It’s my 100th post! And it’s going to piss people off. But this is my blog, my forum to say whatever I want, to pass judgment on whatever I wish. *bangs gavel* Court is in session, motherf-ers.
When I joined Facebook in 2008, I was hopeful. Maybe I can finally be friends with all those people I failed to connect with in high school, I thought, and we’ll realize that the early nineties was just a bad dream for all of us, filled with drug rugs and flannel and culminating in the death of Kurt Cobain.
I’ve discovered a few like-minded former classmates through social media, so my optimism wasn’t totally misguided. But for the most part, trying to reinvent high school through Facebook has been just like actual high school—a cycle of frustration, anger, and depression. By early 2010 I’d experienced the First Great Facebook Purge, where I unfriended everyone who proved themselves to be mired in small-mindedness. Even people I’d still kept in touch with over the years, and even some family members.
I cried that day, out of sheer frustration. My husband still calls it “Bloody Sunday.” There was a violence about it, a finality: I tried, but I’m done now. I’ll never try again.
I made my profile unsearchable. Occasionally, though, someone from high school will see that I’ve commented on another friend’s post and send me a friend request. I almost always oblige, but sometimes I have to unfriend the person later. Recently, I friended someone and then immediately unfriended her, within minutes of seeing her profile.
What is so objectionable, you’re asking, that you can’t even be friends with someone you disagree with on a social media site? Doesn’t that make you small-minded?
No. It does not. *bangs gavel again*
It’s one of my worst faults, my husband says, the way I look down on those who are religious. “But can’t you see that you, yourself, are being intolerant by saying that their ideas are wrong?”
“No,” I reply. “Because their ideas are wrong.”
Exhibit A: A friend request came from a former classmate whom I remember as adorable and sweet. On her timeline she posted a meme that reads something like this: “There is a lie in society today. The lie is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate that person.” This little gem came from Rick Warren, by the way. I hate to be judgmental, but if you’re posting Rick Warren memes, and they DON’T have anything to do with prostitutes or getting rich by hoodwinking the American public, then we’re probably not going to be friends.
The gist of Warren’s quote, in context, was that all Christians should act compassionately. But with her status “I’m tired of being called a hater,” it took on a different feel. Why don’t we just call this meme what it is? I DON’T LIKE GAY PEOPLE, AND I WANT TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT IT. There you go. I’ll grant you this—maybe you don’t have hate in your heart. You always seemed nice, and you have three adorable kids, and I’m sure you love them and are living your life being as kind to others as you can be.
You’re not hateful. What you are is ignorant. I know this because you used the word “lifestyle,” which shows me that you think being gay is a choice. It shows me that you do not actually know a gay person. And I’m not talking about your hairstylist or the theater kid from high school. You don’t actually know a gay person—have talked to him or her, listened to his or her struggles, know his or her stories of falling in love. Because if you had, you would know that you can “disagree” with someone’s sexual orientation about as much as you can “disagree” with someone’s race. You’re “disagreeing” with how someone was born.
Hmm. That would mean that “gay” is the way God “makes” people, and since that can’t be right, I’m just going to sit here and quote Rick Warren and perpetuate the ignorance I was raised in by spreading it to my children.
I’m not a hater, she would argue; I have moral convictions that I refuse to compromise. What convictions, exactly? The conviction that it’s your duty to control how two consenting adults choose to live? As long as you’re talking about our culture’s lies, Rick Warren, let’s talk about the biggest one: the conflation of faith and morality. I don’t have to believe in a myth-based view of the world to be a good person. In fact, I’d argue the opposite: while I wouldn’t describe “faith” itself as “immoral,” I’d certainly use that word to describe the blind adherence to doctrine that can arise from faith. If that adherence causes you to inflict mental anguish on someone else—a gay youth, for example—it’s immoral, plain and simple.
I’ve heard it all. I’ve been told that because I’m not a theist, I shouldn’t be a teacher. Because we wouldn’t want someone who respects intellect and scientific inquiry being a teacher. You should leave that to the people who teach myths as literal truths. Otherwise, how will our children grow up with any morals? As Rick Warren crassly tweeted after the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012: “When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it.”
Rick Warren—along with many people from my high school—reeks of ignorance. And they’re not only satisfied with their ignorance; they’re proud of it.
Evangelism and anti-intellectualism have always existed as twin traditions in this country, and they’re both still very much alive. Tangled up like two poisonous serpents and on display at your local Wal-Mart, where the Duck Dynasty patriarch’s face looks out from a spiral notebook bearing the quote, “We don’t need a world full of straight-A students. I’m an ole C average man myself.” Faith, family, ducks, ignorance, and mediocrity. Yep. Sounds like America.
These are the implications of the Duck Dynasty motto: To be moral, one must have faith. Intellectual curiosity is undesirable and a threat to the stability of faith and family. These biases are so deeply ingrained that most Americans don’t question them. These are the biases that lead people to say I shouldn’t be a teacher because I’m an atheist, or that the secular nature of public education is to blame for incidences of violence.
Sure, I could be Facebook friends with the former classmates who think this way. But why? What do they offer me? I’d be frustrated by their ignorance on a daily basis, and I’m not going to change their minds. I’m not denying their right to express their opinions, to worship as they please, or to teach their kids what they wish. But my husband’s right—I do look down on them. I think we have to stop accepting ignorance as an excuse. We live in a world saturated with information. If people remain ignorant, it’s because they’re choosing to.
That, friends, is a choice. That is a lifestyle.
And why can’t I be honest? I’m better than that. It’s like I vividly remember writing in my journal one day senior year, when I realized I actually liked myself: I’m done with wishing I was different. I wish they were different.