Why we really want the Redskins nickname removed (and why we’re wrong)

23 09 2013

Let’s not beat around the bush, white America.¹ We’re calling louder and louder for sports organizations like the Washington Redskins to give up their racially-charged nicknames.

But our activism has nothing to do with the plight of actual Native Americans.

We want the names changed because they make us uncomfortable. Us, and no one else.

The sooner we come clean and admit this to ourselves and everyone else, the sooner we can make any actual progress in race relations.

Let me say this first: I understand the controversy. I would wholeheartedly support the changing of the Redskins’ name. Historically, it’s long been a highly pejorative term used for a group the U.S. government took extreme advantage of for decades, and a group that, frankly, is still struggling² in many places to right itself from that abuse.

But I’ve also noticed that the cacophony of shrill voices dominating this conversation on both sides belong to a decidedly monochromatic mob. The people carrying the national discussion right now are not Native Americans themselves, not tribe members or concerned residents of reservations. They’re white guys in suits and ties, cultural critics who grew up in the upper-class suburbs, college students with a lot of book knowledge and very little interaction with the actual Native Americans those books talk about.³

Rick Reilly wrote last week about the minimizing of Native American voices in this debate, and while he essentially advocates for keeping the Redskins moniker, he makes a wildly insightful case. Reilly cites high schools made up of 99% Native American children who fail to feel offended by their school’s ‘intolerant’ mascot. He cites his father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian who lives and works on a reservation and sees no issue with the name ‘Redskins.’ Why is it that these voices, the ones most personally affected by the issue, are the very last ones we ever hear trumpeted?

I’ve got a theory. It’s that we white Americans make a big deal out of a racially insensitive nickname not to protect the race being insulted, but to protect our own feelings.

Seeing the Redskins nickname makes us feel bad. It insults our idea that our sophisticated education has brought about a post-racial society. It throws into question our generational identity of being “forward-thinking” and “open-minded.” It drags up every feeling of white guilt that’s been instilled in us since our first elementary school lesson about oppression of the American Indians.

We don’t like the Redskins nickname because it reminds us that our ancestors did some really terrible things to other people’s ancestors, but even worse, our response is to think that by changing a logo on the helmet of a twenty-five-year-old playing a game, we can atone for all those feelings and never think about them again. We’re up in arms about insensitivity and Redskins history and n-word comparisons because to us, that’s the best way to assuage our guilt. Meanwhile many of the people we’re supposedly “protecting” are dealing with poverty, violence, and substance abuse in run-down reservations – but why would we take all the effort to help out there when we can instead eradicate our guilt with a picket sign outside an NFL stadium?

Quite frankly, the tendency for us middle class white folks to jump down Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s throat is selfish. Here’s a novel thought: why don’t we take a step back, stop shouting Webster definitions of “redskin” and take a moment to listen to the Native Americans whose voices we’re drowning out while claiming to speak for. Maybe they care a great deal about sports team nicknames. Maybe they care about a whole host of other issues much more. And when you’re truly trying to help someone, listening to them is generally a pretty good first step.


¹ I just don’t like this phrase, and I apologize to everyone for forcing myself to use it here.

²If you only read one thing today, skip my article and read this one. It’s old, but one of those great pieces of investigative journalism that transcends timeliness.

³ I’m well aware of the irony that this entire post is written by one of these very same white guys. Like rain on your wedding day.


Trust and the Superhuman

19 09 2013

Written for a college course in the Fall of 2011, republished to the blog in 2013.

Trust and the Superhuman
What the obsession with superhero movies tells us about ourselves

I must admit that I’m a sucker for superheroes. Give me a darkened cinema, a glimpse of freakish physical powers, and 90 minutes of high-flying action and garish spandex outfits, and there’s a good chance I won’t be getting any work done for the rest of the night. Throw in a menacing super-villain and an epic climactic conflict and you’ve found my kryptonite. I simply cannot pass up a good superhero movie.

I am apparently far from alone. It seems every other Hollywood film follows a costumed crusader these days. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises might be the most anticipated movie in years with a star-studded cast returning to finish the gritty Batman trilogy. And Marvel Studios’ set of interweaving hero films will grow to eight with the ongoing production of two more sequels (Ironman 3 and Thor 2) along with next spring’s The Avengers.

But what is it about these caped crusaders that we find so captivating? Eye-popping action sequences and eye-candy lead actors are always going to work in Hollywood, of course, but superhero movies do something more: they appeal to a society mired in sticky cynicism.

Since Watergate, American society has found it increasingly difficult to trust our once-hallowed public institutions. Scandal after scandal, controversy after public indignity has seemed to spring out of every establishment we once thought we could believe in. Superhero films tell us much about how we ourselves view America’s preeminent institutions. Batman’s Gotham City is seething with government and police corruption at the same time that our real-life Capitol cities are wracked by bribes and sex scandals. The Incredible Hulk (2008) battles a powerful super-villian in the U.S. military, which will stop at nothing to use the Hulk’s powers as a weapon. Misgivings about the military abound in a world of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. Distrust of war industry? Check. Ironman’s villain is the military-industrial complex that creates wars to create profit. And alas, even journalists can’t escape distrust and disdain – who can forget Spiderman’s sensationalizing supervisor J. Jonah Jameson, who slants the news to sell papers and demonize the heroic webslinger? If costumed heroes act as a mirror, the reflection is a deeply cynical society with little willingness to trust in anything.

Yet we do trust in the heroes. And therein may lie the answer to our question of fascination. Yes, superheroes give us heart-pumping action scenes and fantastic heroes, but more than any of that, they give an intensely cynical society something to trust in. Spiderman’s straining to use his gift responsibly is a breath of fresh air for a generation all too familiar with abuse of power. When Tony Stark sacrifices his company in a refusal to build weapons of mass destruction, we finally see the conscience in Big Business we’ve so long yearned for. And when Batman refuses to kill the Joker in cold blood, we get a glimpse of a hero we can trust to act with integrity, even when no one else is watching. These redemptive figures of the superheroes start to take on a suddenly religious significance.

Ironman is a fascinating story of a genuinely nauseating creature, Tony Stark, brash and selfish, who somehow gains the sympathy of the audience as he strives to become a good person. Really, the narrative of a cripplingly flawed character yearning for goodness is the very picture of the Christian walk, aside from the fact that we must rely on the grace of God and not a robotic suit. When Batman takes the blame for Harvey Dent’s murders at the end of The Dark Knight, we can’t help but notice parallels in Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary to save the world and Batman’s to save Gotham. Police hunt a limping Dark Knight who just saved their city; we crucify a bleeding White Knight who just saved ours. My favorite superhero scene: Spiderman’s moment of triumph in Spiderman 3, when he finally shakes off the black parasitic villain Venom and the blackness in his own soul. Tellingly, it all happens in the tower of a church cathedral.

Living in a world without heroes to root for takes its toll on a people. Politicians, professional athletes, celebrities and even public servants have let us down time and time again. Burned one too many times by those we trusted, we often turn away from personal connections. We risk falling into a lonely, isolated existence, protecting ourselves from another letdown. Superheroes perform their most heroic act when they save us from this false reality – a world in which we cannot trust anyone – and give us, as The Dark Knight says, not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need right now: a hero we can trust.

Thoughts on Time

21 08 2013

“Every morning you are handed 24 golden hours,” as the motivational quote goes. What you do with them is your choice. You can spend them constructively, at work or with family or on exercise. Or you can waste them. I can spend one on video games. I can spend one on Reddit, or, perhaps more accurately, five on Reddit at a time.

The quote has its usefulness, chiefly as a motivator to spend time wisely. But within it is a major structural flaw, evidence of a major falsehood that shapes the way we see the world and interact with it.

The flaw is that our time is our own.

What the quote gets right is that our hours are given to us; what it gets wrong is suggesting that we are given full autonomy over all 24 of them. We are given our moments one at a time, and to expect some level of control or ownership over a future moment that hasn’t been given yet – well, that might be our biggest collective absurdity.

Neil Postman writes in Amusing Ourselves to Death about how the invention of the clock fundamentally changed our perception of the world we live in, “disassociating time from human events” and creating an independent world that supersedes and controls ours. This is no more clearly evident than when a man looks at his watch and announces “The sun will set at 7:30,” as if the celestial bodies follow the orders of the ticking authority figure wrapped around his wrist and not the other way around.

The clock broke up the entirety of time into measurable quantities – hours, minutes, seconds – and it wasn’t long until we started to feel we could rightfully own these ‘products’.

C.S. Lewis remarks on the inherent ridiculousness of this entitlement mentality in The Screwtape Letters. “The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time,” Screwtape tells his nephew, “it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.”

The point is simple: what ownership can we assert over time when did not create it and we cannot control it? The answer is also simple: none.

Our sense of irrational ownership doesn’t end with time, of course. Screwtape himself goes on to mock the widespread human belief that we own our own bodies, but I think that is a subject for a different post – there’s not time enough to adequately address ‘time’ as it is.

Our belief that we own our time is not only irrational, it’s one of the chief sources of irritation in our daily lives. Who hasn’t at one point been annoyed at our plans for the day being overridden by an unforseen event – a friend in need, an unexpected visitor, an inescapable commitment? I see this too much in myself. If my time is not my own, why should I be so upset by being pulled away from my own plans into something different? In fact, couldn’t the moments I’m given come with an intended purpose, much like the gift of a tennis racket comes with the intention of playing tennis, or the gift of a book with the intention of reading? Maybe I’m given this particular moment of my life with the intention that I’ll use it for comforting a friend or serving someone in need. If I stubbornly try to hang on to my plan to use this coming hour for relaxation, I miss the beauty of the gift when it’s given.

Ultimately, though, we hold on to our belief in ownership of time because it supports the one great lie that we all desperately want to be true: that we are at the center of all things.

We want to believe that we are the biggest thing in the universe, that we control nature, thought and society. We desperately want to believe that we are the ultimate authority – that we define all things ourselves and that we and only we judge their validity and truth based on our own criteria. We attempt to reduce time to graven images of clock faces we put up on our walls so that we can confuse our ability change the clock face with our authority over time.

But I’ve found there’s little that makes me feel smaller as a human being than stripping away the façade of a clock face and standing next to the real thing, the issue of time, and realizing how little authority I have over it. And that’s a good thing. I believe that feeling fully the smallness of mankind is one of the most authentic entry points to one of life’s hardest truths: that there is Authority greater than us.

Why Jason Derulo sucks at apologies

28 05 2013

Ages ago, in 2009, Jason Derulo wrote a song called “Whatcha Say” in which he sings the part of a cheating boyfriend attempting to reconcile with his girl after being caught in infidelity. The situation wrestles with some weighty and universal issues like trust, commitment, and forgiveness, and seems to have the potential for thought-provoking impact on its listeners.

Unfortunately for Derulo, he ignores all of that and writes one of the more pathetic excuses for creative language in a music industry that includes the Black Eyed Peas.

Why am I reviewing a 4-year-old hip-hop song for its social commentary and impact? Because I think it’ll be fun, that’s why.

OK, maybe there’s more than that. I’m a words guy. I think words have incredible power, and the way we use words has the potential to be both wildly constructive and profoundly damaging. And I think the way we use language in the entertainment media is having a hugely negative impact on the audience – and that’s all of us.

I think we could solve a lot of our relational issues in real life by being able to identify manipulative language when we see it.

Did someone say “manipulative language”? (Jason, that’s your cue!)

[Verse 1]
I was so wrong for so long
Only tryin’ to please myself
Girl, I was caught up in her lust
When I don’t really want no one else
I know I should have treated you better
But me and you were meant to last forever

I’ll give Derulo credit: he starts out OK. Admitting his wrong is a great start to an apology. Unfortunately, that’s as close as he ever gets to an actual apology. That’s right, you’re listening to an apology song that does not contain the words “I’m sorry!”

The third line is a nice example of blame-throwing (the “lust” belongs entirely to the other woman and not the singer), but in the grand scope of how awful this apology is, I just don’t have the time to dwell on it. The real issue is the last line. Notice how Derulo doesn’t say he’ll treat the girl better. He doesn’t say he’ll try harder, or enlist some close friends to keep him away from other women, or anything of the practical sort. He doesn’t even promise he won’t cheat again. The reason he does give for deserving forgivness? “Me and you were meant to last forever.” It’s a cheap cliché based on what sound like the flighty emotions of a 16-year-old, and it’s manipulation of language at its finest – words that hold absolutely no meaning strung together to play on emotions and numb the mind.

Ladies, if your boyfriend cheats on you, that’s a good sign you are not “meant to last forever,” and if he uses that exact cheesy phrase to justify himself, then the sign should be just about impossible to ignore.

Skipping to the pre-chorus:

Cause when the roof caved in and the truth came out
I just didn’t know what to do
But when I become a star we’ll be living so large
I’ll do anything for you

Translation: When you caught me cheating, it made me feel bad. (I don’t know how you felt, and I’m not going to bother to address it). But you should stay with me on the off chance I become rich and famous because then we can live the high life. Also, when we’re rich, then I’ll do anything for you (although I won’t do anything right now, since anything probably includes staying faithful).

My take? Great logical points. Because fame and wealth have the long-observed effect of making a person more faithful to their partner.

At this point, I’m going to skip over the chorus (the girl singing Derulo’s rationales back to him), because I just don’t want to address the line

Mmmm whatcha say,
Mmm that you only meant well?

for so, so many reasons.

[Verse 2]
How could I live with myself
Knowing that I let our love go?
And ooh, what I’d do with one chance
I just gotta let you know
I know what I did wasn’t clever
But me and you we’re meant to be together

My personal favorite verse. Glossing over the first line (we get it, Jason, getting caught made you feel bad. We’re all very sorry for you) and only briefly mentioning that this is at least his second chance (your first try was the one where you got caught cheating, remember buddy?), what I love so much are the closing lines.

You just got caught with another woman. You’re trying to apologize and get your girl back. You start the sentence “I know what I did was ______.” You could go any number of directions here. Words like selfish, damaging, and reprehensible come to mind. But nope, you’ve got something better. You choose to take this one all-important opportunity to point out that what you did “wasn’t clever.”

Something tells me you’re not a very clever man a lot of the time.

I feel bad harping on poor Jason Derulo so much today (ah, who am I kidding, I don’t feel bad at all), because this kind of abuse of language is all-too-common in popular entertainment – music, movies and TV especially. The ubiquity of it is enough to numb us to its presence and leave us vulnerable to language manipulation. One common abuse of language right now is a refusal to admit faults or wrongdoing – it’s pervasive among our generation, and I’ll admit to being as guilty of it as anyone. In fact, Donald Miller wrote in his blog last week that an unwillingness to admit wrongs is the common denominator among all manipulators.

Thinking critically about the way we use language can save us from falling victim to those who manipulate it, whether they are religious leaders, political figures, or folks from our everyday lives. And even more importantly, it can keep us from becoming self-absorbed manipulators ourselves.

As for Derulo’s (possibly imaginary) girl, I like to think she escaped a toxic relationship, and radio single history backs me up on this. As terrible as Jason Derulo’s apology was, it’s really no wonder his next single was “Riding Solo.”

Wide-ranging thoughts on the Minnesota Marriage Bill

14 05 2013

Let me say right off the bat that I just don’t like the issue of gay marriage. I don’t like what it does to us all. The debate brings out a level of vitriol that so far transcends any other topic. Slurs against homosexual people are incredibly hurtful, damaging, and far too common. And the harsh words directed to traditional marriage advocates are no better. Since last fall, I’ve seen myself and others called bigots, small-minded, backwards and homophobic (the most misleading misnomer in modern conversation). Look at those words for a moment. These are insults. These aren’t logical words arguing with a political position. These are fighting words, pieces of ad hominem attacks against a person’s character, not their arguments.

Words hurt, folks. They hurt everyone – gay or straight, marriage traditionalist or expansionist. And I hate that this debate has seemingly made us all forget that ever-important kindergarten lesson.

With full disclosure that I just don’t like what this argument does to us, I want to organize a few (gentle and non-confrontational) thoughts on today’s landmark marriage bill in Minnesota.

The Good? The Fitzsimmons Amendment. Last week, a St. Michael-Albertville representative tacked on an amendment adding the word “civil” before the word “marriage” wherever it appears in the bill. The idea was to protect religious institutions from being forced to violate their beliefs under the bill, and though most analysis of the amendment says the effects will be insignificant if anything, it’s a step in the right direction.

This is the route the debate needs to go. It’s becoming clear that there is a divide between how government treats marriage and how the church treats it. Civil or governmental marriage is about legal recognition, it’s about tax benefits and visitation rights, and to be honest, it’s not the government’s place to be giving these rights to some and denying them to others.

What’s unfortunate is that the state has tied these rights to a religious concept called marriage that encompasses so much more for religious people than a legal document and a tax break. The battle cry for the marriage bill has been “love is love,” and love is a vital part of marriage. But when someone says that if two people love each other, they deserve to get married, I can’t help but feel like they’ve missed something in the definition of marriage. Love is essential, but marriage is so much more than love. Marriage is lifelong commitment, marriage is ever-growing intimacy, marriage is the one and only setting for procreation, it’s the nursery for growing children, the breeding ground for a deepening relationship with God, the seed of the so-vital family unit, the affirmation of the complementary strengths and weaknesses of each sex, the living symbol of the church’s relationship to our creator. And I’m sure there are plenty more aspects I’ve missed that my more theologically-versed friends can help me out with.

If I sound a little overly dramatic, if I sound like I’m describing something sacred and absolutely vital to myself and my faith, then you’ll understand why a government redefinition of marriage is so painful for Christians like myself.

Quite frankly, the government can’t and shouldn’t be promoting marriage, not if it encompasses everything listed above. Ideally, the state wouldn’t be involved in marriage at all. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem an option at this point. The next best thing would be allowing the state to do what it wants legally (based, of course, on what its constituents ask for – people of faith included), and religious institutions should be able to promote the more comprehensive definition of marriage without legal restraint.

That’s where this bill concerns me. It’s a rare law that comes with zero unintended consequences, and the most likely to follow this bill are discrimination suits against people of faith.  No matter how adamantly supporters of the bill assert that it won’t happen here, they are unable to provide any hard evidence. Why? Because  the facts argue otherwiseprecedent from other states makes it awfully clear that there will be unintended consequences and that whether advocated intend it to or not, this bill will wind up forcing people to violate their personal and religious beliefs, as one local law professor wrote in the Pioneer Press.

These problems were addressable in the Minnesota bill. One of my local representatives tried to add an amendment Friday fixing some, but it was shot down. There just wasn’t time. The bill was rushed through, it was forced down the throats of the minority by a majority that, spurred on by a desire to be on some arbitrarily-defined “right side of history,” simply wouldn’t listen to anyone with a differing view. I agree with Melissa Coleman when she wrote last week that this was an extreme solution to an issue with many available compromises.

Last fall we were told that a constitutional amendment in favor of traditional marriage was too concrete, too permanent. But the pleas to merely ‘continue the conversation’ ring hollow now. Continuing the conversation simply meant deciding just as permanently 6 months later, only in the other direction. In fact, the argument then that the constitutional amendment was redundant and unneccessary sound a lot like the arguments now that there is no threat to religious freedom in the Minnesota Marriage bill. Are we willing to trust the same faulty argument twice?

With all this said, I think it’s crucial for Christians to keep focused more than ever on our role here and now. Don’t panic, don’t get depressed over the passage of a single bill. We often forget that our government and our church are not one. As much as we should try to set up a God-honoring government, it’s not our main focus. This isn’t our permanent home, and we shouldn’t be so consumed with shaping this world the way we want it to be that we forget that our first focus is people. We’re not called to legislate others into our own morality. We’re called to love them. I firmly believe God doesn’t care about our legislative victories and courtroom triumphs half as much as he cares about how we love other people.

This isn’t some corruption of our perfect Christian homeland. This isn’t our home. God is setting up the perfect home for us, and our job is to get as many people in as possible. At best, fixing up this world is like cleaning a hotel room – it’s a stop on the way to something better. Our job is unchanged, and while I worry that this bill might make that job more difficult, now is the perfect time to refocus on what our priority truly is.

Christmas: Hoping in the plan even when we don’t understand it

20 12 2012

The beginning of Luke’s gospel makes me think of the Fellowship of the Ring. When I was in junior high, the Lord of the Rings movies were like this sweeping cultural event. The first movie came out in 2001, and I swear we watched that same film over and over again at every birthday party and sleepover for the next three years. It never got old. We were all waiting with breathless anticipation for the next installment to come out, spending our time trying to read the books (and mostly ending up skimming all the bits between the battle scenes) and daydreaming about becoming a master archer.

I actually think the first movie was the best part of that entire trilogy, just because there was so much anticipation. It was epic – there were heroes and villains being introduced, conflicts and giant battles being set up while stopping just short of breaking out, and although Tolkien’s world seemed dangerous and chaotic, we all knew and looked forward to the inevitable moment when Frodo would succeed and all would be set right again.

That’s what I’ve been feeling about the Christmas story. There’s this breathless anticipation from the peripheral characters – wise men following trails in the stars, angels appearing to shepherds, wrinkly old people making these gigantic prophesies. Even Mary and Joseph can feel it – this moment is the start of something entirely new. This tiny baby is the one who will change everything, get rid of the bad guys (most people expected him to overthrow the oppressive Romans), set everything right at long last.

I also can’t read the Christmas story without at the same time seeing the Easter story in my head. To make a long story short, Jesus doesn’t really do what all these people expected him to do. He doesn’t get rid of the Romans, in fact, they kill him. But it turns out that even though Jesus’ way wasn’t what people wanted or expected him to do, it was actually something better. Instead of giving us a regular old, run-of-the-mill, earthly, Romans-free kingdom, he gave us entrance to a heavenly kingdom. One that isn’t just good, it’s perfect. And, oh yeah, it lasts forever.

It gets me thinking about how we’re really in the same boat as people were back then. We’re living in a messed-up world where bad stuff happens more often than good, and it just doesn’t feel right. A guy killed 20 kids at an elementary school last week. Kids. When I heard about it, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. There simply is no answer to the question “why?” and that’s the hardest part to swallow. How does something like this happen? What kind of a world does that happen in? What kind of a world are we trapped in where evil has this strong a foothold?

I’m guessing you felt about the same. There’s something in us that cries out when these things happen, as if somewhere deep inside, we know we don’t want to live in that kind of world, that we’re not meant to set up our kingdom here. Inside, we’re groaning for everything to be fixed. We’re like all those people waiting for Jesus to be born, barely holding in our hope for the moment when everything comes together and we don’t have to deal with these answerless questions.

It can be exhausting to keep hoping for the coming of good when evil seems so strong all around us. We might expect God to step in and stop these tragedies from happening. We might start to doubt that He’s there, or that He’s good, or that He loves us. But we should remember what all those people from the Gospel of Luke found out: sometimes our ideas of what “the plan” should be are just too small. If God had followed their plan back then, He would have kicked out the Romans and they would have ended up with an earthly kingdom that almost certainly would have fallen apart by now. By letting God use His plan instead of man’s, those New Testament folks ended up with something way better… and what they gained, we gain too. It didn’t fade away over time – it’s ours, it’s theirs, and it also belongs to everyone who will come after us.

That’s what I’m trying to learn this Christmas: hope in something big, bigger than myself, my mind, or my best ideas of how things could resolve. It’s something I think we can all draw from the holiday – both in our personal lives and, in a broad way, for the world as a whole.

I’m at one of those weird places in life where I honestly don’t know where I’ll be one year from now. Swimming has been a huge passion in my life for as long as I can remember, and I don’t really know where swimming will be in my life after I graduate, and that terrifies me. I’ve got some ideas in my head of how things could work out perfectly (they mostly involve Speedo calling me up out of the blue to irrationally offer me a truckload of cash to swim in their suits for the next four years), but I’ve got to keep remembering two things about God’s plan: (1) It’s a perfect plan and (2) it probably looks nothing like the plan I’ve got in mind.

And it’s the same way for us all as a people. We might ask why God lets schoolchildren die in shootings, why He didn’t step in and zap the shooter with a bolt of lightning. We might wonder why He lets bad things happen in our lives, or why He allows good people to suffer injustice. But as difficult as it sounds, we have to be able to let go of our notion of “the plan,” and realize that it’s just painfully small, woefully incomplete. Our plan might fix the things we can see, but God’s plan touches things we haven’t even conceptualized yet, and succeeds in ways we might never understand this side of heaven.

That’s not to say it’s easy to trust. One of my biggest struggles right now is in fighting God’s plan, wanting to bail on Him for my own roadmap because, while my plan is flawed, at least I can see it in its entirety. But I’m trying to overcome that human tendency to crave control, and I’m trying not to mind the things I don’t know and can’t understand.

If you get anything from this rambling block of text (and here I’m talking to all 3 people, my mom included, who will probably read this), I hope you’ll remember to hope. This world is horribly, horribly broken and incomplete. But a better one is coming! Hope in it, wait for it, and trust that God will bring it about in His own timing.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

I’m voting Yes

24 10 2012

I’ll come right out and say this: I’m voting Yes to the marriage amendment in November. And I have a simple request: please stop hating me. Please stop calling me a bigot, a homophobe, a hateful ignoramus. I get it. Supporting traditional marriage is not a popular opinion to espouse. It’s not a very trendy way to believe right now. People disagree with my political opinion. But when did that make it okay to attack me as a person? When did it become acceptable to so viciously go after someone who simply disagrees with you?

As far as campaigns go, the vast majority of hatred and harsh rhetoric has come from one side in this debate. And when you’re out-hating the dreaded ‘homophobes’, you know you’re doing something wrong.

Can we make this a civil discussion? Can we work to add respect to the debate? Yes, I’m voting yes. But I can understand why so many of my peers will vote no. If your conscience or your system of morality compels you to vote against this amendment, then you have every right to vote your conscience. I can disagree with you as firmly as I want, but I can’t deny your right to both hold an opinion and cast a vote based on it. But here’s the kicker: the people who disagree with you have that exact same right. We can discuss the issue all we want – in fact, I (along with most Yes-voters) am happy to engage in a serious conversation about the whys. But calling me a bigot, putting words in my mouth, and assuming all Yes voters are ignorant, uneducated, and scared? That’s not getting us anywhere. And telling me I have no right to cast my vote on a government amendment? Well that’s just a poor understanding of democracy.

But isn’t that imposing your morality (and a frequently-religious morality) on everyone else? That’s wrong, right?

It’s a popular argument. But one that ignores something very basic: all law, in its simplest form, is nothing more than codified morality. That’s right. Every law in place in this country is a piece of morality imposed on us all as citizens. But that’s the price we pay for the civil society we get to enjoy. What’s great about democracy is that we get a say in what morality is written into law. We all get a say. Every one of us – no matter what social class we come from, what color our skin is, or what religion (if any) we follow.

This is where the “imposing religion” argument begins to break down. I have a right to vote my conscience, just as you do. But the argument being passed around today says that if my conscience is influenced by my religious beliefs, suddenly I lose the right to vote on the things important to me. How does that make sense? How is the fact that my beliefs are influenced by my religion make me any less deserving of democracy than you, when your beliefs are influenced the same way: either by your personal religion, or personal non-religion?

You can’t take away someone’s right to participate in the political process because you don’t like where they got their beliefs. We all get our beliefs somewhere, and we all have the right to cast a vote based on them.

Hating on someone because you don’t like their beliefs (or don’t like where their beliefs come from) isn’t right. Plain and simple. If you want to engage in a real, fair conversation where ideas are respectfully exchanged and issues are actually examined, I’m all for it. But we need to stop with the oversimplifications, the “bigot”-slinging, the straw men, all of it. As it stands now, it’s an ominous indicator of the state of our society as a whole: when the ones who are supposed to be on the side of tolerance are this, well, intolerant, we know we’re all in a world of trouble.