Friday, November 7, 2008

Suck It

Judging by the title alone, this isn't a happiness post, it's a cranky post. If you want something more lighthearted, skip over here.

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.


farmwifetwo said...

If you truly think that those with disabilities are not hidden away and bashed, you have no idea what you're talking about.

The majority still are in self-contained classrooms in schools, left to rot and not be educated. Treated as mentally retared even if they aren't. Parents of "normal" kids hate having them in the classrooms b/c they take up too much teacher time from their kids.

People shun us, stare at us and you know... those really strong "I'm Pro..." whatever's are like ex-smokers.... the most ignorant and the least tolerant of others and other's view points.

My kid, probably has the only full integrated school program for a child with Autism in the province... b/c I know of no other child, online or through my FSW... that does.

And if I hadn't gotten it, and I complained through the courts (b/c one was pushed through the courts not long ago) the school board has the right to put him in a self-contained classroom and let him rot. That, was the courts decision.

S. Who was going to ask Suz to ban her from the bb like Bonnie did yesterday... but she closed it first.

Junior said...

Meowm here:

This statment of yours:

"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."

This person doesn't want to believe the truth. I think that what she has been taught/believes, is so ingrained in her that she isn't capable of believeing the truth. I consider her to be brainwashed. And while some people can be brought back from being brainwashed, others can't. I don't think she will ever believe differently...espcially when she apparently wouldn't support her own children in this matter if they were gay.

I too am sad that the board is down. All the political brouhaha didn't help, but this (in my mind) was what sealed the fate. I think Suz could have overlooked all the political threads eventually, but this one on prop 8 pushed her over the edge...and I don't blame her.

I haven't been a heavy poster on the board for quite some time, mainly just lurk alot, but I kind of prefer to see the board continue. I really don't know what the tone of the board would be like. One can hope it would be better, and people would behave....but you never know.

azteclady said...

I am saddened that Suz felt the need to shut down the board, even temporarily.

I am saddened that we seem to have reduced one another to the ONE stance on a particular issue.

Aren't we fighting for acknowledgement the we are more similar than we are different? Then shunning people for their different beliefs from our "righteous" stances is doing to them what we are fighting not to have done to ourselves.

E, I understand your anger and your frustration, and your refusal to be quiet when lies are trumpeted and repeated and declared facts--when the actual facts belie them. But just as a beating won't make a kid learn to read, calling someone a liar or a bigot or what have you won't change their minds.

Calm, rational, persistent exposition is not likely to do it either, but it may--probably--change the mind of some of the people observing the exchange.

As one who got involved in several of the more acrimonious exchanges in the past few months, I am working on my own calm and rational behaviour.

Anonymous said...

I guess I can't be Switzerland on this particular issue. I have no desire to share cookie recipes or book recommendations with card carrying racists either, I see this as no different. I don't have any relatives or close friends, that I know of, who are gay but for me it comes down to respecting the rights of others...if you don't respect your fellow man, I don't respect you.period.end.of.sentence


MarciaBC said...

I guess I'm not surprised about the time out corner for the BB. I've beem mostly MIA there for over a year, because the ramp up in nastimess started then (when Suz is busy in a book, the stirers of the pot get busy and start poking) and ramped up dramatically in late summer. I've only been skimming the board for months. I'm pretty intolerant of intolerance, and with unhappiness at work and in the portfolio, I didn't need any more.

I miss a lot of the big women who used to post there, but don't miss the ones who want to poke badgers with spoons.


azteclady said...

E, have you seen this? (he's just 18, I'm in awe!)

CrankyOtter said...

Thanks for commenting. I'm not really sure how I was perceived in the last days. I am strident when roused, I know this. But when is enough, enough? This I don't always know.

On one hand, I didn't want to say anything unpleasant, but on the other hand, I was ready to go on the board and just lay out what I *hadn't* been saying for fear of being offensive, so the timing of the shutdown was good in helping me not do that. It was a mostly public board, but not fully. It was one of the least moderated boards I've been on and it mostly worked for the best but trolls can get out of hand, and it makes it hard to justify shutting out someone (who had previously left in a huff over something) without sounding intolerant, but at some point you don't have to let people beat you up in your own home.

Yeah, I firmly believe that some people will go to their graves treating gays as less equal. Just like some racists will. Like L, I equate the two. And I don't think I've been taking the high road in the last couple of days. It has been pointed out that 48% support is way way up from the 30-some% support the last time this rolled around. Since I think people who voted in swing states that went 1 or 2% to the other side should be proud that they got that close, why can't I do that here?

One, we got swiftboated with enough money for people to think that it was ok to stand on streetcorners to advocate taking away rights. That wasn't expected. I don't think it would have passed if the lies hadn't been extremely widespread and persistent and preached about in churches. And without the influx of $20M from the mormons, that wouldn't have happened to the extent that it did. So I DON'T think the will of the people was honestly represented. I do think the fear of the people was. And I'm done with voting for fear.

CrankyOtter said...

Oh, and FW2, I don't think special ed kids are fully integrated. There is a long, long, looonnngggg way to go. But we're doing better than we were.

I guess the same could be said of gay rights.

Beki said...

I am already missing the Suz board too but I really don't see how people can expect her to tolerate those who come to her board (that she owns and pays for) and say things that they know will be a slap in the face to her and her family.

I spent most of last night trying to figure out if intolerance of intolerance is intolerance or is it taking a stand and speaking up when you see an injustice being done to fellow human beings? If I am going to "f" up I would rather err on standing up for the civil rights of everyone than the religious or societal beliefs of a few.

azteclady said...

Beki, I know what you mean, and I don't think there is an easy answer, either face to face or online.

But it is particularly difficult to know where the boundaries lie in an unmoderated board.

On the one hand, Suz is trusting the entire community to behave like adults, and given that she has plenty of other obligations, asking her to spend time every day just checking for asshats... well, not really. But no community is static, and online communities have very specific dynamics and fluctuation in membership is one of the most distinctive of these (in my experience, load of salt here). This means that we have new people dropping by all the time--and many have absolutely no clue as to Suz's family, history, political leaning, not a single thing about her, let alone the history of the board.

On the other hand, what happens when one or more individuals (either long time members or new comers) don't behave like adults--either because they can't (aren't) or because they are emotionally/socially inept, or because they are seeking conflict as a form of validation (trolls)? How long does the community wait it out? How far can any one member or group of members go, either trying to diffuse the situation or objecting to the original shit-stirring/offensive behaviour? When does defending (if I may be so bold) Suz's living room become attacking someone else--and who other than Suz says where the line lies?

And on the other other hand, it's perfectly understandable that Suz may never want to designate any one person to moderate because, well, it's HER board, and in naming moderators she's in effect saying, "these people speak for ME"--which requires both a huge amount of trust, and a commitment on the part of the moderators to adhere to a code of behaviour themselves that aligns with Suz's, as well as time (and moderating does require time online).

royallyeffed said...

Hi Guys,

It's me - the AntiChr*st.

I've always had the impression that Suz's friends and family monitored the BB, which after 8 years must get pretty tiresome.


Janet Webb said...

Willie Brown's comments this morning (in the SF Chronicle) really struck home for me ... he's the former mayor of San Francisco -- an energetic upbeat black gentleman of a certain age who dresses like a throw-back to a more elegant era. Smart smart guy:

San Francisco these days resembles a restaurant where there's a wedding and a funeral going on at the same time, and the two crowds are all mixed up at the bar.

One person is thrilled abouat the election of Barack Obama. Then you turn around, and there's a person downright anguished about the passage of the ban on same-sex marriages.

And there are some who are happy about Obama but don't want to smile too broadly, out of deference to the people who are about to slit their throats over Proposition 8.

... and his words continue but you get the gist. Obama is such a common ground, civil guy, you'd think there might be some clues in his playbook for how to move forward for this situation. It's really sad though that the joy felt throughout the world -- something Erika was so worried about (the way the world regards America) is having to be so muted here. Probably said that very incoherently! Blame Willie :D

CrankyOtter said...

I'm still wrestling with the thrill of the Obama win and the agony of prop 8 defeat. It's much like trying to work on one project that I know I need to focus on but still have in the back of my mind that I should be working on something else. Wonder if I can set aside 2-4 pm to just be thrilled about the presidency, 4-6 to do work, and 6-8 to wallow in the rest. One thing is for certain, in both the presidential race and equality advocacy, there is more work to be done.

And the youtube link posted in the comments, done by a boy who has the same name as a gay friend of mine, speaks to the continuance of work.

Although I have to say, almost every single blog I read right after the election spoke about how people everywhere felt they had helped elect Obama, AND felt that there is work yet to continue. Way more "yes we can" than "yes we did". He's already set up a website
to keep connected.

Oh, and hop over to "Doorknobs that Lock" in my sidebar for the slice of life POV that is affected by things like prop 8.

Kim in CA said...

Thanks for explaining- I had no idea what happened. I totally agree with you about it being her board, and her right to not be slapped. I'm still shocked that Prop 8 passed! At least we saved the chickens...

Janet Webb said...

Quoting from Marcia: I miss a lot of the big women who used to post there, but don't miss the ones who want to poke badgers with spoons.

If I could just put the last few painful days of the debacle that was post-election aside, I think that's a rather, imo, innaccurate description of the way things were. Speaking just for myself, I thought that I saw a number of people try to fight for common ground and civility. Ultimately it was futile but some fights are -- it doesn't mean they're not worth fighting.

So perhaps I'm a small woman poking a badger with a spoon but that's not how I would characterize myself -- for me, for a lot of people, Suz opened up a world of friendship that I still find dazzling

MarciaBC said...

I hear you, Janet, and understand the need to make a stand and state your beliefs. However, I've never thought the Suz BB was the place to do it. I truly don't believe you can change anyone's mind in that type of forum.

Nevertheless, some of the persons alluded to in CO's post have started an alternative board, which they also did when they didn't like the old Yahoo chat room. I guess I'll never understand those who have to tear something down to remake it in their own image.


CrankyOtter said...

Well, there's another place now where people can poke badgers with spoons. A friend of mine emailed me to say she thought it was odd to have a spinnoff board collect under the "we all used to love Suz" banner and expect it to be the same as the "we love Suz" group.

I'm hoping the board will re-open. I'm willing to wait a week or even a month to see what settles out. Whatever happens, it won't be the same board afterward and only time will tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Janet Webb said...

CrankyOtter said...

Erika -- I think perhaps you've been misinformed about the review site to which you're referring: My comments are in italics.

Well, there's another place now where people can poke badgers with spoons. I don't know where you're getting your information but since there's no politics, no religion and no author bashing allowed, what badgers would those be? A friend of mine emailed me to say she thought it was odd to have a spinnoff board collect under the "we all used to love Suz" banner What are you talking about? The book reviews board was started on JULY 9th of this year -- check my user login -- for the sole purpose of reviewing and discussing books -- there is no gathering under a Suz banner and expect it to be the same as the "we love Suz" group. Again, the board is about books and a variety of other topics ... it was never set up in opposition or in competition to anyone's board and if you'd care to check the posts, you can see the members range from every corner of the political spectrum. Please be accurate -- how can we move forward if we're not? Suz's name isn't mentioned anywhere unless there's a reference to a book. My guess is that many many new people there who are reluctant to lose track of the friends they made under the Suz board umbrella would be thrilled to have Suz re-start her board and would ever so thankfully return -- possibly continuing to enjoy both brands of board experience. And why not? Freedom of choice and all.

I'm hoping the board will re-open. On that we agree -- I miss everyone there and I found the political discussions, for the most part, very interesting and I'm looking forward to an incredibly fascinating four years of a fresh new team in Washington.

Kim in CA said...

Suz's board has an announcement that it will reopen with moderators on November 18th. I will check it out.