FREEDOM AND INTOLERANCE: CAN THEY COEXIST – Guest Post
Today’s guest blog is from Paulette Mahurin, a nurse practitioner, specializing in women’s health. She lives with her husband Terry and their two rescue dogs Max and Bella (from a kill shelter) in Ojai, California . When she’s not writing, she’s rescuing animals, another of her passions. The profits from her book go to the first’no-kill’ animal shelter in Ventura County, California.
FREEDOM AND INTOLERANCE: CAN THEY COEXIST
While writing my novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap,—about the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde and the impact it had on a lesbian couple living in a small Nevada ranching town in 1895—I researched the history of the persecution lesbians and homosexuality in general. An example; during the 1800s if a woman was labeled lesbian, she was considered, diagnosed, insane, and the treatment was rape to help her enjoy sex with a male.
The theme of my story, intolerance; aimed at homosexuality as the main thread; encompasses Blacks and Jewish people who were also persecuted minorities. A pervasive idea kept coming to me when trying to imagine how the protagonist, Mildred, must have felt from all the bigotry levelled against her. I wondered if she felt free? To speak? To walk to her own stride? To be? To simply be?
In questioning this I was drawn to something Oscar Wilde wrote that inspired this story and seemed to answer the question and I quote here from De Profundis (a letter he wrote to his lover while in prison):
When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realizing what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.
Even Wilde, a man of conviction, could not live up to his words for when he was released from prison on May 19, 1897, he spent the last three years of his life in France in a self-imposed exile from society and artistic circles under a pseudonym.
This, a metaphor, that begs to answer the question of whether there can be freedom and intolerance, hand in glove, certainly lends to the answer that it cannot, for where there is intolerance there is confinement, the existence of what society dictates and not the free will of an individual, with rare exception.
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, demonstrates this premise and holds true to it, but takes it a step further; where love and friendship exist healing can occur.