Monday, March 3, 2014

WHY DISCRIMINATION SHOULDN'T BE LEGAL



Words cannot describe the relief I felt upon finding out that Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill that would have allowed business owners to refuse service to the LGBT population. You see, if Arizona passed the bill, I would have to start looking for a new country to emigrate to, because I refuse to live in one that makes discrimination legal. I shared some of my sentiments on Facebook and got immediately challenged by a friend of mine, who felt that by vetoing the bill the government prevented the business owners from expressing their religious freedom.

Now, I know the said friend well enough to feel positive that he doesn’t have anything against LGBT folks and that he is a pretty open-minded guy. He doesn’t like the government poking its nose into people’s private business and for that matter, neither do I. My friend’s comments made me think long and hard – yes, if I owned a shop, wouldn’t I expect to live by “my shop, my rules”? Of course I would! I’m all about self-determination, as people close to me know only too well. But I can’t help it; in this particular case, even though I do get where my friend was coming from, I feel that if sacrificing a little bit of my freedom would serve higher good, so be it.

I won’t even get into musings about how exactly would the whole thing work anyway, it’s too absurd. But let me ask you this: How long would it take before the idea would spread beyond stores and restaurants? I have a suspicion that it would snowball very quickly, considered how many religious fundamentalists we have in this otherwise wonderful country! And I personally wouldn’t want to live to see doctors arguing that they have a private practice and therefore are not obligated to treat anyone whose values are different from their own.

Even if we, for the sake of the discussion, stick with businesses like stores and restaurants, the implementation of such a bill is still problematic. Because it starts with the LGBT population as a precedent and then what? I remember a gentleman who had a speech on campus in the beginning of the school year and who was there to inform us about all the populations that will go to Hell unless they repent and accept Jesus as their savior. I don’t remember EVERYTHING that was on his board – I was just passing by – but I recall seeing Muslims, feminists, creationists, Buddhists, vegetarians (you really have to wonder!), and people who listen to heavy metal. So if a bill like this passes, what stops business owners to start excluding pretty much everybody who is not a Christian fundamentalist!?

My friend suggested that nothing would prevent me to simply boycott such businesses as a customer. But that’s all and well in the city or the suburbs! What about rural areas where there is often a handful of stores and restaurants in town and everybody knows everybody? If you are labeled as an undesirable, you might quite well find out that you are not able to eat out anymore – and let’s face it, in some more conservative areas it’s more than likely to happen.

I’m sorry, but no matter how carefully I’m pondering this, I see only a further spread of discrimination and religious hatred.

And what really got under my skin was an argument that just like we are free to do what we please with our bodies, we should be able to do the same with our businesses! I hit the roof before finishing reading the sentence. Are we REALLY free to do what we see fit with our bodies?! I beg to differ. For example an individual who finds himself suffering from a terminal illness accompanied by an unbearable amount of pain and suffering is going to find out very quickly that it’s not up to him to decide how much of said pain and suffering he is willing to bear. No, sir, that’s currently up to the government and the government says no, no matter what one’s religious convictions are. So if you are, say, an agnostic who doesn’t give a crap about what the Bible has to say on this topic and doesn’t believe that there is God who would penalize people for choosing a way out when the suffering becomes truly unbearable, it doesn’t do you any good whatsoever.

And who are the folks so opposed to people making their own choice in this matter?!

You got it – mainly the conservative religious right. So the people who are demanding the right to make their own choices about whom to serve as business owners are the very same people who are consistently working on restricting other people’s rights to do whatever they choose with their body, mind, and spirit. Euthanasia is, admittedly, an extreme example (it’s just that as a former nurse I feel strongly about it); but consider women’s reproductive rights! Or the fact that in the South it’s common for PUBLIC schools to forbid teaching the evolution theory or sex ed that is not based on abstinence – in PUBLIC schools funded by PUBLIC money! So I can’t help but see a double-standard here: If religious fundamentalists are so concerned about having the freedom to make choices based on their religion, shouldn’t they also be willing to give others the same freedom?

And since they have proven too many times that they are not, I say that the government has a duty to protect minorities whose lives are already difficult enough as it is! Howgh.

12 comments:

Andre Joachim said...

Couldn't agree with you more Margaret! I remember talking to someone and they were saying that they should put all white supremacists on an island and blow it up and the world would be a better place. They thought because I was black I would agree. However I posed to them, how long would it be before we decide to put another group of people on that island? How long will it be before we put someone with bad odor or for that to snowball into someone's skin color? I think it is the same concept. I refuse that person service and it trickles to something else and eventually that trickle becomes a flood. I believe in person's right to refuse someone service but only if what they do are in accordance with the law. Last I checked it was perfectly legal to be LGBT so why even entertain the thought of passing a law as discriminatory as that law that was proposed. It is good to know that there are people who were even contemplating such nonsense so the rest of society who wants to live in an evolved and equal society are aware of the few who rather live in ignorance and bigotry.

Global Chick said...

Andre - it looks like we are on the same page! What troubles me deeply is that this is EXACTLY how it started with Jews in Germany before the WWII!!! Ignorance and bigotry cannot be promoted, or even protected by the law, if you hope to have a free, democratic society...

Luke T. said...

Thanks for the dedicated post. Let me reaffirm our mutual respect. Please keep in mind, the bill in question was not about targeting LGBT people, but about reaffirming a right which already exists; the right to refuse service. The bill simply sought to strengthen that right by tying it to the right to religious freedom.
I worry about people like you, who seem to have the right idea and valid concerns, but then put their trust in government over individuals and communities. You are more worried about the slippery slope of individuals accepting discriminatory behavior than about government telling us we cannot run our businesses as we see fit.
Ask yourself, how often have social mores led to tragedy when not expressly backed by gov't? You may say this bill represents such gov't sanction, but it clearly does not.
Please bear in mind also that whenever you advocate the gov't to prescribe behavior, you are advocating for people to be locked away and potentially killed for beliefs which are counter to your own. As Adnre said, he wouldn't advocate blowing up racist island, but your preferred tool (gov't) is exactly on that model.

Luke T. said...

"Andre - it looks like we are on the same page! What troubles me deeply is that this is EXACTLY how it started with Jews in Germany before the WWII!!! Ignorance and bigotry cannot be promoted, or even protected by the law, if you hope to have a free, democratic society..."

Margaret, Nazi Germany began with the gov't fomenting and then ignoring acts of aggression against a scape-goated group. We are no where near such activities, especially not from American Christians who are some of the most peaceful protestors and racists in the world.
Look at the attitude toward Jews today in Europe and I'm sure you will agree that they are persecuted still. And they represent a much larger segment of the communities than LGBT.

Global Chick said...

Well, we will have to agree to disagree on this one :) I think the biggest gap between our points of view is that you think about he issue from broader, political perspective, while I'm more concerned about the practical implications on people's lives.

Don't take me wrong, I'm usually no fan of the government interfering in people's lives. It's just in this particular case I consider it the lesser from two evils.

It's great that you have such a positive view of American Christian fundamentalists and American "safety" in general, but I suspect that your attitude has a lot to do with your position in the society as a White, heterosexual male.

If American fundamentalists are so peaceful, why there are some states that my lesbian professor openly admits being scared to travel to? What about White supremacists, because of whom my roommate won't stop at a local gas station on her way from work at night, because she is scared shitless of the local chapter of Ku Klux Klan? And what about those Christians yelling at the funerals of American soldiers that "God hates fags"? That sounds peaceful to you?

And yes, I'm aware that yelling doesn't compare to some of the atrocities people commit on each other in different parts of the world, but why is that?

Historically, this country experienced a significant decrease in anti-gay and/or racial murder AFTER the government declared it a federal crime and started to prosecute is as such.

So - do we experience less violence from religious nuts than, say, Egypt, because our fundamentalists are such fluffy lambs, or is it because we have a (relatively) strong government that keeps them in check!?

Luke T. said...

First of all, since we are friends let me tell you that it is extremely insulting to question my point of view based on my race and sexual orientation. Can you imagine if I had a debate with your lesbian professor and dismissed her because of her sexuality? I assume you did not mean to insult me :) I think that people who study from a feminist perspective tend to throw out those insults so casually they don't even notice. From a practical perspective the gov't is actively, currently harming people who disagree with you. Refusing to serve the LGBT community harms no one despite the hypothetical you set up. I do not have a positive view of christian fundamentalists, I have a factual view of them. They currently are responsible for no crimes against the LGBT community. Sadly, in America, left leaning groups cause more destruction and violence than any right leaning groups.
I don't mean to be rude, but your friends feelings are irrelevant to the actual violence committed by christians.
I would have to see a citation backing up your claims that racial and sexual oriented violence went down thanks to federal hate crime legislation. I find it hard to believe that such crimes were even tracked prior to any legislation.
I do agree that our gov't does a better job protectiong the rights of minorities than in Egypt. In Egypt they actively kill christians with gov't backing. And they make up much more than the ~5% that LGBT makes up in America. I have a big problem with people trying to appropriate victim status when comparing themselves and others to people who are actually being killed for their beliefs.
When you get gov't involved, that is what happens. Again, I consider that very practical. Especially if you want to bring Nazi's into the conversation. Please do not leet your emotions regarding this issue cloud your good judgement.

Global Chick said...

I'm sorry that you consider mentioning your race and orientation an insult. But that's the golden rule in my program for future counselors: If you are unaware of your White, heterosexual, Christian privilege in this country (and refusing to become so) then you will never be able to effectively counsel people who don't have the same privilege.

My lesbian professor surely has bias of her own - everybody does. The key is to be aware of them and how they affect your point of view.

Of course, you are not enrolled in my program, or becoming a future counselor, so you are not by any means obligated to accept this theory. However, assessing the level of racism in this country as a White person who has NEVER experienced it is sort of funny.

My emotions have a lot to do with it who I'm as a person and and a professional. If things like caring and compassion have no place in a discussion about how our society should look like, then it explain quite well why the society is so fucked up.

Vanstrom Dracul said...

No offense to your friend, but you couldn't be more correct, Margaret. White, straight, Christian males don't have to put up with the bullshit, discrimination, disrespect and disregard that people like LGBT, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and women in general end up putting up with. It's too easy to be in a position of privilege and not having to put themselves in the shoes of other people. I'd suggest anyone to get some of that fake skin coloring and disguise themselves as Black for a day or 2, or dress as a Muslim with the turban (or burkah) and all and see how quickly they'll fall from the pedestal of privilege.

No matter if people want to accept it, laws like this are a slippery slob, a very slippery one indeed. Some Christian fundie refuse services to some gay guy today, what's next tomorrow? Refusing service to a Muslim? Next week, the Atheist. Because, hey, they too are against the fundie business owner's beliefs. Next? Some Tibetan Buddhist opens a shop in the neighborhood and refuses to do business with me because I'm blind (according to their belief, people are born blind as a punishment for some atrocity committed in a past life).

Your friend complains about government interference and government backed discrimination in other countries, but refuses to see how a law like this would also be government backed discrimination as well. Let's face it, if a Christian business owner refuses service to a Muslim (for example sake) it's ok under the law to do so, and he'll get a way with that bullshit. But I guarantee you that if a Muslim business owner refuses service to a Christian that would cause them to cry a river, yell and scream about discrimination. Heck, I'm an Atheist and if I refuse to sell my crafts to a Christian because it's my sincerely held belief that Christians don't deserve a place at all in society, will the law back me? I think not, I'd see the avalanche of bullshit coming my way real quick.

Luke T. said...

The problem is not making me aware of my race etc. but mentioning it as a way of discounting my position. When you say that I don't understand or that my sympathy comes from my being white and male, that is exactly what you are doing.

No, your emotions play no role in whether or not it is right to discriminate. The hypocrisy of christians is irrelevant to whether it is right to pass laws forcing them to act against their faith. You can certainly express your emotions and it is great to recognize them. They have no bearing on rational discussions except to shut them down.

Do you believe that race/gender is the only way for people to experience discrimination? Do you believe that my lack of experience with racial discrimination, as if you know my experience, means I cannot understand arguments against discrimination?

Gender/race politics is a giant cop out for the inability to defend these policies rationally. Part of the reason I am no longer enrolled in the program you are is because I do not buy into identity politics.

Why can't an atheist refuse to serve christians? Is it wrong to boycott businesses due to the owners' beliefs? It is the same idea.

Why are we more concerned about a slippery slope which involves only voluntary action than with the one which involves guns, cages and violence?

Andre Joachim said...

I can see your point Luke on a lot of things being said. As someone who is educated, which I can tell you are, then you know that race is always a factor in how life determines one’s chances. Why bring race into this? It’s because race is always at the forefront of the ultimate decisions that will be made by the majority. To not acknowledge that most of the laws are passed by the majority (White males) is to look and ignore the problems that are going on in the world. I do agree that people should be able to make decisions based on their preferences BUT if it causes insult, injury, and offense to other cultures or races then it should not be allowed. Who is to say that by allowing LGBT to not shop in their stores it does not cause harm? There is more harm than just physical that can cause Trauma my friend. As a society it is only right that we move forward as a whole so sometimes the laws that do not benefit the few, will benefit the majority. Showing that we are human and capable of acceptance on all forms is part of society moving forward. To show one “inkling” of discriminatory practices can open the flood gates for other forms of hate and bigotry that people will use to justify their actions of why people cannot be served. It was not long ago that segregation was used as a means to unjustly discriminate and as a result our society still bears the scars of those actions. In order to move forward as a society sometimes the Government does have to move in the best interest of the majority of the people. Do they get it right every time? Hell No, but in this case HELL YES!

Luke T. said...

All I know Andre is that the "emotional harm" of not receiving service from a bigot is far less than the physical harm of throwing someone in a cage for holding views you find disgusting.
Anti-discrimination laws are just as abhorrent as ant-sodomy laws. Both take away one's right to behave as one sees fit. I am not interested in ignoring race and its history in America.
Gov't is the single worst agent of change a society has. It is the sledgehammer of change. Would you lock your child in their room for disagreeing with you? Would you beat or kill them? That is how you would have us, as a society, achieve change. One of my internet friends has a set of rules. One which is relevant to this discussion is this: "Me today, you tomorrow."
The laws you favor today, the power you wish to grant the gov't is what brings about the Hitlers and Stalins of the world. Allowing people to be bigots while publicly shaming them and denying them your custom is a much better tool than gov't.

Andre Joachim said...

I for one resonated with something you said my friend. Would parents beat or harm their child for disagreeing with them. The answer is YES. I for one know of this type of treatment. When laws came out by the same government that are at times overbearing to protect the well being of the child, I was relieved. I was relieved because even though I did endure this; I was more relieved no other child would have to. The laws on child abuse was to benefit the whole of society. While some people it is their right to discipline their own children the way they want without someone intervening, the government said HELL NO! I cannot measure no ones pain or no ones hurt Luke. No one can. Just because words or discrimination does not hurt you or me, it can do a significant amount of harm to the next person. My son who is bi-racial called me up crying and bawling. He told me that at school someone told him that he didn't want to be his friend because he was a nigger. Did that hurt me that it hurt my son to be called such a thing? To my heart but it was only because he was hurt so much. All I am saying is where does it stop? We deny service? We start calling names? Or do we make up laws like stand your ground law (Trayvon Martin)to justify reasons to kill them? Sure we can say it is a petty law and the government is meddling. But to me if the government does not get involved in issues like these there are extremist and people who are willing to take laws, rules, and regulations to another level.