Friday, May 11, 2007

Tolerance, but only for the tolerant, of course

So in the ongoing saga of the sexy penguins, I decided to check out Google today (I would have done it earlier, but I was having technical difficulties) and found out that sure enough, a Google image search for "sexy penguin" pulls up a link to this blog as the #2 match. For those who might care about the numbers other than myself, I'm trying to keep a running total, and I've presently got 126 out of 157 hits, or roughly 80% of my visitors being people looking for a picture of a sexy penguin.

However, I'm not here to rant about sexy penguins and the people who love them...this time. I am going back to retouch on the original topic in order to use it as a launching point into another topic that's always bugged me.

Quick recap for those who can't be bothered to read the original post: A pro-same-sex marriage organization launched a campaign in Colorado based on the idea that a person who was sexually attracted to members of the same gender is just as normal as a dog that goes "moo". An anti-same-sex marriage organization, rather than pointing out the ridiculousness of this argument as I would have done, launched a counter-campaign to inform the public that dogs in fact do not go "moo". This high level of debate truly shows how serious this issue is.

Well, in tracking down the Google image search result for "sexy penguin", I noticed that under the picture, there was a snippet of text from my blog reading "...mooing dogs and sexy penguins." Curious, I tried a new image search for "mooing dogs", which my blog came up as the #1 hit! (Note that this is only on an image search; a regular web search did not give a link to my blog in the first 150 hits. The first blog hit was for this site, which rants about thwarting the "Heterosexual agenda" because "Dogs are really hard to milk." Good writing.)

As usual, I'm taking far to long to come to my point. Not too far down in the list of hits, I came across this article. Apparently a family in Colorado Springs has had their lawn repeatedly vandalized for having the audacity to put signs on it that feature a picture of a dog saying "Woof." The unknown people who vandalized the lawn and the signs by either stealing them or defacing them actually left notes for the family telling them that "YOU ARE NO BETTER THAN A TERRORIST BECAUSE YOU DISPLAYED THAT SIGN!" They even went so far as to specifically compare them to the September 11th WTC attackers.

I've got to say that this perplexes me on many levels. While I see no evidence in the article that the vandals ever used the specific word "tolerance", the concept was there, as they had written "STOP THE HATE" on the street near the house. I realize that this story was published by a news outlet that is affiliated in some manner (I'm not sure how closely) with the publishers of the "" web site, and as such, it is doing its darnedest to paint this conservative family in a positive light, but still, the only "hate" I'm seeing here is on the part of the vandals.

While the family with the signs is indeed sending out a message (albeit fairly subtly) that many may find offensive, all they are doing in the end is expressing an opinion. The vandals are trespassing, damaging private and public property, and probably could easily be construed as threatening the physical safety of others. Why would they prefer to do that rather than pursue a number of perfectly legal and reasonable countermeasures? They could put up signs in their own yards. They could write letters to the family telling them intelligently why they disagree with their position and why they feel it is offensive. They could write letters to local newspapers. They could peaceably conduct a protest in the street in front of the lawn with the signs. And of course, they could vote, and I hope they did. One of the neat things about each of those is that they don't require sneaking around in the middle of the night.

Legality and even morality aside, though, there is a social phenomenon that I've found rather odd lately. I think most people tend to think of the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment in terms of a protection for the liberal free thinkers of our society. If I want to say that George W. Bush is an idiot, I can do so freely. If I want to have my children go to school and not have to practice some sort of state religion, then I'm all set for that, too. Lately it seems like a reversal of that sort of thinking has happened, though. In our society at large, you aren't allowed to like the President because we should all agree that he's evil. You aren't allowed to make any public expression of your religious beliefs lest it offend, because we should all value multiculturalism over all other values. You aren't allowed to think that morality as defined by your personal beliefs has any basis or right to be addressed because we should all with uniform assent that morality is relative.

That's what it really boils down to, and don't you see that there is an inherent hypocrisy and/or lapse of logic in that position? The only absolute value is relativism. All viewpoints should be allowed except for those that question whether all viewpoints should be allowed. Society should have no tolerance for those that practice intolerance. Argh... It makes my brain hurt sometimes.

Look, it's an opinion. Some people in Colorado think same-sex marriage should be allowed; others think it should be disallowed. These are just opinions, same as the opinion that people shouldn't judge others for their sexual orientation. Who is to decide which opinions should be allowed and which should be silenced? It's not simply a matter of being offended, because I assure you that on 99.9% of all issues, there will be somebody offended by either position.

There are a lot of people (and while I tend to feel "homophobia" is an overused term, it seems appropriate here) that are absolutely appalled at the thought of a gay pride parade, but is that single fact good enough reason to disallow such a display? I really feel that the First Amendment allows for people to hold a parade for any reason (so long as they avoid undue disruption of, well, traffic, I guess) be it the local high school's homecoming, abortion rights, a war protest, or even if your local chapter of the KKK wants to put on a show. Excepting probably the first of those examples, there's going to be a lot of people upset by such parades, but my advice is if you don't like it, then stay away, or go and organize a peaceful counter-demonstration. If you show up at an event and hassle or even attack the people there, you just let them believe they are some sort of martyrs for a great cause.

Did you read the article about the family with the vandalized signs? In the end, who wins that moral struggle? Isn't it the poor victimized folks with the peaceful signs on their yard? Completely disregarding what their signs say, and the ideas they are intended to convey to passers-by, aren't they the ones with the moral high ground because the opposition took the position of oppressor? Whoever it was that took those signs, they ought to know that they may have set their cause back more than ever could.

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