Friday, March 29, 2013

What is a Bigot, Really?

Honest question here: What is a bigot? I'd really like people to leave thoughts and comments.

Some further framing of the question: dictionary.com defines 'bigot' as "a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion." (One of their example sentences is "To be a bigot means that you hold negative views of a group despite evidence.") Google's define function refers me to 'bigoted,' which is then defined as either "Obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one's own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions" or "Expressing or characterized by prejudice and intolerance." Merriam-Webster defines a bigot as "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance."

Of course, I'm really asking this in the context of the Supreme Court's recent hearing of arguments in two high-profile gay marriage cases. A lot of claims of bigotry have been thrown around, mainly by supporters of marriage equality about their ideological opponents, but sometimes vice versa as well. I don't think many people would disagree that there do exist bigots who oppose marriage equality (exhibit one: the Westboro Baptist Church), but does that label apply to most of the people who are against gay marriage? Surely a simple disagreement on policy doesn't equate with bigotry--otherwise every opponent on any issue would deserve the label. There seems to need to be some kind of animus against a group, utter intolerance of opponents, and a head-in-the-sand disregard of evidence that could disprove one's own views.

Depriving LGBT people the right to marry (and the concomitant benefits afforded by state and federal laws, not to mention society) could be a sign of animus towards that class, it's true. And I am very unconvinced by conservative claims about gay marriage harming children--the evidence seems to me to point quite strongly in the other direction. But I'm not sure there's utter intolerance or real hatred motivating the people I know who oppose marriage equality. It's largely a conservative, in the Burkean sense, hesitance to allow a significant change to a revered institution. While I agree that that ends up perpetuating harm against the people who are less privileged under the status quo, it does so indirectly, not as its primary purpose. (Maybe that shouldn't matter, though?)

I think I want to reserve the term bigot for the people who sic dogs on protesters (or otherwise condone violence against their political opponents), or who disown their children if they belong to or associate with those "others," or who use slurs towards a group, etc. I don't deny that there are people who oppose marriage equality who do some of those things and thus deserve the label of bigot, but I don't think that voting in favor of Prop 8 automatically qualifies one as a bigot. But then, maybe I'm hedging because I count many, many people as friends and loved ones who oppose marriage equality--and naturally I don't want to label them as anything so ugly as 'bigots' unless I have to.

For those reading this who support marriage equality, do you agree with that take? Or are all the people who disagree necessarily bigots? If not, what does it take to qualify as a bigot in regards to this issue? Do you ever worry that the term 'bigot' is being thrown around so much it's losing meaning?

For those reading this who oppose marriage equality, what do you think a bigot is? Do you see people on your side who qualify? Have you seen people on the other side who qualify? (Do all marriage equality proponents qualify?) And finally, do you think it was possible for people who opposed interracial marriage in 1965 to not be bigots, or is that an issue where opposition equaled bigotry? What about someone who is against it today?

I'm really curious. Please leave thoughts and further questions in the comments.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to Get Married in 12 Months


A friend of mine gave me a checklist of things to do in order to get married in just one year (as well as some words of wisdom at no extra charge). It's tongue in cheek and it always gives me a laugh. So here ya go, Internet!

1) Embrace your nerdiness
2) Realize that everyone is in the business of fashion (i.e., dress and groom well)
3) Take girls out on dates [I think this could easily be emended to taking whoever you want out on dates, regardless of your or their gender--let's not be too androcentric and heteronormative here, eh?]
4) Make out with them when you're both having a good time.
5) Continue making out while getting to know them better
6) Date them when after making out you find out they're not crazy.
7) Marry one of them when you date for like 9 months and you still really like them.

7 steps.
You got this.
Numbers 1 through 4 are key to get the ball rolling.
Numbers 5 through 7 are genuinely tricky.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader is dead. Long live Google Reader!

It's stupid, I recognize that. But I'm almost distraught at the news that Google Reader is being shut down in a few months. No point in explaining it if you don't already know it, but it's the best RSS feed reader out there as far as I was concerned. And while there are replacements out there, the simple, clean interface and the perfect integration with my Google account just can't be replaced.

But why should I even care? I should probably be grateful: maybe this will help me be less addicted to the internet. And obviously in the grand scheme of things, this is obviously the smallest of small inconveniences. It's basically a parody of #firstworldproblems that I'm even writing any of this. Again, I recognize that. And yet . . .

We don't think it's that weird for people to have an emotional attachment to a car, or a house, or a local grocery store, or any of a number of other inanimate objects. I remember reading a pretty moving virtual memorial service for a chapel that had burned down back in 2009! And there's the classic Mormon example of holy nostalgia for otherwise normal places that were the scene of some transcendental experiences. So why not a nonphysical thing? Now don't misunderstand this analogy. I'm not suggesting that Google Reader was in any sense holy or really even all that great on its own. It was wonderfully functional, but I'm not trying to deify a web app.

No, I'm just saying that Google Reader was a simple background for most of the most interesting stuff I've read over the last few years. (And Molly Mormon Democrat can confirm that that's a lot :) ) It's like the road you walked to school on for years--it wasn't anything particularly special in itself, but when it gets bulldozed to make a new housing development or a highway, you miss it. Something that was simple, comfortable, and dependable is gone.

I'm sure people thought it was stupid for an audience member to be emotionally affected by a play the first time that happened. ("They're just actors! As in, everything they said was not real. You realize that, right?!") Or by a TV show. ("It's a stupid half-hour vehicle for showing you commercials!") Or whatever. This century it's going to be websites. I mean, even if you didn't use Reader, can you imagine the day when Google will be shut down? It's almost unfathomable today, but it will be happen. And you might not be upset, but you'll probably at least be annoyed about having to find a new search engine (or whatever we're using then for some vaguely analogous purpose). Or when Gmail closes its doors. It's just kinda weird to think about. It will happen someday. Of course life will go on, but a little bit of who you were as a human was wrapped up in something you used extensively and reflexively. And that's how I feel today. Just weird. And yes, a bit sheepish about feeling so weird.

And it's going to be especially weird to see this very post pop up in my Reader feed in about 30 seconds, when I open it again in the Pavlovian response that is built into my fingers when I'm using the internet . . . :)