A fair amount of my social life is conducted over the internet. The primary conduit being an online book club. The format's a scrolling bulletin board sponsored by my favorite author Suz Brockmann. Suz has a son who is gay. She stated many times that laws discriminating against or actions taken to marginalize gay people hurt her and hurt her family. And that any opinion was allowed as long as it wasn't hate speech or spreading slanderous lies. After prop 8 passed, one of her readers (who has been a little snotty in the past) came on and said essentially "bless your heart but for your own good I proudly voted yes on 8".
Then a brouhaha ensued. As of this evening, the board has been shut down.
I admit to being part of the brouhaha. I am afraid I disagreed and was disagreeable about it. Despite President-Elect Obama's implicit exhortations that we all be on our best behavior, I said outright that I had utter contempt for anyone (and her specifically) who would come to a site sponsored by a gay advocate to gloat that the law making the sponsor's family less equal in the law had passed with her glad help. At this moment, I'm not sorry. It got me thinking again of the injustice of voting on rights at all, ever. And on how to live as one people with those who dismisses you and yours as faulty and incapable of deciding your own best interests. More on that in later entries.
Oddly, most of the brouhaha was whether or not we had to be tolerant of this hateful bigot. *Before* prop 8 passed, she came on and floated some "reasons" to vote for 8. All of them but "I don't think it's right" were provably false, and we said so. She was polite and floated the arguments which was useful, actually, to get the word out. But *after* it passed she came back with the same old crap. And seriously, her kid will learn about gay people regardless. Why is that harmful again? Why can't she be tolerant of someone who is wired differently? Tolerance isn't even acceptance really. Can people just not understand that other people are different from them?
We've come so far in the last few generations. Not just more equality for women and people of color (not equal equality yet, but making progress). But also more acceptance of people who are odd for some reason and used to be hidden away. I've always wondered if my great-great-aunt Ana didn't get married because she had a giant burn on her face from a spilled coffee in childhood. My mom remembers her fondly as a lovely woman. Yet I knew someone in ROTC with a disfiguring port wine stain over more than half her face who had a normal life - joined the air force, married after college, and was just normal. I saw someone with cerebral palsy, or something similar, lurching down the street with two friends at lunchtime, just today. There were several kids across this country who won Homecoming King and Queen in legitimate elections - only noteworthy because they have Downs Syndrome. Yet they were integrated as much as possible into the classrooms and their schoolmates liked them. Not just tolerated, but accepted, made friends with, and liked. And it still feels astonishing, but then I think about that and realize that it shouldn't be astonishing, although we should keep celebrating these achievements. (I almost wrote "victories" but that implies a loser, and this fight for equality isn't about making other people lose. Except maybe losing a venue.)
Even a generation or so ago, it was astonishing to see women in pants. It was astonishing to see the handicapped out and about in public. It was astonishing to see mixed race couples. It was astonishing for women to buy their own homes. None of these things are astonishing anymore (not to me, anyway) because a lot of us are trying hard to see people for who they are inside. Yes, what's on the outside informs your life in many ways. But physically beautiful people who are carrying a streak of mean or evil become much less attractive when you get to know them. And people with weird warts who win Ms. Congeniality awards become so attractive, the warts no longer come to your attention. It has always confounded me that if you teach people to love the person on the inside that you'd then be surprised if they fall in love with someone whose outside doesn't meet your expectation.
I can't seem to figure out how to explain why I don't have to be tolerant of hateful bigots who TAKE ACTION against me and mine. I don't care if you're smiling when you stab me; if you stab me it cancels out any amount of polite. You can express your opinion. But you can't expect me not to pick it apart when it's wrong or based on lies. Correction is not intolerance. Well, it's intolerance of ignorance, but how is that bad? But if you list "reasons" for your intolerance that are provably false yet still choose to repeat those reasons as truth, then you become a liar. And you need to stop spreading your lies my way because I will keep correcting you until I'm blue in the face. I'm not opposed to all lying, necessarily. It helps make the world go 'round. (I'm just not good at it.) But I am opposed to spreading lies that deliberately hurt people. And I don't think I need to be tolerant of that. And I'm having trouble letting it go.
- "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - MLK
The board may or may not come back on line. I'm not sure how it will go if it does. Ms. Nastypants and a couple trolls have been banished and good riddance. But I started finding that I was skipping more posts than I read when I used to read almost everything. I used to like almost all the posters and recently I've started not just avoiding, but actively disliking more posters than usual. In trying not to offend, people have stuck on brittle smiles and tried to play nice, but that misses the point. I think I was most upset for not being able to have a big board celebration for Obama winning because there was a sense that we didn't want to rub the noses of the McCain voters in it. Again, it felt more like achievement than victory (although Victory comes into play for me also). I wanted that celebration with my friends and when I felt it wasn't going to happen, I felt as disconnected from the board as I ever have. Which is really too bad. I miss it already.