Free To Be . . . You And Me

So I was trying to figure out what to write about tonight. My dog, Sammy? Who is adorable, sweet, quirky, and entirely mystifying in terms of his breed? How about the sulcata tortoise we got recently, whom we named Neo? Or I could continue with the book reviews, as I also recently read “Stiff,” by Mary Roach, which is about what happens to the bodies of people who donate themselves to science?

I could write about school, of course. About the observation I recently had. Or the news stories I’ve been seeing about the problems with teachers and with schools. I had an idea for an essay analyzing King Lear (I’ve been grading those recently), and blaming Cordelia instead of the usual  villains, Goneril and Regan or Lear himself: after all, why the hell couldn’t she just tell her aged, semi-demented father what he wanted to hear? Is it so wrong that he wanted her to say how much she loved him, and lie a little?  Who doesn’t lie to their parents? Who doesn’t pretend to feel more affection for family members than they actually feel? How the hell is it virtuous to enrage your 80-year-old father in order to — what, protect your honor?

I could write about Trevor Noah taking over for Jon Stewart. Maybe about the breakup of One Direction. Or about the infuriating way that Cox refuses to put the new episodes of The Amazing Race on demand in any kind of rational way. I could talk about everything that’s wrong with The Voice, which should be an excellent show, and instead is just okay.

So many possibilities. But see, I have been wanting to follow the 2016 Presidential campaign, especially the Republicans. I want to understand the conservative stance. I want it to be rational. My wife, who is perfect in all ways, tends to see Republicans as dangerously stupid lunatics whenever she and I discuss politics, which we do pretty regularly. And hey — considering that the GOP is represented by people like George Bush and Dick Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and Mitt Romney and John Boehner — and people in our own new state like Jan Brewer and Doug Ducey, and the people who tried to mandate that everyone join a church or tried to gag teachers and school officials who disagree with them — Toni has a valid point.

And in the interests of pursuing this conservative campaign project, I really should write about Ted Cruz. The first Republican to officially declare his intention to run for President, despite being grossly unqualified, grossly unsuited, and basically just gross. I’m sorry: I don’t mean to rip on Republicans just because they’re Republicans, or conservatives; I’m serious about wanting to understand why people believe what they do and why they vote the way they do. But this guy? This guy?? THIS GUY?!?

How am I to take this man seriously?

I will try. I promise. But while I was looking through Ted Cruz’s website tonight, looking for information and an angle I can take on him, I checked out the Cruz News! link. And found this:

CRUZ: I’m proud to stand with Gov. Mike Pence, and I urge Americans to do the same

03/30/15

Issues Statement on Religious Freedom Restoration Act

HOUSTON, Texas — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, issued the following statement today in support of Governor Mike Pence’s effort to defend religious liberty and protect against the government forcing individuals to violate their deeply held beliefs:

“I want to commend Governor Mike Pence for his support of religious freedom, especially in the face of fierce opposition. There was a time, not too long ago, when defending religious liberty enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Alas, today we are facing a concerted assault on the First Amendment, on the right of every American to seek out and worship God according to the dictates of his or her conscience. Governor Pence is holding the line to protect religious liberty in the Hoosier State. Indiana is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across this country who are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks upon our personal liberties. I’m proud to stand with Mike, and I urge Americans to do the same.”

source

There we go. Something at least for tonight’s blog.

Let’s start with Indiana and the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” First, you can’t restore a religious freedom that didn’t exist in  the first place. And while religious folk do have the right to think what they want about anyone they wish, and the right to say whatever they want that isn’t directly defamatory or libelous (the same right we all have, with the same restrictions), they do not have the right to treat people differently because of a religious disagreement. That’s called discrimination, and it is a violation of civil liberties. In other words, my right to freely patronize your restaurant overrides your right to throw me out of it, barring dangerous or harmful actions on my part — a category which does not, unfortunately for religious bigots, include thinking sexy thoughts about Charlie Hunnam.

(Sorry if  the reference is obscure — we’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy. Allow me just to say this: Mmhm.

)

The moment a business — or a church –opens its doors to the public, it grants the public the right to come through those doors. The minute you offer a service to that public — including sermons and ceremonies — the public has a right to make use of those services, if their use falls within the same guidelines offered to other people. So if you let a Christian man use your bathroom, you have to let a Muslim man use your bathroom. Or a gay one.

Them’s the breaks. That’s the way America works. I do understand the objection, honestly: there are students that I would much rather throw right the hell out of my classroom, and sometimes it has been because I disagree so strongly with their views — particularly, in my case, religious ones. (Especially some of the self-righteous holier-than-thou pro-life zealots I have been sorry to come across in the last fifteen years of teaching persuasive essays) But I don’t have that right, and I wouldn’t even if I weren’t a public school teacher. You know what I do with those people? I argue with them, when I can; I hate them on the inside — and I treat them like my other students, and I grade them fairly. I gave an A to the guy who argued that white people really were better than blacks or Latinos. Because he wrote a decent essay. No — I think I gave him a B. He didn’t cite sufficient evidence. Probably because he was full of crap.  But it really was a pretty good piece of (disgusting, appalling, and downright distasteful) writing.

Patronizing a place of business is not, in any way, by any stretch of the imagination, an imposition on the proprietor. You are offering money in exchange for goods or services; this is not asking something unreasonable, and it is not an infringement on private space: the business owner invited the public in. But refusing services, for a reason that is based on a personal opinion, most definitely is an imposition, especially if this must be done publicly, by asking the person to leave or refusing to serve them. Someone being gay in your vicinity is not a harmful act, and therefore you have no reason to throw them out of the restaurant.

Therefore, this act is not protecting the freedom of the business owners. It is protecting their opinions. I do not think anyone has the right to have the government protect their opinions, other than keeping someone from wrongfully stealing and profiting from those opinions, through plagiarism or copyright infringement. And I do not believe that a lot of people are going to steal “We don’t serve homos” from some deep-fried pork rind joint in Indianapolis and put it on a T-shirt. The government should protect the right to express those opinions, and any business owner who wants to write a letter to the editor saying that they don’t like homosexuals is welcome to do so. They deserve what they get.

They just don’t get to tell people they can’t buy a cup of coffee.

On a final note, let me address this specific piece of the Senator’s statement:

There was a time, not too long ago, when defending religious liberty enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Alas, today we are facing a concerted assault on the First Amendment, on the right of every American to seek out and worship God according to the dictates of his or her conscience.

When, Mr. Cruz? When did defending religious liberty enjoy strong bipartisan support? When has religious liberty ever been threatened — genuinely threatened — in this country? As for the “concerted assault” on the First Amendment, what the hell are you talking about? Concerted by whom? Who is calling the shots, coordinating the efforts, to — what? Force bigots to look homosexuals in the eye and say “You want fries with that?” Allow me to point out that the freedom to “seek out and worship God” is in no way threatened by insisting that people treat others fairly, and with dignity. Not unless you belong to the church of Don’t Sell Gel-Sole Shoe Inserts To Homosexuals.

Which, in this genuinely wonderful country of ours, is totally a church you could found yourself. And you can even become a reverend through the Universal Life Church, and gain tax-exempt status for yourself. No shit.

 

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