Monthly Archives: December 2013

~ Phil Robertson and Bristol Palin, you are bigots. Own it!

I don’t get the controversy with this Duck Dynasty scandal.   What Phil Robertson said was bigoted, but he has the right to express these beliefs.   Similarly, A&E and any other company have the right to find these comments distasteful and withdraw their sponsorship from Duck Dynasty.  (Unfortunately, their motives are almost certainly financial rather than moral which undermines their “taking offense” at what was said).   So I don’t get what the big fuss is.

On the other hand, I do think this controversy exposes the inherent hypocrisies, flawed logic, and lack of evidence used by bigoted people to justify their beliefs.  For example, you can’t say, “I’m not homophobic” but then claim that being gay is wrong or that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married or that the media should stop  “promoting the gay lifestyle.”  Maybe you’re not “phobic” in the sense that you have panic attacks if you are near a gay person, but you are in the sense that you are against someone else’s way of life and are unreasonably afraid of how those people will affect you and the rest of the world.   Seriously, what’s going to happen if gays can marry or are free to express their affection for one another just as heterosexual couples do?  Are you afraid gayness is a contagious disease? Or that if I see a gay couple on TV, I’m going to go, hmm, that looks like fun, I think I’ll go against my sexual preference and choose a lifestyle that will make my life harder.

Secondly, you can’t claim “I don’t hate gay people; I’m just for traditional marriage” without being a bigot of sorts.  After all, a bigot is defined as “someone who strongly and UNFAIRLY DISLIKES other people, especially a person who hates or REFUSES TO ACCEPT the members of a particular group” (Merriam Webster definition).   How is it not unfair to look down upon or refuse to accept someone because of how they were born?  Would it be okay to say that left-handed people should not be allowed to marry? Or that anyone who is not a brunette is immoral and unnatural and therefore, all red-heads and blondes should change their natural hair color so that they are like the majority of people?

I know this point will cause many people to make the argument that it’s a CHOICE, so let me explain why that assumption is wrong both with science and basic logic.

If you think about it rationally, why would people willingly choose a lifestyle that they know will make their life more difficult and that some, usually very vocal people, will say is repulsive or wrong?  Think about it! People have been BEATEN AND KILLED for being gay, so why would millions of people willingly choose to take on those risks unless they were strongly compelled by their nature to do so?    Choosing to be gay would be akin to choosing to be a black woman in 1800 America instead of a white man.  Neither is inherently better than the other, but during that time period (and probably now), it was much easier to be a white man than a black woman.  Similarly, since all humans desire acceptance and respect, why would any person DECIDE to be gay when they know that it will make these two things harder to achieve in most societies?

If you don’t agree with my logic, I hope you will listen to science.   According to Jason Koebler’s December 11, 2011 article in U.S. News & World Report:

“Scientists from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis say homosexuality …is linked to epi-marks — extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed…. In homosexuals, these epi-marks… [are] passed from father-to-daughter or mother-to-son, explains William Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and lead author of the study….Most mainstream biologists have shied away from studying it because of the social stigma,” he says. “It’s been swept under the rug; people are still stuck on this idea that it’s unnatural. Well there are many examples of homosexuality in nature, it’s very common.” Homosexual behavior has been observed in black swans, penguins, sheep, and other animals, [Rice] says.”

The article doesn’t mention that homosexual behavior is also extremely prevalent in Bonobo chimpanzees, which are the most peaceful of all the primates and very closely related to humans.

Furthermore, in Paul Mountjoy’s April 2013 article on The Washington Times website, the science of psychology provides additional support:

“40 years of study indicates homosexuality is not a personal choice. [In fact,] the APA has declared LBGT is not a mental illness or disorder…as both heterosexual and homosexual behaviors are normal aspects of human sexuality….[Moreover], sexual orientation is not simply a personal characteristic but defines a group of people in which one is likely to discover satisfying and romantically fulfilling relationships as essential components of personal identity.”

As both these sources and many others have suggested, heterosexuality and homosexuality are something significantly or wholly predetermined before we are born.   And if you still aren’t convinced being gay is not a simple choice, ask yourself when you chose to be straight?  At what moment in your life did you make that choice?

Maybe you’re not convinced you’re a bigot yet. Maybe you say you love gay people but hate their lifestyle, thinking this absolves you of bigotry.  Well, you are mistaken, especially when you consider that “discrimination against LGB’s in society-at-large, workplace and social settings produce increased levels of anger, stress and anxiety providing fertile breeding ground for depressive disorders and … suicidal thoughts” (Mountjoy).  Basically, you can’t say you “love” someone and then say things about their sexuality that would make them want to kill themselves.

Even if you say you are merely “for traditional marriage” as Bristol Palin did when commenting on the scandal, that’s just another way of saying you believe a certain group of people should not be accepted or have the same rights as you, which is bigotry.  And you believe this, not because of a crime they committed or because they have done you personal harm, but because of WHO THEY ARE and WHO THEY LOVE.    So no matter how you try to spin your anti-gay marriage position, you are a bigot.

Again, I’m not saying Bristol and Robertson and others who personally feel homosexuality is wrong (for what I’m assuming are religious-based reasons as I’ve yet to meet someone who is against gay marriage and not religious) should not be allowed to hold or express those opinions under the first amendment.  However, their opinions, which do HURT others who have NOT harmed them in any way, make them bigots.

Well, “you’re a bigot too!” someone like Bristol Palin would counter.  In fact, in today’s article by Tim Molloy of The Wrap, she claims that people like me are hypocrites and are merely being bigoted against people like her and Robertson who hold different beliefs.

Here’s why I’m not a bigot.  I am against your OPINIONS and NOT who you are as a human being.  Opinions are chosen and can and should change as one gains knowledge and experience whereas your sexual orientation, as proven above, is not something one can alter or something one chooses.   I’m not a bigot because I would never say, “Asian people shouldn’t be allowed to marry” or express disgust toward someone who has freckles, both uncontrollable and unchosen traits.  Even when it is a matter of personal choice, like with religion, I would still never tell someone they can’t practice their religion even though I find much about organized religion irrational and divisive (and being raised Catholic, I actually know what it’s like to be religious unlike homophobic people who are judging something they haven’t experienced and don’t understand).   Furthermore, I can bet that after reading this, no traditional marriage supporters will feel horrible about themselves or want to commit suicide, which further differentiates people like me from people like Robertson and Palin.  And this is the reality people like Palin ignore when they argue that LGBT and their supporters are hypocrites because they think everyone has to accept their lifestyle.   Because that’s not what all the outrage is about.  It’s not that you HAVE to accept them.  People are entitled to their beliefs regardless of how idiotic they might be. What they are upset about is people like Robertson feeling the need to share their intolerant views in a public forum when it has such a detrimental and harmful impact on those he is talking about.

Long story short, people who say bigoted things should not act offended or surprised when others call them bigots.  If you are bigot, own it.   That doesn’t automatically make you the worst person in the world or evil or even inhumane.  It doesn’t mean you have no redeeming qualities.  It doesn’t mean I’ll hate you or call you horrible names.  It just means you are a bigot.

*on a side note, I’ve participated on comment boards where I expressed similar sentiments only to be met with hatred and vitriol from people who profess to be “good people or Christians”.  So my question to anyone about to write a spiteful or mean or just plain idiotic comment (one I recently read said, “if my dog was as dumb as you, I would shoot it.) How does that support your position of moral superiority?   Or how does that support Jesus’s message of love and acceptance, Jesus the man who was often in the company of prostitutes and lepers and the outcasts of society?

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~ On Whether to Lie to Your Child about Santa

One of the benefits of waiting until you are older to have children is that you have more time to think about your childrearing philosophy.  You watch others – friends, family, and strangers – interact with their children, noting what you wish to emulate and what you wish to avoid.  You spend years developing your opinions on serious questions: do I want him or her to intently focus on one interest or to indulge in a myriad of activities? Should I raise my kids in a specific religion or expose them to many?  How will I explain death, war and the existence of bad people to my child? These are some of the “big” questions I’ve considered.  However, I recognize as I’m sure most actual parents already know, questions arise daily and as with most things in life, we can only hope to get some of them “right”.

Because of the holiday season, my future parent ponderings have recently been focused on whether I want to lie to my children about Santa (although the same ideas apply to the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, superheroes, and other assorted childhood legends.)  I say lie because essentially that is what we are doing when we spread the myth of a man in a red suit who slides down chimneys and rides on a sleigh led by flying reindeers.

Now, as a rule, I hope to be open and honest with my children, even about death, violence, and other aspects of life I’d like to shield them from.  I understand the urge to protect young ones from the ugly realities of the world.  Yet, ultimately, is it a good idea to keep out the harsh light of human failings for as long as possible and to raise children on these myths of magical beings who can perform miracles?

Don’t get me wrong.  I realize that there are some truths we should gradually introduce to children, that watching Breaking Bad or The Sopranos or Schindler’s List with a 7 year old might not be the best idea.   Yet, while most adults and parents would quickly agree to this, the majority of these same people have no problem convincing their children to believe in St. Nick, the North Pole, Elves on Shelves, and so on without seeing any danger in exposing their children to these stories.  In fact, not only do these cultural myths seem harmless; they are actually a lot of fun for children and adults.

But are they really good for us, particularly in the long-term?  And are we adults using these stories to cling vicariously to that childhood innocence we lost so long ago?

I can recall when I learned that Santa wasn’t real.  I felt betrayed and saddened, feelings similar to those I would experience years later when I realized that many of the stories I’d heard about Jesus and God were potentially untrue as well.  As an adult, I cannot help but wonder if this manipulation and deceit, however well-intentioned, might actually create children who are distrustful of adults and disillusioned about life.  I cannot help but feel there is something problematic about filling your child’s world with magic and miracles when they will inevitably learn that this is not the world we inhabit.   Is the temporary excitement and anticipation really worth the unavoidable letdown and disappointment?  Wouldn’t it just be better to help children slowly shed their innocence with carefully phrased truths rather than prolonging their naiveté with fantastical stories and logic-defying legends?

At the same time, while I want to always err on the side of honesty, I cannot imagine depriving a child of the wondrous world these myths create.  Not only would it be nearly impossible to avoid the ubiquitous Christmas references everywhere you go, but it might also be neglectful.  After all, childhood is the only time where the impossible is possible, when miracles can happen. * Because for there to be magic, there needs to be belief.  And unlike an adult who reads Harry Potter and is critical of the inconsistencies in the curses and spells the characters levy against one another, a child simply believes.  They have been given no cause to doubt what they are told is true and therefore it is true.  But as we get older, we lose this capacity for unmitigated belief.  To be an adult, for better or worse, is to see the world for what is really is, people for who they really are.  That is not to say that you are pessimistic and dispirited, only that you are more realistic in your endeavors and expectations.

So what is a parent or future parent to do?  Do you perpetuate the magical world of fairy tales and fantasies or do you simply help your child see the world for what it is and teach him/her how to make the best out of that reality?

As with most things in life, there is no clear answer, no definitive right or wrong.

Yet, while my ambiguous conclusion might make it seem like all my contemplations have been in vain, not having helped me arrive at a decisive answer, this is not entirely true.

What I do know is that a year after I determined there was no Santa, I stayed up all night on Christmas Eve, waiting anxiously on the couch by the fireplace and tree hoping for my misgivings from the previous year to be proven wrong.

Well, we all know the outcome of my standoff; my doubts were confirmed and my betrayal complete, an experience that should make me want to avoid replicating the same event with my children.   Instead, however, it taught me that it is not always the lie itself but rather the lack of explanation about why the lie was told that creates this sense of betrayal.

So for now, my working theory on how to approach this aspect of childrearing is to help children as they shed their naiveté, to not let them feel abandoned in this new world devoid of magic and myth.  Perhaps if someone had talked to me about why I had been led to believe in Santa or why we continued to pretend he was real for my younger brothers even though we all knew it was a lie, I wouldn’t have felt so disheartened and deceived.

And then again, maybe that wouldn’t have mattered.

The good thing is that I have some time to think about this decision although in the end, I think it will ultimately be a choice made by the heart rather than the mind.  Still, until then, I will be watching, contemplating, and listening, hoping to learn from those of you who have already tackled the toughest and most important job on earth.

**in my opinion, the word ‘miracle’ is overused and a misnomer.  For example, while a child being born, even one delivered during an earthquake under ten tons of rubble, is amazing and wonderful, it is not miraculous.  A miracle is something for which there is no logical or scientific explanation, which means there is no such thing as a miracle unless you can cease to believe that there is a scientific or logical explanation for everything.