bigotry

All posts tagged bigotry

Condem(nation)

Published April 12, 2016 by April Fox

Take a look at your hair,

your skin

the color of your eyes

the space between your teeth

and your words, the cadence

with which they erupt

from your imperfect mouth, the syntax

tripping, flowing, smooth like

broken glass

Take a look at the things

that keep you up at night, the

sites you visit

in the bathroom

home alone, but with the door locked

anyway

the nightmares you’re afraid to tell

the hands you wish would reach for yours

across the universe of shame

the vacant way you stare and raise your hands

in praise

Take a look at your twisted limbs, your fractured smile, your thickened middle

evidence

of greed and gluttony

Take a look at the god you cry to

when your self becomes too much,

staring down the barrel

one finger on the trigger

the other in the air

Take a look at the wreckage

that your life has left behind, at the emptiness around you

at the vacuum that you are

shrunken, flaccid, impotent and weak

Take a look and see

how beautifully easy

it would be

to become the

hated thing. 

On Being Open-Minded, and the Freedom of Belief

Published July 17, 2015 by April Fox

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.

The Sesame Street Theory of Gay Marriage Resistance, or, How the Ernie Shirt Fucks You Up

Published June 30, 2015 by April Fox
The infamous Ownie Showt

The infamous Ownie Showt

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!

YOUR MOM!

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.

Two Babies are Rescued After Being Lost at Sea Because of Parents’ Prejudice

Published August 13, 2013 by April Fox

I just covered this story for the web site Liberal America.

Sean and Hannah Gastonguay have “moral” objections to abortion and homosexuality, but see nothing wrong with tossing their two babies into a small boat and heading out across the Pacific Ocean, with no apparent navigational skills and scant provisions. Why? They were trying to get to an island where people can go to prison for nearly a decade and a half for falling in love with another consenting adult. Here’s the whole story:

http://www.liberalamerica.org/2013/08/12/extremist-family-lost-at-sea-in-attempt-to-escape-evils-of-equal-rights-in-america/

Amendment One

Published May 9, 2012 by April Fox

i feel as if
amendment one
is being read by the light of a bulb
shining through the skins
of my family, friends-
my children.

how can you cry your careful,
scripted tears over the loss of a life
not yet started
and tell the child before you
that his life means less than yours?

pro-life, and yet you spit
your prejudice and bile into the faces of your neighbors
fight to take away
their right to life

how easy is it for you to waste your righteous hours
combing through the verses in your book
tossing bits and pieces into piles by the side
over here are things that we’ll ignore
over here is where we make the condemnation pile

you gossip in the grocery aisles
while you shop for pork and tampons
maybe lobster for the anniversary of when you stopped
fucking behind the back
of the god that you adore

dip your razor in the baptismal pool
round the edges of your beard
shave your scalp clean
watch your faith fall to the floor

wine-drunk in the mornings
cannibalizing christ and if his body was inside you
you would see where you are wrong.

slave-owner, whore
if i were bible-bound like you
i could whip you while you cleaned my floors
then sell you for your meat
so your body could be violated
like your conscience must have been.

Why I Voted Against Amendment One

Published May 8, 2012 by April Fox

This is what my life looks like:

I am an adult heterosexual female. I live with an adult heterosexual male. We have expressed, both verbally and through the way we live, our commitment to each other. We each wear a ring that symbolizes that commitment. We share responsibilities: grocery shopping, bills, housework-though I will say that the housework sharing could use a little work. When I go off to my other job, the man that I live with cares for my children. He cooks dinner, makes sure medicine is dispensed on time, tends to cuts and scrapes and hurt feelings, gets them to necessary appointments. When the boys had a friend over and were immersed in a video game, he noticed that my daughter seemed to be feeling lonely, so he sat and kept her company while she watched her silly tween-girl Disney programs-not exactly prime viewing for a Star Trek-obsessed musician, but he made sure she had someone to hang out with. He’s never been an athlete, but when my son wanted to go to the baseball field and practice today, they went together, biking there and then stopping for ice cream on the way back. On my first day at a new job recently, he surprised me at work with the kids, and they took me out to lunch.

We watch movies with the kids, go to the park and the playground, take our little dog hiking, have cookouts and birthday parties and family meetings about chores. My children are lucky: they have a mother who loves them, a father who loves them, AND significant adults in their parents’ respective lives who love them.

A marriage license in our county costs $60. That’s not a lot of money for some people, but for us it’s a week’s worth of gas-a month and a half of dance lessons for baby girl-a rare meal out for all of us-new shoes for the boys… it’s not money that we have to spare. We choose to spend that money on things that we need, rather than a piece of paper that says we’re married. I’m opposed to legal marriage for reasons other than the cost: the fact that my gay friends are denied that right makes me reluctant to take advantage of it, and our government is so corrupt in so many other ways, I have no desire whatsoever to seek their approval of my relationship.

If passed, Amendment One would make it impossible for my children to get health insurance under my partner’s plan, if he got a job that offered it. That would mean they’d either have to stay on the state plan, costing taxpayers money, or they’d go uncovered. If something happened to him and he was in the hospital with visitation restricted to family only, the children he cares for and loves like his own wouldn’t be able to visit. If I became incapacitated and a decision had to be made about ending my life or keeping me alive via machine, that burden would be placed on my older two children, who are barely adults. I can’t imagine having to make that decision for my mother now, much less at age 18 or 20. The person to whom I am closest, who knows me better than anyone else, would have no legal right to ensure that my wishes were followed-he wouldn’t even be allowed in to say goodbye, under Amendment One. Those rights would only be offered to people who are legally married, and to the children of those unions.

Let’s look at some hypothetical situations: A woman is married to an abusive man who cheats on her and leaves her for another woman, but will not sign divorce papers. Some time later, the woman is in a healthy relationship with a man who treats her well. The woman is in an accident and is hospitalized in critical condition-only family are allowed to visit. Supporters of Amendment One believe it’s okay that the woman’s estranged and abusive husband could visit her-but the man who cares for her could not.

A child is raised from infancy by a man who acts as his father, in every way. The child calls the man “Dad” and has no contact with his biological father. Supporters of Amendment One don’t believe that that child has a right to say goodbye to the only father he’s ever known on his hospital deathbed.

A woman becomes terminally ill. Supporters of Amendment One believe that her parents, who cursed at her and threw her out of their home when she revealed that the name of the person she loved was Ann, not Adam, should be allowed to visit her and make end-of-life decisions, but Ann, with whom she has lived and been in love for 15 years, should not.

Supporters of Amendment One believe that children are only entitled to healthcare if their parents are legally married.

Supporters of Amendment One believe that a $60 piece of paper means more than the way a couple cares for each other.

Supporters of Amendment One believe that my friends, a gay couple who have been together for 13 years, don’t deserve the right to marry-but that the heterosexual barhop and the abusive crackhead with whom she hooked up and drunkenly agreed to marry two days ago, after he beat her and threatened to kill her dog, do.

Supporters of Amendment One believe that their religious beliefs trump the civil rights of anyone who doesn’t believe as they do, and that the lives of those who are different not in thought or in action but by virtue of an inherent trait that they cannot control are worth less than their own.

Supporters of Amendment One remind me a whole lot of a puny little asshole named Adolf, and that is why I voted against it, and will continue to fight similar legislation until we defeat this bigotry, ignorance and hate.

 

The New Christianity: Bigotry, Hate and Oppression, All in One Convenient Package

Published February 22, 2012 by April Fox

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of religion, and have issues with fundamental Christianity in particular. Now before you close your browser and bathe yourself in holy water to cleanse your spirit of the evil I’ve already infused in you via my previous posts, hear me out.

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: I’m not anti-Christian. In order to be anti-Christian, I’d have to be biased against an entire group of people based on one common factor. Since I’m not an asshole, I don’t tend to judge individuals that way. I’m simply anti-anything that encourages people to hate each other based on who they love or what they look like or what god they choose to believe in. I get why my general anti-religion stance comes off as anti-Christianity; I live in an area where Christianity is the most popular religion, and much of the idiocy I encounter is perpetuated by Christians. Trust me, if you’re being a dick based on your Jewish or Muslim or atheist beliefs, I’ll call you on that too.

Religion doesn’t have anything directly to do with god, or gods, or the lack thereof. Religion is about a group of people linked by their shared belief in their interpretation of their version of god, and the official documents and decrees that have to do with that interpretation of god. Religion is about following a set of man-made rules ostensibly set forth by whichever interpretation of god that particular man happened to believe in.

Religion, to put it simply, is just a political movement with the word “god” in it.

I’ve been accused of brainwashing my children by not forcing them to go to church and indoctrinating them with beliefs they’re too young to understand. I’m “brainwashing” them by sharing my own views with them-even though if those were Christian views, I’d just be “doing the right thing, raising them up in the way of the Lord!”-and discussing other beliefs with them, so that they can see what makes sense to them and make their own choices. The horror, people. The fucking horror! Before you know it, they’ll be choosing their own socks and asking for sugar cookies when I set out chocolate chip. And from there, good lord, it’s chaos. Anarchy! The whole world will go to, well, hell, I guess-if we start brainwashing our kids into thinking for themselves.

Go tell a fundamentalist Christian that she’s brainwashing her kids by not telling them that atheism is a valid and logical perspective. Go ahead, I dare you.

I do believe in certain aspects of certain religions. The “judge not” and “love thy neighbor” parts of Christianity are awesome, although those bits of wisdom seem to have been forgotten by many professed Christians. The Baha’i faith teaches that everyone is one and should explore their own beliefs. I love that. Meditation, self-reflection, loving nature: all are things drawn from and fundamental to certain religions, and they’re all good things. I take issue with the arbitrary rules and the notion that everyone should believe and act the exact same way. And I have a HUGE problem with any group, organization or individual who uses fear and threats to make its members follow its rules-especially when that kind of mental cruelty extends to children. I try to teach my kids appropriate behavior based on kindness, compassion and consideration. Don’t sing at the top of your lungs while your brother’s trying to do math, because it makes it hard for him to focus. Don’t hit, because it hurts. Don’t steal, because it’s not nice to take things that aren’t yours. Some branches of Christianity teach kids from a very young age that they were bad from the time they were born, and if they don’t follow the rules ostensibly made by some invisible man in the sky, they’re going to burn in hell.

Put on your censor glasses, folks, it’s about to get ugly.

What the flaming fuck on a pulpit is THAT? You don’t threaten kids into submission, and you damn sure don’t punish them for something that’s beyond their control. I don’t care if it’s wetting the bed or some mythical chick biting an apple, that is NOT OKAY. And then, THEN you teach them that how they behave isn’t really important because they’ll never be good enough anyway; all they have to do in order to go to the Magic Happy Place in the Sky after they die is say they believe in something?¬† I’ve actually heard people say “Being a good person isn’t enough.” Sorry, but being a good person is pretty much the ONLY thing that’s enough. If a parent holds his child to impossibly high standards, so high that they can’t possibly be met, and then punishes him when he fails, that’s considered abusive behavior. Tell the kids there’s no way they can live up to the standards of some false entity, and he better say he believes in this thing that he can’t even comprehend so he doesn’t end up burning up for eternity, and that’s just fine Christian parenting.

Doing what’s right based entirely on the potential consequences isn’t called being a Good Christian, it’s called being a sociopath.

I don’t have a problem with parents taking their kids to church, if that’s part of their family culture. Some folks do yoga together, some veg out in front of the TV, some go to church. No biggie. My son goes to a church group because his friends go. My daughter has gone a few times because she wanted to spend some time with her father’s girlfriend. It’s not the end of the world. And I get why church is a popular activity. People like to hang out with like-minded peers. We’re a socially needy species, generally, and while I’m far less inclined toward social interaction than most people, when I do want to be around people, I go where I know I can find others like me and who will be accepting of me. Besides the social aspect, church can fill other beneficial roles. My daughter attended a church, briefly, that focused a lot of attention on community service. That was fantastic. I can see how it could help people who are feeling lost and alone, too. But when the core beliefs of that church are rooted in hate and bigotry, I have a problem with your religion. When you’re talking about people of other faiths believing in the “wrong god,” I have a problem with your religion. When you’re teaching from a text and ignoring the parts that don’t support your hate and bigotry, I have a problem with your religion. When you’re teaching kids not to think and not to question but to blindly claim faith in something they’re too young to understand, I have a problem with your religion.

Not all denominations are like this. I’m not naming any particular ones, because I love people that belong to those sects and don’t want anyone to feel like this is a personal attack. It’s not. It’s an attempt to get people to think. It’s an attempt to make people see exactly WHY I have a problem with certain aspects of certain religions.

Bottom line: if I’m “anti-Christianity” for disliking the fact that people perpetuate fear, hatred, bigotry and oppression under the guise of being “Christian,” I’ll wear the title proudly.

And to all of my friends and family of every faith who have proven to me that the extreme examples I cited above are in no way indicative of every member of any religion, thank you for being who you are. I love you. Faith is not the problem. Aligning yourself with ugly beliefs and practices in the name of that faith is.

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