Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Conversation with a Gazebo

Anon: Dave, I was reading your blog...

Me: Thank you.

Anon: You wrote a blog post about a gazebo.

Me: Yes.

Anon: Was it about me?

Me: Not specifically, no.

Anon: It's about me.

Me: It could apply to you.

Anon: It's hurtful.

Me: It shouldn't be.

Anon: Of course it should! You're calling me deluded. Who wouldn't be offended?

Me: First of all, it wasn't written about you specifically. But you went looking for it. You read it. You called me to ask if it was about you. It wasn't. You pressed it. You were looking for offense. People usually find what they're looking for.

Anon: I think you should apologize.

Me: Why?

Anon: Because you said I was deluded!

Me: I already know why you're offended. I mean why do you think I should apologize for that?

Anon: ...

Me: Look, the post isn't about you or even people like you. The post is about tolerance. It's about the fact that we don't have to agree with someone else to get along. Instead, we can accept that what someone else thinks is their world view, disagree with it, and continue to be civil and kind human beings anyway. I'm interested to know if you can give me any convincing reason I should apologize for that. It doesn't mean you'll get an apology, but I'm interested to hear your reason.

Anon: But you do think I'm deluded, don't you?

Me: Absolutely.

Anon: You're not qualified to say that. You're not a psychiatrist. I deserve an apology.

Me: I don't need to be, and no you don't. Look, you say you're a woman, and you're not. A delusion is a firmly held belief that contradicts the superior evidence of reality. That's pretty close to the clinical definition. Look it up. Now, if I were to accept what you say at face value, and if to be fair I do the same for others, then I would have to reject objectivity itself or be a hypocrite. No observation, no evidence would ever be enough to refute whatever wild statement somebody wants to say. Skepticism would be dead. Credibility would be dead. The very concept of proof would be dead.

Anon: Well, "Mr. Logic", you're using slippery slope, and that's a fallacy.

Me: Not if there's evidence. Understand your fallacies before you start claiming them. There's at least one adult out there who says he's a six year old girl. There are people who claim to be cats. They can only do that because no one challenges your claim. And if they can do that, why can't a pervert simply claim to identify as "not a pervert" and demand belief? It's more plausible than the cat-girl. What would perversion even mean? You stand there with a dick and you say you're a girl, and yet you laughed at Trump for saying he had the biggest inauguration crowd ever. Maybe he just "identifies" as being the most popular President ever. Personally, I think that's bullshit. So I demand proof.

Anon: So do I.

Me: Sorry, but you don't have the street cred to demand proof of anything from anybody. I DO. You're lucky you have me and people like me around you or you'd be hosed the minute somebody turned your own belief system against you.

Anon: I'm lucky to have you...?!

Me: You have one friend that you know for a fact isn't bullshitting you or just saying whatever you want to hear. I call that lucky. You call it what you want. So no, I'm not apologizing. I'm doing what I will always do. I let you think whatever you're going to think about yourself, I let you be what you want to be, and I don't chase you down to tell you up is down, left is right, and demand apologies for screwing with my sensibilities. I treat you like a human being... like a friend. I use one pronoun for you, and it's "you". And I'm not going to stop that. And I'm not going to change what I am just because you don't like it.

Anon: I didn't chase you down.

Me: Well, it sure felt like it.

Anon: I'm sorry.

Me: Accepted.

Names and identifying information withheld. I almost feel guilty about posting it, but I'm not going to apologize..

Postscript: In response to some off-line feedback, I have to make something perfectly clear. First of all, this conversation wasn't nearly as adversarial as it looks in print. My friends have a sense of humor or they wouldn't be my friends. But thing you should understand above all others is that I don't berate "my friend the Gazebo" or any of my friends for any of the things that they ARE. Homosexual? No problem. Transgendered? No problem. Desirous of wearing dinosaur suits and grazing in vegetable gardens? Yeah, sure, whatever.

But I'll give you an example of something I'm not in favor of, so maybe you can frame this from my point of view: I can't condone, support, or enable stolen valor: the despicable (and now illegal) practice of (for instance) claiming to be a Purple Heart recipient when you would merely like to have been. You can't tell me that you "identify as" a military war hero and expect to be treated as though this were in fact the case.

Likewise, stating that you are "a man" or "a woman" when you are not has nothing to do with your gender. Tell me that you are homosexual, trans, gender-fluid... fine. But there's just enough feminist in me to be severely put off when you promote as fact such fantasies as that a privileged male athlete can put on a dress, take some hormones, keep his penis, and still be a better woman than 100% of the capable natural born women on the entire planet who might have been chosen "Woman of the Year". It is analogous to stolen valor, although not as deliberate or malicious. Nevertheless, your own struggles and accolades are sufficient. Take a look in the mirror, take a look at your genes, and find the courage to face the truth. I already accept you as you are; you should, too.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

"No Law"

People, this is a slam dunk.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." 
Note that this clause of the First Amendment applies to Congress. Just Congress.

"Congress shall make no law". That's quite possibly the clearest thing in the entire Constitution. These days we extend that through the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, so that State lawmakers can't do it either, but the point remains the same. This is a restriction on what our government can do.

It is not a restriction on what you as a citizen can do. Not even if you're a preacher. It never has been. Somewhere along the line, some people chose to twist "Congress shall make no law" into "Preachers will keep their mouths shut." And that's just wrong. It's obviously unconstitutional. Obviously. Nevertheless, Congress jumped up and wrote a law, (the Johnson Amendment to the 1954 Tax Code) and prohibited the free exercise of not just religion, but speech as well, which is also supposed to be protected by the First Amendment.

The courts, if they were doing their jobs, should look at such a law, no matter who it applies to, and say, "Oh, for fuck's sake... it's a LAW!" and strike it down while pointing at the First Amendment. Because that's what one properly does to unconstitutional laws.

So Trump has stated at a prayer breakfast that he would "destroy" the Johnson Amendment. Well, good. It's exactly what Democrats said they wanted in 2012:

That was perfectly OK, but only because it was a Democrat who said it. When a Republican says it, even when it's applied across the board to everyone equally and is to their own benefit, then it's suddenly the worst thing evah. I think people think I'm joking when I say that there isn't spit difference between the two parties. But there really isn't. They can't even remember their own positions.

The organization called "Americans United for Separation of Church and State" does remember their position, and have rung the alarm. Says their executive director Barry Lynn, "President Donald Trump and his allies in the religious right seek to turn America's houses of worship into miniature political action committees." Except that this has always been the case. The thing is, we've been very selective about how we apply it.

The fact is, the 1954 Johnson Amendment was and is unconstitutional and should have been struck down long ago. There is no justification why a charitable organization cannot voice opinions or support candidates. If you hold the First Amendment as that justification, it's just because you haven't read it. I'll give you another shot:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." 
See that? It's addressed to Congress. Not you.

Barry Lynn's organization is misguided.They think that shutting everyone else up will give their own words power. But if a preacher and his whole congregation wants to stand up and shout to the heavens of their moral and religious imperative to speak up on political issues and endorse candidates... well, so what? They should have the freedom to do that, as supposedly guaranteed by the the first article that enumerates what are supposed to be our rights. Should an Atheist have a right to political speech, but a Baptist be denied? The government of these United States does not "grant rights"... it is granted authority by the citizens whose rights are inviolable. Acknowledge the rights of the Baptist and everyone else, so that Jeremiah Wright can continue shouting, "God damn America!" and so that Satanist churches have the privilege to shout whatever they want. And if you don't want them using your money for that, then don't give them your money.

We don't need a law to tell us that.