Intolerance

My good friend, Carl, posed an interesting query today as to whether intolerance of bigotry and intolerance itself qualifies as just another form of intolerance that we should be working to do away with. His inquiry is based on a fairly sound substrate, that our current standards regarding moral character and tolerance might be untenable and outright unrealistic notions based on an idealistic version of society that simply cannot exist in any sort of sustained manner. I’m inclined to suspect that he is absolutely correct in thinking that a tolerant and accepting society is something that simply can’t and won’t exist (not within my lifetime, at least), but I can’t accept the hypothesis that it is hypocritical for someone to be intolerant of bigotry as simply more intolerance, leading to an increasingly intolerant environment.

Recent situations like those pertaining to Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame (and I use the word fame in the most disgusted sense possible) as well as an Ohio teacher who was suspended fairly recently because of racist comments both in the classroom and on public forums tend to get people riled up and they incite a lot of anger on the part of those who happen to be on the receiving end of the bigotry being spouted off by individuals who are clearly (in my opinion) not suited to be making any sort of social or political commentary due to a level of ignorance that is beyond astounding. When punitive actions are taken we end up hearing from the supporters as well, crying out about free speech in obviously ill-informed rants fueled by a total and complete lack of comprehension regarding how freedom of speech functions and what the free market means.

I’m not the most sensitive person when it comes to making comments and jokes that could be deemed offensive by people of various races, genders, sexual orientations, and the like…I’m not wired in such a way as to really recognize that I might be out of line with something that I happen to find humorous. At least I’m aware of the fact that I can be a little insensitive…or maybe a lot insensitive…it really depends on who you ask. None of those things are meant to be spiteful or uttered with hate or disdain in mind, and I certainly don’t say things like that (I will not provide examples here because I’m actually trying to avoid being a total piece of shit by sharing racist or sexist jokes or anything along those lines, this is not the place for it) with the impression that I’m making genuine, articulate statements about a person or group of people. I’m the first person to admit that if I were met with violence or some other form of negative response it would be entirely my fault…well, mostly my fault…some people just need a broader sense of humor.

I spent a while thinking about Carl’s assertion and I am forced to disagree. I don’t think it is remotely hypocritical to be intolerant of bigotry. It’s an apples and assholes sort of situation, there’s no comparison to be made. A bigot, by definition, may be someone who is intolerant of opinions differing from their own…but in the sense that we were discussing it, it was more directly related to the intolerance of individuals based on things such as race, sexual orientation, and gender. I could care less about people who are intolerant of religious beliefs or political affiliation at present, as those aren’t the salient forms of intolerance that I’m planning on discussing herein. Where it concerns politics or religion, people are very much entitled to their own differing opinions on the matter, intolerance may be a bit too extreme, but fine…people can go right ahead and dislike others for the choices they make in life, and that is precisely the point I’m intending to make.

To hate someone for something that is outside of the scope of their control (or anyone else’s, for that matter) is the bigotry I hate, and I don’t even feel like there’s anything wrong with hating it, not in the least. No man nor woman chooses the racial characteristics they are born exhibiting, our gender is similarly out of our hands (and no amount of surgery ever really changes what’s written in our chromosomes, regardless of what it might do for our exterior appearance, at least not yet), and I am a firm believer that sexual preference is not a choice (no matter how many “reformed” homosexuals the fundamentalist sorts will parade around to reinforce their arguments to the contrary). Being intolerant of those who espouse intolerance of people based upon those things that they did not choose is a perfectly rational response. In hating people for the ignorant beliefs that they express we are displaying contempt for their choices and decisions, not for who they are by no choice of their own. That is precisely why we should hate someone; why we choose not to be friends with this person or that, because of the choices they make.

We can blame it on their environment or lack of education, their sheltered upbringing, or any number of additional factors…but those cease to hold any weight outside of childhood, when the influence from our surroundings is really the only influence we happen to experience. We are not a society of isolated pockets of humanity and we haven’t been for quite some time, this is no longer a world where information is unavailable or even particularly difficult to come by. People make choices, regardless of how they were raised or where…these are simple facts of life. Environment can be used to partially explain criminal behavior from an individual, up to and including rape or murder, but it damn well will not lead a judge or jury to set someone free. Our choices are what we should be judged for, the decisions we make in life are the only things by which we can be legitimately judged. And I will damn well judge men like Phil Robertson harshly for their brazen, willful ignorance as well as the ill-informed bigotry that they spread when they speak poorly of people because of nothing more than sexual preference and race.

These people are, of course, entitled to their own opinions, and I’m not inclined to physically harm them for expressing those ignorant opinions, but I sure as shit don’t need to respect those opinions or pretend that they are somehow valid or on equal footing with opinions to the contrary.

You can agree with me or disagree with me, and that’s great…you’re welcome to feel however you like, and so am I.

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It’s Been A While: More Politics-Deal With It

This is to be another political post, which makes me think that perhaps I should just get it out of my system altogether and become a politician…since I happen to be so damn opinionated on the matter and hate being an armchair political analyst. I know that plenty of you (assuming anyone actually reads these posts) have entirely different opinions from me…and that’s great, that difference of opinion is what allows for discourse to take place…without diversity of thought an opinion we have no room for meeting of the minds.

Our former mayor posted something earlier today regarding what he perceives as backwards morality from “Christians” that constitute the far right wing of the Republican Party…the invocation of Christ whenever they are rallying against issues that Jesus had no opinion on (at least nothing mentioned in the Gospels) such as gay marriage, abortion, taxes, and numerous other things while actively working to upset programs that coincide with the actual teachings of Christ (caring for the poor and the hungry, the sick and the elderly). You all know that I am not a Christian…that I’m not even remotely religious…but I do have a bit of knowledge about these things.

I initially wanted to do no more than let our former Mayor know that there are still Republicans like myself who don’t feel that these individuals speak for the party as a whole. I was going to leave it at that until someone opted to refer to Romans: Chapter 1, where there are some statements that could be interpreted as being opposed to homosexuality.

I felt it was necessary to point out that Romans was not a Gospel and did not have any statements made by Jesus attached to it. At best it was the writing of Paul the Apostle (not one of the Twelve Apostles, something that I suspect many Christians are unaware of), quite probably half a century after the death of Christ. It might also be noted that Paul was never in the presence of Christ (not being born until after Christ had died) and that his conversion came about from a vision of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. So Paul had no firsthand experience of Christ or his teachings…in fact he actively persecuted the early Christian cult during his life up until that conversion took place; and this is the man responsible for the bulk of the non-Gospel New Testament. He was just a man, nothing more…as fallible as any other.

The individual also pointed towards 2nd Timothy: Chapter 3 and I felt compelled to point out that these verses still have nothing to do with the teachings of Christ…and are even further removed. 2 Timothy has unknown authorship but it is traditionally attributed to some random (unnamed) follower of Paul the Apostle…somewhere in the vicinity of a century after Christ’s death.

This individual then expressed that they had assumed I might believe in the divine inspiration of scripture.

I felt the need to disillusion him of that; considering that it is only in those pieces of writing that it mentioned that the scripture was divinely inspired…I question it a great deal. I question the veracity of anything that changes dramatically in meaning when translated from Hebrew to Aramaic to Greek and further. If divinely inspired, the meaning would remain constant. That is far from the case. I can write a piece of scripture today, tack on something about how all scripture is valid and inspired by god, and people are supposed to accept that? What is in the commonly used Bible today is nothing compared to what is found in the Catholic Bible, and that only consists of what a handful of humans determined would best suit their needs as scripture. Who gets to determine which scripture is valid and which is not…because neither God nor Jesus ever made any statements to that effect?

I didn’t mean to come off as being cynical there, but recognize that I really am a bit cynical when it comes to those things. I can understand how that whole statement could be considered highly cynical, and I was sorry about that. I just wanted to express my concern regarding the mindset associated with scripture being divinely inspired. Bart D. Ehrman has addressed these issues far better than I ever could, being Professor of religious studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill…he has been able to go far more in depth than I am able where the veracity of Biblical scripture (and especially the New Testament) is concerned. I highly recommend anyone who has the means should take the time to procure and read some of his books on textual criticism of scripture. That is neither here nor there though.

It was after this that another individual made some comments about how there isn’t really much of an actual difference between big government Republicans and socialist Democrats as far as he was concerned, and he isn’t entirely incorrect. He commented on the fact that there is no article of the Constitution that speaks of equalizing pay or for providing healthcare or education.

To me, it has nothing to do with either Republicans or Democrats really…but I could see where he was coming from.

Those of you who know me are aware that I happen to be a small government Republican. I think we need fewer laws and interferences into the daily lives of the American people. I don’t think it is the place of government (state or national) to define marriage or anything else. We need to step back and trim the fat from our overbearing obsession with legislation.

Regarding protection of wages, healthcare, education, and similar bones of contention I had to disagree…as these are issues that directly impact the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the very population this government was developed to protect. Those issues weren’t salient at the time this country was founded and would almost definitely have been taken into consideration by the founding fathers had that been otherwise. The US government was designed in such a way as to allow for alterations and modification with the passage of time. It has never been a static creation and wasn’t intended to be. Our government has the sole function of providing for the well being of the populace that supports it…to uphold the rights and liberties of the American population. Nowhere is it stated that we are expected to become involved in political or social reform in other nations, but that isn’t often something that we hear complaints about from the same people who are so concerned with the programs that aid the American people.

Regarding the Christian uproar from the far right wing of the Republican party as far as these issues are concerned, John Adams and George Washington were pretty clear on that very point when the Treaty of Tripoli was signed. There was no ambiguity in the wording. Those persons in the US government who are so concerned with their distorted form of Christianity and the almost rabid desire to impose it upon everyone else are suffering from delusions of what Christ taught as well as basic lack of understanding regarding the history of the United States.

That same man recognized that we are, of course, entitled to our differences of opinion and went on from there to express his concern over what he sees as an inflated Executive branch, stating, “Who needs congress when presidential decree gets the job done?”

I definitely feel that our last two presidents have set an unwelcome and disturbing precedent as far as overstepping the bounds of the office is concerned. I’m not a huge fan of our “do nothing” Congress either. It is my opinion that we need a complete overhaul of Washington, but not the variety that the Tea Party has been pushing for…the last thing we need in Washington is more people who don’t understand how the government works (or is intended to work) and who believe that Christ hated the poor and needy.

These are just my opinions of course. I am just some guy who happens to feel that some of this should be common sense.