A rational argument for the irrational

I have had to make a decision recently that is not the rational choice. Since I spend a fair amount of time advocating for rationality I was startled to see myself make this choice. This isn’t something minor like eating ice cream when I shouldn’t (a choice I often make); it is a significant financial choice.  I won’t describe the choice; you can’t judge me without the details. But, I confess this choice is pure emotion. I won’t lose any money because of it, just the annoyance of having to put more effort into the situation than I would like. So, I’m wondering if my irrational choice is a rational choice to make.

Rational means: based on, or in accordance with reason or logic, so my decision – based upon emotion, will become rational if there exists a logical reason to be irrational. I am free to construct an argument that justifies the irrational as being reasonable. This is the obvious foundation of religion: virgin births and once-dead, now-living 2017 year-old deities. These fantasies have no place in the world of rationality, yet the rational argument can be made that humanity requires some degree of fantasy in order to function rationally. Humans are like steam cookers that need to whistle away excess steam to efficiently accomplish the rational job of cooking. Excess steam is both the fantasy and the irrationality that is required to cook the meal but both are explosively harmful unless expelled in a moderate and controlled fashion.

Irrationality is a tool. It is a measuring device with no standard incremental values. Each fantasy creates its own standards and units of measure. Star Trek can fly through space at warp speed. The father in a Mormon family gets his own planet when he dies, but travel between planets belonging to dead Mormons probably isn’t at warp speed, if they even bother to visit one another that is. Dionysus dies each fall and is re-born each spring; his unit of measure is seasonal, which gives it a time basis in observable reality. The Ho Ho of theology, Christianity, with its three-gods-in-one trinity has too many variants to use any particular measuring stick although sex seems to be a particular obsession.

Sex as a measuring stick brings up all sorts of imagery that befuddles the pious, but putting all  that prudishness aside and focusing on just the variety of measuring sticks used by each entity in society, it becomes clear that there is no standard common to all. Sex is the wrong tool to use to assess moral standards; there is no commonality of measurement between groups. The facade of piety is far different from the reality of behavior making most established codes invalid unto themselves much less in harmony with others.

We must now be distracted by the escaping steam of the Nashville Report, an Evangelical wet dream of sexual passions about LGBTQ folks. They don’t know us and yet they have fantasies about us and hire lawyers to make fancy legalistic rules to condemn us and that makes them happy, really happy, too happy to be rational. They get off imagining how we get off. They rebreathe the voluminous eruptions of steam escaping their noses and it’s clouding their vision. They claim themselves to be, but obviously can’t see, straight.

People who separate steam from reality are our allies.

The taste for mystery, magic, wonder and supernatural imagination is built-in to the mechanics of how our brain works. We can’t eliminate fantasy from thought, it is an integral part of creativity. Interest in the supernatural is as much a part of the human condition as is love. Belief in fantasy as truth, not metaphor, is the crux of the problem. In today’s world we’d do a paternity test to discover the parentage of Jesus, but some humans would rather enjoy, and many seem to require, the emotional zing of belief in impossibilities. When these fantasies build an infrastructure to promote, enhance and solidify their authenticity it is the beginning of a cult which morphs into a formal established religion.

A religion that lives within the realm of a reasonable society often has value and contributes to the betterment of that society. However, when they exceed the boundaries of their place in society they become dangerous. Evangelicals haven’t just crossed the line, they have launched an attack with the Nashville Report; they remove themselves from common decency. They ask to be ostracized from the civil community of humanity.

I will civilly accept your need to believe in your chosen fantasy if you civilly accept my need to love the persons I love. The Law of Reciprocity – The Golden Rule – is how we get along.

Rules of Acquisition

Stephen Fry spoke in an opinion piece for the NYT  about the importance of a monarchy and how we in the US might attempt such a thing: “But ritual and pageant, costume and custom are to public life what metaphors are to language; they bring it to life and move it from the abstract to the real.” Fry suggests we elevate someone, anyone to the position of “Uncle Sam” or “Aunt Samantha” to be the US equivalent of the King or Queen in a monarchy. He says that putting on the “show” of a monarchy will make our shared ideals real in the way a metaphor does in language. That sounds interesting although I wonder what commonality we would use to identify the essential “Sam” of our nation.

I’m veering off from what Stephen said now (he also spoke of the need for leaders to explain their actions, etc.) by asking if any common ground exists between the ideology of the Obama era and Trump’s current amorality? My first thought, as elementary as it may be, is, ‘don’t kill other people,’ part of the law of reciprocity, it’s a shared value for everyone. The second item on my list of assumed fundamentally shared values was ‘don’t steal from other people’ but after a second or two I realized Trump doesn’t actually share that particular fundamental value. He doesn’t pay workers for work done. He lies (fundamental 3) and breaks promises (4). He cheats (5) but cheating and capitalism are practically synonyms anyway. He “grabs ‘em by the pussy,” (6) another form of theft that is also: assault, humiliation, demeaning, disrespect, belittlement, male entitlement, and violation. I could go on, but I stopped even numbering because the search for unifying values begins and ends with one – don’t kill! Wait, Mitch McConnell’s health care plan will kill people. That is the end of commonality.

Ladies and Gentlemen there is no value that we hold in common. 

This was too simple, I’m not ready to give up, let’s try a more established set of rules:

The Ten Commandments (modified to be inclusive),

1 Thou shall have no other ideologies before me. Obama’s ideology is to seek the greatest good for all, and Trump’s is self interest – money, ego and golf.

2 Thou shall not make any graven images. Obama preserved vast plots of land and historical locations as national parks; Trump builds gold plated hotels with his name on them.

3 Thou shalt not use the ideology’s name in vain. Obama protects our environment for humanity’s sake and Trump destroys it for monetary gain.

4 Remember to keep the holy days a time for ritual and reflection. Both men play golf but Obama prays introspectively. Trump plays in the temples that bear his name while banning the people whose rituals and reflections he doesn’t comprehend.

5 Honor and get along with thy father and mother. Trump constantly belittled Obama’s parentage as he does the heritage of all immigrants. How does that honor his own parents?

6 Thou shalt not kill people. Trump’s major go-to guys, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are seeing to this. The ACA attempted to prevent avoidable death. “Trumpcare” doesn’t care.

7 Thou shall not commit adultery – “grab them by the pussy.”

8 Thou shall not steal. Already covered that.

9 Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Tweeting Trump’s unTruths.

10 Thou shall not covet anything. Like money, attention and hot chicks, or walking into contestants’ dressing rooms?

Well, That was an exercise in futility.

Outside of the Ferengi “Rules of Acquisition” (from TV’s Star Trek series) there is no known code or set of moral guidelines that fits Trump’s behavior. Trump plays by his own set of rules, none of which seem to fit with the ‘Golden Rule,’ the Law of Reciprocity in any way. Here’s a sampling of the Rules of Acquisition: 126 A lie isn’t a lie, it’s just the truth seen from a different point of view,  90 Mine is better than ours, and 144 There’s nothing wrong with charity … as long as it winds up in your pocket. See what I mean?

So, establishing Stephen Fry’s idea of a ‘Sam’ uncle or aunt monarchy would have been perfectly viable during Obama’s era while impossible now. The right wing back then held ‘Judeo-Christian’ values as the foundation of the country, however, now that Trump is almost a saint to the Evangelicals – Christians (in theory at least), God has been replaced with gold. The new Golden Rule is: “Screw thy neighbor and make them pay for it.” Take Mexico and the wall for example.

The right wing spent the eight years of Obama’s administration saying: ‘no’ without clarification of what they would do instead. Now that they have all three branches of government the best they can put forth is a SCI-FI TV show’s farcical metaphor of capitalism run amok? All hail the new Uncle Sam – Trump, the hairy-eared Grand Nagus of Ferenginar.

“But ritual and pageant, costume and custom are to public life what metaphors are to language; they bring it to life and move it from the abstract to the real.” If we did as Fry suggests it would give us a metaphor so ugly that it would force us see just how repulsive and distant from Judeo-Christian values we actually are. No amount of pageant, costume, custom or ritual can hide the vulgarity of the Evangelical hero, Trump. It is time to bring the metaphor to life, to make this abstract real enough for even a Christian to see.

Earning a letter in the LGBT…acronym

Between Frank Bruni’s NYT column yesterday, Two Consonants Walk Into a Bar …, link and the advance word on ABC’s mini-series, When We Rise, link the topic of acceptance is getting a good hearing.  The coming-out story of the LGBTQ movement is the story of learning what acceptance truly means. Gay folks have had to learn this lesson first, before progress could be made in the greater community. Equality cannot be fully understood until the least among us have asked for it and achieved it. The LGBTQ community has historically held the status of “least”.

There is a song that is mostly a series of questions from the musical, Side Show with book and lyrics by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger. The title is: Who Will Love Me As I Am? See, it’s a question. Some other questions from the song occur in the refrain:

Who will ever call to say I love you?

Send me flowers or a telegram?

Who could proudly stand beside me?

Who will love me as I am?

This is a catchy refrain, its message applies to anyone who needs human contact. The reason it holds value for the often despised LGBTQ folks is the overtly mean vilification coming from those pinnacles of morality: Religions. (I won’t say anything about child-rape by priests or adulterous ministers.) They cast us as the ultimate outsiders.

Like an odd exotic creature

On display inside a zoo

Hearing children asking questions

Makes me ask some questions too

Could we bend the laws of nature?

Could a lion love a lamb?

Who could see beyond this surface?

Who will love me as I am?

The history of our rights movement is the gradual self-awareness gained while we re-learned one lesson over and over again: we must treat others in the manner we are asking to be treated by others. Does that sound like The Golden Rule? You betcha. We are as guilty of the ills of society toward one another as society can be toward us.

Early gay rights groups struggled with the following issue: How can average, every-day gays ask for equality without including leather people and drag queens too. Those types don’t project the kind of PR image that Americans want to see. America won’t like us with that image, so we should hide them and shame them into invisibility.

Well, isn’t that exactly what society does to us all? Once that realization sinks in there is no real choice left. Wow, we can’t divorce ourselves from others who are in the same situation. That’s a tough realization to make. All sexual minorities shared a common plight and must join together in the fight. Every time we crossed that exact same bridge we fought amongst ourselves. Each group had to earn its consonant in the ever expanding acronym. We eventually learned how to be accepting in the way we wished to be accepted ourselves.

Once we were capable of accepting ourselves AND each other through reciprocity, we could do an effective job of demanding it from society. The way we did that was to teach society about The Golden Rule through our example. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is the way I learned it; each religion has its own variation while the non-theists and humanists say it is just plain common sense.
CHART.001The continuum of ‘acceptance’ starts with hatred on one end and tolerance in the middle; the extreme positive end is love. Acceptance is somewhere on the love side of tolerance. You see, tolerance is half way, it contains as much love as hate. It’s balanced, but a small bird landing on either side would be enough to shift the balance one way or another. Tolerance does not provide confidence. It’s hedging bets. It’s wishy-washy.

For a while we were content with half way. Tolerance was better than nothing. My doctor asked why we had to use the word marriage when I told him I was getting married to my partner of 27 years. Before I could give a response he answered his own question, “I guess anything else wouldn’t be equal, would it?” When he was sitting right there with me, and not in his church, he could make the necessary connection on his own. He just needed to be presented with the situation. Mere tolerance, for a while, provided enough “situations” to give people the chance to draw their own conclusions. The more the logic of acceptance creeped into their mindset, the more they pressed us not to settle for tolerance. That was the moment we won the battle.

Who could proudly stand beside me?

Who will love me as I am?

We all ask the same questions whether in high school popularity struggles or politics or daily social existence. First we ask who will love me as I am, then who will accept me as I am, then tolerate, then oppose, then hate. At what level do we belong? We deserve to be loved once we learn to give the things we want first, but sometimes we have to settle for tolerance before learning can happen. Then, we start building arguments for acceptance. As we do that, we discover similarities between every consonant in the LGBTQ family. We all share, in common, the same enemy; it’s those who don’t understand the Law of Reciprocity – The Golden Rule.