Homophobic Persons Need Not Read

Because I am lazy, and also because I am proud of this essay, I thought I would post my final writing assignment for Writing 101, minus some of the boring MLA stuff. Hopefully, some more original content will be published soon, but for now enjoy me lecturing and scolding grown-ups.

P.S. I had to take some liberties with the formatting as well so the paper looked a bit different when it was presented to the Prof. 

An Open Letter to James Kellard and Peter Sprigg

Dear Mr Kellard and Mr. Sprigg:

In 2012, you both penned articles on the topic of same-sex marriage, taking opposite sides of the discussion. Within the past decade, these discussions regarding same-sex marriage have reached a fever-pitch. As of 2015, 37 states allow same-sex marriages, with 13 states still banning the practice. With 2/3 of the states already accepting same-sex matrimony, surely we can find some common ground on this topic and resolve this civil-rights issue once and for all. However, it’s going to require us to play nice and put our personal feelings aside.

Taking a look at our U.S. Constitution, particularly Section 1, the law of the land reveals:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizen of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 

What does this mean, exactly? If we are to take the Constitution at face value, it can be argued that the framework is already in place to allow same-sex marriage. If a gay person is born or naturalized in the United States, then there can be no law that would infringe upon their rights and liberties as a citizen. Would marriage not be considered a right? James Kellard writes in his piece that “Homosexuals and lesbians are tax-paying, law-abiding citizens and deserve the same rights and legal protections as every other citizen of the United States. This point would seem to line up with what our Constitution says, but yet we still seem to be at an impasse when it comes to acceptance. One of the major roadblocks is religion. Homosexuality (to use a somewhat outdated term) is considered a sin in most religions and therefore finding acceptance in those areas is hard to come by. It is viewed as an assault on “religious liberty.” What does that mean, exactly? When most people think of religion, going to church is usually front and center, but there’s much more to it according to Peter Sprigg. He states that: “religious liberty means much more than liturgical rituals. It applies not only to formal houses of worship, but to para-church ministries, religious educational and social service organizations, and individual believers trying to live their lives in accordance with their faith not only at church, but at home, in their neighborhoods, and in the workplace.”

Mr. Sprigg, what you are conveying here seems to be some misguided perception as to what gays actually want to accomplish, and you are looking at marriage as only a religious institution, which it is not. Kellard counters that notion by saying: “Marriage may be a religious issue for many, but the fact is we also have civil marriage, which has nothing to do with religion.” He furthers his point by adding that we have “absolutely no right to deny it in city hall.” Putting your emotions aside, surely on a purely logical basis, this makes sense. If they are not asking for your church to accept them, you have no right to refused based on your religious beliefs. You can think it’s wrong, you can call it a sin, but we must not stand in the way of civil rights. Marriage, as I said earlier, is a civil right!

There was a time in this country where people of color were not free; it took decades upon decades, in truth over a century until they were given the same rights as their fellow man. 1920 saw women finally given the opportunity to vote. One could argue that our country is a bit slow when it comes to progress; we do not seem to accept change so readily, and same-sex marriage is now knocking on the door and asking for a seat at the table.

Sprigg opines that “Schools would teach that homosexual relationships are identical to heterosexual ones.” This is a fallacy because nobody can deny that two people in a same-sex marriage cannot reproduce on their own, it’s a biological impossibility. However, after that there really is no difference. Heterosexuals do not have a monopoly on monogamy and love. The real problem here is that there seems to be some fear that children will be converted, that being gay is merely a matter of choice. I don’t feel like I need to delve into all the scientific data that refutes that because it’s out there. However, if you are that concerned over your child being easily influenced by outside behaviors, Kellard suggests that: “If the goal of raising a child is to completely shelter them from anything that may contradict your own personal beliefs, would it not be better to homeschool them?” School is not the only place where a child can hear about so-called alternative lifestyles. Television, movies, and music, to name a few mediums have plenty of gay people in them already, so be prepared to shield your child from pretty much everything! There is no evidence at the moment to back up the claim of a changing curriculum because there is no reason for it. If the topic of homosexuality were to be brought up in school it would be discussed in the same way any other topic is discussed. There is no need to panic that one way would be favored over another.

Mr. Kellard, you also believe that by allowing same-sex marriage we would be opening up a precedent to allow different sorts of alternative lifestyles to marry, as well, such as polygamy and, confusingly, pedophilia. You state:

“Why should other relationships that provide love, companionship, and a lifelong commitment not also be recognized as “marriages”—including relationships between adults and children, or between blood relatives, or between three or more adults? And if it violates the equal protection of the laws to deny homosexuals their first choice of marital partner, why would it not do the same to deny pedophiles, polygamists, or the incestuous the right to marry the person (or persons) of their choice?”

This seems to be a common argument among the anti-gay marriage crowd, and it does smack a bit of paranoia. Firstly, to compare homosexuality to pedophilia is one of the most ridiculous statements and frankly, you lose credibility with that argument. Pedophilia is a horrible sexual offense committed against minors, while homosexuality is consensual sex between adults who happen to be of the same sex. There is a big difference there, not to mention that molestation of a child, a by-product of pedophilia carries with it a lengthy prison term and is considered one of the worst felonies a human could commit. Polygamy, on the other hand, has never been legal in the United States and there is no reason to believe that a man being able to marry more than one woman at one time would ever be made into a law. It’s hard to imagine that even from a civil marriage standpoint, let alone a religious one. Could you imagine the health premiums!

Surely what we all can agree on is that no human being should be denied their civil rights. As I have stated earlier, marriage is indeed a civil right. We as a nation need to sit at the table and work out our problems like adults, and stop excluding people who don’t necessarily align with our beliefs. Mr. Sprigg and Mr. Kellard: although your views appear to be on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, I firmly believe that neither one of you wants to deny the other person a happy and fulfilling life. It’s important that we do not let our emotions cloud our reason, and that we never stand in the way of progress. It wasn’t that long ago that we were having this same conversation except the discussion was of interracial marriages. Can you imagine now that we ever had reservations regarding that issue? Let us not stain the character of this nation more with another social injustice. Please.

An angry draft

A white, Christian male enters a coffee shop, a gun hidden beneath his coat. As he approaches the line of people waiting for their morning beverages, he brandishes the weapon, yells out “Repent, Sinners!” and opens fire on the unsuspecting customers. The aggressor in this instance is upset at the shop’s owner, who happens to be an Atheist. The owner, another white male, decided that he was going to open his shop up on Christmas day, to take advantage of the opportunity to be the only shop open for the many non-Christians and Christians alike who happen to want a coffee on Christmas morning. There were 12 people in the shop, including 10 people that had never stepped foot into the place before that day. The gunman, obviously mentally ill, a lone wolf, is captured a few hours later by the police. It’s a horrible tragedy, but an isolated incident, and the general public sleeps soundly knowing that the bad man is behind bars, awaiting his justice.

A dark-skinned Muslim man enters a coffee shop, a gun hidden beneath his coat. He immediately opens fire on the unsuspecting customers. He is angry that the shop employs women, and that the owner does not close for Eid al-Fitr, which he perceives as an attack on his religion. There were 12 people in the shop, including 4 people who themselves identified as Muslim. It’s peculiar to the media and the government alike that there would be Muslims in a coffee shop, considering some Muslims will not drink coffee due to their beliefs. Obviously, they can’t rule out that the 4 “victims” were not somehow involved, perhaps part of a bigger, sleeper cell organization in the area. Local Imams are questioned and their Mosques are put under secret surveillance. Residents of the nearby towns are in a panic, and local government officials demand that the Muslim community leaders speak out at this vicious terrorist attack.

Indeed, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed. (Al Quran 16:91)

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:31)

Think about the world around you. Think about how the news is reported. Think about what you’ve heard people say, the vitriol they spew. Change the dialogue.

Ghosts or what? Fughetabouddit!

Forgive me for the stream of conscious-like entry, but I just feel like sharing some interesting tidbits about a particular house that I partially grew up in. My father’s house.

I. It’s a very basic, not too spectacular half of a double home that you could pick and put in almost any working class neighborhood and it would look like it had been there forever.

II. The homes in this neighborhood were apparently built on an old garbage dump. I need to verify this, but I will say the odds and ends I found there as a child, and the loose, rich nature of the soil would lead me to believe this is true,

III. My great-grandfather committed suicide in the house after being accused of theft at his workplace. Being a poor immigrant, you can imagine the shame this would have caused him. As far as I know, he was wrongly accused, but again, I cannot confirm that.

IV. My great-grandmother died in the bedroom that I would later occupy as a young child. While I was in this bedroom, I would have two recurring nightmares that only stopped once I moved into a different room

V. Nightmare A: I could hear what sounded like a grinding of some sort in the distance, and I would flee into the bathroom, where I would pile up all my toys to try to bar entrance. The sound would get closer; the terror was immeasurable. Just as the unseen presence was sure to make its entry I would wake up, shaking and probably crying for my father. It wasn’t until I figured out that the sound I was hearing was my own teeth gnashing that the nightmare stopped.

VI. Nightmare B: I was digging a hole in our coal room. In this dream, I was convinced there was something buried beneath the floor. I would get about 6 feet down or so when my mother and step-father would appear, shoveling the dirt back into the hole in an attempt to bury me alive. I had dug the hole too large and therefore was unable to escape. This nightmare continued for years until stopping one day in my early twenties. Disclaimer: This dream happened a good 20 years before I had my falling out with my step-father.

VII. Regarding Nightmare B: If I am alive when my father passes away, and I have access to the house, you can rest assured I will be digging that floor up.

VIII. I still cannot enter that coal room without a feeling of cold dread. I understand that knowing the history of the house as well as my nightmares have an impact on that, but still, no thanks!

IX. When I would have friends over, the bathroom door would inexplicably close rapidly behind any woman that would enter. Just women. Again, my female friends would race down the hall to my room because every one of them was unnerved by my old bedroom, where my great-grandmother had died.

X. A friend of mine was staying the night. He was sleeping on the floor, and I was sleeping in my bed because I am a shitty host. We both woke up in the middle of the night, at the same time, and found ourselves staring at each other. “Did you hear that?” he asked me. I honestly did not hear a sound, and don’t know why I woke up, but he told me that he was awoken by the sound of a woman with a British accent whispering “Hello?” over and over. I have no explanation for this, and it is very strange that we were both awoken at the same time.

XI. While my first (practice) wife and I were dating, we were hanging out in my room. I had 2 Pez dispensers atop my TV, one on each side. We were getting ready to leave, so I got up to turn the television off. Before I could, both of my Pez dispensers went flying off the top of the TV in the same direction as if they were swiped by an invisible hand. We ran out of that room!

XII. Also, footsteps. All the time. It was like someone was pacing the house on the second floor. My father denied that there was anything out of the ordinary going on in that house for a good 30 years. It was only until a few years ago that he finally admitted that he, too, had heard things and felt things. He chalked it up to his deceased brother, who had died on my father’s birthday when they were still teenagers. But then again, it could be my great-grandfather playing practical jokes. Thanks for the clarification, dad.

In closing, I don’t know if any of the happenings were examples of the supernatural, but fuck that house. Fuck it hard.

Sister

I never wanted to be an only child. I really didn’t. I always craved a sibling growing up; I would imagine how cool it would be to have a little sister. I wouldn’t have minded a brother, but I would rather a sister. With a sister, you could confide, with a brother I only saw someone who would want to compete. I was never about that. I wanted to sit and talk about books and feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I was very competitive with my friends when it came to sports and pretty much anything else, but I always enjoyed hanging out with girls.

So now we are in present day, and most of my closest friends are women. Most of my interactions on-line are with women, save for a few pretty awesome dudes (you know who you are.) I tend to shy away from men who are too “macho.”  I consider my wife my best friend, and I know that everyone says that but I actually mean it. I think that, deep down I am still looking for my little sister, or older sister as the case may be.

I am not close with anyone at all in my family. I was only close with one person, my mother. We could fight and ignore each other for over a year (which we did, more than once) but at the end of the day we could pick up right where we left off. When she died, circumstances brought on by outside influences rendered my relationship with my step-father dead in the water. My biological father has schizophrenia, and we talk, but we are not close in the familial sense. He is too busy living in his world which doesn’t really include too many “real” people, but that’s a different story for a different day. If I just had a sister, I would have someone to talk to. I could share all these things that are locked up inside my head.

If I had a sister.

 

 

August

August is my enemy. Tomorrow, it will be seven years that my mother has passed away. We had a complicated relationship, but in true movie fashion, just as we were working our way back to normal, she was gone. This was not unexpected, she was battling terminal illnesses (yes, plural.)

So now, here I sit, in a new house, in a new town, starting a new life of sorts. Seven years later and I still forget myself and reach for my phone to give her a call. That is the part that hurts the most. She always said that she just wanted to see me happy, and she never really got to see that. My mother was able to meet my wife (version 2) and my step-son, and she hung around long enough for us to be married. She adored my step-son, but by that time she was too far down the road to ruin to be able to truly enjoy being a grandmother. Then, as my wife held her hand, I watched her take her last breath. If I close my eyes, I am still in that hospital room. August is my enemy.

What defines you?

I enjoy making lists, so I thought it would be fun to make a list of some of the things that I feel define the type of person I am. Perhaps it’s a bit of a psychological exam.

1. Empathy: I have strong feelings toward my fellow human beings. I enjoy providing comfort to those who need it, and I take great pains to bring myself to a better understanding of every unique situation.

2. Feminism: It’s not a dirty word. If you replaced Feminism with Humanism, or perhaps Equal Rights, the message is still the same. People deserve to be treated fairly and equally. Why is it called Feminism? If you really have to ask that question, you have really lived in a bubble, haven’t you?

3. Atheism: I have been told that a lack of religion automatically makes you an evil person. Because I fear no supernatural retribution, I cannot possibly live a moral life. Is there any better explanation to show that this kind of thinking is exactly why I am an atheist? See #1 as proof that this theory has been disproved.

4. Mental Illness: I have been diagnosed as bi-polar, then it was changed to just depression with a splash of generalized anxiety disorder. Medication never helped, and believe me I have tried a lot. The problem is that you can’t label problems so easily, can you? Depression is going to manifest itself differently in many people. It is such a broad, sweeping label, and that is why pharmacology fails more often than not. What we have left are shells of our former selves, with our minds numbed to the point of impotence. What living with mental illness has taught me is that I am not alone in my struggle. I will never be so arrogant as to claim it is a gift, but I will say that it has taught me a lot about understanding people’s actions and motives. If you can learn to separate from yourself, even for a moment, you will find that the whole world opens up to you. Honestly, I live in varying shades of terror every day. I can invent a tragedy like no other. The trick is to not let it consume you, and I fear that many people have already given up.

5. Learning from my mistakes: If I wouldn’t have mended some of my ways, I never would have met my second wife. She is the fire that keeps me alive, and a great woman that I truly do not deserve. She taught me that it is natural to want to please your partner, but if you are also not doing it for the betterment of yourself than you are better off not doing it at all. Never make empty promises. Acts of service go a lot farther than any diamond necklace ever will.

Perhaps I will continue another day. It does get tedious talking about yourself.

Rant #2 (Valid thought, or a by-product of Mental Illness…?)

A friend of mine recently suggested to me that I start doing a “Gratitude Journal.” The premise is, when you wake up in the morning you list 10 things that you are grateful for. You have to make a conscious effort to list 10 new things every day. I tried it for a week or two, and I understand the point of the exercise, but it didn’t really have an overall positive effect on me. In reality, the exercise reminded me of some things about society that I don’t care for, namely, the “it could always be worse” syndrome.

We are programmed at a very early age to feel guilty (perhaps guilty isn’t the best word, but I think you understand what I mean) for our wallowing because, you know, there is always someone who has it worse, Let me ask you a question: does that help you make the pain go away? When my mother passed away 7 years ago, I grieved for a solid year. I’m sure many people have lost a loved one. Maybe some of you lost both parents at the same time. Maybe there are different tragedies you are dealing with, and I empathize with you. However, it doesn’t make my burden any lighter. Sharing my ordeal does not bring me comfort. I will gladly accept your hugs, and your kind words, but commiserating over who has the bigger loss doesn’t bring things into perspective for me.

I am aware that the exercise is supposed to open your eyes to the fact that you have many things to be grateful for, and that they should override whatever negative element is influencing you at the moment. Maybe that works for a lot of people, but I know it doesn’t work for me. When I am struggling, I am well aware of what I have in my life. I am well aware that there are many people who have less than I. I pay attention to poverty. I pay attention to the basic struggle for human rights. However, one should not be made to feel that their struggle is less significant than anyone else, because at that moment it might feel very challenging to them. If I stub my toe, telling me that there are people who have broken their toe does not bring me comfort, it does not lessen the pain.

The better thing to do, in my opinion, is to listen to what the person is saying. Don’t use examples from your own experience unless you downplay them, meaning, show empathy but don’t hijack their misery. You may have lost a pet, but your pet wasn’t their beloved Mr. Scruffles, so even though the events are similar, they are not the same. Everybody believes that their suffering is unique. What is really wrong with that?