The worst part was not his referring to parts of the Bible as "bullshit" in front of an assembly full of high school students. The worst part was mocking those who got up to leave the auditorium as Christian pansy-asses, while those remaining in the auditorium laughed at them.
I've never really been a Dan Savage fan. One of the main reasons I don't read his "Savage Love" column (apart from the sexual crudity) is the way he seems to delight in using a national forum to ridicule people who disagree with him. When I learned that he was the one who helped launch the "It Gets Better" campaign, I thought, "Really? Now Dan Savage is against bullying?" I had to give him props... But still, coming from him it was only slightly less surprising than if it had come from Rush Limbaugh.
Unfortunately, a whole generation of high school students don't know that side of Dan Savage. Or I should say, didn't know that side of him until now. To many high school students, Dan Savage had become something of a hero, defending the defenseless and standing up for a kinder, gentler high school experience, where bullying and bullies could be a thing of the past. That is, until he used his "bully pulpit" (pun intended) to humiliate a minority of students who didn't like the way he was talking about the Bible.
This is a big step back for the It Gets Better campaign.
It could be an opportunity to teach a really important object lesson.
If I were Dan Savage, I'd issue a great big apology that went something like this:
I just learned something really important about the nature of bullying. What I learned is that people bully not necessarily because they're homophobic, but because they have power and they don't know how to use it... Because they feel insecure and they want to look cool in front of others... I had a position of power speaking to you in that auditorium. Everyone was looking to me, and listening to what I had to say, and that gave me a lot of power. And I used that power to make you feel isolated and ridiculous, to make you look foolish in front of your classmates. And that's the opposite of what I wanted to teach you. What I did was wrong and it was not cool. So I apologize. I hope this can be a lesson to all of us that if we want our schools and our communities and our country to be a safer place, we need to look deep within ourselves, and work more at listening to each other and being concerned about each other's feelings.
I'll be surprised if he issues that kind of an apology. But then, Dan Savage has surprised me at least once before.
Looks like Dan Savage did publish an apology on his blog. You can read it for yourselves and see how effective you think it is. To me, it still seems a bit defensive, and I think he does end up sort of calling the students who walked out hypocrites. (After apologizing for calling them "pansy-assed".)