More than just a difference of opinion
I had an eye opening and pretty distressing conversation this past Wednesday which has been bothering ever since in many ways. A direct consequence of this conversation is that it is 1:30am Monday and I am still up. This is because I just finished watching a hilarious one hour comedy routine by Alec Mapa which I downloaded from iTunes. Mapa is a cute Filipino gay comedian who had a special a few months ago on the gay cable channel Logo. Now that Logo shows are available on iTunes I can indulge these sorts of desires. The reason I am doing this before the ass crack of dawn is that I need to feel good about being queer, something that has been surprisingly challenging for me in the last few days.
If you have been reading B.S. for long or you know me well at all (and let’s be honest, how many people fall into the first category but not the second?) then you know that I have serious neck issues. Since the last ordeal of my initial shamanic cycle however, I have been being pushed pretty hard to do a number of things, including getting in better shape. Witness that today Fireheart and I traveled back to WMNF to scout out areas to take people camping (with more success than last time). As part of this process, the doctor from the pain clinic strongly encouraged me to pursue physical therapy to rebuild muscle strength in a controlled and supervised manner.
The town where I live has a physical therapy facility a short distance from my house. It looks more than a little bit sketchy from the outside; it is in a large converted house along with a Laundromat and a liquor store. I decided to go inside a few weeks ago and check it out though. Inside the facility is surprisingly nice and the primary therapist and her staff seemed competent in what they do. Also, while my overall medical situation is complex, rebuilding muscle strength isn’t exactly rocket science when it comes to physical therapy.
There was only one problem as I saw it. The therapist really digs herself some Jesus. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that she really digs herself some God, lots of literature about faith and support from God as part of wellness and “messages” from God on the wall. You’ve seen the sorts of things that I mean: “This is God; I’ll be handling your life today, so just relax and let me do the driving.” I wish I was making that up.
However, I am really not someone to criticize someone having faith as a central part of their life. As a business owner I would hope that potential clients not hold my paganism against me if the subject came up. Of course my spirituality isn’t a part of my life that is obvious to my clients, but then I can see that physical therapy is a field where whatever it takes to give folks a feeling of support is useful. I decided to give the physical therapist a shot. Plus, having to go three times a week it is nice being able to get there in less than ten minutes.
I have almost nothing to complain about (other than her not being at all comfortable with my tics) with regards to her competence or demeanor. However, Wednesday we got into a conversation, after my treatment I should note, regarding beliefs. I should note here that part of my spooky shtick as a shaman is to make people look outside of their mental box. Because of that, it is also essential that I force myself to do the same thing. However, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a mental box quite like this one.
We had a very civil conversation. We each agreed that there were areas that we could agree on (some surprising) and areas where we simply didn’t agree. The civility of it was part of the problem for me. I keep feeling like some sort of traitor, or like I am ashamed of my life (which I am not). I look back on our conversation and I keep wondering what message I sent by remaining so calm and reasonable. I know that getting angry; blowing up, or leaping across the counter and tearing out her tongue would only have weakened my position, and that of folks like me who she might encounter in the future.
There were two areas of strong disagreement between us. The first was public religious expression. She strongly believes that the Supreme Court has overstepped themselves with the separation of church and state, big shock there. She is in favor of such things as Christian prayers in public schools (officially that is, we’re talking over the intercom or at assemblies, not bible clubs) on the grounds that it is protected by freedom of speech. She doesn’t believe that non-Christians should have to participate, but they can’t tell a Christian school official or group that they can’t. This is what I was talking about in the post on September, 15th where I said that this is the sort of thing that leads to society breaking down. I had a friend in college who went to a high school in Brooklyn that had just about 10,000 students in it. How many religions and sects were represented in that school? How much of the school day would be taken up if each one got even five minutes each morning to say a prayer over the intercom?
On the other hand, she sees nothing wrong with pagan students wearing pentacles to school. I told her about this debate around the woman trying to get a pentacle for her soldier husband’s grave and the VA fighting her. The therapist thought that that was completely unreasonable on the part of the Veterans Administration.
Predictably the other area of complete disagreement was on the matter of GLBT people (or “homosexuals” she wouldn’t call us anything else). Here is where I was completely blown away. All the hateful crazy sounding shit you hear the evangelical pundits talking about on TV (in between getting blow jobs and meth from gay hookers apparently), she fully and honestly believes. What’s more, she is of the strong opinion that her right to say so is protected by the freedom of religion and speech in any circumstances. While this is a point I agree with as a rule, she takes it to what I feel is an unreasonable extent.
For instant, she is opposed to inclusion of sexual orientation or expression in public school anti-discrimination rules. From her way of thinking, telling her children that they can’t call a gay student a “fag” or tell them any time they want that the student it “evil” or “disgusting” is a violation of her children’s freedom of religious expression.
There were many things in our conversation that made me ill. The most egregious though is this: she firmly believes that “homosexuals” only adopt or have children as a means to “perpetuate the lifestyle.” I tried to press her on the point that adoption and rearing children is an expensive and challenging process. While she agrees that that is the case, she believes that we are willing to accept that as a way to “breed” more queers. Obviously she won’t concede that gays can rear healthy children. Although she acknowledges that there is little evidence those children of GLBT people are more likely to be queer themselves, she points out that they are “more tolerant of the lifestyle.” A point I had to concede. However, the problem is that from her way of thinking this is proof that those children are damaged, which I of course do not agree to. Just conceding that children of gays tend to be more tolerant of gays (not always, my niece hates lesbians because her mom is one) made me feel sick. Not because I don’t think it is true, but because we disagree on such a fundamental point as whether that indicates irreparable mental damage.
Her argument against gay marriage is of course the “save the children” one. She feels that a child can’t grow up healthy without exposure to the opposite sex from said child’s parent(s). I guess that she believes that gays hate the opposite sex and don’t associate with them. I did manage to get her to agree that if gay adoption is banned on the grounds that a child needs both a mother and a father than adoption by single people should also be forbidden.
I could go on with this recounting, but I won’t. You don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to go over it again. Although I have to throw out there that she believes that gays have only been around since the late fifties.
What amazed me was how crappy I felt about myself afterward. I don’t agree with most of her positions, but just agreeing with the points of commonality we had made me feel dirty inside. It realize it sounds crazy, but I honestly wasn’t comfortable being around someone who had such hatred for who I am without a weapon close at hand. Not that I think for a moment that I am in physical danger from this woman, who is very sweet and caring if you are just interacting with her. But this way of thinking just seems so fucking dangerous to people like me.
In the face of such conviction, I have repeatedly found myself feeling bad about being queer. It is totally irrational and I know that. But at the same time, she is just so sure and so completely unable to change that I keep catching myself feeling guilty for something that isn’t true. It just seems so mother fucking hopeless when there can be such a complete and total failure of exchange of ideas. I know that gays don’t have a secret plan to destroy the fabric of society for the purpose of having violent sodomy with underage school boys in the rotunda of the capitol building free of consequences. At the same time, she knows that gays are a protected class of contagious mental defectives just chomping a the bit to contaminate her children with the idea that “homosexuality” is ok so her kids will turn away from Jesus and take up drugs and ass fucking.
I know what the Boss Lady says, namely that our society is cruising for some bad shit. As I think I have mentioned, most of her preparations for us are aimed at have plans for the event of “civil unrest.” I also know that I am paranoid to some extent. I was raised in a Jewish in the 1980’s and 90’s. Mine was just about the last generation who had an opportunity to interact with many WWII holocaust survivors. The most critical point drilled into my head as a young boy and then a young man was this: never ever believe that it “can’t happen here.” It always can. That point was closely followed by: Don’t wait to get out when shit starts to really go bad. Thousands of years of repeated attempts at extermination have instilled a healthy awareness among many Jews that their neighbors can turn on them in a heartbeat if they are told to by the right person in the right way. It is a lesson that both the pagan and GLBT demographics might want to take to heart.
My final point on that note, when I explained about the bastard neighbor of ours who shot up Summerwind’s little Toyota when we lived in Vermont she said “well, you have to expect things like that to happen sometimes.” Maybe that sentiment merely reflected a cynicism about the twists of fate. But from context I feel she was being pretty clear that while the response was perhaps over the top, we had to acknowledge that people weren’t always going to respond well to the presence of “people like us.” The problem from where I sit is that I feel some compulsion to agree with her.
Now the debate is whether I continue to see her for physical therapy. Thus far her personal beliefs have not intruded in my treatment. However, I feel uncomfortable knowing how she feels about me and mine, even if it is never addressed again. I am going to physical therapy today and I’ll see how I feel, but I’d love people’s input on that question.
(final note, I apologize if this post is a bit rambling, I had to take morphine tonight but I really wanted to get this post done)