To Amnesty International: Hate is not a Choice, it’s a Crime

Source: Tuna Erdem, “Nefret tercih değil suç olsun/bana haklarımı ver sevgin senin olsun #kaplumbağaları bizim meselelere karıştırmayın, almayın ve satmayın,” “Hate should not be a choice but a crime / give me back my rights and you can have your love do not involve #turtles in our issues, do not buy and sell them,” 20 April 2016, http://sloganbozan.blogspot.com.tr/2016/04/nefret-tercih-degil-suc-olsunbana.html?spref=fb&m=1

The slogan I will undo shows up at the end of Amnesty International’s video “Gay Turtle.” As I pick the slogan to pieces, I will occasionally write about the video as well but it is not the video but rather the slogan that defines the scope of this text:

 
loveislove

First, let’s begin with the slogan “hate is a choice.”

There is a crime called “hate crime.” Indeed, before this slogan appears in the video, the statement “in the last 5 years, hundreds of hate crimes due to homophobia and transphobia have been committed” indicates, albeit in an ambiguous fashion, that there is a crime called “hate crime.” Since 2014, hate crime has been included in the Turkish Penal Code and the work of LGBTI organizations have a significant role in its inclusion. However, in spite of this achievement, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are not included within the scope of the hate crime law and at the moment hate is not a crime when directed at LGBTIs. In other words, the Turkish Penal Code has left it to individuals to choose to hate gay and trans individuals, just as this slogan suggests.

However, not only many countries do not give its citizens the right to choose to hate but also LGBTIs in Turkey have been arguing that hate is a crime and should be seen as a crime, and they continue to work for this a fact that Amnesty International cannot possibly be unaware of. From the perspective that posits hate to be seen as a crime, this slogan sounds exactly like what the statements “rape is a choice,” “murder is a choice”  sound like. Indeed, this slogan appears right after a sentence that gives hate crime statistics, therefore connecting the hate directly to the crime on its own, amplifying said tone. Just as saying “murder is a choice, do not choose to murder, change your choices” would be taking things lightly, the same goes for hate. If you write down the number of people killed by hate-motivated murders and then immediately say “hate is a choice,” you are basically saying “hate-motivated murder is a choice.” Briefly, a preferable slogan at most could be:

Hate is not a choice, it’s a crime.

On the other hand, hate is not a choice because there is no alternative to hate in the system, especially towards gay and trans individuals. The heteronormative order is the name of the order that does not give the choice or the right to choose anything other than hate. So much so that gays themselves hardly find a path other than hating themselves. Hating homosexuals is something that is inculcated from birth, taught, imposed. To say “there is a heteronormative order” is exactly this: People are constantly brainwashed in a systematic way, using every possible tool of the sovereign culture. The family, education and training curriculum, peer victimization and pressure teach and forcibly impose hate; hate is engraved in memory. Hate is constantly channelled on TV, in advertisements, in films, in media.

This is precisely why the target audience of the video can only be those who will rightfully feel proud to have made the right choice and carry the avarice of superiority. I do not think the target audience includes gays who have begun combatting the hate within or who continue to combat the hate within the nearest people to them. Rather, the video caters to those who believe that not remaining “ignorant” is fully a “choice,” who are blind to the fact that education is a privilege in the world, and who see the world wearing blinkers and say “noooo waaaaay.” In fact, if anyone could escape the sovereign culture’s education and be “ignorant,” hate would not be this widespread.

In the best-case scenario, the video invites the audience to belittle and to ridicule homophobes. (And of course, also to take pity on the cute turtle and to get all emotional through empathy.) Indeed, there are self-assured trolls in social media, who ask why this video is being taken so seriously, when it should have been laughed at. Such approaches pass over the fact that ridicule and belittling are the very tools of homophobia and it does not register that belittling homophobes belittles homophobia, a phenomenon with dire consequences. I would not step inside a pet shop (in my opinion, pet shops are another phenomena that should be considered a crime) but if I were told that the turtle I “chose” was gay, I would think that the clerk noticed that I’m gay and was saying this ridiculous thing to mock me, and I would storm out. So, you can add me to your so-called “social experiment,” as a homophobe to be ridiculed.

All in all, presenting systematic problems as individual choices can only warrant the continuity of the system that lies beneath. Mistaking the teachings of the hegemonic culture for “ignorance,” is flaring up the flames of the hegemon. Briefly: hate is not an individual choice, but the enforcement of the system. To belittle others’ hate in order to ignore the hate that lies within you, is a way of hate itself.  You cannot struggle by hating. The issue should not be to replace one type of hate for another.

Then there is this: The slogan “hate is a choice” is there to evoke another slogan. The most famous slogan of the LGBTI movement is “orientation, not choice.” So the slogan says, “homosexuality is not a choice, but it is a choice to hate homosexuals.” So it says, “you are born gay and you cannot change it, but hate is not congenital so just change it.” I can’t get enough of undoing the slogan “orientation, not choice” but I’m leaving that for another post, to give it the undoing it deserves. Without going deeper into my position on the matter, which is even more narrow-minded than the “even if it were a choice” position, I will point to a relevant aspect. There is no doubt that it is the belief that “if it is a choice, it can be changed easily” which brought the word “choice” to the point of becoming a signifier of homophobia. One feels like saying, I wish that change was so easy to have in life. Yet those who adopted the slogan “hate is a choice” obviously think that the problem goes away once you understand that it is a choice. You would think that knowing there can be change warrants change. That’s why a prominent organization could not come up with a better choice than to state the obvious, did not think it should introduce a proposal on the matter of “how to change hate.” Oh, actually they do, our video says “love instead of hating,” which brings us back to the first sentence of the slogan:

“Love comes from the heart”

Seriously, what does that even mean? Does it mean you love if you have a heart? Does it mean love is automatic like breathing? Does it mean love is natural and if you do not strain yourself, you will love anyway? You do not need the brain, the mind, consciousness, work; the heart produces love by itself? Does it mean that every living thing with a heart loves anyway? It’s up to you to decide how you want to understand it. Epic words about love is plentiful, just add on to them. Love is unconditional, let love win, etc. But the love the video presents is not unconditional. The turtles who are sold in the slave market, who are contained in a cell, are at best given love according to their cuteness. The price of love is to not be free, to be treated like property, to live and die for someone else’s enjoyment. If that’s the love, then hate could indeed be chosen.

Let’s agree on this: no one has to love gays. Gays do not expect love either. Gays are demanding their rights and that is why they say hate crime. But when you first say love comes from the heart and then say hate is a choice, you present hate as purely an emotion. If you are looking for a word outside of the terminology of rights and law, then gays are expecting respect, not love. Respect is not a choice, for example, in the face of laws and court decisions, no one has the right to say “I do not respect this.”

But there is also a difference between “love comes from the heart” and the sentence presented as the English version of the slogan. “Love is love” would be correctly translated into Turkish as “romantic love is romantic love” [literally “aşk aşktır” –Trans.]. That sentence is the slogan for gay rights, especially marriage equality. The slogan would mean “love is not gay or straight, love is love” and it would be about what remains in your head as it is tautological. And again we come upon a slogan that I cannot get enough of undoing. Though homosexuality can allow us to realize the many different kinds of love in the slogan “love is love,” the slogan instead becomes evidence for the transformation of romantic love into a single, unitary state. One language, one flag, one nation, one homeland, one love.

Sure there is also this: Do not see homosexuality as a sexual issue because love is love! Because sex is bad and it can only be cleansed with an epic love. Because it is unacceptable to defend sex without love but do not be scared, gays, who are in a position to notice the difference, will pretend that there is no sex without love, just like you. I want to say: No way! No, sex is not an evil that will be extolled with love, in need of taming with marriage, or otherwise lead to destruction. And gays do not have to go voluntarily into the prison of “no sex without love” just because they do not want you to hate them.

But the same sentence in Turkish does not say romantic love but love like endearment and therefore gets stuck early on before even getting to the issue. The Turkish version turns out not to be about the romantic love that gays feel for each other but about the love, the endearment felt towards gays: Let’s love animals, let’s love gays, let’s love our beautiful Turkish, let’s love our flag, let’s love our homeland.

Do not love me and do not hate me. I do not even know you, why should we have an emotional relationship? Can I not be your pet or a harmful creature? May I not be yours and only be mine and be independent? If possible, give the right to life to a difference that has nothing to do with you. Let’s create a respectful distance between ourselves and keep that distance.

Your love is as aggressive as your hate. Your stance against homophobia is as hurtful as homophobes.  

Now slowly release the turtle you are holding back into wild and leave before you make me love you too much.

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