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Aug 30 2011

Re: “Can’t Even Go to the Park”

Hi, Stacy. I heard about your encounters with gay couples in public places like parks and swimming pools, and I have to say, I find it hard to sympathize with almost any aspect of the life you’ve made for yourself.

Before I read your post, I thought that perhaps you had been witness to a public sex act or something similarly inappropriate. Instead, what you actually saw were two men rubbing elbows, and a lesbian couple taking their baby to the park. Apparently this was a good enough reason for you to stop taking your seven children outside, because they might see gay people and start asking questions. That was all it took for you to decide that you can hardly leave the house anymore for fear of people “imposing” their “immorality” on you.

You ask us, “is this freedom?” And I ask you: As opposed to what? Does your concept of freedom require that gay people must be excluded from all the places that you and your children might visit? Did you even consider for one moment what you are expecting of them? Just as you want to take your children to the park, so did that lesbian couple with their child. Yet you seem to think their family should be subject to the same exile that you’ve imposed upon your family. What is it that makes you special here? What gives you any greater claim to full participation in society than that family? Did it not occur to you that other people are just as fully human as you, and they want to be just as free to enjoy their lives? That is what freedom is, and that is what you do not understand.

Imagine individuals as a series of points spaced an equal distance from one another. Their freedoms are a circle of a certain radius that surrounds each of those points. Every circle is the same size. Now expand all of those circles simultaneously until their edges are touching, and no further. Those are the limits of our freedom, and yours. Nobody’s freedom is larger or smaller than anyone else’s. And nobody’s freedom can intrude upon the freedom of others. If it did, those circles would begin to overlap, and just as your freedom would encroach upon someone else’s, their freedom would intrude into yours as well. And if your supposed freedom extends so far as to banish people from the public sphere based only on your own personal morality, then everyone else is just as free to do that to you. You and your family would be equally subject to their whims, and that is not something you want. It is not something anyone should want.

Even you shy away from following your indignation all the way to its vile and unavoidable conclusion. But that is what you hint at when you say that you’re “supposed to be able to influence what goes on” in your community. There are many things that you can influence, but that is not among them. You live in a world where not everyone operates according to your interpretation of Catholic morality, and they are not required to. When you say that you’ve been forced to “tolerate immorality”, that is exactly right. It is a fact that you are always going to encounter people whose moral outlook does not align with yours. And just as you have the freedom to follow the dictates of your conscience, so do the rest of us. Nobody was rubbing elbows with you. Nobody is in a lesbian relationship with you. And you have every right to sit there at the park and meditate on how awful it is that gay people are allowed outside. But your expectation that they shouldn’t be there because of your religious views is no more valid than someone else’s expectation that you shouldn’t leave the house without a veil. That is not freedom.

You say that you’re not ready to answer any questions your children might have, and that they wouldn’t be able to understand how a child can have two mothers. But these are not the same thing. Your own discomfort with gay people is not yet shared by your children, and they are perfectly able to grasp this if you would just explain it to them. You assume that your children would be just as disturbed by gay people as you are. The difference is that you’ve already spent years immersing yourself in a faith that teaches you to see other people as sinful, sexually perverted and inherently disordered. But they have not yet suffocated their own sense of right and wrong and replaced it with a catechism. They don’t have any notion that these families are, as you put it, “living in sodomy”. And they do not see their children as having been merely “assembled”.

Your kids can and will understand that gay people exist. There is no way around that. But how they learn this is up to you. If you find yourself unprepared to tell your innocent children that these loving families should not exist and are headed for hell, good! Hold on to that bright sliver of humanity, and think about why this is such a difficult thing to tell a child who doesn’t yet know why they should see these families as any different from yours. They haven’t been taught to see sin and immorality at every turn. There is still hope for them, and you have a choice to make. You can raise them to respect other people as normal members of society, or you can teach them to be as frightened and hateful as you are.

And should you choose to smother your children in your own virulent ignorance, I sincerely hope that they will be repeatedly exposed to everyone and everything you despise, until they see the light where you could not.

I really don’t know what particular need this religion fulfills for you, whether it’s massive institutional approval and encouragement of your own prejudice, endless cliched narratives into which you can fit any conceivable life experience and act like you’re a martyr, an appealing moral simplicity that drains all the complexity of nuance out of your life, or just something to give structure and meaning to your existence because you couldn’t figure it out on your own. But understand this: We are not willing to pay the price for your own self-righteousness. If we’re making it uncomfortable for you to share your bias, I’m glad to hear it. If we’re making it harder for you to teach the next generation to hate us, we’re going to keep doing that. And we have no obligation to conceal ourselves just for the sake of accommodating your faith-based bigotry. We’re still going to be at the park. Will you?

18 comments

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  1. 1
    Anonymous

    Hey, I love you. Sometimes you seem a little stubborn yourself on some points. But when I listen to you, I hear what you’re saying.

    If you ever have the time, message me, I’d love to talk about this topic over some webcam coffee, if you can handle my poor poor sense of human. If not discussing… I’d love to just listen all together.

    1. 1.1
      Anonymous

      Well oops. The URL was wrong.

      I’m just nervous.

  2. 2
    Steven

    I really enjoy your video’s put together very well. I always share them on My FB page and the “Boycott General Mills” page too http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-General-Mills/149233101827033?sk=wall

    I am working my way through all your video’s

  3. 3
    Meagan [MONSTER]

    The way I see it her ‘under 8 year old’ child isn’t going to understand the biological necessity of having a man and a woman copulate* to create a baby anyways. She should be teaching her kids LOVE and ACCEPTANCE not unwarranted hatred and bigotry.

    *or have their reproductive cells get together in a laboratory setting obviously but you get my point.

  4. 4
    Chairman Meow

    Just wanted to tell you, that was really well said. Thanks for putting it out there. Even if dear old Stacy doesn’t change her mind, maybe someone a little less inflexible than her will see things differently. Cheers!

  5. 5
    Mike

    Well-thought and quite lucid. This is the best reply I’ve read concerning Stacy’s post.

  6. 6
    laura

    Sweet. I especially love the last paragraph – hit many nails on the head. I foolishly tried to reason with her in her comments. We won’t convince her – her ego won’t let her think now, she has a position to uphold – but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reply. There are other people listening somewhere else. If anything, she is now more aware of her opposition.

  7. 7
    ABM

    [total drive-by via Reddit]

    There’s no arguing with people like this. She genuinely believes that Catholic dogma has some kind of value in the objective, material world. She dismisses her blog critics as being uninformed about that dogma, as if non-Catholics should care what it says and respect it.

    Just keep reminding yourself these people are fighting so very hard right now because they are losing. That gay marriage is even being fought against in America, rather than simply dismissed as fringe lunacy, means they are losing. It’s an ugly fight and an unfair one, especially to those caught in the middle who just want to live regular lives. But I think that at this point it is inevitable that, barring a Fundamentalist federal government of unprecedented ruthlessness and cruelty, gay marriage will become legal and accepted across the US in the semi-near future. Nutty McCatholic’s seven children may be some of the last bitter holdouts opposing it… or they may be some of the caring ones who turn away from hate towards understanding.

    “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers”.

  8. 8
    Anne

    I CAN’T even GO to the PARK… Other people exist, which I was not aware of! How could my God have let me down like this?!?

  9. 9
    Judith

    Brava! Note: Not all Catholics are ignorant homophobes. My mother was and remains a devout Catholic, but she still raised me to see that being gay wasn’t something evil or to be despised or avoided. She believes it’s a human variation that God chose to make for unknown reasons and a natural one. Good thing. She was proud to be at my first wedding in 2002 to the talented, amazing, and beautiful woman I chose as my spouse and lifepartner and even more proud to be at our LEGAL wedding in 2008. She would applaud your post, even as she would hope you meet other Catholics not so closed-minded as the one you wrote about.

  10. 10
    Anon

    Well said! Thank you and Zinn, you are amazing :)

  11. 11
    Personal Failure

    This is how hard it is to explain a gay couple to a child (actual conversation I had):

    Child: Why is Lindsey Lohan kissing a girl?

    Me: Because she wants to.

    Child: Why?

    Me: Some girls like to kiss boys and some girls like to kiss girls.

    Child: Oh, okay.

    That’s it. It’s not hard to explain. You can leave the house now, Stacy.

    1. 11.1
      Tomchicago01

      delightful!

  12. 12
    Frank

    I’ve read Stacy’s story at her blog. The gist of it is that she was a cock-whipped slut (exotic dancer) who chased her abusive, drug-abusing, sex-crazed man from one bar to another while carrying her new born baby. She’s on her third marriage. Now she projects her perfectly justified sexual self loathing onto gay people.

    Why is it that these born-again sluts (like James Hartline) are the worst homophobes?

    1. 12.1
      KJ

      There’s no need to counter homophobia with slut-shaming.

  13. 13
    Tualha

    For those like me who discovered this post much later, the posting ZJ is responding to still exists, it just moved:
    http://www.acceptingabundance.com/cant-even-go-to-the-park/

    Wow, what a bigot. And she can’t even see it. She’s right, gays are wrong, and her point of view should prevail, period. She’s exactly like the Taliban, except (a) she’s Christian and (b) she lives in a more or less secular society, so the law doesn’t support this particular aspect of her bigotry, and its support for other aspects is being eroded more and more every year. Pity Pakistan et al aren’t following the same course.

  14. 14
    Honest John

    “If there is no God, then everything is permitted.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky in “The Brothers Karamazov”
    How do you atheists deal with this stark statement?

  15. 15
    Emily Lauren

    So I know I’m late to this, but I just have to say I love this post. It comments in detail on a simple fact that some people simply can’t seem to understand. To put it simply, the thing about freedom is that it doesn’t only apply to you.

    Conservative Christians fail to understand that concept at an astonishingly high level. They completely fail to understand what freedom of religion entails, much less what freedom in general means. Yet they throw around the term “freedom” like they have some grasp of it that the rest of us don’t. It disturbs me deeply.

  1. 16
    Selfish relative to what? | Zinnia Jones

    [...] of these supposed “harms” seem to be of the same nature as the harm suffered by a Catholic mother who must endure the presence of gay people holding hands at a public park where her children can [...]

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