Friday, April 04, 2008

The Difference Between Tommy Douglas And Tom Lukiwski

"Clearly there is a difference between saying what one thinks is true and one saying what one knows to be hateful. "

Some have wrongly responded to those that criticize Tom Lukiwski for his discriminatory comments with references of far greater men then he making outrageous comments. For instance, Tom Lukiwski's comments are compared to those made by Tommy Douglas where he suggested being gay was a mental illness.

The problem with such a comparison is that in regards to the situation of Tommy Douglas, he didn't know better, no one did. The American Psychiatric Association up until 1975 had homosexuality on a list of mental disorders. So in regards to Tommy Douglas, he made certain comments not out of hate but out of ignorance. Tom Lukiwski on the other hand was motivated purely by hate.

Lukwiski's comments were known to be offensive by most if not all in 1991; no one could publicly utter "faggot," or suggest homosexuals are unclean and that they "spread diseases." even in rural Saskatchewan. It's easily acknowledged that Tom Lukiwski said these comments in private, but because he did, highlights the very fact he knew what he was saying was not publicly acceptable. He knew what he was saying offended others, and said it anyway.

In 1991 the opinion of hate held by Tom Lukiwski was not commonly held. In 1968 the opinion of ignorance held by Tommy Douglas was commonly held. Tom Lukiwski said what he said about homosexuals out of hate. Tommy Douglas said what he said about homosexuals because he didn't know better.

Tom Lukiwski knew what he was saying was wrong and hateful, and he said them anyway. The fact he made the decision to say such comments speaks to the character he developed for the first 40 years of his life.

Now what Tommy Douglas said was wrong, but his motivation was not hateful, Tom Lukiwski's was. It is on that note that the ignorant remarks of Tommy Douglas and other men differ from the hateful remarks of Tom Lukiwski's and cannot be compared. For others to suggest Douglas's comments are even comparable to Lukiwski's takes their motivations completely out of consideration. Clearly there is a difference between saying what one thinks is true and one saying what one knows to be hateful.


Matt Guerin said...

Scott, my main concern to ensure the gains that gays have made in society be maintained and strengthened. This is far more important to me than the cause of the Liberal Party or winning points against political opponents. For me that means turning former homophobes into non-homophobes, educating people, cutting people some slack when they clearly regret what they've done in the past, not crucifying them forever because they made some hateful comments on a long-forgotten video tape and were unlucky enough to have it resurface 17 years later.

Yeah, Lukiwski is being raked over the coals now. His political career is over. He'll now have a fight to hang on to his seat. He'll never progress further in Ottawa. Not sure what more punishment he needs.

If we push too far, the issue won't be what he said (which he has apologized profusely), it will be how unforgiving and extreme we are in our lust for revenge. I'm more than familiar with the attack that the pro-gay side continues to face - that we're too in-your-face, that we're almost vengeful in our attacks on people who disagree with us, etc.

I see way more value in helping for this incident to become a learning experience, to be an opportunity for men of Lukiwski's generation to re-examine their own prejudices against gay men. Let's face it, there are a lot of people out there who still hold views like those expressed in the video. In 1991, especially in a place like Saskatchewan, Lukiwski's comments were largely mainstream. Nothing he said in the video I haven't heard hundreds of times over the course of my life. It's hard to fathom how far Canada has come since 1991 - there was a huge backlash in 1994 in Ontario over the possible extension of same sex spousal benefits. Now we have gay marriage.

I do agree that Tommy Douglas was actually pretty progressive for his time. I'm sure if he had the opportunity, he would have apologized for saying what he said about homosexuality in 1968 (he may have for all I know.) Yet one could be extreme, use his 1968 video to call him a bigot and demand the CBC withdraw the Greatest Canadian prize he won. But what good would that do?

Yes hate motivated Lukiwski's comments in 1991. Sadly I agree his comments were typical of that period. I lived through it. Do I think he may have evolved somewhat since then? Probably. Do I accept his apology now for the comments? Yes. Do I think he's got some ways to go in accepting gays and lesbians in this society? Probably yes, considering his recent anti-gay marriage vote. And I see this incident as a major way for him to learn and move forward. If we take this opportunity to completely destroy him, what message will we be sending to him and the thousands of people out there who have said similar things like this in the past?

toujoursdan said...


I was out of university in 1991 and I never heard that language uttered from anyone around me. The university I went to was a right-wing Christian one in the US.

It wasn't all that common in 1991.

And finally, of course people are say that the gay community was too in-your-face. We'd be accused of that if we said or did anything at all.

Matt Guerin said...

Sorry, I find it very hard to believe you've never heard that kind of homophobia before, in 1991 or even lately. That kind of talk didn't pepper every single conversation, of course, but it was there - it was the post-AIDS period.

Just last November a judge in Barrie was ignorant enough to believe that the AIDS virus can live for years dry on the ground and be reactivated only with water. Don't tell me ignorance about gays & AIDS wasn't widespread in 1991. Check out the film Philadelphia in 1993, particularly the big speech by Denzel Washington's character for more insight.

Again, I was completely unshocked when I saw the video yesterday of Lukiwski in 1991. To say - wow very few people thought like that in 1991 - is total b.s. It was unfortunately very common.

Anonymous said...

matt:I hope I expressed my point of view logically. If you were suggesting I was motivated to express my point of view of Lukiwski because of revenge or perhaps even because of political motivation (and I don't think you were) you would hopefully provide some evidence of a flaw in my argument.

You do state however: "Yes hate motivated Lukiwski's comments in 1991. Sadly I agree his comments were typical of that period." Okay let's grant they were "typical" were they said in public, openly? No they weren't because they weren't acceptable. Everyone knew those comments were offensive.

As long as you grant he knew what he was saying was wrong, and knowing he knew his comments were offensive and he did, he was speaking of hate, which you do admit. So my point is proven that Lukiwski's comments were not comparable to Tommy Douglas's.

You do have a point in not wanting to further hurt the situation through 'crucifying' those men who hold those views, but in comparing Douglas to Lukiwski you suggested Douglas spoke through hate of which he didn't.

I think and hope I understand where you are coming from, but I feel you may have went too far in your goal. As you feel gay people are too-in-your-face you tried to reduce the swing of the pendulum by over-protecting Lukiwski.

And then it may be possible I am one of those people who make the pendulum's swing wider. I don't think I am though.

janfromthebruce said...

The difference was that Douglas said those statements about gays in a public, and not in some seedy backroom, joking with buddies. Others on the tape also made derogatory remarks about those to do with identity.
On the other hand, Douglas was making statements held by a medical establishment and not stated to demean.
Of course, I view the tape and the people making those statements as little people - the need to demean/degrade others in order to build their own sense of self.
Since it was a political context, I would infer that these neocons were feeling diminished do their lack of political fortunes.
It's ironic that now, with Wall the premier in Sask. and Lukiwski as a MP, where their sense of selves has increased, it will be these "wounds from the past" their political asperations.

I guess what goes around comes around!

I must also add some context as you alluded to the fact that these types of beliefs were mainstream. Let's see, Svene Robinson was an openly gay elected MP at this time.

Moreover, homosexual acts had been decriminalized about a dozen years before this homophobe tape was made with these vile remarks. Also, the Charter was almost 10 years old when Lukiwskimade these remarks. Now that is some historical context.

Yes, Tommy's remarks were ignorant but if one actually listens to them again, in fact he is actually advocating for decriminalization. And to repeat here, Tommy's remarks were founded around the "medical" view back in the 60s.

Now we add the context to Lukiwski/Wall/and conservative politicos in that video. Their derogatory remarks were made about homosexuals (plus ethnics, demeaning sexualization of a female politician, and advocating letter bombing the head of the federation of labour - terrorizism anyone?) after the Charter, after decriminalization and after the Aids crisis in the gay community. It was hate speech all around for the bunch of them - disgusting.

leftdog said...

When Douglas made the comments that keep coming up in relation to Lewkiski, gay persons were still being convicted and incarcerated in Canada for being homosexual. One of the last convictions was George Klippert who was convicted in 1969 of homosexuality and was not released until 1971 even though the Trudeau government decriminalized homosexual behavior weeks after the Klippert conviction in 1969.

Douglas's remarks in 1969 were in argument to END the criminalization of homosexual acts! The Canadian Medical Association considered homosexuality a mental health problem and 'certainly not' a moral deficiency.

Brining Douglas into this debate is based on a lack of understanding of the context of 1968. One year later, the Stonewall Riot occurred in New York City and the gay civil rights movement began.

As a footnote - MP Tom Lewkiski replaced MP Larry Spencer. Spencer advocated that homosexual acts be re-criminalized in Canada and he was forced to leave Caucus.

Matt Guerin said...

Scott, yes I most definitely agree with you that Douglas was not motivated by hate. In that sense, the two comments are different. Douglas's comments are only offensive if you ignore the historical context in which they were spoken. But of course doing so is unfair. I think highly of Douglas, and not so much of Lukiwski.

I'm certainly not trying to let Lukiwski off the hook for what he said. But I do agree that everyone should be able to learn or unlearn previous prejudices, given the right life experiences. Or I'd like to think that, at least. I doubt most of the Tories in Harper's caucus have done much learning, but then again, who knows. There has been slow progress. My hope is that the learning for Lukiwski starts now, if it hasn't started already. I'm sure this incident will be life-changing for him. And is Lukiwski so untypical of men of his generation? We're not going to win them over by, as stated, stringing one of them up for public ridicule. There are very few people out there who haven't uttered or thought homophobic thoughts, or previously been very ignorant. That's why I pointed out Tommy Douglas, because if he can be mistaken, perhaps we all can be forgiven.

Anonymous said...

In 1996, according to an Environics Poll, close to half of Canadians disapproved of homosexuality.

Things have progressed nowadays, but it's not as though we've all overcome our prejudices. I mean, last year, there was a spat of articles detailing Asians being pushed into lakes, or as the locals quaintly called it, "nippertipping." Heck, at work, I'm amazed at some of the things my co-workers say at times. Slurs. Jokes. You'd think they'd censor themselves considering that I'm a visible minority, but they don't.

Forgetting Tommy for a moment, I can see Matt's point about reaching out to people. There's a fine line between disaproving of someone's actions and hating them. Some people will die with their prejudices. Some people can be changed. If there's any good to come out of this situation, it's if people could start talking and listening to each other because that's the only way these gaps will be bridged.


Anonymous said...

sharonapple: Disapproving is different from hating. And my main thrust was to show how Douglas was not motivated by hate and Tom was.

Matt: I think you should have done a post on what you have expressed here.

I understand by comparing Douglas with Lukiwski you showed that both can be forgiven which furthers the cause of helping heal. And it may work which would in turn have its own benefit, but in my opinion they aren't comparable.

Bottom line if making such a comparison helps heal then thats of course good, but the comparison was not accurate.


Anonymous said...

Homosexuality is a perversion of sexuality no different than beastiality or incest or pedophilia. Homosexuals are obsessed with putting their genitals where they don't belong. It's a sin.

Right and wrong is NOT determined by popular opinion nor personal opinion. Homosexuality is wrong and that's a universal, immutable, objective truth.

Anonymous said...

You merely copied what you wrote on a previous post on this one. I think that is lazy and considering if you already knew my response and failed to address it then it's wrong and shows you are not here for discussion but to rant.

I repeat:

Homosexuality is natural. Its as natural as being straight. No one is born wanting to pursue bestiality, incest, or pedophilia, those people are conditioned through their environment and through their own decisions. This is not opinion this is scientifically proven.

For you to liken homosexuality not only to illegal acts, but to those of the most disgusting you are either ignorantly making a mistake or are doing so out of purpose and if so I find it offensive.

I agree right or wrong is not decided by popular opinion, that's why I rely on scientific evidence, of which the Bible is not, (in regards to your comment of "sin").