This week's show will feature Dan O'Connell, president of Visit Fort Wayne, who will discuss the recent Democratic state convention and other efforts to promote local tourism. The episode will premiere at 5:30 p.m. Saturday on Comcast Channel 57 and FiOS Channel 27 and later at news-sentinel.com.
The “G” has been short for “General” since 1908, even though a $50 billion bailout three years ago induced critics to suggest it should be “Government” instead.
This week, however, some people are asking whether GM really means “Gay Motors.”
Oh say, can you see a rainbow “pride” flag flying just below the Stars and Stripes at the company's Fort Wayne truck assembly plant? Yes you can – although whether that represents a gesture of tolerance and respect or a slap in the face to traditionally minded employees is a matter of considerable debate.
“With 3,600 employees, some obviously are not happy. It's emotional either way, but GM has a strong 'diversity' policy,” plant spokeswoman Stephanie Jentgen explained, noting that the current flag representing GM's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees will be rotated with the Indiana state flag and banners representing the United Auto Workers and 11 other “Employee Resource Groups” representing the disabled, veterans, blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Vietnamese, Hispanics, women, Chinese and others.
Nowhere in all of that diversity, however, is there a flag representing people who are perfectly willing to treat gays and everyone else with respect but compelled for religious or other reasons to draw a line between tolerance and glorification.
“We don't have a flag for Christians or other religious groups,” Jentgen said, noting that she's not sure the idea has even been discussed or what the reaction might be if it were.
But If you truly are “committed to building a global culture of diversity and inclusion” and want to “foster constructive dialogue on the importance of diversity at GM,” as a company statement insists, shouldn't discussion of such an admittedly “emotional” issue leave room for more than one point of view?
“Why are we celebrating what someone does in the bedroom?” said Tammy Soter-Simoes, a member of UAW Local 2209. “My faith teaches me to love people of all races and religions despite their differences. We are all sinners, but I won't celebrate it. Why doesn't GM celebrate our faith? Why doesn't GM celebrate life?”
To the modern, politically correct ear accustomed to hearing even churches ignore Scripture in order to promote inclusiveness, such words are jarring and will be dismissed by some as hateful or homophobic. But they also represent centuries of mainstream cultural, political and religious thought – thought reflected in the fact that proposals to legalize same-sex marriage have been defeated in all 32 states in which it has been put to a vote.
Although some have objected to the fact that the rainbow flag replaced a banner honoring America's prisoners of war, that misses the point. The POW flag, Jentgen noted, has been moved to a more prominent display along Interstate 69.
What matters is the fact that efforts to promote inclusiveness and diversity can simply replace one form of intolerance with another if unevenly applied.
As an employer, GM has every right to establish and enforce job-related codes of conduct for its employees. If hostility, threats or violence have been directed toward gays or members of any other group, the company would have both a legal and moral obligation to address it.
However, religious issues, unlike sexual behavior, are explicitly protected by the Constitution.
Efforts to paint the gay-rights movement as just the latest quest for civil rights miss the obvious point that the current movement is about behavior, not race or gender. Society judges and establishes limits on behavior all the time as competing viewpoints evolve, and if GM is taking sides it is not really promoting diversity at all, is it?
So until GM hoists a flag in support of all those middle-aged, religious, straight white guys who for some strange reason are always made to feel unimportant or worse in the never-ending search for inclusiveness, maybe GM should simply hoist the state flag beneath Old Glory and leave it there.
Black or white, male or female, straight or gay, atheist or believer, we are all Americans and Hoosiers. Aren't the things that unite us at least as important as the relatively superficial things that too often divide us?
Let's celebrate those for a change.