Because I’m on holiday, I don’t even really follow what’s happening to everybody’s favorite jerk Silvio Berluscone. But I did happen to read the news this morning, and I found this “open letter to Obama” on the Kansas City Star Midwest Voices page. I don’t have much to add. It’s a wonderful article.
In his celebrated book, *On Liberty*, the English philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that silencing an opinion is ‘a peculiar evil.’ If the opinion is right, we are robbed of the ‘opportunity of exchanging error for truth’; and if it’s wrong, we are deprived of a deeper understanding of the truth in its ‘collision with error.’ If we know only our own side of the argument, we hardly know even that: it becomes stale, soon learned by rote, untested, a pallid and lifeless truth. (Carl Sagan)
But what if the person with whom one is arguing isn’t interested in a “deeper understanding of the truth?”
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Carrie Prejean said in an interview the other day.
You hear that a lot. The problem is, it’s not necessarily true. I guess it depends on what you mean by “entitled.”
Freedom of speech? Of course. Say or think whatever you like, and Ms. Prejean has the right to believe whatever she likes, but the right to hold a belief doesn’t guarantee its validity.
I believe, for example, that we came from a lowly race of cockroach-like people from the planet Zabar, my mother and father raised me to believe it, and I have a book written by a bunch of dead people to prove it! So I’m right. You can’t argue with me because it’s my opinion, and I’ve a right to it.
The difference is that my belief doesn’t make her into a cockroach. But her belief has made me into an eternally unmarried woman. Who’s doing the real harm here?
As British philosopher Jamie Whyte writes in his excellent book Crimes Against Logic,
Does your right to your opinion oblige me to let you keep it?
This is the closest to what I think most mean when they claim a right to their opinion. They do so at just that point in an argument when they would otherwise be forced to admit error and change their position….If someone is interested in believing the truth, then she will not take the presentation of contrary evidence and argument as some kind of injury. It’s just that, on some topics, many people are not really interested in believing the truth.
Whyte argues that we actually ought to “take every reasonable measure to change her opinion.”
But for someone to be able do that, Ms. Prejean and others like her must have opinions based on something other than faith, since most of us who are trying to get others to respect our constitutional rights feel pessimistic about being able to change anyone’s faith-based beliefs.
If her only justification for her belief is “it’s the way I was raised,” or it’s “Biblically correct,” what am I to do? Refute her family traditions or her faith in the Bible? It seems to me unlikely that I’d be able to do that. And so we remain unable to have a real dialogue or discover the real truth unless she’s willing to consider whether we can make laws based on her family tradition, what she thinks is right, or what she believes the Bible dictates. I am perfectly willing to consider whether God is really angry at me for being a lesbian. But first, I’d have to be able to prove that. Or that God even exists. If Descartes can’t do that, how can Carrie Prejean? I can, on the other hand, prove that I have a constitutional right to access the particular protections of US immigration law and tax law that are only available to married persons, which I can not access since I cannot BE a married person.
Normally, opinions, beliefs, theories or hypotheses–like the opinion that there is life on another planet, that disease is caused by evil spirits, that smoking causes cancer, that LGBT couples have constitutional rights that make the ban on same-sex marriage totally illegal–need to be tested and verified to the highest degree possible, with intellectual and moral honesty, with the knowledge that what one believes might be wrong. Like a scientist who is NOT working for a pharmaceutical company or a tobacco corporation, one must be willing to be proven wrong.
If no empirical evidence is available or empirical proof isn’t possible, one must rely on logical argument. And the principles of logical argument dictate that basing any logical string of arguments on the premise, “Because that’s what I was told,” or “Because God/Allah/Jesus/Perez Hilton/Miss California USA/Ann Coulter says so” is weak.
Never mind that being “Biblically correct,” as Ms. Prejean calls herself, is an extremely difficult endeavor, especially if you actually know something about the Bible, its history, and its authors, and you aren’t just relying on what you were told or a series of handpicked sound bites, a “Best Of…” of scripture, which, it seems to me, constitutes most people’s knowledge of the Bible. Also weak.
And if Ms. Prejean doesn’t wish to support her opinions at all, or even try to explain a more rational basis for them, then they really are just that–her own opinions, just as her breasts (false as they are) are hers alone and can’t matter to anyone else. They have no relevance outside the boundaries of her own personal body space.
Instead of personal attacks against Prejean, though, or any sort of implication that she shouldn’t have said what she did, I’d like to hear from the so-called “gay activists” reasons why her opinion lacks validity (because there are plenty of good reasons, but most of them take longer than a 30-second sound bite to explain), and I’d like to hear her offer more than just “Because I/my parents/the unverifiable word of God said so.” Faith is just that–it’s something you believe that can’t be proven or verified. And it’s not something on which any reasonable person would base any law or scientific theory.
Ann Coulter instead said on Fox News, “She’s being attacked as Christ said she would be.” Not an argument–an emotional appeal. There’s a difference.
And anyway, Christ said if you reveal your personal views on national TV while competing in a beauty pageant, you’d be attacked by those who think your opinions are invalid? Gee. I haven’t found that one in the Bible yet. But Christ said a lot of stuff. Maybe it’s in there somewhere. I thought Christ was all into arguing and convincing? Do I need to tell a story about loaves and fishes to get these people to listen?
No. Because they don’t want to listen. Or think. Or reason. They want to believe only. And so, of course Prejean is being attacked. It’s a controversial issue, especially in California, and those of Prejean’s ideological bent have little hard evidence or logical argument or support for their precious opinions. Just belief, tradition–and the sheer popularity or commonness of their opinions, which aren’t enough in a rational society of laws, which is what I thought the US was. So I will invoke the law here: Carrie Prejean has the right to be wrong, to spout unsupported personal opinions. But does she have the right to take away my rights?
I would be more than willing to ignore her opinions–if they weren’t intimately tied to my own rights, like an ugly, heavy stone. If she voted in the California election against my right to marry, I must be interested in her opinion, unfortunately. But all I’ve heard so far in this “dialogue” are unsupported opinions and adversarial remarks designed to stir up drama. What about logic? REAL argument? The law? The truth is that whatever Carrie Prejean’s opinions are, they aren’t any basis for lawmaking, even though uninformed opinion is often the only intellectual equipment a citizen brings to the voting booth. THAT is what should really trouble people, whether the issue is gun control, same-sex marriage, immigration policy, or anything else.
People not only will, they MUST disagree with her–even vociferously, as people like her, the absolute truth of their personal beliefs defended by politicians, ideologues, and others eager for publicity, have thrust millions of people–gay men, lesbians, gay couples and their children alike–into second-class status in California and in America as a whole. Her “opinions,” unsupported by law, logic, or reason, have made at least one law here in California, a law that has put thousands of couples and their families at risk. It has made my entire life more difficult than it needs to be. What right has she to do that?
What if Prejean had said, “I believe marriage is between a white man and a white woman?” Fifty or sixty years ago, this would have been a common statement–even a popular one. Today, even a child can see the idiocy of it. However fervently one believed it at the time, believing it was true didn’t make it so.
What will it take to get Americans to realize that regardless of their personal feelings and opinions, LGBT people have constitutional rights? You can believe it’s not true until you bust a breast implant, until your eyes bug out, until you drop dead.
But it is true.
However glad we all are to be rid of Mr. Bush, not all disgusting, corrupt, arrogant world leaders are out of the picture quite yet. I’ll get to Kim Jong Il some other time, in an article about short, brutal dictators with bad hair (facial or head): Hitler, Kim I, Kim II, Mussolini, Stalin, Kaiser Wilhelm. Sorry, Pol Pot had great hair. But he was short and brutal.
This is a puff piece for a puffy guy, 72-year-old Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who makes Mr. Bush look like Dag Hammarskjöld. Berlusconi has been in the news lately because his wife wants to divorce him; it seems she was distressed about his philandering (or attempted philandering), including his latest attachment to teenage model Noemi Letizia, whose 18th birthday party he attended in April. He presented the girl with a gold necklace. Berlusconi’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, Veronica Lario, noted that he never attended his own children’s 18th birthday parties. To reassure the Italian press about this, Berlusconi said at an event last week in Rome’s City Hall that he “[likes] Finland and Finnish women, as long as they are of age.”
There’s more compelling evidence that Berlusconi prefers both mature women and Finns; in 2005, he offered to “court” Finnish President Tarja Halonen, pledging to use all his “skills as a playboy” to convince her to allow Parma, Italy to host the EU food safety agency. When his masculine wiles didn’t work, he whined, “Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don’t even know what prosciutto is.” Later, when his Finnish hosts showed him the sights, he commented, “I remember when I was there they wanted to show me something at all costs… and we took three hours to get to an 18th-century wooden church, a building that we would have destroyed.”
Smooth! Now that’s how to earn the goodwill of naisväki! Did they remind him, I wonder, that Finnish women had full political rights way back when the vast majority of Italian women were stuck ironing their 45-year-old sons’ underwear? Oh, they still are. I think it’s part of Italian law.
And then there are the comments he made in the aftermath of the L’Aquila earthquake in April; when touring a tent city full of those who had fled their homes during and after the quake, Il Duce Lite suggested that “they should see it like a weekend of camping.”
I concede that a few–or even hundreds–of gauche remarks does not a bad leader make. If this blog weren’t supposed to be fundamentally entertaining, I’d regale you with the many ways in which Berlusconi is helping to ruin Italy politically, socially, and economically. But he’d just write it off as a “left-wing plot,” which is what he says about everything.
After all, this is the guy who said, “I don’t need to go into office for the power. I have houses all over the world, stupendous boats, beautiful airplanes, a beautiful wife, a beautiful family. I am making a sacrifice.”
Well, you can count out the wife now. But watch this space! When he marries Noemi Letizia, you’ll see it first here.
If the United Kingdom can ban Fred Phelps and his detestable offspring from its shores, why can’t Finland ban Berlusconi?
Consider this a formal request. What do you say, suomalaiset?
(*photo, top: juustoleipä, a mozzarella-like Finnish snack cheese, served fried or warmed, usually with some kind of fruit preserve. Very nice. Not good with prosciutto, though.)
Maybe it’s the advice on being moral that I got from Marion Barry, but I don’t feel at all like joining the feeding frenzy around Miss California USA Carrie Prejean. There are many loud voices on many different sides, but some of the loudest belong to Perez Hilton, Michael Musto, FOX News, and Maggie Gallagher. Strange bedfellows share the skanky waterbed of incivility, don’t you think?
Like any community of people with one or more traits in common, the LGBTQ community is a broad and diverse one. In fact, it’s a lot like the “heterosexual community”: A big bunch of unrelated people, all with different views. When Fox News and others defend Prejean, they always point to people like Hilton and Musto and say, “The ‘gays’ say…” But that’s like saying Marion Barry speaks for all African Americans or Charlize Theron for all South Africans or Alice for all housekeepers.
I don’t agree with either Miss Hilton or Mr. Musto, and I don’t think calling Prejean a “stupid bitch” or sending her hate mail or comparing her in any way to Klaus Barbie is how I would choose to show my disagreement with her statements, nor do I think that Fox News ought use her case to imply–or outright state–that anyone who is angry about them is a deputy in the Thought Police. When you oppress people and make them into unwilling second-class citizens, they tend to get angry.
Remember, they INVENTED the Thought Police. We just participate occasionally, as a lot of human beings do. Perez Hilton and she should be natural allies, after all, if you lend any credence to all the wretched stereotypes they show on TV. That’s why Hilton was THERE in the FIRST PLACE, where no one should be–at a bloody beauty pageant. I’d rather be trapped in an elevator with Ann B. Davis and nothing to drink but Snapple.
So a Miss USA contestant believes marriage is between a man and a woman. So what? Who cares? Why do we have these stupid pageants anyway? They’re sexist and ridiculous, and surely there must be a better way to be an ambassador to the world, spread the love, encourage little girls that they can be anything, wear sequined or brocaded gowns, appear at malls, and raise money for diseases and stuff.
What I’m outraged about is the fact that what happened between PEREZ HILTON and a BEAUTY PAGEANT CONTESTANT is national news. Doesn’t that bother anyone?
Do I support Prejean’s right to say what she said?
I do. I really do.
Do I wonder what her support for her belief is aside from “that’s how I was raised?”
I do. Don’t we often question whether how we were raised is still right for us, now that we are at the big girl table? Now that we have access to REAL breast implants instead of just toilet paper?
Do I pray (yes, we pray too) that she doesn’t think that her “belief,” unsupported, should be the basis for any law, in any land or on any planet in any universe? She said, “In my country…” don’t we have the same country? The one in which people have a certain set of constitutional rights whether you agree with them or not? I only wish she’d respect mine as much as I respect hers.
Do I kind of hope she didn’t vote?
I kind of do.
Other than that, I don’t care.
Members of minority groups really can’t win, you see. If someone says something that’s offensive, we/they only have three real choices: 1) Ignore it and risk being seen as weak, emotionally dead, impotent, politically and intellectually apathetic; risk endless repeats of the episode from those who think we won’t stand up for ourselves, or don’t care, or don’t dare; 2) Respond firmly but civilly and pray (yes, we pray too) that “the other side” will respond civilly as well and not turn verbal–or literal–firehoses on us; 3) Respond uncivilly, lashing out perhaps because we are angry and disappointed and risk being called “character assassins,” thought police, humorless, etc.
Oh, and then there’s seeing the REAL problem–that beauty pageants seem actually to be watched and that some people seem actually to care about what Carrie Prejean, Perez Hilton, Fox News, and Maggie Gallagher think.
Now THAT is scary.
(Above: A still from 1990 FBI footage featuring then-mayor of D.C. Marion Barry smoking crack in a hotel room. The woman with him is not his wife.)
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page wins the prize for best headline of the week: “‘Crack Mayor’ Sniffs at Gay Marriage.” Although I object to the term “gay marriage” for the same reason I object to the phrase “lady doctor,” I applaud Mr. Page for shining some light on one of the most hypocritical acts I’ve seen since Idaho senator Larry Craig tried to play “Happy Feet” with a cop in a MSP airport men’s room.
Page points out that former mayor of Washington D.C. Marion Barry originally supported the measure, designed to honor same-sex marriages contracted outside Washington D.C. If the bill is approved, it will mean that D.C. residents will be able to marry in states that allow it and have their unions recognized when they return home. But after “consulting” with his constituents, religious leaders in his community, and The Almighty (i.e., he prayed), he decided to be the sole dissenting vote in the D.C. City Council, using “Gathering Storm” language: “All hell is going to break loose….We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this.” He claimed to be representing his constituents, who are 98 percent black, commenting that “we don’t have but a handful of openly gay residents.”
Well, then! That’s OK, then. The majority wants something, and a politician must support that, even if he knows it’s wrong–and I take Barry’s career as an advocate of civil rights and his initial support of the bill to be a clear sign that this is so. Not only did he cave to pressure from right-wing anti-gay interests (he said he decided to stand with ministers who “stand on the moral compass of God”), but he tried to pass it off as the will of the entire African-American population in his community.
Barry clearly knows what’s going on. He’s tuned in! It’s awesome! “I am a politician who’s moral,” he says to a group of D.C. religious leaders.
To reiterate what I wrote in a previous posting, “Sex in the City: D.C., That Is,” I’m not that anxious to have my 14th Amendment rights squashed or hear about morality from people who’ve been married four times, even if I were inclined to ignore the arrogance, the tax evasion, the prostitute thing, the crack pipe, the federal prison sentence…
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Barry.
What I like about seahorses:
1. They are cute
2. They are mysterious
3. They dance
4. They mate for life and can actually be monogamous
5. They like salt water
6. They have twisty little tails
7. They are naturally egalitarian (males get pregnant)
8. They like warm water
9. They change colors when they’re happy
10. They like shrimps
The English-language Swedish news service that I listen to recently announced that Sweden is virtually unprotected from invasion. Their last direct military conflict was in 1814, and some claim that they’ve really let their military might slide. During the last draft, only about 5,000 people were hooked into military service, and I hear their northern border’s entirely empty except for clouds of mosquitoes. A tip: Don’t invade in July. Besides the mosquitoes, you’ll have to contend with half-naked drunken Swedes who, when you disturb their summer holiday in Norrland, will rush from their saunas and attack you with crayfish forks.
Interestingly enough, Sweden maintains a peacetime draft (unlike the US), though I hear you can get out of it really easily by saying that you hear voices.
That got me thinking: which countries would be most likely to WANT to invade Sweden?
1. Canada. The climates are similar, both enjoy curling, bandy ball and hockey, and moose could roam freely without immigration papers. Wait–aren’t they the same country? Only to Americans, who can’t find either one on the map.
2. Russia. They’re running out of space for their dachas, and they’re used to the snow, so that wouldn’t be an obstacle. Low travel burden between countries.
3. Finland. Everyone knows Finns are tougher, and Swedish stores of black haircolor alone would be enough to tempt them.
4. The US. An invasion of Sweden would really improve our English. We could also harvest their vast supply of Botox.
5. Mexico. Mexicans would definitely be attracted by a vibrant market for drugs and an easy way of keeping beer so cold that you can’t taste how bad it is. To Mexican eyes, Sweden looks like one huge beer cooler, and if they can’t get the US and Canada, they might make a play for Sweden.
6. Austria. It’s their one chance to get on top of Eurovision again.
7. The UK and the Republic of Ireland. Just to return the favor–a dozen centuries later. It might even be the one project they can agree on!
Sweden is totally safe from:
1. Denmark. They can’t even win at football, and who can understand what they’re saying?
2. Norway. Norwegians would have been seriously suspect, but now that there’s no more fish in the North Atlantic, they don’t need that much help in the canning factories.
3. Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, or any of the Mediterranean countries, really. Fill catapults with surströmming–that oughta kill them. Or wait until winter. They’ll all die of the cold or kill themselves from the lack of light.
4. The US. Americans wouldn’t be able to find Sweden on a map; hence, an invasion is unlikely.
I was the first person be listed under a Google search for the word “crocktuplets.” I published an article called “Crocktuplets” on this site on February 12, 2009. I’m sure I didn’t think of the term, but a couple weeks ago, when you Googled that word, you only got my story. I was the only one there. I thought that was pretty cool.
Then William Saletan, Slate‘s national correspondent and a trained journalist (I assume) published an article with the same name on March 4, 2009. If he’d been a good reporter and Googled the term first, he would have seen that I posted it first. Yet he didn’t even acknowledge me, though when a woman from South Florida used the term on her web site called “Moms Miami Forums”–which is no Slate, to be sure–she acknowledged him. Who’s the reporter here?
Where I come from, plagiarism gets you in big trouble and acknowledging your sources is so important that even 15-year-olds are taught to do it. William Saletan is famous enough to know better, shoot me some love, send people to my lousy story, or send me a special-edition free pass so that I can avoid watching all the ads on Slate.
But no. No pingbacks, trackbacks, “shout outs,” or “Thank you, you are so cool and I love your blog.” Sheesh.
Now there are 582 hits for “crocktuplets.”
I’ll write to William Saletan and see what he says. Stay tuned.
p.s. The image I’m using above is from this fantastic web site. Hit it and learn something.