I once wrote a response to an idiotic post I saw on a public Facebook group. The post, or perhaps it was a response to a post, insisted that homosexuality is a “choice.” My response said something to the effect that “a person no more chooses to be homosexual than you choose to be stupid.” After I wrote that reply, I added a follow-up: “Wait. Obviously, you choose to be stupid, so the comparison does not hold. I’ll rephrase that as “a person no more chooses to be homosexual than you choose your eye color.” My replies generated quite a few replies, mostly supporting the idiocy to which I had originally replied. I should have learned the lesson: you really can’t fix stupid. But I still occasionally stick my foot in it when I come across something that really annoys me. I allow my anger and frustration to come through in my reply. Predictably, the attacks follow in waves. The subject does not matter: politics, sexuality, health care, unemployment, poverty, etc., etc. In my case, the stupidity is not limited to the post to which I replied; it is in the very fact that I allowed myself to stupidly think my reply could have any impact whatsoever on stupid.
On reflection in calmer moments, of course, I realize that my definition of “stupid” is colored in large part by the philosophies to which I cling. And others’ definitions of “stupid” look, to them, surprisingly like me. Yet even in my efforts to be charitable…even in seeking to be less judgmental…I cannot bring myself to acknowledge the possibility that certain ideas and attitudes are anything but deeply, completely, and irrevocably stupid. Racism, sexism, and bigotry about sexual orientation are among those ideas and attitudes. I think it might behoove society to incorporate in school curricula, from an early age, teaching that depicts such attitudes as deviant, sick, morally bankrupt, and illustrative of fundamental stupidity—the sort of attitudes that warrant incarceration in institutions of which Nurse Ratched would be proud. Of course, such teaching might coincide with changes in some childrens’ attitudes about their parents—painting them as disgusting demonic creatures whose influences should be avoided at all costs. Oh, well. That would not necessarily be a bad thing. Kids could learn, from an early age, that parents who behave in such ways are mistakes of Nature.
I’m only half kidding, here. Kids are so malleable. They should be protected against being molded into bigots by people who have no business being parents. At the risk of repeating myself (for I’ve said it before), I am in favor of requiring some form of licensing before parents are allowed to take their offspring into their homes. They should be required to demonstrate a familiarity with human decency, a capacity for compassion, and other fundamental characteristics that might minimize the likelihood of doing damage to the gentle psyches of impressionable kids.
Reality, of course, argues against doing what I favor. My arguments assume life is clearly black and white, with no shades of grey to interfere with certainty. I know better. Life is primarily grey, with the rare cases of black and white so unusual as to be surprising to even the most experienced observers of human behavior. Certainty is a trap created by a different sort of bigotry. We, who are positive that we know the difference between good and bad, regularly encounter situations in which our vision is terribly blurred. We know the limitations of our perfections, yet we insist on putting those imperfect perfections on display.
Racism, sexism, and bigotry about sexual orientation are among the matters for which truths exist. But we too often assume the rectitude of our attitudes about those matters apply to matters which are not so clearly black and white. When we encounter greys, we insist they are simply light blacks or dark whites and we treat them with the same certainty as we treat absolutes. Would that we all were able and willing to stand firm on matters that warrant absolutism and willingly bend on matters that don’t. And know the difference.