How long ago did I write that thing about how saying “Happy holidays” meant you were a child of Satan? It’s been a few years, but we’re still dealing with people who take some kind of personal offense to being greeted that way rather than with “Merry Christmas.” Now, Donald Trump is being hailed as a hero for giving the country permission to say “Merry Christmas” again. Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more weird.
We are all God’s children, black
No, not black, not white
certainly not brown; those are the ones with the bombs
even though they are the ones
who most closely resemble
on a cross; we are all
wrapped in His loving arms
unless your loving arms are a woman’s arms, wrapped around
another, palm cupped against her
for comfort while you sleep
We are all God’s children
sending you fags
We are all God’s children; suffer the little ones
except the tired ones, the hungry ones, the ones
with holes in their socks and underwear worn thin as tissue, handed down
from older siblings
gunned down in the street
Those are nobody’s children, and they should have
their heads impaled
on the steps of the social service building
as reminders to their parents
who forgot to pursue the
We are all God’s children, created in
plastic breasts and silicone lips and limbs torn from bodies
in the desert
[the sins of man for power for the almighty]
your country, protecting
Blessed are the meek
for they shall inherit
There are ghosts in every corner
Tapping holes into their faces with their
This is a place where when the stars come down
They change their course and keep
The sideways dark
Look out the light
Will make you blind
And the holes keep growing bigger
The skin around the edges chapped and raw
The mouths below grotesque with screaming
Never and regret
The hands of god are softly, sweetly
Masturbating to the sight.
a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
- conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence –Merriam Webster.
There seems to be some confusion lately about the importance of beliefs. We have people running around spouting all kinds of cruel, nasty, ugly, misinformed shit that makes no sense at all, and another group of people (often overlapping) running around spouting all kinds of shit about how it’s okay to spout the crazy shit because we have to respect everyone’s beliefs. It’s okay to want to marginalize and demonize and actually physically harm people because your beliefs say it’s okay, right?
Except the reality is, we don’t really have to respect anyone’s beliefs, unless by “respect” you mean “ignore,” because BELIEFS DON’T MATTER.
Beliefs are opinions. They’re feelings. They don’t make a darn bit of difference because they live inside your head and nobody else is in there but you. Now, beliefs can influence behavior, and that’s something you have to worry about.
For example, let’s say you believe you’re a rottweiler. You believe this because you like to try and chew on your feet, and you chased a cat once, and you have black hair and cute little brown eyebrows. Or just because someone told you when you were a kid that if you didn’t believe you were a rottweiler, you were going to burn up in a fiery pit for ever and ever and ever. It doesn’t matter why you believe it, you just do, and that’s cool. You can post pictures of your Kibbles n’ Bits dinner all over social media, people might think it’s kind of strange, but you’re not hurting anyone. If someone asks why you believe you’re a rottweiler, you can tell them, and share that belief with anyone you like. You can choose to wear a spiked collar because they look cool as shit on a rottweiler (and also on some people, although I haven’t worn mine in years). You can even bark when someone knocks on the door, if you want. You might scare away the pizza guy, but then again, he might just drop the box and run, and free pizza is awesome, even when you’re a dog.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
You believe that you’re a rottweiler, and you start trying to force restaurants to stop serving things like soysage souffle (soysage is a thing, I’m not even kidding) and serve Kibbles n’ Bits instead because Kibbles n’ Bits is the only good thing to eat. You want to close down the cathouses and terrariums and turn everything into a dog park because you’re a rottweiler and rottweilers are better than other animals. You start humping people’s legs and pissing on their tires and all of a sudden your beliefs are making you act batballs motherfucking crazy and it’s not about respecting your beliefs at all, it’s about get your red rocket off my leg, you fucking asshole.
And so now imagine that scenario applied to people. That’s what’s happening all over America right now: people are letting their beliefs, to which they are one hundred percent entitled, turn them into raging leg-humping tire-pissing jackholes, and we’re all sitting around going “no no, it’s just my leg, it’ll wash off, because we have to respect everyone’s beliefs.”
Respecting other people’s beliefs has not a single goddamn thing to do with letting people be mean to each other, letting them be racist or xenophobic or homophobic or any other fucking euphemism you want to use to sugarcoat the reality which is that some people are fucking mean-spirited jerks and you don’t get to use your beliefs to get away with that shit.
Mutual respect is always good. Being considerate of others is wonderful. We live in a huge, diverse community, and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s lovely to be supportive and understanding of things that are important to the people around us, including their systems of belief. But it is just as important to make sure people know that it is not okay to use your beliefs as launchpads for your prejudice and hate.
Now go fetch my slippers and quit humping my leg, you fucking nut.
I used to work with children at the local Jewish Community Center. When I first started there, a little guy who was especially, let’s say, spirited, was leaving at the end of a particularly challenging Friday. He was a smart, sweet little boy, intent on testing his boundaries with the new teacher, and had given me a pretty killer headache by the time his mom picked him up. He had just gone out the door, the last kid to leave, when he poked his head back in the room and said, “Shabbat Shalom, Miss April!” Twenty minutes earlier he had been calling me a poop and refusing to put the scissors away. And now here he was, wishing me well, even though I was undoubtedly a great big meanie scissors-controlling poop.
I’m not Jewish. I don’t celebrate the Jewish Sabbath, or any Sabbath. The words “Shabbat Shalom” by themselves mean little to me. They are words from a language I don’t understand. But when they were spoken by a little boy in the spirit of love and friendship, they were priceless. When my coworkers said those words at the end of the week, I returned them, because I meant them: Have a safe weekend. Have a happy Friday. Peace. Love. I wish you well.
All of this Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas nonsense is a matter of pride and semantics, nothing more. There is no war on Christmas. Nobody is trying to snatch the Christmas tree out of your front window, or waiting by the mailbox with a Sharpie, ready to steal your Christmas cards and replace your greeting with “Happy Holidays.” Santa’s not going to put coal in your stocking if you smile at someone and return their greeting, even if they didn’t phrase it just the way you would.
The world is a really big place, with a lot of really cool people in it. Some of them celebrate the same holidays you do. Some of them have the same skin tone you do. Some of them call their God by the same name you call yours. And some of them don’t. That doesn’t make their words of love, peace, and hope into something malicious and ugly.
When someone chooses to use their words to share a message of joy with you and you take offense to the words rather than appreciating the message, when you slap away a hand held out in friendship because of a minor linguistic difference, you are the offensive thing. You are the one spreading a message of ugliness and despair. As long as the words are given with love, it’s one message with dozens of beautiful translations.
So with that being said-Happy holidays to you, from your favorite great big meanie scissors-controlling poop. It’s been a beautiful year.
The big news this afternoon is that Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk of court who was refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, has been arrested. Leading up to her arrest, the Internet was a constant flood of information and memes calling her out for her sordid past. Davis has reportedly been married several times, bore children by one man while married to another, had them adopted by a third man (did I get that right?) and then divorced the one guy and remarried one of the first guys. It’s pretty confusing, and it certainly makes it easy to poke fun at a woman who claims to be standing firm in defense of “Biblical marriage.” But does it matter? Not in the least.
Is Kim Davis a hypocrite? No doubt. But a large majority of Christians are in one way or another, and–news flash–it’s not a big deal.
It doesn’t make sense to cry foul because Davis is using her religion to condemn others, and then condemn her by the same standard. I get that she’s the last person in the world who should be talking about the sanctity of marriage, and she’s kind of an evil cunt, and she has really bad hair and looks like she could use a long nap and some strong coffee, and maybe a Xanax or 12. This is not a happy woman, and she is determined to take it out on someone. And bless her heart, she’s gotten herself in pretty deep now, hasn’t she? But we’re all kind of missing the point here:
Separation of church and state.
That means us too. If we’re going to be grown-ups about this and make a compelling argument for what is right, we have to judge Davis by the same standards we expect her to use. The problem is not that Kim Davis seems to be really bad at making wise relationship decisions. It isn’t that she went through a series of divorces and then found religion; it’s fairly common, I think, for people to find religion later in life and go a bit overboard with it. (Don’t believe me? Come visit Asheville and see how many middle-aged women you meet in flowy skirts with constant prayer hands and stream-of-consciousness rambling about the Universe and the Spirit and Manifesting all manner of shit like rent money and a man who can rock a beard and a purse at the same time. We embrace new ideas with a passion, and that’s totally normal.) The problem is that she’s using religion to break a secular law and to deny service to people who are entitled to it under that secular law.
Her religion DOES NOT MATTER.
It needs to be taken out of the equation. I don’t care if she’s Miley Cyrus or the Virgin Mary during her off hours. What matters is what she’s doing on the clock. She’s becoming a martyr for the cause, and while we can all agree that she’s a pretty nasty human being for doing what she’s doing, the attention she’s getting for it is bolstering the confidence of other bigots, giving them the [lily-white Good Christian] balls to spout off the same shit she’s spewing.
Our stance should not be, “She’s not even a good Christian herself!” but “It doesn’t matter her religion, she isn’t doing her job.” Get her out of there, give the job to someone who is capable of fulfilling the responsibilities thereof, and let her see that really, truly, her religious beliefs don’t matter to anyone but her. This isn’t a matter of “She can’t do this because she broke Biblical law too,” it’s a matter of “She can’t do this because she’s breaking a federal law and ignoring the requirements of her job.” That’s all.
The lights are on in your great glass house
but there’s nothing there to see.
Your eyes are glued to the man next door,
face pressed against his window in a gruesome caricature,
bulging against the panes, lashes wet with lust and your palms
to the cross
you wear like a brace
to straighten out
and the holes bleed out, slick sweat and muddy feet and the ones below
from the filthy wounds
like turning vomit
You are the keeper of everything;
you are the arbiter of every
and your disciples gather close and wait
for the baptism to start.
If you’ve been here before, you probably know that I have some pretty strong feelings about equal rights, and people attempting to hide their hate behind their religion, and people using their beliefs as some kind of free pass to treat people as horribly as they want to without repercussion. Any time I try to make a valid, logical point about those things, I get hit with the intolerance spiel: “I thought you were supposed to be open-minded. What happened to not judging other people? You need to respect everyone’s beliefs.”
We are tangled up in here: confusing the idea of being open-minded with the act of being complacent, which sounds a bit like an oxymoron in itself.
Fact: action and belief are two very different things, and being open-minded doesn’t preclude you from finding fault in things that are harmful.
Your right to believe in something does not negate others’ right to exist with the same rights and standard of living that you have. If you act in a negative manner based on your beliefs, there is nothing closed-minded about those who tell you to stop it.
It doesn’t matter what you believe; if you are doing something that hurts someone, you need to be told to stop.
When a person who identifies as Christian is molesting children, and people say that it’s wrong, when we are horrified and angry at his actions, we are not attacking his beliefs. We are not persecuting him for being Christian. We are not even vilifying him for believing that his victims look more like sex toys than human beings. We are observing his actions and we are judging him for them. That’s okay. That’s how society works, in theory. We protect those among us who can’t protect themselves. We don’t protect those who are doing the hurting because of the internal dialogue that drives their motivation, whether that be the voice of God or Jesus or the son of Sam. We judge: we make the determination about whether what someone is doing is right or wrong.
When your beliefs tell you that someone is less than you are because of their color or race or sexuality, their gender or their eye color or their socioeconomic status or anything else that they cannot control, you are allowed to hold that belief. Belief is an internal thing. You can believe anything you want. You can believe that the world is flat, or that the moon is made of dank goat cheese, or that the ghost of Bea Arthur* wants you to paint your cat’s toenails chartreuse every other Thursday after giving him a bubble bath in the sink. But see, if you put your cat in the bath and then try to get anywhere near him with that nail polish, chances are–unless you have a really strange cat, which is totally cool–that you are going to come out of that situation with quite a bit less blood inside your body than you had before you started, and your cat will be quite traumatized. That’s a consequence of your action. If you just believe that your cat would look fine in chartreuse but realize that your taste is probably not the same as his, and that he likely doesn’t share your affinity for bubble baths no matter how fresh and clean he might smell afterwards, and you realize that washing and painting your cat would be a total dick move, you are likely to stay intact and your cat will continue to do his cat things happily and at peace.
That is what tolerance is about. That is what defines the difference between action and belief. Being open-minded isn’t going “Hell yes, let’s bathe the cat and paint his toes!” just because someone else believes it’s a good idea. Being open-minded is going, “Hey, let’s see how this belief might play out… yeah, you keep on believing that, but let’s not actually act on that, okay?” Being open-minded is accepting that other people believe that cats should be bathed and polished. It’s not going along with feline spa day just because it corresponds with someone’s belief.
And when you have two conflicting beliefs that have led to two conflicting paths of action, it is up to us as civilized human beings to look at those two paths with open minds, and to judge each one based on a very simple criterion: Is this action harmful to someone else? And if the answer to that is yes, then that is the wrong path. Not based on belief, or religion, but on compassion for our fellow human beings, and what should be a collective desire to do less harm than good. When you are causing damage to someone’s person, their ability to feel happiness, their ability to enjoy life, or their ability to embrace the same civil privileges you have, and you are doing so based on your personal belief, you are harming them, and that is wrong.
*Bea Arthur would never really do that, I don’t think.
When I was very small, I loved Sesame Street. I especially loved Ernie, and I had a special Ernie shirt that I had to wear every time it came on. I would run to my room, grab the shirt, put it on and run back and park myself in front of the TV, anxiously awaiting the appearance of Oscar the Grouch, my other favorite. (Raise your hand if you’re surprised by that. Nobody? Yeah…)
And then one day, I couldn’t find it. I remember screaming my little blonde head off; I had to have my “Ownie Showt,” as I pronounced it, with my weird three-year-old lisp. I couldn’t watch Sesame Street without it. I don’t remember how that played out, whether my mom found it and saved the day, or I screamed myself to sleep and missed the show, or realized the warped logic of my position and watched the show in my Hollie Hobbie jammies instead. What I remember is the desperation that I felt, realizing that a tradition I felt tied to was being threatened. I was not a stupid child; at the time of the Great Ownie Showt Meltdown I was probably starting to read, and if you believe my mother, was starting to spell words on my own. I could count to a hundred in English and Spanish, and I knew how to charm my grandpa into sharing his fiber cereal that I swore was tasty delicious dog food. But it fell far beyond my grasp, the idea that I could enjoy Sesame Street without that stupid shirt. That, I just couldn’t understand, at least not in that moment.
I was thinking about that today, reading the usual Facebook posts by people who have been rendered mortally twitchy by the fact that *gasp* gay marriage is now legal in the United States. They are clinging fiercely to their ideas about faith and the Bible as they pertain to legal marriage, and the problem is, those things aren’t pertinent at all. We’re all out there throwing Bible verses at each other; we sound like a bunch of adolescent cretins on some broken-down playground, flinging insults:
Gay abomination verse!
Oh yeah? Well mixed fabrics verse, man! Touching a chick on her period verse, huh? What about that?
Shiiiiit, God said! Old Testament, fucker!
Eating shellfish verse, dipshit! I’ll kick your ass!
It’s pretty stupid, debating the fine points of Biblical dissent when it’s entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand. And we can use all the logic in the world, pointing out again and again things like separation of church and state, and that this decision only applies to the ability to obtain a legal marriage license, and has nothing to do with church weddings, but still, in their minds, marriage is a religious thing. They can’t separate that idea from the larger concept of human rights and legal equality.
Marriage is their Sesame Street, and the Bible is their Ownie Showt. You just can’t have one without the other, and if you try and take the Ownie Showt away, you’re going to have a very pissed off group of people who are missing the substance of the show because they can’t stop screaming out their rage at what they think they’ve lost.
What they’re missing is that legal marriage is a contract, like you enter into when you buy a home or start a new job. It gives you responsibility for another human being. Granted, it is “just a piece of paper” and it has no bearing on the quality of a relationship or the strength of the love of the parties involved, but it’s one of those necessary evils. It is the legal force that says that you can sit by your partner when he or she is lying comatose in the ICU. It is the legal document that says you trust the person on the other end to know when it’s time to pull the plug. It gives you equal rights to all the boring shit like property and taxes that you acquire. Right or wrong, whether you scoff at the made-up romanticism of it or not, marriage is a cultural milestone in the US. To many people, it’s seen as the ultimate show of love and commitment. For some folks, that means having a church wedding after getting the marriage license. For some folks, it doesn’t, and that’s where we’re getting fucked up.
You don’t have to have a church wedding. You don’t have to have your union blessed by a member of the Christian clergy. Not all marriages are Christian ones-and not all Christians disagree with gay marriage.
When you go to get your marriage license, they ask for your name and your age and legal proof of identity. They don’t ask how often you go to church or if you can name and summarize at least ten episodes of Highway to Heaven. It’s a process that’s simpler than registering your vehicle, takes much less time than obtaining a drivers license (and requires pretty much the same information), and is no more religious than signing a lease. Whatever religious aspects you choose to apply to your wedding and your marriage are completely up to you-those aren’t legislated at all, other than within the loose guidelines each state has pertaining to officiants, and in every state, you can be married by a judge, magistrate, or justice of the peace. You don’t have to have a sermon at your wedding. You don’t have to pray to the Christian God. You can be Jewish or atheist or Muslim or Pagan or Buddhist or pantheist or any number of theism-related titles and still get legally married in the United States. So why should a narrow tenet of Christianity apply to every marriage? It shouldn’t.
For a long time, people just kind of accepted the Christian church-based version of marriage. As our world expands and we’re exposed to others with different beliefs, that tradition has changed, and many people are more understanding that legal marriage and a church wedding are not the same thing.
Legal marriage equality doesn’t change the church’s role in marriage, at all. Nobody is going to force a resistant clergy member to perform a gay marriage, but think about it-why would anyone want to get married by someone who doesn’t want to perform the ceremony in the first place? That’s totally illogical. When I got married, there’s no way I would have chosen a Baptist minister or a Catholic priest to perform the ceremony. We had an interfaith minister, who also officiates gay weddings, and there wasn’t a single mention of God in the ceremony. You can do that. A gay couple won’t go to an anti-gay minister any more than an anti-gay couple would choose a flaming gay officiant. Use your brains, people.
Change is scary. We need our traditions to cling to, even when those traditions fly in the face of rational thought. Hold on to your Ownie Showt when you need your God to provide comfort during a dark time, or when you seek fellowship with others who share the same beliefs. Wear it every day, sleep in it if you need to, if you need that security to keep you going after something breaks your heart. Use it as a touchstone: What would Ernie do? But don’t cling to it so fiercely that you scream yourself into darkness and miss the entire show, because I promise, it’s one that’s as full of love and hope and faith and commitment as the one you’re used to watching. There are just a few extra characters you need to get to know.
An article posted on Huffington Post a couple months ago indicates that Pat Robertson might not be as torn up (heh) as you might think about the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.
In an interesting case of foreshadowing, Robertson claimed that “You’re gonna say that you like anal sex, you like oral sex… Sooner or later, you’re going to have to conform your religious beliefs to… homosexuality.” That’s right, God is going to make you gay, and he’s going to make you like it. In the article, Robertson also expressed interest in bestiality, although he declined to cite any biblical passages to back up his interest. In case he’s reading this, I’ll share this verse, which he’s welcome to use in order to defend his position when he’s caught in flagrante delicto getting freaky with his livestock: “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.” -Ezekiel 23:20.
It sounds as if Mr. Robertson is preparing his fan base for the inevitable: he, and all of his followers, are going to catch the gay. You know, I always thought the guy was an idiot, but this is a pretty solid coming out strategy.
Good for you, Pat. Two snaps up.