Not All Opinions Are Tolerable

In every election year, the progressive folk start talking about tolerance. Actually, progressive folk talk about tolerance a lot. It’s kind of our thing.

I’m a Unitarian Universalist, which of course ALSO means that I hear a lot of talk about tolerance. One of our seven principles is that every person has inherent worth and dignity. I believe this on a theoretical level. Some days I even believe it on an actual level. In fact, I always believe it enough to be, for example, anti torture. Congratulations Al-Queda, you have enough inherent worth and dignity that you should NOT be waterboarded!

Here’s the thing, though. Tolerance is great. In all seriousness, obviously you need to treat people well. Don’t be an asshole, is what I’m saying. But I feel like tolerance often gets confused with the idea that all opinions are automatically valid, because TOLERANCE!

But…the thing is not all opinions are valid.

The opinion that women should not have agency over their own bodies and should not be able to make decisions about their own reproductive choices is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that gay folks should not have the same rights as straight folks is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that people of color are somehow less than is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that global warming is not happening is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that torture is acceptable is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that “some women rape good” or it’s the victim’s fault if she was drunk or wearing a miniskirt, is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that religion or football or Boy Scouts gives you the right to cover up the systematic sexual abuse of children  is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that religion is an excuse for subjugation of any kind is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

The opinion that  hitting children is good parenting is bullshit, and I will not waste time discussing it.

There are lots of things that reasonable people can argue about. The drinking age. Whether marijuana should be legal. How best to improve our schools. Cloth or disposable diapers. Merit pay for teachers. The most ethical way to eat. Whether to use a clicker or just treats to train your dog. How to die well.  Whether goat cheese or Parmesan is better. The best kind of chocolate. What animals can be in zoos. Etc etc. And then there are things that are not debatable. There are opinions that are just not tolerable. If you hold these beliefs, well–hold them, fine. But my rights end where yours begin, and if you want to hold them, don’t you even think about putting them on anyone else. I’m tired of hearing about how good progressives or good UUs or whatever are tolerant. We can be tolerant in the sense that we do not hurt others, but that does not mean that we have to put up with opinions that are not tolerable. There is a right and a wrong, at least some of the time. It isn’t always absolute and there are lots of grays and nobody is ever all bad–as they say, even Hitler was a vegetarian–but there are still right and wrong. And the far right? They are just wrong. So yeah, that means I’m not going to respect you if you vote for Romney/Ryan. Because it is not ethical. And I can be tolerant and still assert your inherent worth and dignity if you vote for that ticket–but that doesn’t mean you are right, or that your opinions are tolerable.


I Have Run Out Of Reasons To Be Hopeful About The American People

Not you, obviously, because you are pretty and delightful. And not my beautiful, smart, compassionate youth group kids, or indeed many of the people here in my liberal enclave. But the American People, taken as a whole? Oh yeah. We are DONE.

Need evidence?

GOP audience BOOS GAY SOLDIER. If you are planning on voting for any of these people, we are so over.

That should be enough right there. But there’s also Troy Dvis.

And the guy Rick Perry basically murdered.

And–you know what? I’m not looking up any more links for you. Country’s going to hell in a handbasket, that’s all you need to know. If you have conflicting evidence, I will happily examine it.


Troy Davis Tortured and Murdered

Last night the state of Georgia tortured and murdered Troy Davis.

It reminded me a bit of the night we killed bin Laden, in the snse that it was very much watching something important happen with many, many other people, through Twitter.

It was heartbreaking. I do not actually have a lot of words for it. It was just horrifying. Leaving a man strapped to a gurney with a needle in his arm for hours, waiting to hear whether he lives or dies, is torture just as surely as waterboarding is. I don’t care what Dick Cheney has to say about it. (To be fair, I do not care what Dick Cheney has to say about anything).

I am always opposed to the death penalty. I’m sure there were some Troy Davis protesters who do not usually oppose the death penalty, but I suspect most death penalty protestors are–as the title would indicate–opposed to the death penalty always. So why, as some asked on Twitter, didn’t we make as big a deal about the other man executed last night? Well, because he was definitely guilty, and because no one is losing sleep over his death. There’s a big difference between these two cases.

But mostly? Mostly, it was just heartbreaking. I swear, sometimes I just tired of the universe.

Postcards From Milford

I think this is where Bluster Bluth went to school.

I was GOING to stop in Secaucus, NJ, back when I was having some geography troubles and thought it was after the GW bridge. It is not. So I just kept driving. And, I am pleased to say, I drove QUITE CALMLY over the upper level of the bridge. (When I was a kid, I was totally scared of bridges). I did, however, role down the windows, just in case Zoe and I needed to make an escape. I also left our seatbelts on, though, on the theory that we are more likely to get into an accident than to go flying off the George Washington Bridge.

I love driving 95 North. I know! And not ALL of it, and I hate the truckers with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, but it’s kind of reassuring to hit the same landmarks every day. Zoe, I said, here’s the Bronx! Here’s the New Jersey Turnpike! Here’s the Vince Lombardi reststop!

I am a dork, is what I’m saying.

Zoe was a total trooper. For the first bit of the drive, she kept accidently shifting and putting the car in neutral. This was…unnerving at first.

But then we figured it out, and she settled down on her stretched back passenger seat, covered with a sheepskin, wearing her seatbelt. So stinkin’ cute. For realz.

So we went over the bridge and then got stuck in traffic. I had a full tank o’ gas when I left and I kept waiting to find cheap gas to refill…then, in Connecticut, I discovered that I had maybe an 8th of a tank. Do you KNOW how much gas cost? DO YOU KNOW?

Four dollars and thirty three cents a gallon, that’s how much.

I told the guy (it was full service station) that this was a bit pricey, and then we had a little bitch session. He was all, everyone LEFT THE CITY AND NOW WE ARE A SUBURB AND WE USED TO BE A NICE QUIET TOWN. hee.

(I did not fill the tank).

Then I got a little more lost but finally wound up at a hotel. I was very excited to see that it had On Demand, because I LOVE me some On Demand in hotels. But then the TV made this loud buzzing noise that would.not.stop just when I started Cedar Rapids, so I had to call the front desk and ask for a refund. Then I was FURTHER foiled by the lack of good wifi here, and also the lack of Season 1 Veronica Mars streaming on either Netflix OR the WB website, and that made me sad. So now I’m watching Parenthood.

But I had a nice dinner and Zoe is being adorable and tomorrow I will hit my cousin Sarah’s house, and I am excited to see her. And Saturday Then…Sunday I need to find a place to stay, any suggestions near New Bedford, MA? And then Nonquitt. Whoa. Lots and lots of stuff.

Freaky moment of the day: I logged onto facebook and WHO POPS UP BUT MY SHRINK. At a book reading. I happen to be FB fans of the bookstore, and I was all…wait a minute. That’s my shrink. On my facebook page. Because THAT’S not weird or anything.

Also annoying: My Stupid Ankle. Which hurts to drive, and will not let me jump off the diving board, or go for walks on the beach, or basically ANYTHING FUN EVER.

Ho hum.

Oh! Links!

The A.V. Club is reviewing The X-Files, Arrested Development, AND Veronica Mars (“Hi everyone! Say repressed homosexuality!”). This makes me very, very happy. Reasonable discussions FTW!

What Happened That Night in Abbottabad? (New Yorker)

Melissa Summers has an incredibly brave post about her suicide attempt.

“This war on information is a battle. This war on information is injustice. This war on information is a strategically arranged set of operations designed to victimize and control a specific group of people. This war on information is war.”

Obama Turns Fifty Despite Republican Opposition. (GOP Vows to Say No, No, No).

Stephen Colbert Says that Obama is…well just watch. Also watch his Summer’s Eve bit.

Minimalist Posters for Children’s Books! (WANT. ALL OF THEM).


It is so good, so good, SO GOOD to have good news in this new world order in which the war on women is barely acknowledged, in which a huge number of people are denied basic rights.



Quoth the Gray Lady: BREAKING NEWS10:31 PM ET Gay Marriage Approved by New York Senate.

(MAYBE I got a little teary, there).

33-29, and the crowd went WILD. the Senate pres. kept banging his gavel and there was screaming and clapping and it warmed the cockles of my little heart.

OK, LGBT folks. We all know how this fight will end, and now we are one step closer.



My First Poem

A great deal of how I learned to view the world came through books. I will, I am sure, be writing many versions of this post, many many many versions, because how I think about god, and courage, and truth, and the world in general is often connected quite directly to a youg adult novel.

But today let’s talk about the first poem I  remember reading.

We were in London. I must have been about 10. I was reading Patricia MacLachlan‘s masterpiece of YA fiction, Baby, which is among my favorite novels ever. It’s basically about this girl, Larkin, who lives with her parents and her grandmother on this island. We don’t know where the island is, only that there are summer people and winter people. Her mother had a baby that died. Her best friend is Lalo, and he comes by a lot. Like all of MacLachlan’s YA lit, it is sparse and evocative. And beautiful.

They come home one day, Larkin and Lalo and her family, and there is a baby on the porch, with a note: This is Sophie.

They take Sophie in, raise her, until her mother returns. That scene, by the way, is a complete heartbreaker.

Larkin and Lalo have a teacher, Ms. Minifred, who believes in the power of words. She talks a lot about “wondrous words” and I suspect that part of my love for reading, my love for words in all their glory, is due to Ms. Minifred.

At any rate, it turns out that Ms Minifred had a brother who died, and before he died, he bookmarked a poem in a book of his. That poem, which is reprinted fully in the novel, is Edna St. Vincent Millay‘s Dirge Without Music. (this is also the book where I first learned of William Carlos Williams, whose poem about the red wheelbarrow is also printed in full: I remember walking through a London garden, the house of my parents’ friends, reciting it, the words crisp and cool).

I was so excited to read this poem. It was like lightening hitting me, suddenly. It was as if someone finally understood what I, with my Paralyzing Fear of Death, had been trying to explain. I read it, the way I remember, in a London taxicab, and I wanted to tell everyone about it, I wanted to tell my parents LOOK! here is what I’ve been trying to say!

Later I would find other poems helpful, Kahil Gibran’s “On Death” and of course all of that about not going gently into that great night and rage, rage against the dying of the light–and others–but this was the first.

In the book, Ms. Minifred tells the story of her brothers death and then she reads the poem, and there is a “terrible silence” in the room before the janitor, Rebel (he and Ms. Minifred are in love) stands in front of her, says “class is over. go home.”

I loved that poem. I still love that poem. It still hits me the same way. The bits about knowing but not being resigned. the bit about the light in your eyes being more precious then all the roses in the world. The opening line, it still slays me: “I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving/ hearts in the hard ground…” and that last bit just tears me open, every time:

“Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave/gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;/Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave./I know. But I do not approve. And I am not/resigned.”

There is a bit in the book when Larkin, confused and scared and sad by all the loss around her,not sure how poetry is going to help,  looks at Lalo, her best friend, and says “poetry is just words.”

and Lalo says “that’s all we’ve got.”

Wowza: Gymnastics, Religion, and Clusterfucks

So recently I posted an interview with an NCAA gymnast who said that she found the religiosity of her teammates trying at times. Later she was asked to have me take the interview down. I don’t know the whole story, all I know is she was told that she didn’t go through policy. Or something. Anyway, what she had to say has erupted all over the gymnastics internet. There are multi-page threads devoted to this interview. I love Courtney Kupets and Corrie Lothrop but they apparently weren’t as interesting when interviewed!
It’s a fascinating thing. I was tempted to leave the interview up, but I didn’t want repercussions to slam down on this athlete. On the one hand, I feel like she is an adult and I did say I’d be blogging it; however, goodness knows I have said too much occasionally and had to suffer the consequences. I remain really tempted to leave it, as I think it was a very good and very illuminating interview, but I don’t want to hurt this gymnast. Argh. Any advice?
Anyway, the interview really made me think. If I were a gymnast on a team that included several very religious gymnasts, I would have a hard time. I know, I’m a churchgoer, but I’m also a Unitarian Universalist–a bit different than your average hardcore Christian. I don’t always believe in god/God. I almost never believe in an afterlife. I am super socially liberal (ya think?) what with my insistence that all Teh Gays should be allowed to get married and we should, you know, TRUST WOMEN. I know, crazy ideas. I’m obviously going to hell. I get extremely annoyed, to put it mildly, when folks start using the bible/religion to justify hate. Nope, that’s hate, pure and simple.
But I digress.
Suffice to say that if I were a gymnast on a very religious team I too would feel uncomfortable. And apparently, on this team, the toned down version of religion is blessing food and group prayer. Now. That is NOT toned down. Separation of church and state much? If the students who find prayer helpful want to pray before meets, that is most certainly their right, and I’m sure it helps them perform better. (If there is a God, I doubt s/he is super worried about a gymnastics meet, what with earthquakes and poverty and abuse and things like that). But group prayer? No way. Not okay.
So that was interesting.
I know, I know, there’s no requirement for non-religious gymnasts to pray. But it’s a bit like the Pledge of Allegiance (I never say the Under God, do you? See: separation of church and state. See also: FUNDAMENTAL TENETS OF AMERICA). If the entire class is saying the Under God, don’t you think you are going to feel damn awkward not saying it? Don’t you think it might make you a bit of an outcast?
For the record, I don’t have a problem with, say, BYU praying together before a meet. I have a problem with BYU, sometimes, but not their praying, because they are a religious school. Says so on the website.
Also for the record: I don’t have a problem with religious folks. I have a REALLY BIG problem with those religious folks who use their beliefs to oppress others.
Bottom line: there are two sad things about this story. One is that this gymnast apparently didn’t feel especially safe in her beliefs on her team. The other is that saying that and having it acknowledged apparently kicked up some trouble for her. Given that she is an adult and responsible for her own decisions, I find this a bit stunning. I’m sure there is a media policy at this university. She probably didn’t follow it. But as a writer, it makes me really angry that I have to silence myself as well. As you can see, I am referring to this gymnast without using a name or school. If you comment please do the same. It’s a shame. I really don’t want to. I really don’t like censorship.