Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus provide people the platform to speak their mind. Most folks moderate their thoughts, keep it casual, witty, and sometimes thought-provoking in an intricate way. I see interesting quotes, funny pictures, clever ways of describing a recently encountered situation.
But there are people (and many of us try this at least a few times) who use these platforms to occasionally make loud, proud, categorical declarations stemming from an ideology of division. Sometimes it’s a political statement that caricatures a popular talking point. Sometimes it’s a social statement of disapproval towards a particular group (e.g. speaking out against gay marriage or even homosexuality in general). Sometimes it’s a statement about positive ideals of loyalty, trust, love, teamwork, etc, concealing underneath an assumed hard division: us versus them.
That last one is a tricky one. I’ve often struggled to understand people when they make bold general statements. Sometimes they come from a good place, and sometimes from a bad place, and most of the time they don’t know themselves which place they come from. I know I’ve done that myself. Some statement like: “I’m surrounding myself with positivity, and keeping all negative people out of my life.” On the face of it, that’s a good thing to do. But when it is stated so simply it somehow puts its meaning in doubt. It’s almost a declaration (subconscious perhaps) that the person is full of negativity and is struggling to get past it. It’s a declaration that the world is full of negative people and we ought to find them and throw them out. I’m deeply uncomfortable with such statements of judgement and division.
It does seem that often times the loudest voices are the ones most plagued by doubt. We see it time and time again with preachers railing against homosexuality only to find out that they eventually give into homosexual desires that they had all along.
This isn’t some evil conspiracy, it’s just human nature.
The mathematician I admire more than any other in the 20th century is Alan Turing. He is widely considered to be the father of computer science. I’ve studied his work and the consequences of his work for the last 10 years, but not until recently did I learn about the man himself.
I won’t get into a long Wikipedia-style retelling of his life, but focus on its tragic end. He was arrested in 1952 for “homosexual acts” which at the time were illegal in England (and remained so until 1967). Two years after that, Turing committed suicide.
Gay rights have been in the courts and in public discourse recently. The point of contention is whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry. I believe that of course they should (though I do believe marriage is a religious practice, and government should only just grant civil unions to everyone). Many people disagree. However, what bothers me is the amount of value the opponents of gay marriage assign to this issue. It seems the Christian community is making this its primary battle cry under the umbrella of “values”.
So whenever someone brings up the issue of gay marriage to me, I think of Alan Turing, and the suffering he endured at the hands of a society that couldn’t accept who the man wanted to love, but sure as hell could accept the brilliant contributions to technology and science that he provided.
To this day, the British government has not pardoned Alan Turing for having sex with another man.
He didn’t shy away from speaking his mind, and usually did so in a damn entertaining way. I think it’s fair to say that there are very few people in Congress that can outdo him in witty trash talk.
The reason I’ve always respected him is that he had the guts to come out as gay on his own accord in 1987 (the first to do so) and served openly since then. As he said: ”I’m used to being in the minority. I’m a left-handed gay Jew.” But he was also a liberal, and all those factors attracted a s*** storm of vile commentary from his critics.
I always take my hat off to men and women that stand tall, with or without the approval of others, especially in political office where being different in any way is a heavy burden.
Here is a recent interview with him on Charlie Rose:
I heard this story on NPR and was genuinely surprised. It seems that no major professional male athlete has come out publicly as being gay.
First, let me define my perspective. I’m not gay myself and I only have one or two friends that I’m aware are gay, so the issue doesn’t feel particularly personal to me, which is why I was not aware of some of the facts covered in the NPR story. I see the general discrimination against homosexuals the same way as I see slavery: an ugly stain on human history that is bound to be overcome by the progressive common sense of reasonable people. It’s a ridiculous disrespect of human rights, and the vision of the founding fathers.
I say the following cautiously, but we should distinguish between (what in my mind are) two uses of “gay” in sports. Sports are for tough people, physically and mentally. So the use of the word “gay” that I find less despicable is when it refers to the stereotype of being “feminine” (another nested stereotype). It’s like calling someone a p***y. Perhaps, other words should be used, but I’m rarely a fan of political correctness, so this use of the word “gay” doesn’t bother me as much.
What does bother me, and what I don’t actually see that much in my experience with sports, is genuine homophobia. I think that once a few major professional athletes come out as being gay, both the first and the second use of the word will become obsolete. I’m pretty sure that gay people range (just like straight people) from some of the toughest athletes in the world to the biggest wusses that would much prefer to sit at home with a tub of ice cream and cry over a cheesy romance novel. I respect athletes that have the killer instinct and the mental fortitude to overcome any challenge. I don’t care who they sleep with, fall in love with, or have extra-marital affairs with.