Vox Populi

If you’re like me and enjoy reading something excruciatingly dumb every now and then, then you can rarely go wrong with the Letters to the Editors pages of local newspapers. I usually find myself wondering, “If these are the ones they saw fit to publish, just how awful must the unfit ones have been?” And today’s three letters are no different.

Let’s start with C. Dale German of Bethany, OK, who has a nuanced and original take on the current condition of these great United States.

One nation under God

Ha ha! Just kidding. He’s just gonna regurgitate dishonest god-humper boilerplate. This asshole has totally drunk the “1950s were a utopia” Kool-Aid about the 1950s that too many Americans gullibly believe, and he wants us all to know how deluded he is.

America was once a civil place.

Even our Wars were Civil!

Democrats and Republicans fought from opposite political perspectives yet were both proud Americans.

In fact, just like now, they would NEVER shut up about what proud Americans they are. It’s practically the only thing politicians ever say in this country.

Families could watch TV with small children and never hear profanity.

Talk about first world problems. Oh, I’m sorry, I meant fucking god damn first world problems, you cunt-faced son of a bitch.

School days began with Bible reading, a salute to the flag and the Lord’s Prayer.

That flag reference sandwiched between two religious references is very revealing. As much as they yammer on about the evils of idolatry, the flag might as well be a god to fundamentalists.

We went to work and left our houses unlocked.

Then you were idiots, seeing as crime rates were about the same in the 1950s as they are today, and are actually steeply declining over the last two decades. The only thing that’s changed is now you have sensationalistic 24 hour news channels constantly bombarding you with real life horror stories.

The American military was strong and respected.

That’s because we’d just dropped a fucking nuke on Japan. The “respect” was bullshit. People just didn’t want to get fucking nuked.

Americans felt blessed to live in America.

We still do. I just had a conversation the other day about how happy I am not to live in fucking Mexico where the fucking cartels are leaving duffel bags full of severed heads in elementary schools. The difference is that I don’t feel the need to buttress those feelings with glurgy, sentimental garbage and lies like you do.

“Blue laws” supported businesses that closed on Sunday.

Free enterprise!

Those who don’t remember this America don’t know how heartbreaking it is for those who do remember the America we lost.

It wasn’t lost, because you can’t lose something that never existed.

For sure there was poverty, segregation and social ills to be cured in an evolving America.

*Snort!* Yeah, America in the 50s was great! We saluted the flag and didn’t say the word “shit” on TV! Sure, there was crime, injustice, racism, sexism, higher poverty rates, higher illiteracy rates and all. But we had blue laws! (By the way–blue laws still exist in many cities…)

But we remember a nice country.

That’s because you were a spoiled little brat who was shielded from the harsh realities of the country you lived in. Social ills and injustice are perpetuated by silence, and silence is exactly what a sanctimonious, censorious, prudish, sheltered society like 1950s America breeds. That’s why you were so content with your fucking censored TV and chintzy American flag crap while black people were being beaten in the streets just for protesting Jim Crow laws. “Yeah, there was segregation and poverty, but I remember a nice country.” Shut the hell up.

School teachers and clergy wore suits and were respected.

If you paid school teachers a decent wage maybe they could afford more suits. Or, you know, feed and clothe their children. But the suits seem to be what’s important to you, and if that’s what it takes to get you to pay teachers more, then I guess I can go with it.

Men respected women as ladies and women responded as ladies.

“As ladies”. There is so much packed into those two words that I could write an entire blog post unraveling it. (Don’t worry. I won’t.) Let’s just say that this is the 1950’s “suits=respect” way of saying “Bitches stayed in their place.”

We can hope that not all is lost.

I hope all of it is lost. I don’t want to live in a society where superficial crap like words on TV, saluting a flag and wearing a suit are more important than real life concerns like poverty and injustice. Take your shallow-minded, cotton-candy, shiny-surface-with-a-rotten-core vision of America and shove it.

When those who remember are gone and only those who don’t remember remain, we can hope today’s crass, vulgar, obscenity of incivility will one day fade into history in a born-again America true to its founding purpose — one nation under God.

Or we could just keep living our lives and wait for all you pathetic old fogies to die so we don’t have to hear about this crap any more. The really funny thing is that 60 years from now people will be saying these exact same things about the times we’re currently living in. Humans are nothing if not predictable animals.

Our next subject, Wayne Hull of Yukon, OK, has some serious fucking Fatwa Envy going on:

Regarding the staging of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” at Civic Center Music Hall: Why would anyone during the holidays condemn an actual religion of peace? Imagine the ferocious protests if the same venue was being used to stage “The Most Fabulous Ramadan.” Why mock people of faith who celebrate their faith?

Because it’s funny? It’s telling that every time Christianity is mocked, the response is a furious protest by Christians claiming that Christians don’t do furious protests so fuck the Muzzies. They are so jealous of Muslims they can barely contain it.

What’s hilarious about ridiculing the story of Christ, likely using the most exaggerated homosexual caricatures in the presentation, and infusing sex acts into a holiday otherwise devoid of promiscuity?

Christmas? Devoid of promiscuity? Are you fucking high? The whole damn holiday revolves around a teenage girl giving birth out of wedlock.

Oh, and notice how he says “likely” when describing the contents of the play he’s furiously not-protesting. That means he hasn’t seen the play he’s criticizing. Fucking typical.

How is this anything but an affront to people whose beliefs are different and, consequently, threatening?

Pretty sure you’re the one protesting people whose beliefs you view as different and threatening. Hasn’t that been the whole theme of every single sentence prior to this one?

They made a play about gay Jesus. Fucking get over it. You didn’t even fucking see it, and no one is forcing you or anybody else to watch it. Yet you protest its very existence. You, my friend, are the one being intolerant.

Last year the Obama administration openly condemned an American citizen for a YouTube video poking fun at the Prophet Muhammad.

This would be a good time to remind everyone that the term “religion of peace” in regards to Islam was coined by George W. Bush. Pandering to Muslims is nothing new, and both parties do it. It’s not right, but it’s not exclusive to Obama, either.

Now our elected officials waffle with another public piece that, if paralleled in regards to Islam, would likely result in mass riots.

More fatwa envy. American Christians really, really, REALLY wish they could get away with the violence that goes on in the Muslim world. They’d love to riot and chop people’s heads off if they could.

Christians are supposed to shut up passively as their faith is ridiculed. If they speak up, they’re chastised as being bigots or, at least, anti-First Amendment.

And rightly so, because that’s exactly what they are. But no one is calling for you to be censored. What you’re asking for, on the other hand…

Those who support a “gay agenda” must know how deeply regressive this play impacts their desire to be recognized as part of a larger society.

Only amongst small minded bigots like you. Normal people don’t respond to a gay Jesus play by thinking, “Well, I guess that means I should deny gays their rights!” That’s not how human brains work.

The Christmas story isn’t a story of gay sex, let alone gay persons.

See? The gay people don’t need your fucking approbation anyhow. You’ve already excluded them, so why should they censor their play to appease your bigoted ass?

It’s a Middle Eastern story of one man whose life changed the world forever.

Which is why we Christians fight tooth and nail to make sure it never changes again….

…And lose every time.

And just so it doesn’t look like I’m unfairly picking on my home state, let’s move on to Pennsylvania. Central Pennsylvania, to be more precise. And as we all know, central Pennsylvania is the most important Pennsylvania, because it’s central to all that other Pennsylvania. And it’s got those fires that never, ever, ever go out.*

But that’s not what the real problem is. Take it away, Chris Hicks of East Pennsboro Township.

If the question is gay marriage, God has the answer

Please tell me Jesus finally proposed to Muhammad.

In response to Shirley Ericson’s letter, “United Methodist church is acting against a courageous minister“:

Contrary to Ms. Ericson’s opinion, God is not this grandfatherly-cosmic-casual-genie that looks down on us and is OK with our sinful condition.

Grandfatherly Cosmic Casual Genie sounds a lot better when you sing it to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon theme. Seriously, try it.

And why would god even be a genie, casual or otherwise? I read Shirley Ericson’s letter. She at no point implies that Jeebus is played by Shaq or Robin Williams, or that he ever grants any wishes (see what I did there? Prayer is bullshit!). The only person talking about this weird genie Jesus is you, bub.

Anyways, if gob doesn’t like our sinful condition, he shouldn’t have created it in the first place. He chose to give us free will and put tempting fruit in the garden. If he’s unhappy with the result, he has no one to blame but himself. Would you put a steak on your floor then beat your dog for eating it?

His word is clear and infallible. It does not change, while a culture’s moral compass becomes clouded and is in decline.

How exactly can a compass be in decline? Maybe he’s referring to the Golden Compass film franchise…

His word is rock solid, firm and clear.

Weirdly, this is also true of his dick.

Sin is bad because it hurts the heart of God.

What is it about fundamentalist religion that turns its followers into prattling five year olds? The baby-talk that comes from these people is just plain fucking creepy. The above sentence should never be spoken by any human being over the age of 8, unless they have, like, Down’s syndrome or something. And even then they should keep it to a minimum.

But apparently, in this guy’s puerile mind, an omnipotent being can be hurt. How? How could a perfect being be harmed in any way? If he has ANY vulnerabilities or shortcomings whatsoever, then he is not perfect and omnipotent.  It makes no sense to speak of a perfect being feeling or wanting or needing anything at all. And, with one fell swoop, I’ve just erased the motivation for all but the most deistic forms of religion. Sorry about that. I know how you guys hate logic.

When will we quit trying to pursue our own fleshly lusts and sinful desires and seek to live sacrificial lives unto our great, gracious, holy heavenly Father?

When we all lose our god damn minds. So, hopefully never.

For a closing exercise, click on that link above and read Shirley Ericson’s letter, then go back and read Chris Hicks’ again.  These are both Christians, but they are clearly very different kinds of Christians. And I’m not just talking about their views on gay marriage being different. Their brains work differently.  They’re processing information and reacting to it in starkly different ways.

Even before we get to their beliefs and their claims, just the language of the two letters shows striking contrasts. Both letters, for instance, contain a single interrogative sentence. But they use the interrogative for entirely different purposes. Ericson’s interrogative (third paragraph) is a hypothetical in which she presents some evidence and then provides a logical conclusion from it in order to make the reader THINK about their position. She’s challenging her audience to use their minds and reconsider their position.

Now look at Hicks’ interrogative, which I just snarked at above. It’s a lament, intended to get people to stop behaving differently from him and start unquestioningly obeying an authority. It has precisely the OPPOSITE purpose as Ericson’s. And rather than use logic to persuade, he tries to change the reader’s mind by appealing to a cognitive bias humans have to be more trusting of people who look wealthy, clean, beautiful, or powerful. Seriously, would even North Korea use language like his to describe its leader?

The baby-talk is completely absent from Ericson’s letter. Her declarative sentences are more complex than Hicks’, and again she uses them differently. Her declarative sentences consist mostly of statements of fact that are not a matter of belief, such as “This guy will lose his job,” etc. She often uses these facts as premises and conclusions in arguments. For Hicks, EVERY declarative sentence states as fact something that is a matter of his own personal faith. He doesn’t actually state a single faith-free fact anywhere in his letter. Not one. And he doesn’t make any arguments at all. He just declares his own beliefs as absolutely true by fiat, as if he himself were god.

I could go on and on analyzing the differences between the two, but the point should be obvious by now. There are different kinds of Christians, and differences between them run so deep that they alter the very way they process information and interact with the world. Ericson focuses on concrete facts. She then processes these to see what they imply. And if what they imply contradicts what she believes about gay marriage, she adapts her beliefs to the new information. She then proceeds to spell out these premises and conclusions for others, hoping to replicate the process in other minds as well. This is all just a long way of saying she’s a RATIONAL FUCKING PERSON.

Hicks, on the other hand, is a textbooks example of an authoritarian. He associates power with truth and beauty. If someone is powerful, then whatever they say must be true and good. He sees himself as a conduit of this power, and issues demands on its behalf that others assimilate to his thought processes or face dire wrath. So he’s like the Borg, but without any real power. He views communication between humans as a string of commands that others obey the power that he is vicariously channeling from an imaginary being.  And he sees value in others only insofar as they conform to this arbitrary string of commands. Which, again, is just a long way of saying he’s a FUNDAMENTALIST FUCKFACE.

I’m glad there’s no heaven. Spending eternity with these guys would be hell.

 

____________________

*No wonder they based a horror video game on it. That shit is fucking scary.

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Gay rights = Civil rights

Civil rights movements are always transgressive in their own time. They break social mores, challenge previously unquestioned biases, and root out traditional moral values to replace them with newer, more progressive ideals. This is true of the abolitionist movement to end slavery, the women’s suffrage movement and subsequent feminist/women’s lib movement, and the civil rights movement for African Americans. In their own day, the “right thinking” traditionalists denounced them as unchristian and anti-biblical. But eventually, they become the new status quo, and the new religious right has to find a way to distance themselves from what their intellectual forebears wrought. Despite the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention specifically formed to defend slavery, you won’t hear Baptists today bringing that talking point up very often.

This creates a problem for god-humpers. The most prominent civil rights movement today is the gay rights movement. God-humpers oppose it, because it involves people living their own lives uninfluenced by a 2,000 book of fables that they believe should control everyone and everything. But the gay rights movement is playing out very much like past civil rights movements–civil rights movements which the fundamentalists now pretend they supported all along (they didn’t).  In fact, the arguments for and against gay marriage in particular are extremely similar to the arguments for and against miscegenation in the first half of the 20th century. In both cases, it was argued that god separated the races/sexes because he never meant for them to marry. In both cases marriage between people of different races/same sexes were argued to be “unnatural”. In both cases it was argued that mixed race kids/children of gay parents would somehow suffer from their parents mixed race/same sex relationship. And in both cases these arguments are complete and utter horseshit. The Loving v. Virginia case of 1967 guaranteed the right to marry to all mixed race couples in all 50 states, and the gay marriage issue is progressing in a very similar fashion, except at a much faster rate. It’ll be legal in all 50 states in maybe 5 to 10 years or so, and even the staunchest opponents seem to realize this.

What to do? The god-humpers want to oppose gay marriage, but they also want to pretend that god-humpers never took the wrong side in the very similar fight over interracial marriage. Well, there’s no way to resolve the cognitive dissonance other than to pretend it’s not real at all. Gay rights has nothing in common with black civil rights! Why, because I SAY SO DAMN IT!

Last month, Pennsylvania’s attorney general refused to defend a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Her website argues: “The issue of same-sex marriage is squarely in the tradition of the struggle for civil rights in the U.S.” That comparison has significant implications for how same-sex marriage advocates treat marriage laws that they disagree with. It also deserves more scrutiny.

No, it really doesn’t. The Pennsylvania judge didn’t just pull that comparison out of her ass. It has been noted again and again by numerous observers of the movement, and has strong historical evidence to support it. Like I said, look up the ruling in the Loving case and read it. Replace the racial stuff with sexual orientation stuff, and it’s easy to see that we are having the exact same argument, just about a different minority.

As a grassroots supervisor for California’s Proposition 8, I was surprised to see numerous yard signs stolen, slashed and defaced. Those responsible were likely law-abiding citizens. Why the exception? Undoubtedly, many felt they were in hand-to-hand political combat against discrimination, hatred and bigotry.

“Grassroots”? Bullshit. Michael Erickson, the author of this garbage, got his law degree at Brigham Young University. So he is probably a Mormon. There was nothing grassroots about the Mormon church’s support for Prop. 8 in California. The church itself funded numerous political operations in hopes of influencing the voting public (something non-profit organizations are not supposed to do), and then lied about their involvement repeatedly, even after documents proving their financial involvement surfaced.

I don’t support vandalizing signs, but if the vandals (misguidedly) thought they were helping fight discrimination, hatred and bigotry, they were merely using the wrong methods to target the right group. Anyone who supported Prop. 8 supported discrimination, hatred and bigotry. That includes you, Mr. Erickson.

I will give him credit for at least recognizing that the people who defaced signage are probably otherwise good people, and will extend the same courtesy to him. I have no doubt that Mr. Erickson opposes any form of violence or vandalism against gays or gay rights supporters, which automatically makes him better than the entire Russian government and a healthy chunk of the Russian people on this issue. But the fact that he is humane in one area of human rights does not cancel out his bigotry in others. In the 1960s there were undoubtedly people who thought blacks should be treated equally….except when it comes to marriage. Mr. Erickson has taken a similar position on gays judging by the rest of his op-ed. It’s a lesser bigotry, but lesser bigotry is still bigotry.

It’s no secret that media coverage disproportionately favors same-sex marriage. A candid admission in the Washington Post explains why “(many journalists) see people opposed to gay rights today as cousins, perhaps distant cousins, of people in the 1950s and 1960s who, citing God and the Bible, opposed black people sitting in the bus seat, or dining at the lunch counter, of their choosing.” (What goes unsaid is that the most influential civil-rights leaders, “citing God and the Bible,” opposed discrimination and segregation on religious grounds.)

Actually, what most often goes unsaid is that in almost every civil rights conflict, the Bible is quoted to support BOTH sides of the issue. This is because the Bible is murky, muddled, contradictory, and irrelevant to modern life. It’s primed to be manipulated and read however the reader wants to read it. Every civil rights movement (including the gay movement) has religious people on both sides, quoting the same scripture to say the opposite thing. It’s almost like the Bible is bullshit or something!

Regrettably, some infamous groups spew anti-gay rhetoric that is hateful and indefensible. But far too often the media amplify these voices and conflate all religious opinion with this easily assailable straw man.

Comparing you to the yahoos at Westboro Baptist Church or the American Family Association would indeed be tearing down a straw man. But that doesn’t mean that your views are not hateful or indefensible. Lesser bigotries, as before.

As such, they entirely ignore, as a Deseret News editorial put it, our “morally complex and pluralistic world” (June 30). A world where some religious faiths that only endorse marriage between a man and a woman also support nondiscrimination laws for gays and lesbians. And a world where some gays and lesbians oppose same-sex marriage “citing a belief that children benefit most from opposite-sex parents.”

Those are both minority opinions. Sure they count to some extent, but they don’t represent either group. More importantly, yes, we do live in a morally complex and pluralistic world. But that’s exactly why religion is growing more and more irrelevant every day, and why more and more people are leaving their churches. Religions too often speak in absolutes, in black-and-white morality, in unquestioned divine authority, in faith unsupported by facts and evidence, in the primacy of tradition over a society that adapts to improve the lives of real people instead of please the whims of invisible imaginary people. Religion just doesn’t fit any more, and it is slowly dying as a result.

Unfortunately, the situation is unlikely to change unless this civil-rights comparison is scrutinized. Here are three differences that deserve attention:

Scrutinize it all you want. It will change nothing, because your starting position, the very beliefs you stand on, are what’s really wrong with your argument.

First, laws prohibiting interracial marriage were designed to promote white supremacy. That’s why a unanimous Supreme Court invalidated these laws for having “no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination.” In sharp contrast as one gay-marriage advocate acknowledges, “Unlike racial segregation, to which anti-gay laws are often compared, the traditional restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples was not designed, in and of itself, to denigrate or harm same-sex couples.”

“One gay marriage advocate said something stupid, so that makes the stupid thing true!”

When North Carolina outlawed gay marriage in 2012, do you think that had any purpose other than to reinforce straight privilege? Straight people get the benefits of marriage, gay people don’t. Therefore, privilege. Straight people get to visit their dying spouses in the hospital, gay people don’t get that privilege. The law was designed specifically to reserve certain privileges to straight couples and deny them to gays. To argue that it serves any other purpose is absurd.

As for “traditional marriage”, there’s no such thing. Racial segregation has a long and storied tradition as well, and not all forms of it were “designed” to reinforce privilege in one race. Many, like marriage, weren’t designed at all, but instead arose organically and only became enshrined in law later on. Regardless of whether opposite-sex marriage was ALWAYS designed to denigrate gays, there’s no questioning that RIGHT NOW it is. And that’s what matters.

Second, the Civil Rights movement, according to noted leader John Lewis, “was built upon deep-seated religious convictions” and, without such faith, “would have been like a bird without wings.” But it’s hard to imagine prominent gay-marriage advocates describing their movement as “built upon deep-seated religious convictions.” Indeed, it has often been hostile to religion.

To be sure, some of that hostility stems from perceived, and sometimes very real, denigration by some religious adherents. Nevertheless, the different roots of these movements appear to manifest sharply contrasting fruits. Compare, for example, the gospel-inspired Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” to the now popular mantra “Get on the right side of history!” Or compare the Christian perseverance evident in this preacher’s promise, “We will win you with the power of our capacity to endure,” with the conventional pride revealed in this politician’s bluster, “It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not.”

The past civil rights movements also took place in a time when religion had more political strength than it does today. As I already mentioned, our society is going through a slow process of secularization, and religion’s power is waning. It should come as no surprise, then, that religion has less of a role to play in current issues.

This doesn’t change the fact that there are indeed many Christians who support gay rights. As I discussed above, this shouldn’t be surprising to anybody, because the Bible says only what the person quoting it wants it to say.

Third, whereas segregationists fought to preserve their social status and political power, many in the religious coalition for man-woman marriage seek, in the words of President Obama, “to preserve and strengthen families.” Although in favor of same-sex marriage now, even President Obama acknowledges that their “impulse” to strengthen families “is the right one.”

Bullshit. “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” was a constant refrain amongst segregationists. It was alleged, without evidence, that mixed race families would be unstable, that allowing interracial marriage would lead to black men raping white daughters, that mixed race children would not turn out as well as “pure” children. The gay marriage opponents make all the same unsupportable claims, saying children of gay parents will turn out bad, comparing gays to pedophiles, and insisting that only opposite sex marriages can be stable. Nothing has changed except the identity of the minority being denied its rights.

Notwithstanding these differences, discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation should be addressed. Marriage, however, is about more than civil rights for individuals. Marriage has profound implications for a historically vulnerable and underrepresented class of persons — children.

That’s what the opponents of interracial marriage said. They were wrong, and so are you. Their beliefs were based on superstitious misapprehensions of a minority, and so are yours. Because of white privilege, they couldn’t see (or wouldn’t see) how they were harming others. The same goes for you and your straight privilege.

In the fortieth year since Roe v. Wade, public opinion has settled on a middle ground that recognizes the concerns of both pro-choice and pro-life advocates — approving of abortion for threats to a mother’s health, rape, incest, and birth defects, but disapproving for elective birth control, selecting birth traits or avoiding parental responsibility.

If the public discussion on marriage is not prematurely curtailed, public opinion might yet arrive at a common ground that recognizes the dignity of gay and lesbian Americans while also preserving marriage between a man and a woman as the surest foundation for the future of children.

How would you like it if we found a “middle ground” when it comes to YOUR rights? You seem to be fine when the rights of gays and women are on the line, but what if we start curtailing yours because of “the children”? That sound good to you? Would you like it if the people took a vote on your marriage? Would you like it if we declared, based on no evidence, that Mormons make bad parents, and that therefore you can’t get married? Would that be okay with you? Would you feel that we were “respecting” your “dignity” if we prohibited you from visiting a dying spouse in the hospital just because we disagree with your faith/lifestyle, based on such stupid arguments? You can’t respect people’s dignity while denying them certain basic privileges which you reserve to yourself. So long as you insist on doing so, you are a bigot, and you are discriminating.

Oh, and the Mormon church didn’t allow blacks to be ministers until…what? 1975? 1976? Some time around then. But you’d rather we forgot all about that, wouldn’t you, Mr. Civil Rights Man?