Sunday, April 19, 2015

The most delicious phone (or, cat meets technology)

I know I haven't been posting much has been taking up most of my time these days. But for now here's a video of my cat Teddi trying to eat my phone, because why not. :)

Monday, April 6, 2015

The "Special Snowflake" Syndrome of American Conservatives

The "religious freedom" debacles in Indiana and Arkansas have illustrated a lot of important points lately. The big one, of course, is that we as a society are moving past the point where it is socially acceptable to harbor animus toward another human being because of their sexual orientation, and try to find refuge in the law for discriminatory impulses that arise from that animus.

But there's another important one that should not be overlooked. It's the religious far-right's "special snowflake" syndrome. That's really what the entire conversation is about: conservative Christians thinking that because they believe God sanctions their particular brand of bigotry, they're special snowflakes who shouldn't be retrained by human decency, much less the pesky laws that the rest of us are obliged to follow. If you hate hard enough, the rules don't apply to you.

Because you are a special snowflake, who really, really believes in what you're doing; your feelings about something make you so special that the law just ceases to apply to special little you.

And it's not like conservatives are going too far out on a limb in believing this. In some measure we've come to accept that belief should excuse you from following the law, even as it impacts others. With, for instance, Hobby Lobby, we see a shift toward the idea that your beliefs, even if factually wrong, simply exempt you from the law -- even when, in practice, that has an impact on other people. We've moved away from the sensible idea that a person shouldn't be held to laws that conflict with his beliefs where exemption won't have an impact on others, to a world where religion is a valid excuse to get out of such obviously necessary things as driver's licensing rules. So we've gone from "your career won't be ruined for using a prohibited substance in your religious ceremony" to "you don't have to provide health care coverage for medicine you don't like". Religion and religious belief has become the trump card: having a belief about something, in a sense, did make you a special snowflake, and you could get away with all sorts of things, regardless of the impact on other people, by virtue of how special you were.

All animals are equal, but animals who profess a strongly held belief are more equal.

Or so conservatives, and their overly broad interpretations of religious freedom, seem to have convinced themselves. And then along comes the Indiana skirmish, and all of a sudden this isn't a given any more. Along the lines of "your right to swing your fist ends where the other fellow's nose begins," people, it seems, are not willing to make the same allowance for belief when it impacts people beyond the believer as they are when it concerns just the believer. In other words, people still haven't lost sight of the only sensible view of religious liberty there is: we should all be free to live according to our consciences, up until the moment that those consciences drive us to impose our beliefs on another person. In a world full of competing, often contradictory ideas, this is the only view of religious liberty that is feasible, or could possibly be evenly applied.

And it's a far cry from the special snowflake syndrome conservatives seem to be suffering from...because, at the end of the day, none of us are or should be special snowflakes in the eyes of the law, and none of us should have a trump card to use at the expense of our neighbors.

(Image info: "Unique, snow flake" by Pen Waggener - Flickr: Unique. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Since when did we decide that American discrimination doesn't matter as long as someone else is worse?

I must have missed the memo, but since when did we decide that our discrimination doesn't matter as long as someone else, somewhere else, is worse?

It seems like the right has adopted this as a go-to defense of their bigotry: stop whining about American Christians who want to be able to oppress gay people -- at least we're not asking to kill them, like they do in some countries!

It's a takeaway from Senator Tom Cotton's suggestion on CNN the other day that Americans upset by the potential for legalized discrimination really needed to "have a sense of perspective. In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay."

And it's certainly the implication to posts like the following, from former Congressman Allen West.
I find it ironic that we are so tolerant of a religion that kills Christians, gays and lesbians, yet we are punishing businesses in America for their Christian religious beliefs. It seems this Easter weekend we are reminded that Christian persecution has risen to a disturbing level.
The above text accompanied this image:

Not only, you see, are Christians being "persecuted" by not being allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, West is complaining that we're tolerant of a religion that kills gay people. Presumably, the religion in question is Islam -- not only because it's a safe bet that, at any given time, Allen West is no more than half a sentence away from an Islam-slam, but because it would be far too much to expect the sort of honesty that would acknowledge the existence of murderous, homophobic strains of the Christian faith.

The message, then, is that you've no business criticizing Christian bigots, because at least they're not trying to murder gay people like some Muslim bigots do. (Except, of course, when they are; but once you're down the conservative rabbit hole, you realize that while "bad Muslims" define the faith, "bad Christians" just don't count.) In short, be grateful, gay people: American Christian conservatives are contenting themselves to isolate and discriminate against you, when they could be trying to kill you!

Of course, not all versions have to do with Muslims.

If Islam is Allen West's kryptonite, abortion is right-wing writer Matt Walsh's. So, obviously, he tells us in an over-the-top rage-fest on The Blaze, anti-discrimination efforts are, like, totally pointless -- because abortion!
Don’t be silly, the national outrage has nothing to do with dead babies, instead it’s all targeted at Indiana. No, not because anyone’s life is in jeopardy, but because a few homosexuals might be inconvenienced when attempting to purchase consumer goods.
In Walsh's mind, it's crazy that people could simultaneously think women should have reproductive rights and LGBT people shouldn't face discrimination.

Now, are there worse things that anti-gay discrimination? Of course (although a woman's right to choose is certainly not one of them...). Back in the day, there were worse things that segregated drinking fountains, or racial miscegenation laws. But we recognize that "something worse exists" isn't a valid reason to legalize the somewhat-less-bad action. It doesn't absolve a thief of his crime because he didn't also commit murder like someone else might have: he's still guilty of theft. It doesn't absolve a bigot of bigotry just because his particular brand of bigotry doesn't lean toward murder.

Yes, there are worse things than treating gay people like second class human beings, and there are more violently-inclined bigots than your average right-wing Christian bigot. But so what? There are worse things than having your wallet stolen -- both legal and illegal. But just because some financial schemes are essentially legalized theft, and some criminals resort to worse crimes than theft, I'd still be pretty upset if someone stole my wallet. And, if it was legal to steal wallets, I'd work to make it illegal.

So, no, conservatives, you don't get a free pass to discriminate just because there are worse bigots than you. No, it's not okay that you want to deprive people of anti-discrimination protections because you also want to target other people and their rights. You're not moral just because someone else somewhere else is even more immoral than you.

And, frankly, you do yourself no favors by lying on top of aggressively pursuing special protections for your bigotry. I don't think anyone outside conservative circles thinks it reflects well on you that your stance on LGBT rights isn't as bad as that of ISIS' or the Ayatollahs'. And I doubt the comparison sits that well with a lot of your base, either.