Letter: The road to ordinary deserves some empathy

From: Tom Lane


All the recent uproar about the LGBT banners got me thinking that we have a great misunderstanding going on. Seems lots of people are tired of the “special” treatment this group is getting.

Let’s back up to understand “special.” It can only be understood in relationship to “normal” or “ordinary.” As an example, when children are given tests for learning ability, most fall into a normal range of capability. Those outside that range are treated special, and that is why we created special education for those with various learning needs. (I don’t know if they still call it that).

The point here is that anything special cannot be understood without comparing to what is normal. So if we go back to the history of our nation, the normal group was white males, and they had the right and privilege to vote. Women protested and had a special movement to be included in that normal group. They wanted to be ordinary in terms of voting.

We fought a Civil War, in which allowing slaves to enjoy the ordinary rights of living life as a free person plays a central theme. I am sure ordinary never looked more appealing as it did to someone living in bondage.

I grew up in a small town outside Pittsburgh, and we normal kids had a wonderful swimming pool that we enjoyed every summer that was within walking distance of my home. My black schoolmates had a special pool for blacks that was a significant drive away. They were not allowed to play in my pool.

Rosa Parks had special seats in the back of the bus, and she defied the rules and claimed her right to all the seats that ordinary people could sit in. She wanted to be ordinary, like my classmates would have loved to enjoy the ordinary pool that I did.

Now we have the gay community desiring to share in the ordinary rights and privileges of being allowed to marry and being treated as normal. But along that road to ordinary, you sometimes have to have special efforts. Ordinary does not come easily.

As a society, we seem to have this new affinity to being special, but I think being normal is just great. It is where the vast majority of us live our lives. And I am sure if you ask a parent of a special needs child, they would give anything to have their child be normal. Special education is that more difficult road to help children get closer to normal.

We will have a period of special attention, and before we know it, all this will be embraced by our normal society. It is how things change on the road to ordinary.