Society

Peanuts and Pastors' Penises

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I love to use alliteration when I write.

It's playful and engaging and interactive; readers almost always say the words aloud when they encounter alliteration.

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That's why I knew I had to find a way to combine this week's news stories concerning "allergy bullies" and the accusations against Bishop Eddie Long.

I'll admit it's a challenge. The first story is startling and disturbing, but funny. Just picturing some gleeful bully throwing a handful of peanuts at a cowering, allergic classmate makes you giggle, albeit guiltily. How does the principal keep a straight face when confronted by parents who are outraged because some monster waved a peanut butter sandwich in their son's face. Yeah, yeah, it's dangerous. But therein lies the humor. What kind of idiot is allergic to food? Isn't that what we think in the back of our minds?

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I know I do. When I hear someone say they're allergic to gluten or milk or eggs, I find myself staring at them, re-evaluating and finally dismissing them as a huge wimp. It's food, I think. Get over it. It's nutritional. It's good for you. It's what you eat to stay alive, dufus. Who shrinks from a peanut butter sandwich? Or mac and cheese? Who'd rather pay $5 for a loaf of gluten free bread? It's food, I think. Shut up and eat.

Shellfish are the exception because they're so exotic. They come from under the sea. They feed on waste and slimy things. They have tentacles that wriggle through the gap in their shells. And when you eye them face to face, you see that their eyes are black and lifeless, almost soulless, like pin heads. Shellfish allergies make sense.  

But you kids who cause the school bus to be evacuated because a peanut fell on the floor? You think you've got troubles? What if it's not a candy bar, but your pastor's penis being waved in your face? Huh? What then, wimp?

Okay, it's a stretch. I know from personal experience that food allergies can send you to the ER. So you avoid your allergen. You do it with manners and consideration. You don't whine and make a fuss and expect the world to stop because strawberries give you hives. But when some able bodied, teenage boy has a pastor who is intent on whipping out his salami? Well, that's a different story.

Sort of.

In a way it's the same. A good pastor is like a good peanut butter sandwich. With jelly, of course. Comforting, familiar. A reliable source of something good to chew on. When something so traditional and trusted betrays you, it makes you sick.  

At this point, Bishop Eddie Long stands accused of plying young men with gifts and vacations in exchange for sexual gratification. He has not been found guilty. But there are other cases with similar accusations or worse, where the accused was later found guilty. And we shook our heads and wondered why. Or maybe we thought enough, already with the homophobia that causes people to engage in false labeling.

That's what it is, right? False labeling, false advertising. Gay men who feel forced to pretend they're straight. And pretend and pretend and lie and spout statements that are homophobic in the extreme. Because they believe themselves to be inherently wrong.

What's wrong is a society that continues, in it's caveman-like determination, to make people feel that way. And when such cruelty is deemed acceptable, people suffer. They wither and die or mutate or attempt to twist and distort themselves into something other than what they are. Some let the bitterness get the best of them. After hiding behind a false label for so long, the world becomes a cruel joke. Their religion has forced them to lie for so long, anyway. So where's the harm in a few more lies? If I'm gonna suffer, damnit, someone else is, too. They'll just have to man up and take it. They'll be alright. And while they're at it, they need to quit whining and eat that peanut butter sandwich. Kids in Africa are starving.

Suffering makes us bitter. It makes us scoff at perceived weaknesses. It makes us want to inflict our pain or confusion or cynicism on others so they can see what it's like. But as bitter and twisted as some of us may be, we all agree that candy bars and supplements containing allergens should be labeled accordingly. No one in their right mind would demonize a peanut or an egg.  But  we understand that lives depend on our openness and honesty where these foods are concerned. 

The same can be said for penicillin and pistachios and people. Lives depend on openness and honesty.