Campaign gets it so wrong with their pin.
But of course, let’s recognize that Manuel’s pin is not about high ideals, but merely that the “human-rights” angle tested very well with the Human Rights Campaign’s marketing test groups. You see, if we are going to pit one person’s opposition to homosexuality against another’s very human rights, what kind of choice is that?
But we must see through this deceptive game – regardless of your view on homosexuality – and reject it for the manipulation it is. And that is why I am angry Manuel is wearing that pin on this flight.