Friday, February 8, 2013

On Grossness and Reason

I would ask that you be careful not to base your reasoning on appearance, or something "just not being right." As women, or people of color, or queers, we know the kind of ignorance that sort of thinking brings.

Yet, I have seen people do the same thing to support what they think might be more enlightened causes. They look at pictures, of gun shows, or meat packing, or oil drilling and go "Ewww! That's not right!" and usually feel some sort of affirmation--that their gut instinct is somehow correct.


Prejudice in a red state or a blue state is still prejudice. Knee jerk reactions to provocative photos promote oppression and cultural bullying whether the subject is two men kissing, or a processing plant making luncheon meat. It dehumanizes the opposition and reduces it to an object to ridicule and disgust. Surely, we can do better than this.

There is no such thing as justifiable ignorance. Research and support your claims. Present them respectfully, and honestly consider other viewpoints. Engage in reasoned debate. If your viewpoint is tenable, great--you've maybe taught your world something useful. If not, then you've learned something about your world--which is even better. More likely it's a mixture of the two, and, in any case, you are stronger and wiser for the experience.

People are often surprised when they find out that while so many athletes and intellectuals and lawmakers have hewn careers out of being fiercely competitive, they often feel respect, admiration, and even love for their opposition when the issue or the game or the case or the bout has concluded. This is because worthy opposition helps us all be our best. It cleans up our game; it forces us to adapt and grow. This is one of the true gifts of debate, one of the true gifts of being reasonable human beings, and one that is completely lost if we simply mock our opposition and go "Ew! Gross!"

And perhaps we might even agree one day. We might find ourselves on the same side against a common foe, or we might simply be at peace. What then? I would rather bask in the gifts and strengths and common history we have shared instead of feeling ignorant and ashamed for all those stupid things I said, the hurt I caused, and the time we wasted to insecurity, prejudice, and ignorance.

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