"Daddy where's the sun gone from the sky?
What did we do wrong, why did it die?
And if you've got no love for me then I'll say goodbye"
The Oregon State Legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 1000, a gay rights bill that would grant same-sex couples the right to civil unions and equal protection under the law. It's a step towards healing the wound of 3,000 marriage licenses being invalidated by those "activist" judges in our State Supreme Court. (I'm sure when Tom DeLay heard that more members of the judiciary were pushing their own agendas from the bench, it totally ruined his corporate-sponsored vacation.) Yesterday, hundreds of Oregonians descended on the Capitol to express opinions on both sides of the issue. As a similar piece of legislation just got shot down in Washington state, it's time to stand up and be heard if we want this thing to pass.
I urge everyone from Oregon reading this to write or call their State Legislator. You can do so by visiting here. If you are from out of state, there is no reason you shouldn't speak up and urge Oregon to lead the way in civil rights. E-mail Representative Mitch Greenlick at email@example.com or Senator Charles Ringo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is my letter (and Greenlick already wrote back to say he is supporting it):
Dear Representative Greenlick/Senator Ringo:
I am writing you in support of Senate Bill 1000. I believe this is an issue that is important to everybody, regardless of one's background and orientation. Equal rights are not special rights, and it's up to no government or outside person to tell another how to live and love. In fact, I believe that the only people demanding special rights are heterosexual married couples, who wish to have benefits exclusive to their narrow-minded group. Being straight or gay is not a lifestyle choice, but being married is: so, by their own argument, maybe their special rights should be revoked?
My agenda here is what's fair. I am a primarily heterosexual white male who grew up in a Christian household. I personally stand nothing to gain from SB1000; nor do I have anything to lose by letting other people live the way that is natural to them. I feel opposition to equal rights is morally reprehensible, and those who stand against SB1000 are seeking to horde their pieces of the pie with little regard to the nourishment they deny others by doing so.
It's time Oregon stands up and shows the rest of the country that we are at the forefront of human concerns and leading the charge towards what is right. As long as people like Senator Charles Starr can stand up at our Capitol and spout homophobic rhetoric, accusing homosexuals of suffering from "mental disorders," without his fellow legislators denouncing him, we can't do this. We can't rise above the embarrassment and shame that has dogged our state since we joined the ranks of the close-minded by voting down Proposition 36 in November. Let's set the record straight. Oregonians aren't Neanderthals, but people of the present who are moving forward into a better future. Vote yes for SB1000.
Sincerely, Jamie S. Rich
Okay, I get a little into the proselytizing at the end there, but whatever. I think we've reached a crucial time in our culture where we really have to define where we stand, and do so vigilantly. It's not enough to express our beliefs, but to vehemently shout down the opposition and remove any pretense of moral ambiguity in issues such as these. Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion, but that doesn't mean sometimes they shouldn't be told to sit down and shut up. To that end, I also wrote the above mentioned Senator Charles Starr (email@example.com), who is quoted in today's Oregonian (5/5/05) as saying "people are not born homosexual" and hawking the outdated assertion that homosexuality is a mental disorder.
Dear Senator Starr:
It was with great distress that I read your comments in today's Oregonian in regards to the gay and lesbian community and Senate Bill 1000. With all due respect, sir, I feel you have embarrassed our state by openly spouting such out-of-date rhetoric. Is this sort of hateful, retrograde thinking really how we want the rest of the country to view Oregon?
I feel you owe everyone an apology. Empty words won't do, either. Do some research, educate yourself on reality, and vote yes for SB1000. Then I'll believe you; otherwise, despite not living in your district, I will make sure I am part of whatever effort I can be to make sure that come the next election, Oregon relieves you of your duties.
Sincerely, Jamie S. Rich
If I get audited this year, we'll know why.
The political climate right now is really weird. The illusory divide between the supposed "red" and "blue" is lingering from the last election, despite the fact that, in reality, Americans agree on a lot of the important issues. (Read the excerpt from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s book Crimes Against Nature from the May 2005 issue of Vanity Fair for a detailed explanation of this situation.) It seems to me, though, where the real disagreements appear to exist are in issues regarding how one lives one's life. What consistently baffles me about the Right is that their fundamental belief that government should be small and not interfere with our lives seems to stop as soon as they run into lives that our different than theirs; yet, as I state above, these are often issues regarding things that don't effect them whatsoever. If two men want to get married and are afforded the same rights and benefits under the law as a man and woman getting married, how does that hurt the man and the woman? They don't give up any rights by including the men. In fact, wouldn't allowing gay marriage actually support the homophobic stance that "Those queers can do want they want as long as they don't do it around me." Trust me, leave them alone, and they will leave you alone. If they are married to each other, then you no longer need to hang on to your irrational fear that they might be attracted to someone like you.
As another example of this, consider the current debate over the legality of certain companies taking films and editing them to include only family content. They remove violence, language, drugs, and sex, and in some extreme cases, references to ethnicity and homosexuality. AMC recently ran a news special about it, and you can read a short piece about it here, as well as an impassioned editorial by Marshall Herskovitz here). Essentially, these people feel that Hollywood is not making films that fit their sensibilities or are not suitable for their family to view together, so they create these new versions to fit their mold, regardless of whether the film was ever intended for children or not. Why would you want your eight-year-old to watch a movie like Traffic in the first place? (One hysterical clip on the AMC show came when they went out to ask people on the street if film ratings were less stringent than they have been in the past. One woman said, completely oblivious to her own faulty logic, "I took my ten-year-old to see a PG-13 movie, and it was really racy for him.") Hollywood argues that altering films and then turning around to sell or rent them in order to make a profit violates copyright law; the censoring companies argue it is fair use of a privately purchased product, and for every censored version they sell, they have paid for a corresponding copy of the legitimate DVD.
There are two things that strike me about the goals of the people who are seeking to censor entertainment in this way.
(1) Just because someone throws a party, it doesn't mean you're invited. Now, on the surface, that statement sounds contradictory to the pro-Gay marriage stance I've taken. I would argue it is not. The civil rights issue is about denying individuals opportunities based on who they are, while what entertainment you choose is entirely up to you. No one says to these people, "Stop. You can't watch this movie because you're a Christian." Anyone has access to the material, and if it's not to their tastes, they can avoid it. There is other entertainment out there for them, or they can go out and create their own (hello, Mel Gibson!). The recent pseudo-documentary What the Bleep Do We Know? is thinly disguised propaganda for a religious cult that takes advice from the spirit of someone from the lost city of Atlantis (I'm not joking); I don't agree with their point-of-view, but instead of asking for a version of the film altered to fit my belief system, I choose not to watch it. Similarly, I don't go into someone's church and ask the preacher to cater his sermon to me or attend wine tasting parties and complain they don't have any scotch. Nor do I stop anyone from renting What the Bleep Do We Know?, going to their church, or drinking their wine. Particularly when you can do any of those things and not harm me one bit.
Classically, it has always been the non-white, non-Christian groups who have felt underrepresented in American entertainment. If that has truly shifted and now conservative White America no longer feels it has a voice, then isn't that a signal that the tide has turned against them, that they are on the wane? Is this like the dinosaurs seeing a big meteor hurtling at them from the sky and trying to dig a hole big enough to catch it?
(2) If you disagree with Hollywood so much, why do you keep giving them money? This one makes no sense to me. The defense that they pay for the movies they find so offensive makes this a spineless protest. Why would you support a business you find so reprehensible? You're aiding in making their enterprise profitable! If a guy robs your house, you don't reprimand him while letting him keep your stuff and handing him the keys so he can get in easier next time.
It's becoming my personal quest in life to become less tolerant in the name of tolerance. I'm an imperfect being, and I know I haven't always stood up against bigotry and stupidity as zealously as I should have in the past. It's a failing I am attempting to eradicate, and I urge everyone to do the same. We're at a crux in our history where we can't accept half-baked settlements. In some cases, it may require us to redefine words like "friends" and "family," but I'd rather be on the right side alone than on the wrong side surrounded by people who love me for what they think I am or wish I was.
Current Soundtrack: various Robbie Williams; Manic Street Preachers, various versions of Holy Bible tracks (the bad grammar in the post title is theirs; I know the difference between "its" and "it's"); The Raveonettes, Pretty In Black
Current Mood: infuriated
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich