Those Miserable Gays

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about the ways our own, necessarily limited experiences affect the ways we interpret reality.

 

I read a lot of crap online, where crap = articles in major online publications and the comments posted about them. As you might expect, most of the crap I read is of the left-wing variety, but I make an effort to sometimes venture forth into right-wing territory and into the somewhat neutral territory of publications that attract comments from both sides.

 

On one of those neutral sites recently I was following a discussion about the government safety net vs. private charity, and a gentleman expressed the not-uncommon view that people should not be forced, via taxes, to help others, but that they should do so voluntarily via charity. He went on to say that when it came to the actual work of helping people, the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-ladle-out-the-soup work, that work was uniformly done by conservative people, with nary a leftie in sight. Liberals, he opined, only wanted to help the poor by spending other people’s money.

 

I was rather taken aback by this comment. I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector pretty much forever and in my experience, the staff, leadership, and volunteers of charitable organizations are liberals. All of them.

 

Of course, we are both correct. It’s a function of where you live and where you choose to spend your time. And it certainly affects your view of the people who aren’t there.

 

Late last night, when I should’ve been sleeping, I amused myself by arguing with another man about gay people. He explained that whatever the gay lobby might have you think, homosexuals live a dark and miserable existence. Most of them get AIDS and they suffer from extremely high levels of intimate partner violence. There is no way, he told me, they could lead happy, productive lives.

 

This morning, in a coffee shop in downtown Seattle, I returned to the discussion and reread his comments. Again, I found myself perplexed. Behind the bar, the very gay barista danced to an old disco tune while making coffee drinks. Since he had a job, he seemed perfectly productive, and his smiling dance moves certainly looked happy. At the table next to me, a young gay man talked business on his cellphone. I logged into my work email and read several messages from the gay Executive Director. And the only conclusion I can come to is, the man making those comments doesn’t know any gay people. Or more likely he does know some gay people but he doesn’t know they’re gay.

 

All of which makes me wonder what I’m not understanding due to my lack of exposure to other ways of thinking or being. Would my whole worldview be shaken if I moved to Kansas?

 

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25 thoughts on “Those Miserable Gays

  1. I’ve had that thought myself. In fact, at the Festival this year there was a “human library” booth (by the progressive librarians’ guild) where you could “check out” a human who represented your particular prejudice. They had gay, mentally ill, on welfare, etc. I explained that none of those caused me any loss of empathy but did they have a right wing conservative? She said no, because in her experience most conservatives aren’t open to the process. She said she’d try to get one for me. Later, she informed me she’d found a libertarian, if I was interested.Honestly, I think most liberals are such because they tend to be more open-minded, empathetic and aware of perspectives outside their own (and willing to try to understand them). I know many conservatives, and in my experience they are conservative for one (or both) of the following reasons: religion or money (taxes, keeping more of it, etc.). I haven’t seen much variation in this. And while there are lots of conservatives who do charitable work, I honestly haven’t seen or known any who’ve dedicated their lives to it. BTW, I also hate that particular argument – that people should just get help through charity. If it worked that way, we never would have needed safety nets to begin with. But it doesn’t. It doesn’t work that way any more than it would if we left road building up to the each individual. Okay, done rambling now.

  2. I was planning on it, but got too busy. Which is sad, because I would have enjoyed the conversation. I have, on occasion, felt libertarian stirrings, and I really think I get where they’re coming from, but unfortunately I have no desire to go back to the less civilized days of the wild west. Nope.

  3. Wow, perceptive, as I’ve come to expect. And your last-line zinger is, maybe unintentionally, a straight-man’s gift to the comedian in me. Yes, in Kansas you can at least watch your neighbors and their doings, up to the second floor at least, from many hundreds of miles distance. No one will aggressively argue with you about much of anything; they save that for ‘passive-aggression.’; in vogue since the mid 1800s.In fact their license plates’ slogan “What’s the matter with Kansas?” reflects the mind-set very clearly.Ok, off-stage, you make strong points. Here in Israel my ‘People-Museum’ would probably include an ultra-religous ‘nut’ (I’ll have to be careful not to use that term),  immigrants from various cultures who draw an exotic, bizarre, and down-right exasperating  blank on societal fairness for anyone but immediate family, and, to be balanced, Deluded ‘peace-in-our-time’ souls, who seem to be able to blithely forget our sad adversary’s character.Oh yeah, gays? Everyone know a gay here. They’re not even a novelty anymore. Once again, a fun and thought-provoking post.

  4. Great post…I ALWAYS think that those gay bashing people are not comfortable with their own sexuality or scared to death someone is going to notice…perhaps I shouldn’t generalize but every homophobe I know, could very well be hiding deeply in the closet….As I said – great post…the conservative elbow deep in soup serving the poor was a great visual – but only a picture in my mind because I just can’t see it being a reality.I always love your posts!

  5. I’ve wondered the same thing.  I’ve never lived anywhere except college towns and big cities on the east coast, i.e. I’ve never lived in a place where the majority of people were socially conservative.  It would be a really interesting experiment for a person who has always lived in liberal places to attempt a move to a conservative place, and then write a book about it, hint hint.

  6. I live in a place where most people are conservative, but I often wonder if this represents their true belief system or if they just go with the mob mentality. My life experience tells me that few people are willing to be different from the crowd, nor do they feel confident thinking for themselves. Also, I know several happy gay people and many a miserable heterosexual. 🙂

  7. but also no, because of your age. everyone looks very different up close than they do when they are just an abstract generalization in your mind. as you’ve patiently taught me re: gender, we are all subject to value judgments based on norms that (we don’t even realize) surround us. norms are powerful psychological train tracks and it’s hard to jump them.

  8. The non-profit sector you refer to is run by liberals who use other people’s money. Are all you people working for free?Of course not. You’re getting paid for your “charity” work. And a lot of that money comes from the taxpayer.

  9. @Shahrazad1973 – Though the old John Wayne movies do have some charm.@jsolberg – The ultra-religious nut would be my pick from the human library too.@Ninasusan – But conservatives do ladle soup. Just not here. At least, I think they do.@BLB – That man was not about to take any suggestions from the likes of me. @Daylily02 – I have had that very thought, and I may do it. It will have to wait a few years, though. I couldn’t do that to my kids.@turningreen – So, are some of those “conservatives” just liberals in costume?@ordinarybutloud – Because of my age? You mean I can’t learn new tricks?@sometimestheycomebackanyway – Well, for conservatives to donate their money to charity instead of paying taxes, there must be a charity to donate to. And if all the people who work full time to run the charity did not get paid, they would be in need of charity themselves.

  10. Living in Kansas, as I do, I can say that it might not make any difference.  People are people, will likely continue to believe what they choose to believe, and I’m not sure any saying on our license plates (a statement I have never noticed, read, or believed on my own plate) will change that.  But perhaps the font isn’t convincing enough (because I watched Phineas and Ferb with my daughter this morning, and I learned that if I font is convincing enough, any grown adult will slap themselves if instructed to do so).However, Montana could be a whole other story…

  11. We have a guest room. Please come stay a couple of weeks in the middle of the state that claims Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe as Senators, that is in the middle of the Personhood Bill debate, and where people immediately refuse to do business with me the moment they find out I’m a Democrat. I’d pay a lot of money to get your reactions. 

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