Proud

Friday, June 26th, 2015 will go down as a historic day for the United States. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case that will forever be bedazzled with the title “Landmark,” Obergefell v. Hodges, has made same sex marriage legal throughout the United States.

Approximately 5 seconds later – or the length of time it takes a air to travel from the lungs to the rage center of the brain – the opposition declared that the fight was not over. This decision would be overturned and the gays would be put back in their place. Harrumph!

In reality, despite how much time the pundits will squeeze out of questioning if the decision might be overturned, even if the most Conservatist Conservative who ever Conserved was elected to the presidency, this law isn’t going anywhere. Same Sex Marriage is here to stay.

How do I know this? A number of reasons.

1. Roe V. Wade

Roe V. Wade is still on the books and that decision is by no means as popular as Obergefell v. Hodges. Even 8 years of a Bush presidency couldn’t overturn the LANDMARK abortion case. That doesn’t mean states can’t do their best to restrict safe abortion access to their unfortunate inhabitants, but from a national point of view, Rod V. Wade – like Obergerfell V. Hodges – is here to stay.

2. Corporate Sponsorship

On Sunday, I forced my lazy ass to get out of bed and head over to Manhattan for a few hours before work so I could witness the all out Bacchanalia that was surely going to be occurring at the Gay Pride Parade. After all, 48 hours earlier, gay people in this country won the biggest battle of their collective history. It had been predicted by one highly reputable source that this would be the “Most Buck-Wild Pride Parade Nation’s Ever Seen.

Pride Hand-in-Hand

When I got there, the first thing I saw was a float covered in cheerful, fully dressed people all wearing rainbow colored shirts that preached a message of tolerance, love and hope. Just kidding, the shirts all had the MasterCard logo on them. There were floats advertising TV shows and networks, including the Netflix float that featured cast members from Orange Is The New Black (I’m sorry, I mean #OITNB), and there were floats selling food, drinks and stuff.

Every street corner had somebody shilling rainbow colored product in the name of Gay Pride and Capitalism. Gay Pride is profitable and everyone knows that, while God is pretty popular in America, Money is King. If corporations are people, then the people have spoken.

I went down to the parade expecting Mardi Gras after dark. Instead, I found Mardi Gras at noon.

Firefighter Pride

Which brings me to my final and main reason I know the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling isn’t going anywhere.

3. Children

Child Pride

Gay Pride is where you take your family. Granted, I live in New York City, not Des Moines, so the acceptance of gays here is obviously going to be greater, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is an entire generation of children growing up in a world where same sex marriage is now legal, and no amount of anger and political fearmongering is going to convince them to change that.

As the shooting in Charleston two weeks ago proved, hate and bigotry don’t just suddenly evaporate. There will always be divisions in humanity. There will always be prejudice. There will always be individuals who feel devalued or marginalized who will then strike out at some group.

Obergefell v. Hodges will not suddenly end discrimination against homosexuals. Hell, some forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation are still permitted by law. Just as racism didn’t end in the 60s (or the 70s, or the 80s, or the 90s, or the 00s, or the…), homophobia will not disappear. The phrase, “I have gay friends but…” will continue to be the mating call of the Homo phabiens for years to come.

But. But! BUTT! (Oops, sorry, got excited). But starting with the 90s and even more so in the 00s and onward, we’ve had entire generations raised in a world in which homosexuals have basic human rights and are treated, largely, like normal human beings. Every child born since 2010 will grow up never really remembering a time when same sex marriage wasn’t a thing.

The Republican presidential candidates may talk about how the Supreme Court went too far in their decision (for fuck’s sake, even the dissenting members of the Supreme Court will say it), but in the end, the political Right is happy to have this issue out of the debate*. They know, like all reasonable people have known for years, that the cultural shift has long been in favor of equality. A Republican party that still has opposition to same sex marriage in their platform will never reach the White House again.

Case Closed?

When Chief Justice Roberts said in his dissent that “5 lawyers” (kind of like him) had “closed the debate” on same sex marriage, he was claiming that the Supreme Court’s decision wrongly took the subject out of the hands of the American people and settled the debate. Which, you know, is kind of the job of the Supreme Court, but whatever.

Except, this debate isn’t over. The American people have never let a court decision quell their love of bickering. Roe V. Wade didn’t end the debate over abortion. We will continue to debate this topic in our schools, our churches, our bars and at our watercoolers (Cool it, though, Janet is coming).

The difference, though, is that now a class of American citizens won’t have their rights restricted while we have this debate.

So celebrate. Love wins. June 26th, 2015 will forever be an important day. A landmark day. It is, after all, the day America joined the future.

Pride In the Empire State

*Other than Ted Cruz who has no chance of being elected but wants to win the title of Most Conservative Candidate so he can put the plaque on his mantel next to his bowling trophies.

Same Sex Marriage Is Legal

This website has devoted many many words to the fight for marriage equality over the years. Today’s monumental ruling by the Supreme Court that finally, inevitably made same sex marriage legal is a victory worthy of great celebration.

In time, I will have processed the information enough to write something marginally compelling, but for the moment it just feels good to bask in the nation’s celebration. In that spirit, here are just a few of my favorite images from Twitter today.

Go out, celebrate and have yourself a Gay ol’ time!

Justice Pride Colors Pride House States Where Same Sex Marriage Is LegalWhen Can I Marry

Flag SwapGeneral Pride

Obama Winning

Change In America

The United States in the 21st Century is fundamentally different than when it was the preeminent, ascendant world power of the 20th century. It would be simple to point to one or two major events as the catalysts for this change (9/11, the Great Recession, Barack Obama’s election), but in reality the world is in a constant state of flux and the status quo never lasts long.

I have known conservative religious types to warn of the danger of Same Sex Marriage by claiming that ancient Rome’s embrace of homosexuality heralded their downfall. Besides nicely illustrating the causation/correlation conflation fallacy and showing a complete lack of historical literacy, this thinking also illustrates our most common myth about reality. People are prone to believe that their present moment in history is the default, and any deviation from their norm is an affront, when in fact it’s inevitable.

Change is the constant. One of the failings of the environmentalist movement is that in their urgency to warn of Global Warming-caused catastrophes, they initially fell back onto the easy, grabby language of World Ending Apocalypse. The world isn’t ending, but it is changing, a fate that means very little to the planet Earth, but should prove a real boon to Slip N’ Slide sales in Alaska.

We Need Change

The ideas which are holding back or actively dragging down society can be traced to one terrible piece of reasoning: “It’s what I’ve always believed.”

The country I have come to know intimately is one that can be hard to love at times. Overt anti-science, anti-intellectual, sexist and homophobic public policies and talking points are easy targets for Jon Stewart or John Oliver to lampoon, but far subtler, less political strands of these worldviews inhabit average people in ways that are harder to extract from their, otherwise, fundamental decency. Good people can have lousy beliefs, especially if they’ve never had a reason to question them. It’s simple to think that everyone protesting against same sex marriage or outside Planned Parenthood is just a religious fanatic, but I was maybe five or six the first time I carried a sign in a “Pro-life” march. I didn’t know what I opposed (or supported), and it wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I thought back on those days with any embarrassment.

Some people never examine their beliefs. That is a shame and the reason why ignorant, hateful people are so prominent in our society (well, that and because controversial statements make nice headlines). We of the “educated, liberal” persuasion shake our heads at others for their backwards beliefs, and yet it’s among liberal enclaves that pseudo-scientific (not scientific at all, actually) idiocy runs most rampant, from the Anti-Vaccine movement to whatever miracle vitamin Dr. Oz is peddling this week. No political, religious or social group holds a monopoly on bad ideas and ignorance.

The oft-ignored extension of the “some people don’t examine their beliefs” rule is that nobody examines all of their beliefs. When Descartes famously stated “I think, therefore I am,” he coined the definitive statement of Rationalism, but his hyperbolic doubt remained credulous about one central belief: God. Even the forefather of rational skepticism had his blind spots, is it any surprise that the rest of us are no better at scrutinizing our beliefs? Another great philosopher, Dr. Gregory House, once bellowed, “Climb out of your holes people!” but we live in holes and nobody wants to be homeless.

We Hate Change

It is quite possible that people seem angrier and more miserable today because the internet allows us to vent more freely and, thus, the dickish thoughts that we always had but kept to ourselves are now coming into the open. This view suggests that humanity isn’t growing shittier, we’re just more open about our fecal tendencies. I like this interpretation because it jives with the underlying optimism I hold for the human race (even if I’m pessimistic about individuals).

However, it’s hard to ignore the police killings of innocent teenagers and the increased mass shootings, along with the corruption at every level of power, both political and financial. The world may be less violent over all than at any other time in human history, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still acting like savages.

I would argue that if there is one underlying cause for so much of the malignant behavior in our society, it’s change. Rapid, unstoppable change. The last 50 years has produced more social upheaval than almost all of human history before it. For 20 years, we have been in a technological explosion like no one’s ever seen. When Gene Roddenberry envisioned the 23rd century in the original Star Trek, it didn’t look all that much different from the world we inhabit in the second decade of the 21st century (minus the space travel; though that may not be far off). In our time, cultural revolution is more pronounced in one year than it was in entire decades of the previous century.

As the old axiom goes, nobody likes change. Sure, some people embrace new things more readily than others, but even for a guy who has made a life of moving from city to city, I’m not always receptive to shifting sands. We are especially unhappy when a change occurs without our input or permission.

I don’t mean to deny individual autonomy because we are all ultimately responsible for our actions, but I think the depletion of civility and society’s rapid transformation are more than casually linked. I don’t have any studies to support that hypothesis (better minds than mine would have to devise ways to test it), but it’s no stretch to suggest that big changes often have unexpected consequences. If the Civil Rights movement of the 60s was met with fierce opposition, is it any wonder that there is so much turmoil in the wake of social changes that include race, gender and sexual orientation in one massive tsunami? The United States isn’t so much a melting pot as a churning caldron.

There’s no returning to the status quo. Which status quo would that even be?

We Has Change

Will our society continue to evolve this dramatically and this abruptly from here on out? Most experts predict a technological plateau at some point, but since we’re experiencing a period like none other in human history, it’s really anybody’s guess. The concept of the ‘Technological Singularity’ suggests that there’s an endpoint for both human and technological evolution, but how far off is that? Could there be a ‘Societal Singularity’?

Whatever comes next for America, we should expect it to be met with challenges. It’s easy to get frustrated if you’re fighting for civil rights and facing backlash. It can be just as frustrating to be passionate about something, anything, and find nothing but hate and abuse thrown back at you. But take solace: if the world seems especially brutish to you, consider that these may be the growing pains of a society rapidly exploding through puberty. Awkward, ugly puberty.

And if that’s the case, maybe a stable, humane adulthood is still ahead of us.

1 World Trade Center 2

Religion is a Choice

The Baptism of Christ

The recent attempt (and failure) in various states to “preserve religious freedom” by dumping on the gays has added a new wrinkle to the Gay Rights debate. With the tides of inevitability pretty much guaranteeing that within the decade we will see the national legalization of same-sex marriage, the religious right and conservative groups seem to be shifting their focus: If they can’t stop the gays from getting married, they’ll simply refuse to attend the weddings (me-e-oww).

Despite all scientific evidence and reason (and even bigger failures), much of the religious opposition base their public arguments on the notion that homosexuality is a choice. Of course, they have to hold onto this view because if they acknowledge that sexual orientation is as much an engrained reality as gender or race, the whole “Gays are going to hell” thing gets a little difficult to preach (though, never put it past a Christian* to find a nifty, gymnastic justification for whatever belief they hold).

It’s an interesting view: Since homosexuality is a choice, a person of religious conviction has the right to discriminate against them (oh, I’m sorry, not discriminate, “condemn the lifestyle”).

Well, religion is a choice. In fact, religion is nothing but choice. Which God do you want to worship? Allah, Yahweh, Jesus or someone else with less publicity? Which part of the Bible do you choose to believe is literal? Just the New Testament, maybe parts of the Old Testament, or the whole shebang? Which laws still apply to you? Which sins should you ignore? Which IRA investment strategy does God want you to pursue so that you can be rich, just like he wants you to be?

Christians are always complaining that their religious liberties are under attack, yet by their own logic we should be able to discriminate against them all willy nilly because their faith is a choice. It’s one of our sacred rights to discriminate against people’s choices.

Of course, Christians aren’t discriminated against in this country, not really. An individual Christian might face some discrimination, a Christian might have an unpleasant experience in a store or restaurant, or be verbally abused by a stranger, and sometimes Christians are told that they can’t have everything they want. But there isn’t a systematic mechanism in place for discriminating against Christians, like, for instance, the ones they would love to see codified into law against homosexuals.

The reason, of course, is that nearly 80% of the nation’s population are self-proclaimed Christians (I’ll leave it to them to tell you how many are ‘Real Christians’™). The Christianity vs. Homosexuals debate comes down to basic numbers. One side is the majority, the other is the minority. Our Bill of Rights was created to help prevent the Tyranny of the Majority. Granted, our nation has a long, dark history of stomping all over the rights of the minority, but that’s all the more reason for us to not be swayed by arguments such as “You’re changing the definition of marriage” or “Tradition.” The history of the world is the story of greater liberty for all, won through fits and starts and uncomfortable evolution.

If you’re a Christian and you don’t like the changes you’re seeing in the world, don’t fret. Christianity is a choice, so just change your religious orientation to one that’s less judgmental and bigoted and you’ll be totally happy.

Or you could just choose to not be an a-hole.

ASofterWorld.com

*For the purposes of this post, it should be understood that any reference to ‘Christians’ refers to the conservative, right-leaning members of the religion.

Jason Collins, Christian Free Speech and The Gay Frontier

Jason Collins Is Gay SI Cover

Jason Collins

Well, it finally happened. An active professional athlete has ‘come out of the closet.’ What else needs to be said that hasn’t already been covered? I can’t help but feel that this is a ‘Big’ story because it’s supposed to be a ‘Big’ story. It will continue to feed the news circuit for a couple more weeks, but most of the focus of the story seems to be about the reactions (or expected reactions) to the announcement, not the actual coming out.

So the President and other big names praised Collins ‘bravery,’ and then some Christians and conservative commentators wheeled out the same old hash about ‘sin’ and ‘keep it to yourself.’

For the most part, I would say the response has been largely supportive, because how could it not be? They’ll be some old school homophobes in the league who will be weird about it and someone will unleash a slur and get fined a few hundred thousand dollars, but most of these NBA players have publicists and image consultants who will keep them on the right side of this topic, regardless of their actual feelings and beliefs. No one is going to quit because they refuse to play with a gay player. This won’t be a Jackie Robinson moment.

And that’s mainly because this is a long overdue event. When Jackie Robinson broke the race barrier in baseball, it was momentous because it was a huge step forward for our society. He started playing on a professional team in 1947, well before the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. In comparison, Jason Collins coming out in this moment in the Gay Rights movement would be the equivalent of Robinson joining professional baseball in 1978. That’s not to say it isn’t still a big deal, but the fact that no other players have come out speaks more to the regressive, hyper-masculine atmosphere of sports culture than to society in general.

So, good, Collins is out. Hopefully that means others who have feared living openly will now be free to do so, professional athlete or not.

Open Rebellion

Christian Free Speech

In all the hullabaloo about Collin’s announcement, there was a kind of waiting game for the first bigot to come out and denounce him. Not that we needed to wait, I’m sure it took all of 3 seconds for an internet commentator to type F-A-G-G-O-T under an article.

The real watershed moment, though, was Chris Broussard on ESPN. Let me pause to say that I don’t think Broussard is, in fact, a bigot. I actually have no idea. While I think the “love the sinner, hate the sin,” rhetoric is a load of crap, I do believe it is possible for Christians to have beliefs and preach them, but not really hold them true in their heart. Heck, it’s not only possible, it happens all the time. If Christians can be hypocrites in a bad way, perhaps they can be hypocrites in a good way. So maybe Broussard is just espousing the party line and he truly doesn’t have any ill or bigoted feelings towards homosexuals.

Then again, most of what he said in the interview was utter bullocks. He says people should “tolerate” his beliefs like he “tolerates” homosexuals. Except, how exactly is he tolerating homosexuality by calling it a ‘sin’ and saying that a homosexual can’t be a Christian? Is he tolerant because he isn’t stoning them to death? That’s a pretty low standard for tolerance. Plus, how is saying someone is a sinning, non-Christian (who, let’s be honest, is going to hell) more tolerant than someone else calling you a bigot? ‘Sinner,’ ‘Bigot,’ they’re both just labels for ‘others.’

The outcry that naturally comes up anytime something like this makes the news is over the supposed squelching of Christian Free Speech. Some people have said ESPN should fire Broussard (I don’t agree, but that’s ESPN’s choice to make), and with those outcries comes Christians saying, “Gay people can say whatever they want and no one complains, but if I speak my beliefs I’m persecuted.”

Tebow-Collins

This cartoon pretty much perfectly illustrates the sentiment, while also exposing why it’s so wrongheaded. In reality, all the media ever seemed to want to talk about was Tebow’s Christianity. I don’t recall a single story about him that didn’t make mention of his faith (granted, I don’t really follow the NFL, or any professional sports for that matter). If there were people telling him to keep it to himself, it was fans of the game who didn’t care about his beliefs. The Media was all too happy to keep bringing up the subject because it got page hits.

Also, is a professional athlete being a Christian really a news story? By a pretty large majority, most Americans are Christian. It’s safe to bet that in any profession, in any field, there are going to be Christians. The normal reaction to finding out Tim Tebow is a Christian by anybody in this country should be *shrugs*. The fact that I, a man who doesn’t watch any football, knows that Tebow is an outspoken Christian speaks to just how much the media talked about it.

On the other hand, there has never been even one openly gay athlete on any professional team in America. That’s why Collins’ coming out is newsworthy, and why people are talking about it. If he had announced he was heterosexual, than this cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune might have had a point.

Christians too often mistake having unpopular beliefs with being persecuted. If you say homosexuality is a sin and a bunch of people shout you down, that’s not called censorship, that’s just being on the wrong side of history. There are countless opinions in the world that are wrong, despicable and/or based on ignorance, and when those opinions get put out in the public sphere the responsibility of society is to stomp those opinions out. We’ve attempted as much with sexism and racism. Just because you choose to interpret the Bible as condemning homosexuality, that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to take you seriously.

Star Trek The Final Frontier

The Gay Frontier

So what’s next for those in the homosexual agenda homosexual men and women in the public sphere? There is a gay athlete, gay politicians, gay pop stars, gay actors and legal same sex marriage in more and more states. Years of fighting for equal rights has led to this moment in history, not perfect but better than it’s ever been.

If history is our guide, we know for every two steps forward, there will be a step backwards. I don’t think any women with any sense of history would want to live in pre-feminist days, but that’s not to say that gender equality has been completely achieved now. The same can be said of racial equality. The work is not completed, and maybe it never will be. But we keep working towards it, because it’s fair, and it’s right, and it’s the best of all possible worlds. Equality isn’t about creating a utopia, it’s about recognizing our natural state.

Perhaps one day there will be a gay president. But until that momentous barrier is broken, we can take baby steps into new frontiers.

5 Victories on Election Day

“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.” ~ Mitt Romney’s Concession Speech

It is November 7th, the day after the election (as I type this, election day has been over for less than 2 hours).

We know the winner of the presidential election. We don’t have to wait until December to be certain. There will, of course, be people who  cry “conspiracy” and claim that Obama couldn’t possibly have won, but as Mitt Romney has so obviously conceded, Barack Obama has earned four more years as the President of the United States of America.

If I wasn’t an atheist, I’d say, “Thank God.” Instead, I’ll just say, thank you, the American voter who saw past the rhetoric to vote for a better tomorrow. But, no, I’m not talking exclusively about the re-election of President Obama. I’m talking about all the larger victories of November 6th, 2012.

The 5 Greatest Victories of 11/6/12

1. The easiest (and most obvious) one is the re-election of Barack Obama. No, he isn’t the Messiah, but because I’m a rational person who isn’t looking for my politicians to turn water into wine, I’m just happy that the president of the United States is a man who has dedicated himself to fighting for those whose average income isn’t $1 Million a month. I don’t need my politicians to be immaculate elections, I just want them to be on the right side of history.

I believe Obama is.

2. The American Consumer has an advocate in the Senate. Elizabeth Warren, the passionate, intelligent liberal firebrand beat out the Republican incumbent in Massachusetts to take the seat and add a powerful voice to the political debate. Liberals should be happy about this victory, but women in particular should be ecstatic to be represented (in a general sense) by such a strong, passionate woman.

People like Warren give people like me hope.

3. Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington. Let me set something straight: I don’t smoke. Literally, tonight, I was offered a free toke and I passed. It’s just not my bag. And yet, I completely support the legalization of marijuana. Caffeine is a more dangerous drug than pot. Legalize it, tax it, and we as a nation will save millions from the “War On Drugs” while bringing in beaucoup cash. What will these victories mean for the nation as a whole? I’m not sure, but I suspect that the nation is on the slow march towards the national decriminalization of the herb.

 4. Rape won’t be defined by male Republicans. Both idiots, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, lost their races after making incomprehensible, completely ignorant statements about rape and the female bodies. It’s easy to grow cynical about the state of science, common sense and female rights in modern American politics, but today a couple of brain-dead neanderthals have lost their power. Since both candidates were leading at one point, I have to conclude that it was their idiotic statements that ultimately undid them.

Hopefully this will warn Republicans (and politicians of all stripes): Stop being stupid about women. They vote, and they don’t like idiots trying to control their bodies.

5. Maryland and Maine approved same-sex marriage by vote. By the end of the week, it’s very likely that Washington state will also have made the same historic leap. But for the sake of pithy, of-the-minute reactions, it only matters that as of November 6th, 2012, Maryland and Maine are the first states in these United States that approved same-sex marriage by a vote of the population. No longer can opponents claim that same-sex marriage has only been permitted by the activist decisions of liberal judges and legislators.

For the first time, the entire populace of a state went to the ballots and decided that bigotry is pretty crappy.

An amendment to the Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage is almost certainly a pipe dream. By the time Obama is winding down his eight years (!) as president, I’d bet 50% of the states will have legalized ‘same-sex marriage’ by some method or another. Good for them. Good for us. We are on the right side of history, and we’re only marching further into the world of true equality.

This is the America I believe in.

*

I don’t know what the next four years will bring about, but today is pregnant with potential and optimism. Who knows what 2016 will hold, but for now, we have the chance to take a giant leap forward. Let’s hope we don’t waste it.