Sunday, April 26, 2009

PRETTY, DUMB

This thing is getting so out of hand (insert major eye roll here). What am I going on about now? Facebook's new Living Social application, which, I must admit, has its charm. I'd much rather find out what 5 famous people my friends have met or the 5 celebrities they'd like to sleep with than read the umpteenth banal status update. (Who cares that you're going to the gym, at the gym or just left the gym?) But when people start listing the 5 trees they'd most rather sit under, we're entering dangerously inane -- and insane -- territory. I mean who sits under trees? And even if anyone did, who cares what kind of tree it is? Even Sir Isaac Newton was too busy discovering gravity to pay attention.

Give me Top Five People I Want To Punch in the face any day. My personal picks: George W. Bush (natch!), Paris Hilton, Osama Bin Laden, Chris Brown and Carrie "Miss California" Prejean. A Facebook friend publicly took issue with my last pick, not because he agrees with the assertion she made during the Q&A segment of the recent Miss USA 2009 that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but because, he wondered, why can't we all get along? "I think... saying you'd like to punch [women] is inexcusable," he wrote to me in an email after sending me a link to his blog post, which further excoriated my unbelievable behavior. (I suppose Paris wouldn't qualify as a member of the fairer sex then?) Personally, I think that's way too much ado about nothing. It's only a silly Facebook application, dude, lighten up. It's not like I called her a "dumb bitch" on national TV (as did celebrity blogger and Miss USA judge Perez Hilton, who asked her the question in the first place).

But the truth be told, a punch in the face might not be punishment enough for Carrie, whose marriage views may or may not have cost her the Miss USA crown (she had to settle for runner up). Sure, we are all entitled to our opinions, as my Facebook friend's post noted. And in turn, we are all entitled to our reactions to said opinions. I recently wrote a post for my friend's in-development website detailing my argument against Miss Prejean. In it I compared the current struggle for gay marriage rights to the fight for the right to vote by blacks during Reconstruction and suffrage for women at the beginning of the 20th century.

"I find it risible to suggest that gay couples who can't marry in the US are suffering the same kind of oppression endured by pre-emancipation blacks," wrote my Facebook pal after reading what I had written for my friend's website. Well, who suggested that? I didn't. My point was that as more states continue to recognize same-sex marriage, one day, perhaps 50 years from now, maybe 100, society will look back at people like Carrie who would have continued to deny such a basic right to anyone with the same scorn and derision with which we now view 19th-century bigots and chauvinists who denied suffrage to blacks and women, respectively.

But now that I think of it, the comparison that my colleague suggested might be an apt one. Like the debate over the right to vote for blacks 150 years ago, the argument over gay marriage is representative of a larger issue. Declaring, as Carrie did, that marriage "should be between a man and a woman" is tantamount to saying that gay people are second-class citizens. She can use all the qualifying passive-aggressive language she wants to ("I think that I believe," "no offense to anybody out there"), but when it comes right down to it, she's a homophobe. "That's how I was raised," she said. Well, weren't most of us brought up to think of marriage as being between a man and a woman? Is that a valid excuse for continued discrimination? Is that the best she can do?

I'm sure anyone who has been violently attacked because of their sexual preference would agree that homophobia is akin to racism, as the historical treatment of gays in the US is to the historical treatment of blacks. No doubt the family of Matthew Shepard would agree. It's not a question of who had/has it worse (although if it were, my vote would certainly go to blacks), but rather that they both result from a basic intolerance that has spawned extreme acts of oppression and violence. Not that I, someone who has spent a lifetime on the more dangerous side of both discrimination divides, would really expect a straight white man from Australia to see things from my point of view, but hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion.
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