Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unmasking racism and bigotry

I used to love watching Jerry Springer on TV. Channel 2 (a FOX affiliate, KTVU), 11am, I'd watch this silly cross between a talk show and pro wrestling, before I actually took the leap and actually started watching pro wrestling (that's "pro" with the quotes, you don't need to tell me it's scripted, but so is Lost, and Heroes, so STFU). Anyway, my favorite episodes were the ones with the Klan, these big men hiding behind sheets and shouting "White Power!". Some would oppose freedom of speech on the basis that idiots like these guys spread intolerance and fear, but I think Jerry had the right idea. Show these clowns for what they really are and let the public decide. It's one thing when they're marching on a courthouse or burning crosses, but when you put them on a panel under bright light, they're not so scary. But the best of all was when an audience member (might not have even been a black guy) tried to yank one's mask off. He wasn't having it, wouldn't let that mask go for anything. The guy got the hood off, but he was just clinging to the last bit of the mask, and turning away from the audience and the camera.

On a tangent point, you'll notice that journalists and most bloggers, myself included, post their real name. (In my case, look at the URL. Dark Reality has been my screen name since 1994 and my pen name since 1992 (long story).) There's nothing wrong with anonymous posting, but if you're trying to make a point, your opinion carries a lot more weight if it includes your real name. In an active debate, I lend a lot more credence to the guy using his real name than the guy hiding behind a screen name. By using your real name, you're putting your reputation, such as it is (or isn't) on the line. You're saying "this is who I am and this is what I believe". By using an alias, you're attributing your beliefs and your point of view to your fictional persona, which carries a lot less weight with some. Now, sure, you're up on a casual site, say, GameFAQs, and you don't want to post personal data, that's fine. But winning a fight on GameFAQs' forums, as they say, it's like winning the Special Olympics. (No disrespect to the mentally handicapped, of course, but that's how the joke goes; you'll see I left the punch line unsaid.)

So I thought it was funny that the financial backers of California's bigoted measure, Proposition 8, which ultimately defines marriage as being limited to a man and a woman, are pushing the courts to hide their identities. In this recession, they're willing to spend precious money to push an agenda of hate, but only from the comfort of their masks, and they're fighting like hell to keep the mask on. The reason why is pretty obvious. If you're in the Klan, you can go harass blacks and others behind the comfort of anonymity, which, if you didn't have, prevents a bunch of them from getting together and repaying the favor, since they don't know who you are. Smart idea as far as your own safety goes, but as with Internet debates, if you're hiding behind a mask, do you really believe the hate? Enough to sign your name on it? Obviously not, back to Proposition 8, as some of the supporters said that, in light of possible harassment, they wouldn't back a future law of this nature if their identities were made public.

I haven't blogged much about Proposition 8 or gay rights, because it's pretty much a non-issue for me. I'm not gay, myself, and I'm happily married to a woman I love. I know gays, on both coasts, and none of them really care much about marriage. They're not legally forbidden to be together, and some have exchanged vows before God without the approval of the Church or the state. Marriage itself, that act of vowing faithfulness before God, isn't illegal for anybody, but legally backed marriages are limited to a man and woman, most places. It's an interesting distinction. Again, gay couples can live together and they can exchange vows. You couldn't stop that with a law. It's pretty much free speech. The difference between a gay marriage and a straight marriage is that the latter is recognized by the state. If I were to cheat on my wife, she could ask for a divorce and I'd be financially liable. No such protection on the gay marriage, which means the marriage is based more on trust than on state law. And I haven't even gotten to the Church.

The Catholic Church will tell you that any same-sex relationship is forbidden under Levitican law (the book of Leviticus), but the quotes they cite only apply to gay men. Nothing about lesbians whatsoever. They love that quote that goes "And Man shall not lay with another man as he do his wife, for that is unclean." Now I'm no Biblical scholar, but "unclean" doesn't mean "one-way ticket to Hell". Eating pork is unclean, too, according to the Bible. But we do it. On top of any Levitican interpretation, Christianity is centered around one passage in the Bible: John 3:16, the one that states that if you believe Christ died for your sins, you're going to Heaven. Of course, Jews don't have this benefit as they don't believe in that part of the Bible; they're strictly Old Testament, as I understand, but it's not the Jews that are leading the opposition to gay marriage, it's the Christians, which is very interesting. But on top of any Biblical interpretation, you have the Catholic Church itself, an institution which promotes homosexuality within its very ranks. But it's not the gay marriage based on love and trust the Church promotes, it's a very dark kind, based on rape and pedophilia. The Church has not only not punished gay pedophile priests, it's kept them active and moved them around. See, in the Church, homosexuality is only OK if it's a man forcing himself on a young boy. Two men or two women who love each other and trust each other? They don't approve of that.

But religion, as organized religion, is by its very nature hypocritical. The purpose of religion is one of many to allow a small group to control a much larger group, through fear of eternal damnation. We're talking about the same group who once tortured and murdered men for suggesting that Earth wasn't at the center of the universe and that the Sun didn't revolve around Earth. The same group who once taught that blacks were the property of whites, who once taught that women were the property of their husbands and girls the property of their fathers. They change their image every so often to fit the public and to maintain that level of control. Don't get me wrong, though, I do believe in God, but not because a church tells me to. But I don't preach, and I keep my beliefs personal, because while they work for me, they're based on my experiences, and I believe one must come to one's own conclusions; beliefs aren't beliefs if they're forced. Then you're just somebody's puppet.

(Bonus round: Many anti-gay Christians aren't even heterosexual, they're bisexual. You can identify the bisexuals because they state that sexuality is a choice and they encourage gays to choose to be straight. Just ask yourself when you chose your own sexual orientation. If your answer is "I didn't" or "never", you're simply the way you are. Being able to make a choice means you have a choice, which means both choices are potentially viable. So next time you see, hear, or hear of a Christian telling gays to "choose heterosexuality", just do as I do and laugh a little at the irony.)

But, to return to the issue at hand, there is and it should be recognized that there is a difference between "subjective morality" and "objective morality". For the former, some religions say that it is wrong to eat pork, to recycle a previous example. That's subjective morality; you're taught one thing and you believe it and that's all fine and good, but it doesn't apply to everybody. For the latter, rape is horribly wrong. It doesn't matter who you are, what you believe, what you were taught, to force sex on another person (especially a child). The issue of gay marriage is purely a matter of subjective morality. I don't mean to infer that somebody's granpappy was wrong when he said "ain't no man need to be laying up with no other man"; by all means, if homosexuality offends you, stick with the opposite sex. But, if you truly believe it's wrong, go ahead and make your point, just be sure to sign your name, otherwise it's rather pointless.

And if you don't believe in it enough to put your name on it, surely your ideas shouldn't be forced on millions of Americans.

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