some thoughts about controversial topics and the internet

The Internet is like a newspaper…that tells you how much it hates you.
-The Internet

I’ve had some form of web site since 1999 and a blog (or a few blogs) since 2004. One of my various blogs was on homosexuality, particularly as it relates to Mormonism. I started it in the first part of 2008. Yep, that 2008: the year of California’s Prop 8. That experience and publishing on the internet has forever colored how I view  controversy and conversation in general. In some ways it made me more cynical, as you may imagine, but in other ways I’m actually more hopeful than I’ve ever been.

Gutenberg, the original Zuckerberg

While I believe that the internet has completely changed how we interact and relate with each other, it’s not the first time something like this has happened. Every time media technology takes a huge leap forward, conflict arises. Take, for example, the printing press. Before the printing press made books cheaper and more widely available, most people’s world was measured in tens of miles. Books allowed more people to express themselves and their ideas and this made the people who were the ones disseminating information before, particularly the Catholic church, react pretty harshly against this lessening of influence. It’s no coincidence that the rise of Protestantism occurred a short hundred years later.

Now, while books had become cheaper, they were still by no means cheap. People who were expressing their ideas were a relative few, but increased books meant increased literacy and the sum total mean that more people were speaking and more people were listening. And there was conflict. Latin no longer was the universal language as it was then cheap enough to print books in local languages, which increased European nationalism and, in some cases, a need to maintain national “purity” through usually horrific means.

Still, the net result was a gain in literacy and ideas that lead to a growing increase in technology and quality of life.

Skipping ahead a few centuries, we get to the internet. Built on the foundations of technologies past, usage of internet has spread much more quickly than printed media and that growing ubiquity has caused some conflict and uneasiness. Most people see the internet for what it is: a communications device. There are those political regimes that view communication as de-stabilizing (and de-stabilizing it can be) and try to control the internet’s usage and there are other who view communication as a basic tenant of humanity and endeavor (with varying degrees of success) to accelerate its proliferation.

“I can’t hear you la la la la!!!”

So, now instead of a few people with the means of spreading and learning new ideas, anyone with access to an internet connection can be a publisher. While there are still those whose geography or income limit their access, most of the people in the developed world and a growing number in the developing world now have a platform to share their experiences and ideas and everyone else with access has the ability to hear them.

I believe this has been more personally destabilizing for people than previous technological advances because of the nearing universal nature of access as well as the proliferation of those things shared. There is often criticism launched and younger generations for the depth of sharing that occurs because of the ease of the medium. With three taps, for example, I can let everyone on the internet know where I am, what the weather is like where I am, and what device I’m using. If I put a little effort into it, I could set it up where this information, and more, is published with no more consciousness than carrying my phone with me and ensuring it stays charged.

I don’t think this volume of information is, in itself, the part that people are having a hard time adjusting to. After all, before the internet the libraries were full of more information than any human could have consumed in a lifetime. I think what makes it different this time around is the personal contexts in while people are hearing new, sometimes upsetting ideas.

Before, most people either didn’t share their opinions as freely or shared them mostly within the confines of those around them. Even though television had greatly increased the availability of information, there was still only a few gatekeepers and most inter-personal conversation on topics happened with those with whom people had personal contact. This geographic closeness also increased the likelihood that those with whom you had conversations either  agreed with you or avoided conflict by simply not disagreeing with you. This is an oversimplification of course as communities and regions have always had internal conflicts as well as people having inter-personal conflict, but generally, people kept their conflict to themselves.

But now, people can potentially not only hears ideas from all over (a habit they started forming from television) but the ease of communication meant that people started expressing themselves freely as well. A lot of people started hearing the people around them talking about family, religion, sex, politics, Elf on the Shelf and all manner of controversial topics. And, for a lot of people, it’s been terrifying. On a personal level, I experienced this with my gay Mormon blog. I was in the first wave of adherent gay Mormons to come out of the closet publicly online. There were others who had come out in previous years, but much of it was in the form of books and niche news reporting. Someone had to go looking for them. For us, people who had no idea about gays, Mormons, or the intersection of the two were stumbling across my blog and the blogs of others. And for a lot of people, it was a transformative experience. I mean, my experience wasn’t transformative, but the experience of learning that I existed was transformative. Perhaps all they knew about gays were what they saw on TV or learned about in church and here I was, sounding very Mormon indeed and it caused an internal conflict for people. Cognitive dissonance, if you will.

For someone who had only been taught that homosexuality was a hedonistic state caused by selfish depravity. While my selfishness knows no bounds when it comes to Oreos, I don’t believe myself to be any more depraved than the next person. People in this situation were being forced to decide between thinking I was lying and thereby confirming what they “knew” to be true about gays, thinking that what they knew about gay people was wrong, or (more often) deciding the issue of gay people was more complicated than they had thought and either sought more information or left it at that. Now, throw that cognitive dissonance into a pot with someone that you know and love and a lot of emotional energy is expended in reviewing and revising your views. It’s not easy. Depending on the the nature and depth of your beliefs, it can be downright earth-shattering. Such was the case with me. The debate over Prop. 8 forever changed how I view Mormonism and Mormons. It doesn’t define how I view them, mind you, but it did cause some painful review and revising.

Gays and Mormons aren’t alone in this process. They are joined by fathers who are discovering that their sons are democrats, daughters who are discovering their mom is against abortion, couples who are discovering their partner supports euthanasia, and so on. Society is basically learning what everyone else really thinks and it has been painful as people are faced with the task of re-categorization. There has also been no small amount of paranoia at what we’ve yet to learn about each other.

Apocalypse Not Yet

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been a First Amendment groupie. For me, people widely expressing their opinions and stories doesn’t signify a breakdown in society, but rather is the ideal and is the basis for our concept of liberty. The Freedom of Speech is as relatively unfettered as it is in the United States simply because it must be to be meaningful. While our nation isn’t a democracy, Freedom of Speech for everyone and anyone…anyone is the spirit of our democracy. If you don’t have Freedom of Speech, I don’t truly have it either.

And that’s the thing, while attitudes are definitely changing as people encounter new ideas, it’s important to remember that a lot of those “new” ideas, opinions, and attitudes have been around for a long, long time. Someone surprised at the “recent” belief in the immutability of homosexuality may be surprised to discover the 1961 British film Victim which asserts that for gays, homosexuality is “in their nature” and isn’t something that they choose, even passively. That was 53 years ago. Even more surprising is that Victim is a remake of a German film Different From The Others (Anders als die Andern) from 1919, almost 100 years ago. At the risk of slipping into queer theory, I won’t even go to the empathetic portrayal of homosexuals in literature and art. (Hint: it goes back a lot further than 1919.)

I bring this point up to illustrate that, now more than ever, we are seeing each other as we truly are. It will take some time as we adjust what we mean to believe x and what it means to be y becomes reconciled with the what we see and read from those around us, but we’ll come out on the other side better for it. We can’t be truly accepting of one another until we are honest enough to know who we are accepting. It’s no coincidence that often those with whom we are the closest are often those with whom we share most honestly. We love them not only in spite of their flaws, but sometimes even because of them.

For me, this also extends to society at large. Save a few spikes here and there, there has been a steady decline in violence world-wide for centuries. No one knows for sure why this is the case and why it continues to decline today (our current violent crime rate in the US has fallen 70% since the early 90′s [PDF]). A popular theory is one that I share: increased communication. Quite simply, it’s more difficult to see someone as evil if you have heard them in their own voice. I believe that as people continue communicating with people of differing ideas, we’ll eventually learn to get along better and not because we convert everyone over to “our” side, the printing press didn’t make the Catholic church go away, after all. As we learn each other’s stories and they learn ours, we’ll be able to see the overlap in our views and better handle those fringes where we don’t, and probably never will, agree. It may be tempting to want everyone to just “shut up about it” (I felt that pretty strongly at times in 2008), but in order to get past this painful phase, we have to keep talking. And, more importantly, we have to keep listening.

The trick is how to use the internet to communicate effectively, which will be the topic of my next post.

movie list for halloween (for grownups)

Look, I’m not saying Hocus Pocus isn’t be a fun little movie, but I’m a little surprised how often it shows up on Facebook when grown-up people solicit horror movies to watch for Halloween. I recognize that for a lot of people being scared isn’t a thrilling experience, but horror is often unjustly dismissed as being cheap and gimmicky when it can be one of the most emotive and innovative genres in film. The greatest horror movies are trying to make you think more than they are trying to scare you (though if they can do both, that works too). If you want to explore some excellent, suspenseful, and potentially shocking movies this Halloween, try the list below.

 

Creepy and Disturbing

“Horror” is an unfortunate name for the genre. Quite often people associate horror with schlocky gore-fests and quickly dismiss it as something they are not interested in. While gore has its place (see the next section), there are plenty of films out there who accomplish the goal of unsettling its audience by way of subtle suspense or uncomfortable situations rather than relying solely on the fear of violence.

 

Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)

Let the Right One In

Before everyone was sick of zombies, everyone was sick of vampires. This Swedish vampire film, however, explores vampirism like none other. Set in a Nordic small town where it doesn’t ever seem to be truly sunny, a pre-teen vampire, Eli, befriends the town’s awkward rejected kid, Oskar, who quickly falls in love with her. When she begins to defend him in a way that only a bloodthirsty vampire can do, Oskar must choose between humanity and the only thing that has shown him kindness.

Why It Is Awesome

Vampires have been a metaphor for the dangers of sexuality for centuries. Vampires don’t just stalk and attack their chosen victims, they lure and seduce them, making their victims willing participants in their own demise. Setting a vampire story during puberty and the interactions with Eli’s adult care-taker revisits this metaphor in a way that is unsettling, even if it remains in the subtext to the point of being able to be ignored by less engaged audience members. You are never completely sure if Eli returns Oskar’s affections or if she is simply using him to aid in her survival, or both. Let The Right One In also explores the effects of bullying and how far some kids will go to escape terrible pursecution. Between the things that the film isn’t saying, the beautiful dreariness of the setting, and imagery of vampiric violence at the hands of a twelve-year-old girl Let The Right One In is intensely disturbing, creepy, and sad.

Note: If you are allergic to subtitles (you’ll hate most of this list), you can try the perfectly competent American remake Let Me In which pushes some of the films more disturbing themes further down into the subtext while maintaining the tone. If at all possible, however, watch the Swedish original.

 

Rear Window

Rear Window

This is my favorite Hitchcock film. Jimmy Stewart stars as a news photographer who is forced into a wheelchair and his apartment after breaking his leg on the job. As one who refuses to be confined by anything and anyone, including his girlfriend played by pre-princess Grace Kelly, this arrangement is frustrating in the least. His only pass-time are the other inhabitants of the apartment building whose lives he peeps into across the courtyard. Other start to doubt his stability as he becomes increasingly convinced that he saw one of his neighbors murdering his wife and he becomes suspicious that the murderer is aware of his observer.

Why It Is Awesome

The thing that makes Alfred Hitchcock thrillers so effective is that they avoid the schlocky campiness that other films of the time safely played in. He pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable at the time and got away with as much as he could and what he couldn’t he hid in hints and subtext. He also took limitations that for some directions would have felt gimmicky and makes them a strength. You may not even notice after watching the movie that the camera never leaves Jimmy Stewards apartment. He is confined, so we are confined and that inability to escape slowly puts pressure on the audience through the entire film making you increasingly uncomfortable. By the time the film is over, it’s almost baffling how you can feel so suffocated and isolated at the same time.

 

The Orphanage (El orfanato)

The Orphanage

This movie is probably one of the only times that an orphan looks fondly upon her time spent at an orphanage. Belén Ruida stars as a woman who returns to the now-closed orphanage she spent time in as a child with the intent on opening it as a group home for handicapped youth with her husband and their adopted son, Simón. She learns, however, that after being adopted out of the orphanage, things didn’t end well for the ones who remained and something in the house starts showing an unsettling amount of interest in her and her young son.

Why It Is Awesome

There are many good American horror movies, but there are several excellent foreign horror movies. With American horror movies, you know there is a pattern, a system, that most horror movies won’t stray away from: the hero of the film will get away, you don’t kill children or pets, you aren’t going to pay all that money for Scarlett Johansson to be in your film just to kill her 20 minutes in, etc. Those movies that don’t follow this pattern seem to specifically break these rules to show their edginess or bravery. With foreign horror movies, however, these rules simply don’t seem to exist and deviating from them isn’t seen as a creative choice but because the story just happens in a way that should happen.

Reading the plot of The Orphanage likely instills little interest and watching the trailer, less so. It sounds like a typical haunted house story with maybe some twist that proves the filmmaker’s cleverness. The Orphanage, however, is my favorite horror film of all time. Instead of a haunted house story, it simply a story that has a haunted house. Instead of a ghost story, it’s a story about ghosts. The deviations from horror tropes don’t feel gimmicky, but develop organically. It’s genuinely scary, but it’s understated and never has that moment of reveal that usually feels underwhelming in most horror films. While its ending would would likely never be acceptable to a mass American audience you walk away with a positive, sentimental feeling that is almost unheard of in the genre. It’s a horror film for fans and non-fans alike.

 

Intense and Violent

Violence and gore is what most people cite when they express a dislike for horror films. It can be irritating when people dismiss horror violence as cheap and tawdry and then laud a violent war film like Saving Private Ryan. Sure, Ryan, is a good film and it’s important to have accurate representations of war violence, but it’s also important to examine the nature of violence itself. Horror violence allows us to separate violence as an element and separate it from the context of reality. We can then place the violence into symbols of our own lives to examine what we fear and what that says about us.

These films use the fear of violence/gore not only to raise the intensity level, but also to advance the plot and make a statement about the world in which the film exists.

 

28 Days Later

28 Days Later

Cillian Murphy stars in this British “zombie” film in which a modified strain of rabies is released into England which turns its inhabitants into crazed, cannibalistic beasts. Murphy’s character, Jim, misses the onset of the apocalypse having been in a coma in the hospital  (not unlike the main character in The Walking Dead) and must quickly learn to adapt to his new reality. He finds other survivors and they struggle to survive learning that the zombies are the least of their worries.

Why It Is Awesome

28 Days Later was one of the first to modify the zombie character from a reanimated corpse to a irreparably diseased human. Because their bodies aren’t weakened by death, the ravenous creatures in this film sprint towards their victims and infection happens quickly – less than 10 seconds – making hard decisions more of a matter of impulse than tortured consideration. The speed of infections and the creatures themselves create an urgency and panic in this movie greater than most zombie films. Zombie fiction is more metaphorical than most monster fiction and 28 Days Later is no different, posing the question which is more dangerous, a ultra-violent but mindless human, or those humans forced to live in such a world.

Cinematically, the movie was one of the first popular films to be shot on video entirely using consumer digital camcorders. Shooting at a film frame rate of 24 frames per second gives it a cinematic feel, but the low resolution video gives the movie a digital dirtiness to complement the dirtiness of the world.

 

[REC]

[REC]

A “zombie” film similar to 28 Days Later[Rec] is a Spanish film that follows a reporter as a routine story leads her and her camera man to be quarantined in an apartment building that is suffering from an outbreak of a deadly illness. Instead of staying dead, however, victims reanimate and rush the nearest living thing, intent on spreading the infection. The reporter and cameraman become suspicious that the authorities outside the quarantine aren’t attempting to save their lives as much as simply trying to contain the outbreak and letting the collateral damage be what may.

Why It Is Awesome

Little did The Blair Witch Project realize that they would be creating an entirely new genre – the “found footage” film. [Rec] succeeds where its inspiration fails in that it never completely forces you to ask the question “Why don’t you put the camera down?!” Being reporters with an increasing sense of conspiracy justifies suspending disbelief sufficiently to allow a fulfillment of the promise of the found footage film: video is reality. For most of the century, film has been used for movies and video has been used for news and live programming. Because of this we developed the bug in our head of video represents reality. Most movies that try to capitalize on this cultural quirk fail as the impossibility of the images seem cheesy and fake in a video context or the acting seems to “act-y”. [Rec], however, succeeds where others fail by pushing only so far into the unbelievable that we get left in the middle. Most of the time we remember that what are watching isn’t real, but the human-ness of the monsters and the video-ness create tiny moments of doubt in the un-reality of it all that it makes it difficult to ever feel completely safe while watching this movie.

 

The Signal

The Signal
This film has three parts, directed by three different directors, and is representative of the best of low-budget independent horror films. Ultra-violent, dingy, and disturbing, it tells the story of a couple having an affair who struggle to survive when they wake up to every television, cell phone, and device with an antenna producing a subliminal signal that that dramatically enhances negative character traits, to the point of murder. Unlike zombies or “28 Days Later zombies”, they are still human and can talk and think, they just have zero restraint on their negative emotions. Trying to survive becomes more and more difficult as they struggle with the unpredictable affects from the signal.

Why It Is Awesome

Low-budget independent horror movies, along with music videos, are some of the most innovative visual media in existence. This movie has its problems: it doesn’t really have the budget to fulfill its ambition, some of the acting is rough, and its rather disjointed, but it takes a unique idea and storytelling method and runs with it. Such movies are the inspiration for filmmakers decades later. It’s possible, even likely, that you won’t enjoy watching The Signal, but it’s probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

 

Fun and Campy

Horror is ripe for parody and sometimes the best way to enjoy horror films for someone who doesn’t like horror films is to watch a movie that lovingly mocks them.

 

Cabin in the Woods

Cabin In The Woods

A “meta” film, Cabin in the Woods is a horror film about horror films. Co-written and produced by Joss Whedon, fans of Buffy and Angel will likely feel right at home in this snarky love letter to the genre. A group of teenagers decide to get out of town for the weekend in a cabin in the rural mountains when they soon realize that everything isn’t as it seems and that they don’t have complete control over their own destiny, however much they may try.

Why It Is Awesome

Instead of a mindless parody that just aims for the low-hanging fruit of the genre, Cabin in the Woods, has its own story and ideas, but takes the time to stop and examine the clichés that riddle horror films. Instead of derisively mocking them, however, the movie pokes fun with reverence the mocking coming from a place of deep knowledge an familiarity. Typical tone-breaking Whedonequse one-liners are a nice bonus.

 

Zombieland

Zombieland

Jessie Eisenberg is unlikely to be on anyone’s short list for survivors of the zombie apocalypse and that’s precisely what makes this movie so awesome. (This is completely independent of my crush on Eisenberg. Probably.) Eisenberg’s conflict avoidance philosophy to the apocalypse serves as the perfect foil for Woody Harrelson’s more, shall we say, baseball-bat-based approach. The two reluctantly team up with a pair of sisters played by Emma Stone and Abigail Breslen as they search for a rumored haven free from the zombie infection.

Why It Is Awesome

Most zombie fiction assumes that hand-wringing Eisneberg-types die in the first wave of infection and it is hilarious to see such a character take his own approach to survival. Consistently funny and absurdly violent, Zombieland, only takes itself seriously enough to maintain legitimacy, but isn’t above a detour cameo by a famous comedic actor. No complaints here.

 

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

Like Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead adds a little levity to the undead apocalypse. Simon Pegg stars as good-hearted loser, Shaun, who’s life is suddenly given meaning one morning when the dead rise from the grave and he assumes the responsibility of saving everyone close to him…and everyone close to them, even if he can’t stand them.

Why It Is Awesome

Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead are two takes on the same premise and appeal of zombie fiction: what can be a weakness in our current lives can be an asset in the apocolypse (and vice versa). That and Simon Pegg is delightful.

we’d like to talk

Look, we get it. When we told you that we are gay, you weren’t really expecting it. All sort of emotions rushed into your head. You may have been upset that something like this could happen. You may have been confused about what this means in context of God and faith. You may have even been wondering if we were really sure we are gay. You made sure to tell us, however, that you love us. This made us cry.

But you’re still not sure about this “whole thing”.

And that’s okay; it really is. By the time we told you, we had years of coming to terms with it ourselves. All of the questions you asked yourself about us, we asked about ourselves and we came to the realization that, yes, we are gay and pursuing a relationship with someone of the same sex is a part of the path that will bring us the most peace and happiness. Deep down, you think we are making a mistake.

You always pictured us married to someone of the opposite sex, buying a house, having kids, probably like you did. That’s not going to happen, now. Actually, it never was going to happen; you just know it, now. We’re completely willing to give you some time with this, but while you’re adjusting, life is moving on for us.

With all of the socially acceptability out there, life still isn’t always that easy for gays. Many families reject their gay members completely. We know you’re not like that, but we’re also perceptive. We can tell that your uncomfortable with things. When we talk about “gay stuff” (which apparently means anything that reminds you that we are gay), we can hear the clamminess in your voice. We can tell that you’d rather not talk about it. In these situations, it’s as awkward for us as it is for you. We continue to call you on the phone, to drop by because we believe family is important, like you do. We are also, however, meeting new people, people who don’t get all awkward when we talk about “gay stuff”. They are excited for us when we tell them that we’ve met someone new. They want to see pictures and when we pull up the Facebook profile of that special someone, they say “cute!” (and we agree). It’s nice to talk to these people; it’s easy. They don’t just tolerate our presence, they seek it out. They don’t get quiet when we tell them about the great date we had last night. In fact, they are excited for us.

You probably get to the point where you tell us that you’re “okay with everything”, but you’d prefer if we’d not bring anyone home, especially not around your kids. They’re young and you just don’t want to have That Conversation with them yet. We know what you are talking about, but it sounds a little hollow. (Do you explain the relationship dynamics of every couple that your kids encounter? When they are around their friend’s straight parents, do you dread that this might bring up questions about sex?) We understand, but we’re disappointed. We thought you were farther along than that.

Just like your kids are important to you, they are important to us, too. It hurts that you’d think our presence would be detrimental or problematic. So, it’s easier if we don’t come around as much. We realize that you’ve stopped “adjusting” and we aren’t completely happy with the place you’ve settled into. It’s a place that seems to allow you to exclude us, but think that you’re acting towards us with love. But we can still hear the ring of discomfort in your voice. We’ve never heard love produce that particular frequency, but we have heard it produced by fear.

Things are going well with Cute and it would be the point where you’d bring them home to meet the family, but now we’re uncomfortable. You see, Cute is very important to us. We love Cute. Cute’s probably the most important person in our lives because that’s what happens when you fall in love and start to share your life with someone. But we remember how you asked us not to bring someone home. We remember how you didn’t want to have to “explain” us to your kids. We don’t really trust you to meet Cute, honestly. We can handle you being awkward around us-we’re used to it-but we’d be rather pained if your discomfort showed around Cute or if you said one of those really hurtful things you say (the ones you say without knowing). We’re just not sure if we want to risk it. We recognize that we are ringing with that tone of fear, but we still don’t introduce you. It’s easier that way.

Cute proposes and we enthusiastically accept. We don’t invite you to the wedding. We know that you’ll have an internal moral dilemma upon seeing our wedding invitation and you try to decide if attending a gay wedding would be showing that you support something that you don’t believe in. We figure that you won’t come and even if you did, you’d be mired in that moral debate the whole time and definitely wouldn’t bring the kids. We’d rather our wedding be shared with people that we can create an atmosphere of unreserved joy and love. So we don’t invite you, because its easier that way. Our friends are there. They’re the ones who thinks we are both “cute!” in our wedding pictures (and we agree).

We adopt kids, sign up for the PTA, go on vacations, celebrate birthdays, go Trick-or-Treating, complain about the cost of class pictures, and wonder if the the little ones are eating enough fruit. We send out Christmas cards, birth announcements, upload vacation photos to the Internet, but we don’t send them your way. Besides, we know that you’d have that internal moral debate about wether or not to put the pictures up on the fridge (you probably won’t), so we just save you the trouble.

Your kids are grown (biological reproduction gives you a head-start) and with your kids out of the house, you start to think of us more. You think about family a lot these days. Times are different now, and you don’t think “stuff like that” is that big a deal anymore. You decide to call, but we don’t answer. We’re on the phone to with one of the other parents from the play group – the one who thinks our kids are “cute!” (and we agree). We see your number pop up on the phone, but we don’t want to have yet another superficial conversation right now where we completely avoid talking about “gay stuff” (which, being married and having adopted kids, would leave a fifteen minute conversation about the weather) and besides, we have dinner to make. Later that night, we think about your call. We think about all of the times we tried to engage with you about our lives, but you wouldn’t. A memory of you saying how you think marriage is sacred and should only be between man and woman flickers into our mind and a familiar old resentment bubbles up. We push it back down. Family is important. We tell ourselves we should give you a call tomorrow. We make a mental note and stick it somewhere between the reminder about ballet lessons and the one that says it’s our turn to bring snacks to soccer practice.

why i will never read “ender’s game”

I lot of people I know really like the sci-fi author Orson Scott Card, especially his most famous book, Ender’s Game.  As someone who enjoys reading (accessible) sci-fi, it’s been recommended to me time and time again, but I will never read this book.  I’m sure it’s great, but I can’t support Mr. Card’s writing, because I can’t support Mr. Card.

Orson Scott Card is a homophobe.  I don’t use that word lightly and disagree most of the time when someone is labeled a homophobe.  But he is.  Even worse is that he is the most dangerous kind of homophobe – the kind who doesn’t think he is one.  Self admitted homophobes will spew forth disgusting, degrading comments and may even act violently against gay people, but they are easily dismissed as “extreme” and “irrational”.  Mr. Card’s brand of homophobia is more dangerous because it lulls people into a attitude of intolerance and bigotry all the while convincing themselves that they are not only in the right, but acting and speaking out of some form of “tough love”.

It’s really disappointing, too.  Mr. Card has written some beautiful things, including his “Holding onto the ‘others’” article in the Mormon Times.  In this essay, he lament’s Mormon culture’s tendency to ostracize its nerdy and intellectual kids, ignoring them until they find their place in academia, often to leave the church behind.  It’s a poignant piece that obviously has some deep personal connection for him and has for several people I know, including me.  Unfortunately, however, this same man wrote an essay which included:

And if acceptable ways can be found to protect children from developing this reproductive dysfunction before it even manifests itself, or to shape society so as to encourage the least affected to achieve reproductive success — i.e., evolutionary normality — why would we not want to assure that the children we bear would be free of this dysfunction?
“Science on gays falls short”

How would it feel to be fourteen, gay, Mormon and read something like this?  I’ll tell you, it doesn’t make you feel very good about yourself.  I guess in his efforts to protect the nerdy kids from passive rejection, he’s also decided to actively reject and alienate the queer kids.  Accept the smart kids, try like hell to fix the gay ones, I guess.

It also is very frustrating his persistant coupling of homosexuality with pedophilia.  Twitter is all a rumble about the republishing of his novella, Hamlet’s Father.  In retelling of the Shakespeare play, Hamlet’s father is a gay pedophile who molested all of Hamlet’s friends which (of course) turned them all gay as well.  In a criticism of gay twins studies, Mr. Card suggested that the increased likelihood for twins to both be gay (2x for fraternal, 5x for identical) was that the similar appearance of the children would influence their likelihood of being molested, if they are attractive.  The unstated assumption is that the molestation, of course, would turn them gay:

The study does not allow for the possibility that the physical appearance of the subjects might have played a role. If seduction, molestation, or other sexual trauma contributes to homosexuality, and if those are influenced by the perceived attractiveness of the subject to a molester, seducer, or rapist, then the greater physical resemblance between identical twins may account for some of the results.
“Science on gays falls short”

C’mon, that’s messed up.

Of course, this would be less maddening of Mr. Card, a National Organization for Marriage board member, didn’t constantly try and convince us that he doesn’t have a problem with gay people, insisting he has more of a centrist role, “I suppose I can take some comfort from the fact that over the years I have been savaged both for showing too much sympathy for the ‘abomination’ of homosexuality and for showing too much ‘homophobic’ opposition to the political agenda of the radical homosexual community.”   He even asserts that:

“The hypocrites of homosexuality are, of course, already preparing to answer these statements by accusing me of homophobia, gay-bashing, bigotry, intolerance; but nothing that I have said here — and nothing that has been said by any of the prophets or any of the Church leaders who have dealt with this issue — can be construed as advocating, encouraging, or even allowing harsh personal treatment of individuals who are unable to resist the temptation to have sexual relations with persons of the same sex.”
The Hypocrites of Homosexuality

This is from an essay in which he encourages the illegalization of homosexuality, being a threat to civilized society.  He repeats that homosexuality should not be met with violence and seems to make a effort to prove he doesn’t hate gays by using the fact that he brushed on the topic of homosexuality in his story, Songmaster, which, again, couples homosexuality with child molestation.

Mr. Card was a vocal advocate for the passing of Prop 8 in California, during which he wrote an article saying:

“However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. They are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is. They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes.”
“Homosexual ‘Marriage’ and Civilization”

Somehow is a legal gay marriage not only less valid to him, but it takes away from the validity of his own marriage.  If you’ll forgive a C.S. Lewis quote (who, in turn was quoted by President Ezra Taft Benson in his 1989 Conference talk):

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
Mere Christianity

I’m going to move on from that one.

In the end, I really don’t care what Orson Scott Card thinks about me.  I’m almost 30 years old and my self esteem doesn’t hinge on the illogical writings of a YA sci-fi novelist, but I do denounce him on the basis that he is a YA sci-fi novelist.  YA as in Young Adult as in read by kids and teenagers.  Some of whom are nerdy.  Some of whom read his “Holding onto the ‘others’” essay with tears in their eyes longing for those in their ward to recognize them, too.  Longing to be accepted for who they are, as he calls for.  Some of whom are also gay and read his other writings that say that being gay is something to be fixed, that a gay relationship is, by nature, inferior to a straight relationship.  This gay nerdy kid who will make the very, very short leap to assume that he, by nature, is inferior to a straight person.

I’m hoping this gay, nerdy, Mormon kid will find his or her way over to the It Gets Better Project and watch video after video of successful, happy gay people urging that kid to just hold on, that it will get better, that they will eventually find people who will love them for who they are.

Orson Scott Card is wrong.

the post in which i stop being a gutless wonder, probably.

A couple of weeks ago, I read this post: The Complete Guide To Not Giving A ****.  For those who are turned off by coarse language, just skip it.  For the rest, go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.

(humming that M.I.A. song from her last album)

Okay, so you’re back and you’ve deduced from the title of this post that I completely identify with the vast majority of that post (with a couple of exceptions that I’ll get to in a bit).  My spineless jellyfishery isn’t a lifelong ailment, however, but more of a acquired illness brought about, primarily, by an allergic reaction to blogging.

Let me ‘splain.

I didn’t used to have a problem saying what I thought.  In fact, one could easily have made the argument in high school that I said what I thought a little too much…and a little too harshly.  Simply put, I was kind of a douche.  Not a total douche, mind you, but still pretty douchey.  All this was a defense mechanism, of course, because of  yadda yadda yadda gay yadda low self esteem yadda yadda football.  Fast forward to college where I made some friends who liked me for me and I mellowed out a bit, learned to carry on a conversation without being completely condescending and discovered a few viewpoints that were different from my own and yet didn’t seem completely wrong.

Then I started blogging.  Not this blog, average life, of course.  This blog was what blogs originally were: random, boring (even to people who liked me), and  completely unreadable.  Then I decided to start a blog where I would try to be the opposite of those things.  Weirdly enough, people started reading.  And when I mean “people”, I mean low triple digits…very low.  Sometimes I’d spike into mid-triple digits when someone more interesting would link to me, but Pioneer Woman, it wasn’t.

Still, I began to obsess over this blog.  Was the content funny enough?  Insightful enough?  How could I increase readership?  How much snark was too much snark?  What made matters worse was that the blog was about an issue that was really sensitive to me at the time.  On a personal level, some people that I had known started to think about me differently.  It was rare that their opinion of me was negative, but opinions did change, even it was only to something different than before.  My opinions started shifting, too.

And I panicked.

I’d spent much of my high school years without many friends I felt I could be myself around (not necessarily their fault) and I knew I couldn’t go back to that.  And so to prevent myself from losing my friends and family, I stopped talking.  Not completely, of course, but I stopped expressing opinions that I felt might offend, completely ignoring the fact that many of my friends shared a lot of the same opinions as me.  I mean, we were friends, after all.  I still expressed opinions (ask me how I feel about Michael Moore), but they were ones that dealt with subject matter so niche that often I was the only one in a group that had an opinion of it, which made it safe.

Still, I started avoiding confrontations that might have arisen from politics, religion, my choices, and anything else that I thought might cause tension.  It was ridiculous to the point that even around people who were simply expressing opinions that I agreed with, I would still avoid the conversation and remain silent.  I became overly concerned about my own image and what people perceived that I was.  This usually manifested itself at keeping everyone at arm’s length except for my closest of friends and even they were kept farther away that I should have.

So, I’m kind of done with that.

I developed these bad habits and they will probably take a while to break, but at least I’m making an effort to rediscover my hidden Opinion.  I see no need to be a jerk or beligerant, but avoiding confrontation and controversy have only resulted in me being an uninteresting and evasive.  Which, blech.  So, If you aren’t my friend and you don’t like me, okay.  If you are someone new and you don’t like me, well that’s a shame.  If you are a friend and you don’t like me, we should probably talk about it and if you still don’t like me, well maybe we should just move on.  I’ll survive.  By contrast, if you do like me, I’ll try to do better about letting you in.  I’ll be difficult for me, but I’m working on it.  If you ask me my opinion, I’ll give it to you.

Here, let’s try it out for a bit:

  1. Don’t you just love the Daily Show?
    It’s funny and all, but I think it fosters a little too much cynicism.  While our political system has a lot…lot of problems, I think that it also requires a bit of idealism in order to work well.  Just look at the friggin’ lunar landings.  They were essentially a PR stunt by Kennedy that wrecked the Federal budget.  It was money that could have been used to help the needy, tax rebates, whatever your cause, but in the end, it was a creative phenomenon that united the American people in something that wasn’t war and inspired a generation of scientists.  Sometimes you have to dream and lift up, not make your living by only taking pot shots.  Wait, I take it back.  Something that invalidates my entire point was Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity – particularly his end speech.  True, the whole show was just that, a show, but his closing speech of the event was truly inspring.  You’re alright, Mr. Stewart.
  2. Do you think the church will ever accept homosexuality?
    No, or at the very least, not in my lifetime.  One could easily point out the fundamental doctrinal incompatibilities, but the church has done complete 180′s on fundamental doctrines before (whether it admits they are 180′s or not).  Still, more importantly, the church has absolutely no motivation to change on this issue.  Some estimate that up to ten percent of the population reside somewhere east of “straight” on the Kinsey scale.  My personal view is that number is less than five percent.  The church isn’t going to fundamentally rewrite their doctrine to accommodate five to ten percent of their population – especially when the other 90 to 95 percent are mostly opposed.  The economics don’t work out; it isn’t going to happen.
  3. Do you think Obama will win in 2012?
    I hope so.  I actually like Obama’s generally rational and compromising approach to governance and that many of the things he said in his campaign that he was going to do, he actually did or is in the process of doing.  I think his foreign policy could use a little experience, but domestically, I find his actions and words to be respectable and responsible, even if I strongly agree with some of them.
  4. Did you really go to an all-white school when you were a kid?
    I did, and I’m not proud of it.  I understand the decisions that were made that caused me to go to school there.  I recognize that there weren’t many options and of those, there weren’t any good options.  Still, I’m glad that it closed down ten years ago.  Schools like that are still around in the rural south, but they shouldn’t be, which is an obvious fact to anyone who doesn’t live in the areas where they still exist.
  5. What was the part of that blog post did you not agree with?
    Mostly the part about resisting the urge to resist the urge to swear.  While swearing has its place mostly, however, it’s just lazy.  If you learn more words, you just might be able to express yourself more effectively.  If you want to be edgy, be edgy with what you say, the words you use to say it, because the effectiveness of that fades.
  6. What did you think about the season finale of Glee?
    I hate Glee.  Aside from the fact that I find most non-diegetic singing in TV and film to be jarring, I hate the fact that Chris Colfer’s character, Kurt is lauded as a role-model for gay teens.  He’s a selfish, abrasive, attention whore.  I’m not against the femmy little gays having a role model because heaven knows their lives can be pretty bad, but surely you can do better than Kurt.  Also, how about a throwing in some role models for the less flamboyant gays out there while we’re at it?  Gay culture can celebrate its more in-your-face members all they want (and more power to them), but by mostly ignoring the rest of us, it makes it harder for us to identify with you.

Wow, those weren’t really that controversial…  Hence, the Alanis Morissette-style irony of this whole situation.

Peace out.