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Liberty for Maine homosexuals in serious danger

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Only months after being granted the right to marry, homosexuals in Maine are in real danger of losing this liberty before they even had a chance to enjoy it as a vote on whether to repeal the young law allowing gay marriage (which originally would take effect in September) is schedule to take place in less than a week.

Proponents of both sides of the argument – Stand for Marriage Maine and Protect Maine Equality – are working at full force to sway the public to their side, and with good reason. The result of this vote affects not only Maine, the only state that has a same-sex marriage question on the ballot, but the entire country as supporters of gay marriage hope for a ballot victory and opponents of gay marriage hope for another nail in the coffin of equal rights for homosexuals: every time the same-sex question has been brought before state voters, the results have supported a ban.

Same-sex marriage is one of the most divisive topics at large today. It seems that few people venture into any sort of gray area about whether homosexuals should be afforded this right – you’re either for it or against it. I personally fall into the former category as I believe in liberty and freedom for all even if I disagree with them. I’m of the mindset that everyone has a right to their own beliefs and views but no right to impose those beliefs and views on other people.

I personally am disgusted with the idea of two men engaging in sexual acts (no offense intended to my gay friends). I’m also disgusted with the idea of eating a frog or smoking a cigarette but I similarly would not begrudge another person’s right to do these things (so long as doing so brings no harm to someone else).

A lot of opponents of same-sex marriage cite morality as a core reason why they feel the way they do. Apparently, these people lack any true understanding of the concept of morality, which is a code of conduct or belief that is arbitrarily and subjectively invented and maintained by society, religion or individual conscience. There are few hard “universal” morals, all of which are based on extreme acts of hostility against your fellow human being.

There are many people who feel that consuming alcohol, watching pornography, gambling, and pre-marital sex are immoral. Does this mean that we, as a society, should make it illegal for anyone to engage in these activities? Of course not, but people are more willing to attack the concept of same-sex marriage because it stems not from an affront to one’s morality but from a personal disgust by certain sexual activities in which homosexuals engage – when one feels such seething hatred towards something, it’s easy to rationalize  that everyone must or should feel the same way .

Others claim that allowing same-sex marriages will harm children and destroy the concept of the family. Have these people taken a look at the divorce rate in this country, which is estimated at about 40%? Clearly, the end of a marriage does more harm to children and the concept of a family than the beginning of one, regardless of the genders of the two people involved.

Recent history has shown that heterosexuals in the United States are quite apt to fail at marriage yet have few legal requirements to enter one. Possibly, many people take the right to marry for granted, something that homosexuals, who even now have to fight with every ounce of their being just for a glimmer of hope of obtaining this right, are much less likely to do.

And with few exceptions, the people getting divorces are not thinking so much about their children as they are about themselves. “I can’t stand living with her.” “She doesn’t respect me.” “I’m no longer happy with him.” “I shouldn’t have to put up with this.” Does fear that homosexuals may prove to succeed where they have failed factor into this at all? One has to wonder…

One scare tactic that opponents of gay marriage use (with great effectiveness as seen by the success of California Proposition 8) is that public schools may teach children about it should it be legalized, despite assurances from government officials that this would not be an educational requirement.

The American public’s unnatural and illogical apprehension about anything related to sex aside, I find this excuse to be hilarious in its inadequacy. Is it any easier for parents fearful that teachers or *gasp* they themselves will have to answer questions about human sexuality to broach the subject of heterosexual acts than homosexual acts?

Does anyone really think it would be easier to tell their 10-year-old about a man inserting his penis into a woman’s vagina? More importantly, does anyone really think that the child will react with any more disgust or hilarity (probably both knowing most kids) to one scenario or the other? In the end, it’s all just peepers, wee wees, butts, gineys, etc. – to a kid raised in the typical American household, anything “down there” is bad until you’ve escaped the grasp of your parents, domineering in their attempt to stave off nervousness.

Other opponents of same-sex marriage cite religious beliefs (which may or may not tie into questions of morality) as the basis of their stance. I won’t get into my feelings about organized religion (that’s another divisive topic for another day), but will simply say that a) not everyone follows the same religion; b) there have been religions and societies that have sanctioned same-sex marriages and unions; and c) followers of any one religion have no right to expect followers of other religions (or people who don’t follow any religion at all) to adhere to their belief system.

The more zealous of religious people have historically tried to enforce conformity upon others, and it sets a dangerous precedent when such people are allowed to do so in today’s society. I find it ironic that people living in a country founded on the concept of diversity and tolerance and who frequently proclaim it to be the greatest in the world continue to seek to undermine those principals in a never-ending effort to deny the very same rights they and their ancestors have enjoyed for centuries.

These are sad and disappointing times indeed.

Source: New York Times

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If you’re going to quit, go out in style

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Acclaimed film director Paul Haggis parted ways with the Church of Scientology in mid August by sending a letter that was rather critical of the Church, its practices and in particular Tommy Davis, the head of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre. The letter was posted on a blog about Scientology and has since found its way all around the Internet, really hitting the mainstream news circuit over the weekend.

The award winning director, who wrote the screenplay for the James Bond franchise reboot Casino Royale, whose screenplays for Million Dollar Baby and Letters From Iwo Jima were nominated for Academy Awards and whose film Crash won the Academy Award for Best Picture (he personally won an Academy Award for his original screenplay for this film), wrote in the letter that he “could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated,” referring to the Church of Scientology’s official backing of California Proposition 8, which in November 2008 amended the California Constitution with a new section that states “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

What surprises me is that Mr. Haggis seems genuinely shocked that the Church of Scientology would support such legislation.

L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction novelist who founded the Church of Scientology in 1953 in order to make money, according to noted science fiction author Harlan Ellison in an interview in Issue 332 of the U.K. edition of Time Out, even wrote in his 1951 book Science of Survival, still referenced today as a core text by the Church of Scientology, that “perverts,” as he classified homosexual, bisexual and transgender individuals, were “intensely dangerous in the society since aberration is contagious.”

This is not to say that I think all or even most Scientologists support this belief any more than I think all or most Christians hate homosexuals, but to say that when one of the books written by the founder of your “religion” as an early foundation for what would eventually become Scientology espouses this kind of hateful ideology, you really shouldn’t be surprised when the Church gets behind legislation that would support those ideals.

Mr. Haggis goes on to chastise Mr. Davis for claiming in an interview that the Church does not follow a policy of “disconnection,” by which members are instructed to sever all ties with a friend or family member who is against Scientology, citing that his own wife was ordered to “(break) off all contact with” her parents simply because they resigned from the Church (they did not criticize the Church and were actually the people who introduced her in the first place). Davis and the Church obviously deny this and state that it is always a personal choice by the member to engage in this behavior.

I’m personally elated that a more high-profile celebrity member of the Church has finally recognized the serious flaws in the Church of Scientology and actually took action to distance themselves from it. I remain hopeful that more celebrities will realize what they got themselves into and do the right thing by denouncing the Church even if it means risking friendships.

On the other hand, I feel bad for the majority of Scientologists who I believe, like Mr. Haggis, are actually good people for whom the beneficial teachings of Scientology have actually helped and who simply want to make the world a better place. I believe that Scientology, like any other religion (I am wary of classifying it as a “true” religion although for simplicity’s sake I refer to it as such here), at its core can really help people but is too often warped and twisted by “the organized” into a tool for control, fear-mongering and money-making and is too often misrepresented by the more “entertaining,” for lack of a better word, individuals in the group.

There’s no doubt in my mind that many Scientologists will unfairly come under fire for being like Mr. Davis, Mr. Hubbard or any of the other more extreme members of the religion. To those people who would subject them to this kind of treatment, I can only caution that you don’t want to become the type of people you accuse Scientologists of being.

Another victim of the bystander effect

October 27, 2009 51 comments

Social Psychology by psychologists Elliot Aronson and Timothy Wilson describes the bystander effect as “a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely proportional to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.”

I recall a family trip to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey when a rather menacing looking man verbally threatened a park employee with physical harm because the employee observed his family attempting to cut in line. Never mind that nobody except yours truly at 11 years old bothered to even say anything about said attempt – nobody wanted to get involved when the man started hurling expletives and making threats that put Serena Williams’ U.S. Open outburst to shame.

The worst part was that when security arrived to deal with the situation, the man denied all wrongdoing and nobody said anything! I finally took it upon myself to speak up about what happened, and security escorted the man out of the park.

While some may choose to call me a squealer, I think I did the right thing by getting a prick like that out of the park, showing him that there actually were consequences to his behavior and showing the park employee that he could do the right thing by the other park patrons without having to fear that he would get physically assaulted by morons who don’t think that the rules apply to them.

Plus, I got to a pass for the whole family to jump to the head of the line for any one ride I chose (which helped a lot since it was an unbearably hot day and the line for one of the splash rides was incredibly long) so I was rewarded with more than just the satisfaction of having done the right thing.

On a more grave note, a 15-year-old California high school student was a recent victim of the bystander effect on Saturday when she was gang raped outside of her school while the annual homecoming dance was going on inside. Investigators stated that as many as 15 male individuals gathered to observe the crime without notifying the police or trying to help the victim, with some eventually participating in the act. The victim was left unconscious in critical condition under a bench.

Now, I don’t doubt the legitimacy of such a psychological phenomenon as the bystander effect, but I think it is only responsible to qualify that individuals have to have a certain mental or moral weakness in order to be swept up in such an effect. If your parents raised you to have a strong moral backbone, you would immediately recognize a rape for what it was no matter how many people were standing around gawking or even cheering, and you would know to do the right thing either by intervening or contacting the authorities.

Some people may try to claim that the individuals in question were possibly scared of what the perpetrator(s) would do, but that claim is rendered null and void by the simple fact that any of those individuals could have easily removed themselves from the scene and contacted the police to handle the situation – they did not need to physically rescue the victim in order to help the situation. Instead, these individuals chose to watch the proceedings like some sick voyeurs watching a twisted rape fetish porno.

One has to wonder how we as human beings have become so apathetic that we can just stand around when someone is in need of help right in front of us and justify to ourselves that we don’t need to intervene or help because “someone else will” even when we are in no real danger ourselves.

Thankfully, the victim is now in stable conditions thanks to the efforts of the Richmond police and the staff at the area hospital to which she was flown… and no thanks to the worthless, spineless individuals who decided that it wasn’t their responsibility to do what was right and stop the rapists.

Source: CNN

Chivalry is dead

September 29, 2009 2 comments

Even as a young boy, I knew what chivalry was about. Men are supposed to hold open doors for women. They’re supposed to bring in the groceries. They should help women out of the car.

Chivalry is dead.

Maybe that statement is a bit extreme, but it’s hard not to notice that chivalry is, at the very least, on its deathbed. Sure, you see men doing those things for women every so often, but think really hard and try to remember the last time you saw it with your own eyes.

It’s no more apparent to me that chivalry is on its last legs than when I’m on the mass transit systems in the New York City metropolitan area.

I take the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) train system to and from work every day. One of the basic rules of etiquette on any mass transit system is that people be chivalrous with regards to who gets to sit down during a trip.

It’s a given that if you see a disabled, elderly or pregnant woman board your subway car, you offer them your seat so long as you yourself are not disabled, elderly or pregnant (I take it a step further and include young children as well). It doesn’t even matter if you’re a man or a woman. This is just common sense and decency.

Unfortunately, I see pregnant women, elderly people and the obviously disabled (never mind that not all disabilities are visible) standing for minutes after boarding the train. I make it a habit to look up at all the entrances at each stop to see if there is anybody whose comfort is a priority. Most people don’t care and don’t want to be bothered.

This sad, pathetic behavior affected me and my wife personally over the course of the year.

I recently had a mishap involving my basement stairs that resulted in a rather nasty sprain of my left ankle and put me on crutches for a few weeks. During the short period of time in which I was commuting to the office (I ended up just working from home for a little while because the commute was too difficult), I was offered a seat on just one occasion. Most of the time, I just stood in the middle of a relatively crowded train, two crutches in one hand with all my weight on one leg, silently praying that the train would not lurch.

But I’m a guy and I can deal with it. What I can’t deal with is my wife being able to count on one hand the number of times she was offered a seat during the 6 months in which she was very obviously pregnant (she commuted up to the day before she delivered). She told me that the worse part was that there were always young, able men who saw her condition but just didn’t care to offer her a seat. She’s not the type to ask, so she just stood during almost all of her commutes. Actually, she didn’t mind standing at all, but the situation bothered me nonetheless just on the principle of the matter.

The worst behavior came one day about halfway through her pregnancy when we were commuting home together. At one stop, a woman seated nearby got up to exit the train and the young woman standing in front of the seat was kind enough to offer it to my wife. However, before my wife could make her way over, the lady – if you could call her that – standing next to the young woman nudged her aside to sit down.

When the first woman informed the second woman that my wife was pregnant and that she intended to give her the seat, the second woman said, “It’s okay because when I was pregnant, nobody gave me a seat so it’s karma.”

That’s an almost exact quote (it was several months ago so I can’t remember every last word). I was too shocked at first that my reply – that if she wanted to be a jerk she should just admit it instead of hiding behind the concept of karma, which she clearly didn’t understand – never left my mouth. I couldn’t believe that someone would compete with a pregnant woman for a seat on a crowded train and then try to justify it in such a ridiculous manner. If she really had that bad an experience, should she not have been more sympathetic to other pregnant women?

If I was still the brash, hot-tempered person I was in my younger days (I’m still hot-tempered but not as brash), I would have said and possibly done some things that I would later have not been proud of, but instead I just left the woman to her seat and talked aloud with the decent woman and my wife about the death of chivalry.