Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I can't believe this problem even exists

Facebook used to be so nice. It was open exclusively to college students. You needed a valid college email address to register. Preteens didn't use it to post sexy, semi-nude pictures of themselves. Older relatives didn't join and judge your drunken photos. Your boyfriend's aunt didn't use it to stalk you.

Oh, Facebook. If only you had retained your integrity, I might not be in this mess.

A few days ago Miss California said a nasty, disgusting thing at the Miss USA pageant. I happened to see it just as I was switching off a movie (because I will not voluntarily watch pageants). In case you missed it, here it is again:

Don't you love a supposed role-model spewing hate speech? So, I post a status update to my Facebook about how shitty this is. I get multiple comments in agreement. Then, to my surprise, I receive one more comment. From my uncle. From my racist, sexist, homophobic, Rush Limbaugh-loving, Bush-fucking uncle.

This uncle has always been an instigator. From the time that I was little, he has always made comments at family gatherings that have struck me as...inappropriate. Although he has always been kind to me, as I have gotten older I have felt less and less respect for him as a person. He has made it clear that the various "jokes" he cracks about blacks, gays, and women thinly mask his true feelings.

Anyway, back to the Facebook status. I won't paste or address everything he said here, but he made several statements that specifically bother me. I want to use this post to organize my thoughts on them.

On the other hand, I cheered when I heard [what Miss California said]. To each his or her own. People should have the right to say what they want and when they want. Political correctness is bullshit!"

I love the glaring hypocrisy of a statement like this. How can a person claim "to each his or her own" when their "own" involves actively denying the "own" of others? Furthermore, Miss California DOES have the right to say what she wants, no matter how horrible it is. No one arrested her, or stopped her from answering the question, or hauled her off the stage. BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE CAN'T VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE WITH HER. Dissent is NOT a form of limiting another person's speech. The audience has just as much a right to boo, criticize, send angry letters, etc., to Miss California as Miss California has to say hateful things.

I also have trouble wrapping my head around the anti-political correctness mentality that has gripped conservatives. They seem to think that all political correctness "goes too far" or is unneccessary. Let's get one thing straight: The purpose of political correctness is to RESPECT people. It is not to silence you, but to ensure you understand that it is hurtful to say certain things to certain people. Refraining from calling someone a "fag" is political correctness. Calling someone "black" or "African-American" instead of "colored" or "negro" is political correctness. Disenfranchised communities ask that you use this language because the hope is that reformed language makes you see them as EQUALS. If we can use language to denigrate and "otherize" groups of people, then we can use it to empower and equalize. Refusing to acknowledge the power of political correctness is to refuse to acknowledge the struggle of the disenfranchised to be seen as humans. It is NOT "bullshit," and it doesn't hurt anyone to practice it. But it does hurt when people refuse to practice it.

"and did Prop 8 lose by one vote, I don't think so"

This comment was a response to a comment in which I said that Miss California's opinion contributed to the denial of equal rights for millions of people (presuming that Miss California participated in the Prop 8 vote). Of course Miss California's vote wasn't the single determining factor in the outcome of Prop 8. However, it's highly fallacious reasoning to claim that her vote somehow doesn't count. Attittudes like Miss USA's are a part that constitutes the whole of the anti-gay conservative population. By participating in a state vote, she ACTIVELY helped build that population. By dismissing her hateful opinions and the impact those opinions have on other people via her participation in this democracy (including the people she elects to represent her in state and federal government), my uncle is dismissing the impact that every individual has on our government. If he's going to make statements like this, then I would expect him to not vote in any elections himself, by virtue of the claim that his single vote will not impact the outcome of the election.

As far as role models go, who gives a shit how Miss America, any pro athlete or any of those Hollywood idiots like Alec Baldwin or Sean Penn think. They all make a lot of money and think all of a sudden because they are famous that they need to tell us how to live our lives because it is the way they see it. Fuck em all.

Well, I can't argue with the fact that no one should care what a vapid pageant participant thinks about politics. However, Miss USA's SOLE REASON FOR EXISTENCE is to serve as a role-model. She is unlike Alec Baldwin or Sean Penn because, although some people might think actors and actresses should set a good example, they are not SPECIFICALLY labled as role-models. Every part of the Miss USA pageant showcases what a positive example the contestant sets. She is supposed to be clean, pretty, well-spoken, talented, thoughtful, feminine, etc. What she should NOT be is a homophobe. Furthermore, while an actor might "think...they need to tell us how to live our lives," the contest REQUIRES the contestants to answer questions on politics and current events; their opinions are not unsolicited, as an actor's might be. The pageant WANTS you to care what Miss USA thinks.

I don't care what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their house. It is none of my business. However, when people start protesting and telling ME that I am wrong or I am a racist or a homophobe, then they just drew a line in the sand.

Oh, jesus. Here it is, right here. Let's go slowly. My uncle is correct: It IS none of his business what two consenting adults do in their home. Based on this statement, he is not a homophobe. However, as soon as he begins supporting the politicians and legislation that deny people rights BASED OFF WHAT THEY DO IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR HOMES, he is making it his business. And that is what homophobia is. I know, it's a confusing word, this "homophobia": The "phobia" part would lead you to believe it refers to a "fear" of homosexuality, rather than a prejudice against it. Let me clear it up for you: Although I agree that the word is a misnomer, it is generally accepted that it indicates prejudice against homosexuals, which may or may not include fear. You can "love the sinner, hate the sin" all you want, but the INSTANT you decide to support legislation that TREATS HOMOSEXUALS DIFFFERNTLY FROM HETEROSEXUALS, you are showing PREJUDICE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS.

What I think is most interesting about people like my uncle is that they will say racist, sexist, and homophobic things until the cows come home, but they lose their minds when someone labels those statements as racist, sexist, or homophobic. Do they only define racism as participating in a lynching? Or sexism as wifebeating? I think it's too easy for people to forget that these "isms" encompass a wide variety of behaviors and opinions, ranging from the classic extreme examples I just mentioned to the subtle injustices of daily life. For instance, falsely assuming that all gay men love interior decorating. Or making comments about shitty female drivers when a woman happens to cut you off in traffic. Or prefacing a story about a person by describing their non-white race, when their race has nothing to do with the story. These things all fall under the "ism" category of behaviors, and the more you do them, the more of an "ist" you are. The sooner people understand that these "small" actions and thoughts make as much of an impact as the extreme, after-school-special type of stuff, the better off we'll all be.

"XXX said "She's a Cunt" on the comments above. Is that not "Cheering" from his side? Don't like what you hear so you resort to name calling?
Obama won the election for President. I don't like him, didn't vote for him but he is my president. Unlike XXX, I don't refer to him as a fucking nigger. I sure as shit don't like his policies."

This is the comment that got my uncle placed on limited profile, as well as a frank private message from me. I also deleted the comment, because I won't have the n-word bandied about my wall. My sister felt that it was hypocritical of me to delete my uncle's comment, and not XXX's; however, I simply do not place XXX's use of "cunt" on the same plane as my uncle's use of the n-word. In the first place, XXX made his comment in passing, not as part of an attempt at high-end discourse or argument. Secondly, I'm not even sure what point my uncle is trying to make here: This comment came in response to one that a friend made, stating that the acceptance of homophobia is "nothing to cheer for" (itself a reference to my uncle's first comment). My friend's comment did not state that no one should cheer for who they support. Therefore, I would allow XXX his right to "cheer" for "his side" by calling Miss USA a cunt (and frankly, I'm not particularly bothered by that word). If my uncle is trying to state that resorting to name-calling is immature, then I would agree with him (and I am in no way saying that XXX is making the most intelligent statement ever. But to be fair, that was NEVER his intent). But here is the kicker: I have PERSONALLY heard my uncle call Obama the n-word. He uses that word ALL THE TIME. So actually, I know his argument to be a lie, and to have him openly use those words on my wall when they weren't actually relevant to the argument is unfathomable. I believe he was looking for an excuse to use the n-word in this argument, despite its irrelevancy: He loves shock-value.

After this comment, I apologized to my friends who had seen it, and promptly sent him a private message. In this message, I told him that I didn't want that word on my wall, especially not from him. I also told him that his years of bigotry have always bothered me, and now I find it especially bothersome that he is transgressing the confines of family gatherings and exposing my friends, co-workers, and other family to his hateful views. I asked him to seriously re-evaluate his needless resentment to non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-straight people and the impact of his feelings on his family members. I also told him, point-blank, that he is an embarassment to me. I do not regret anything that I said.

His return message was a mix of backhanded apologies ("I'm sorry you feel that way") and typical conservative self-victimization ("What I do have a problem with is the attitude that I and other conservatives have to put up with because we believe what we believe."). The victimization is my favorite part, because it so blatantly ignores the fact that what they believe TRULY victimizes others (in the form of discriminatory laws, hate crimes, schoolyard bullying, etc.), while what the non-conservative view believes in DOES NOTHING TO VICTIMIZE CONSERVATIVES (For example, allowing gay marriage doesn't force conservatives to marry gays, or end the practice of heterosexual marriage).

He ended the message with a totally awesome example of bad logic: "BTW, as you may or may not know, I was raised in a Jewish neighborhood and the high school was 85% jewish. I have jewish friends and I have black friends and acquaintences. " Does he not realize how cliched this statement is? "I have black friends so I can't be a racist." Just because someone has friends and acquaintences in the group which they are trying to marginalize does not make their prejudiced opinions okay. It's a weak attempt at justifying opinions he knows to be bigoted. Also, why does growing up in a Jewish neighborhood have anything to do with validating the credibility of his opinions about gay marriage? Obviously, he is attempting to convince me that he is a man of the world, with a veritable rainbow of friends and acquaintances; however, the classic "I have a (insert minority)" defense is specious reasoning at best (I wonder what his oodles of black friends would think if they heard him talk like I have?)

By the way, I punched my boyfriend in the face for burning the roast, but I have male friends, so I wasn't wrong. So, you know, there's that.

The end of this is that I didn't give my uncle the dignity of responding to his last message. Arguing with him is such a logical clusterfuck, anyway; it's really impossible to make him see reason. Have I severed yet another family tie (albeit this time within my own family. I told Boyfriend that I did it so we would be even)? Frankly, I don't really care all that much. While I believe that it's possible to disagree on political issues and still remain friendly, some political issues enter a territory that severely alter my perception of you as a human being. Disagreements over how to treat other members of the human race do not fall under the category of public transit fare-hike disagreements. Instead, they speak volumes about the sort of person you are, and whether or not you truly support equality for all humans. In the end, if you can look me in the eye and tell me that you think we should value some people less than others based on their skin color, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or any other intrinsic factor, then I would prefer to limit my association with you. Even if you are my uncle. I have tolerated harmful opinions for the sake of peace for too long; This country will make no social progress if we do not call out our friends and family for their discriminatory actions.


Herding Cats said...

Your uncle sounds like he likes to stir the pot. I'm glad you spoke out against his apparent hatred.

Baba Taro said...

As always, your arguements are faultlessly logical. It always amazes me to see how many people can't follow real logic.

I've cut most of my own family ties. They are racist, biggotted and, most tellingly, selfish. Huh. All things that my mother was not. How did her children get so wound up in their own importance?

MyTruth0812 said...

I'm relatively new to your blog but absolutely LOVE it. I read this post and I'm here in my office, giving you a standing ovation. Your posts are always very well written and your arguments are impeccable. Thank you and keep it up!

Phoebe Caulfield said...

@ Barb: I've often wondered myself how one family can produce such diverse people. It's hard realizing that you can't always bring yourself to stick by your family. I suppose that just because we share DNA doesn't mean we have to like each other.

@MyTruth: Why thank you! I'm happy to have you as a reader. I just checked out your blog and I really liked it!

Kim said...

Facebook is ground zero for people being idiotic.

And Miss California is a mess not only because she's hateful but because she couldn't even form a cogent sentence. I'm still waiting to hear what opposite marriage is.

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