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Friday, April 21, 2006

They think they have a say 

Yes, you have the right to an opinion.
But you don't have a say in how I run my life.
My sister describes a phenomenon she calls "Jerry Springer Syndrome" -- when we start acting like we're a "studio audience" for other people's lives, and therefore we can pass judgment on other people's lifestyles. We act, she says, like we have a say. But we don't.
Every time she would dial past the Jerry Springer show and other shows of this ilk on TV, she would see the studio audience booing and cheering and yelling and jeering and howling at the poor smuck on stage, writhing in self-inflicted and vainglorious agony.
These shows, she says, promote the idea that everybody in the audience has a say -- the whole format of the show encourages people to think that their opinion about whatever is happening on stage must be continuously, enthusiastically and loudly expressed.
Now that we have pundits on TV all the time opining at the drop of a hat on everything political, social, moral, religious and cultural, we all seem to have adopted the attitude that everyone should be constantly judging everyone else all the time. When it comes to politicians, of course, they're asking for it. And they get it, from pundits and columnists and journalists and talk-show hosts all the time. But, too often these days, everyone else gets it too -- from Michael Shiavo to the runaway bride, from Tom Cruise to Elton John, from Michael Jackson to Queen Elizabeth -- everyone seems to think they have to have a say in how other people are living their lives.
Why not, my sister asks, just leave people alone?
You don't like what someone else is doing with their life? OK, fine -- but just shut up about it. Unless they asked for your opinion, or unless what they are doing directly affects you and yours, well, its none of your business.
Ann Landers used to tell people MYOB -- mind your own business. Maybe that's an acronym we should revive.
I thought of my sister when I read this LA Times story, about a US court ruling that yes, a school can tell a student not to wear a gay-bashing t-shirt. The right-wing student, of course, is all outraged that he cannot inflict his anti-gay opinions on all his fellow students, gay or straight. And he's using his religion as his excuse -- just because his religion supposedly condemns homosexuality, he says, this gives him the right to wear a shirt on Day of Silence which said on the front "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned'' and on the back "Homosexuality Is Shameful''.
Well, no one is saying he cannot HAVE a negative opinion about gay people. But he doesn't have shove his opinion in everyone else's face.
While the issue may seem trivial, the principle is not. The majority opinion from the court noted that students have the right to
"be secure and to be let alone...being secure involves not only the freedom from physical assaults but from psychological attacks that cause young people to question their self-worth and their rightful place in society. The 'right to be let alone' has been recognized by the Supreme Court . . . as the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men"
The dissenting judge seemed to think that the shirt was OK because people didn't come to blows:
There was no evidence that gay students were harmed by derogatory messages of the type conveyed on Harper's T-shirt, Kozinski said. Moreover, Kozinski said there was no indication that a discussion Harper had with other students about the T-shirt "turned violent or disrupted school activities." In fact, Kozinski said, "while words were exchanged, the students managed the situation well and without intervention from the school authorities. No doubt, everyone learned an important civics lesson about dealing with others who hold sharply divergent views."
Obviously, this judge has been seriously afflicted by the Jerry Springer Syndrome -- ' no fight, no foul' was his attitude, and apparently he is either blind to the larger context of gay-bashing in the US, or personally biased against gays himself. The LA Times story describes the overall picture:
Today's ruling comes amid a growing campaign across the country to compel public schools, state universities and private companies to annul policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. Plaintiffs in several lawsuits are seeking to knock out tolerance programs on the grounds that they violate religious beliefs that oppose homosexuality. Legal experts, such as UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, said the issue eventually would reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
I must say, it disgusts me that they are parading around their supposedly-Christian religiousity as a justification for their prejudice. How many gays do they think Jesus would bash?

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