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Friday, December 09, 2005

Reasons to hate me

So I finished the last post, and started making my usual rounds of the various lefty blogs I enjoy (I should set up a blog scroll, but, you know what, I had a blog scroll on my very first blog, and none of those fuckers ever linked back to me, so scroom, and none of them will read this blog or comment on it either, so scroom again), and I got over to Bottle o' Blog (oh, Google the URL your damn self, I'm tired) and was reminded, once again, of the War on Christmas.

Which reminded me, once again, that I've been meaning for months or weeks, now, to do a post on All The Issues That Make My Fellow Liberals Wish I Was Dead:

1. I like Christmas. I think it's very cool. I'm not a Christian, am not even particularly religous (although I have articles of faith, at least one of which we'll get to on this list because it also pisses off my fellow liberals no end, the tiny minded little fuckers), but Christmas is what the Winter Solstice Holiday that every human culture has always celebrated was always called in my childhood, and that's the word I have the strongest, most positive associations with. So I say "Merry Christmas" on my own time, and in my house (and in SuperGirlfriend's house) our holiday celebration is, and will remain, Christmas, despite the fact that we are about as secular humanist as you can get, and we are both educated enough to know that even if Jesus ever was born, it wasn't anywhere near December 25th. We make Christmas cookies, we send Christmas cards, we put up Christmas decorations, we will goddam well have a Christmas tree.

Now, at work, on the phone with participants, I say "Happy Holidays". I do not do this to placate Bill O'Reilly, who is a colossal tool (although he probably doesn't actually have one). I do it because there are a great many jackasses in the world who damned well will take offense at me if I tell them "Merry Christmas", and while in my personal life I have only two words for those people (and those two words are not "Happy Birthday"), on the time I sell to my employer, I well endeavor not to piss off the people who supply the funds that eventually trickle down into my paycheck. (I also try to occasionally make vague, truculent, rudimentary gestures towards keeping my job, because, you know, we have this big apartment now and I have to pay the rent here.)

But on my own time, I say "Merry Christmas", and if that pisses anyone off (and I imagine it will, at some point), well, there are many people who get pissed off over how I choose to wear my hair, too. I think people who get exasperated over such things badly NEED to be exasperated, hopefully into fatal aneurysms. So I wear my hair long and I say "Merry Christmas", and that's enough about that for now.

2. I hate affirmative action. I know, I know, as a white male I have no right to say this, and it automatically makes me a racist and I should just give up the futile effort at fooling anyone and go put on a sheet with a hood. Well, fuck anyone who thinks that way, and fuck everyone who thinks that you can somehow fix racism by reversing it and then institutionalizing it. If the Federal government is going to be in the business of redressing social inequity... and I have no problem with that as a basic concept of government... then instead of creating laws that force people to take race into consideration with every personnel decision, they should be trying to create and model policies designed towards making such processes as color blind as possible.

One thing I've yearned all my life to see made illegal is the horribly medieval, utterly useless ceremony of the 'personal interview'. There is no necessary or desirable purpose to it. We now have the technology to test any candidate for any position at an impersonal distance, and anything that might suddenly crop up when this man or woman first shows up to actually do the job that actually bears on their ability to do it well would be legitimate cause to hire someone else. The personal interview doesn't give a potential employer the opportunity to evaluate a potential employee for anything that matters, what it does is, it lets your new boss sniff your crotch and test your asskissing abilities. Eliminate the 'personal interview' and you will eliminate 80% of the bias in hiring practices right there.

Let the Feds establish some kind of Fair Employment Testing standards. Some kind of standardized exam for every job that employers can use to evaluate your work skills and aptitude. Sure, they can also look at your experience and what past employers may say about you, but what they don't get to look at is your gender, your age, your race, your relative pulchitrude, how long your hair is, how stylishly you dress, or how well you cast your eyes downward and simper/chuckle at their lame ass jokes.

Let the Feds also set up means whereby interviews can be conducted entirely online. Yeah, this will place an emphasis on certain skills (like literacy, and articulation) but the personal interview simply puts the emphasis on other skills (like grooming, and groveling). I'd rather give new generations of job applicants a reason to learn how to spell, construct smooth sentences, and type quickly, than continue conducting seminars on how to provide slick, completely insincere answers while 'dressing appropriately'... which for men means professional, and for women means 'sexy but elegant'.

Bottom line: Affirmative action is racism; I dislike racism. And if Aaron Hawkins were still alive, he'd be coming for me with a table knife right now.

3. I intensely, and I mean INTENSELY, loathe abortion. I am pro choice... but only grudgingly, because I believe that, ultimately, it's not my decision to make, and individual human beings who happen to possess wombs should have the freedom to choose what transpires within their own bodies.

But, still, I hate abortion. Passionately.

4. I'm not sure about gun control. I'm still up on the rails about it. See, I hate guns, absolutely. Yet... our forefathers seemed to feel that individual ownership of weaponry was an essential component of individual liberty and social freedom... and I am not sure they are wrong.

I intensely dislike the idea of anyone anywhere being able to walk around with the power of life and death over me, or people I love. Yet, at the same time... the idea of giving all the boomsticks over to the authorities makes my hackles crawl. Would it make cops safer? Yeah, but... well, we don't draft cops in this country; they sign up for the job and last I heard, nobody advertised it as being 'safe'. I'd be happy to pay cops more and equip them better; I'm not sure I'm happy with the idea of seeing to it that they are the only people on the streets with guns.

Beyond that, it's extremely impractical. There are millions of guns in circulation. Gun control laws are not a magic genie; most of the people that society feels shouldn't carry guns are criminals already.

I've already come up with a solution for this; I wrote it up on a much older blog. I called it 'gun insurance'. Maybe I'll go back and dig it up again.

I also think our Constitution pretty unequivocally denies the power to pass any laws in regard to gun control whatsoever. I'm hardly a strict constructionist of the Constitution; in fact, I feel it's a deeply flawed document... but it is the Owner's Manual of the United States, so I do feel we should pay some attention to what it actually says.

Whatever the case, in the end and at this point, I'm just not sure about gun control.

4. I cannot support 'hate speech' and 'hate crime' legislation.

I deeply loathe many of the more extreme consequences of absolute freedom of expression. I abhor most exclusionary hate speech, and there are kinds of porn that will make even a filthy jaded old Internet pervert like me blanche... but, nonetheless, I think that the essential concept of freedom of expression requires that we tolerate ALL forms of expression. Letting any authority decide which speech is acceptable and which isn't... nuh uh, that's a bad road to start walking on. So when you start pointing out certain types of extremely distasteful speech and levying fines and even jail sentences on people simply for speaking their minds, well... I think you've left the Freedom Trail and are heading towards despotism. At a fairly decent clip.

Similarly, I feel that when you set aside a certain type of crime as a 'hate crime', what you are doing is criminalizing a person's thoughts and feelings, rather than their actions. I cannot support that. I don't mind 'criminalizing politics', whatever the hell that means. But criminalizing speech, and criminalizing thought... that troubles me deeply.

5. I believe in intelligent design. I really, honest to Whatever, do. I think the universe around us is simply too complex to have 'jest happened'. I think it's an artifact of some sort. What sort? I have no idea, any more than I have the slightest frickin' clue who or what set the whole thing in motion, or whether there is any greater purpose to existence than just existing.

I do not believe the idea of 'intelligent design' qualifies as science, but on the other hand, it mostly doesn't qualify as science because religious people think they KNOW who designed the universe, and 'scientists' feel just as certain that nobody/nothing did... so no one is trying to do any research into it. I understand my 'faith' in intelligent design is just that... but instead of having one side rather smugly say "Well, it's the absolute truth, and we know all the details because they're in our Bibles", and the other side just as contemptuously declare "No, there is no Higher Intelligence, that's all childish superstition, we KNOW the universe just 'evolved' over a course of billions of years as a progression of various random chemical interactions"... I'd like to see actually unbiased people who know something about how the world really works, really looking into it.

It's been said many times before, but I will say it again, because it's always worth repeating these essential truths: atheism is in every way as much a leap of faith, or an organized religion, as Christianity or Buddhism or anything else. Insisting that something DOESN'T exist takes as much arrogant gall as insisting that it does. No human being I am aware of understands how the universe around us works, or where it came from, or where it's going, or even, for the vast most part, where it is and what it is doing right now. We don't truly comprehend time, or space, or matter, or energy; our most brilliant researchers are waving a couple of lit matches around in an infinitely dark cavern of ignorance.

We have to keep trying to find stuff out. Embracing the ignorance and making a virtue of it, as the ultraconservative Christian right wants us to do, is absolutely deranged, but it's nearly as addle-minded to simply say "well, those guys we don't like believe in something, so we're going to laugh at it and pretend that we know it isn't true, when we actually do not know any such thing, because we haven't bothered to do any real research or experimentation on it".

I, personally, believe in Intelligent Design... in a vague sort of way. I don't insist anyone else believe in it... but I do get annoyed when all my fellow liberals insist that the entire concept that the Universe 'just goddam is', is the only acceptable thing for a truly enlightened and rational being to believe. The truth, at this point, is that no one knows for certain a single frickin' thing about the actual nature of the Universe. And if we can't agree on that and move forward with open minds, we aren't going to ever learn anything.

So, there you have it: a punch list of reasons for all true blue, red blooded liberals to hate me and want me off their bus. But, you know, I still loathe Bush and conservatives and Republicans and want us out of Iraq right goddam now, so maybe I can sit in the back, if I promise to be really, really quiet...?


At 6:06 PM , Blogger Julia said...

Interesting blog. But I think you are a bit too defensive about your views. Aren't you falling (albiet in reverse) into the "If you're not for us, you're against us" attitude of the wingnuts? Or are you railing against the liberals who fell into that trap? Let me comment on a few things.

Christmas. I used to be a "new-age-pagan" and I took offense when people would say "Merry Christmas". Now, as long as you don't spit when you talk, any well wishing is gratefully accepted. But I can understand how business people would ask their employees to say "Happy Holidays". It's business.

Eliminating the personal interview is a mistake. As a former business owner, I wanted to see these people before I made a commitment. The girl who can't remember to brush her teeth, or the guy who didn't seem to think shampoo was important were not people who I wanted to hire. As far as getting rid of them later, the hiring process is a pain in the ass.

Currently, I am an employee. I must have turned down 20 positions in the last 3 years. Why? Because during the interview, I determined that I didn't want to work for that company. I was better off where I am now. I spend more time at work than I do with my kid, so it had better be a company that I can deal with and a boss who gets that the job isn't my entire life. The interview gives me the opportunity to interview my potential employer. I NEED that interiview. Under your system, how would I know if I was getting a better job? In my life, money is not the main concern. How it will impact my family is.

Abortion? Hey, as long as you don't make abortion illegal, that's cool. I believe the woman who has an abortion she doesn't want, because she sees no other choice, is no less oppressed than the woman who is forced to carry a pregnancy to term. Pro-choice should be about more choices.

I've taken up enough space on your blog, perhaps I'll cover the other issues on my own blog.

At 7:19 PM , Blogger Highlander said...


First, don't worry about posting lengthy comments. I enjoy them.

>>But I think you are a bit too defensive about your views.

I use this blog to vent a lot. I'm probably not as careful as I should be in a social environment as to how I phrase myself and especially that oddly subjective thing known as 'tone'. On the other hand, I feel like it's my blog, and I can be as careless with that as I like... provided, of course, I'm willing to accept the consequences, which can and most likely will be people misreading me entirely.

Beyond that, a truculent tone is something that I, myself, often find to be entertaining and funny, and sometimes I'm even deliberately satirizing myself. Or at least I think I am. I suppose it's possible I am just defensive, but ::shrug:: there are worse things to be. My opinions are always controversial; I get attacked for them a lot. The appropriate response to that strikes me as defensiveness.

>>Aren't you falling (albiet in reverse) into the "If you're not for us, you're against us" attitude of the wingnuts? Or are you railing against the liberals who fell into that trap?

Um... I don't know. I'm speaking my opinions as clearly as possible. Your interpretation of subtleties like my tone is entirely subjective and I respectfully refuse to be held responsible for it.

See... and again, this will probably seem defensive... if I'm straightforward, I'll come off as brusque. If I'm conciliatory, well, I feel that I'm being manipulative and trying to handle your perceptions. Sometimes I'll do that, mostly I find it tiresome. I do realize that what I'm calling manipulative, others might regard as being considerate of a potential reader's feelings... but I don't think I say anything on this blog that should be really offensive to a reasonable, mature adult... and I'm not really interested in talking to anyone else.

However, I analyze other people's words endlessly, and I know other people will do it to me. Rather than work hard to pre-craft their judgements of me, I prefer to let them take me as they find me... since that's largely how I try to take other people.

>>Let me comment on a few things.

Any time.

>>Christmas. I used to be a "new-age-pagan" and I took offense when people would say "Merry Christmas". Now, as long as you don't spit when you talk, any well wishing is gratefully accepted. But I can understand how business people would ask their employees to say "Happy Holidays". It's business.

I don't think I said anything different than that. I say "Happy Holidays" at work because it's professional. On my personal time, I exercise a personal choice. I expect people to respect my right to do that; those who wouldn't are fools I have no time for.

>>Eliminating the personal interview is a mistake. As a former business owner, I wanted to see these people before I made a commitment. The girl who can't remember to brush her teeth, or the guy who didn't seem to think shampoo was important were not people who I wanted to hire. As far as getting rid of them later, the hiring process is a pain in the ass.

All valid points. I have never been the employer, though, and there can be no meeting of the minds between a lifelong hireling and management/ownership. The dichotomy of viewpoints, desires, needs, perceptions, and attitudes is insurmountable... and something I'm going to blog about, one day soon.

>>Currently, I am an employee. I must have turned down 20 positions in the last 3 years.

No disrespect intended in truncating your paragraph. It's all very valid. But your experience strikes me as being fairly uncommon. Certainly I've never in my life been in a position to turn down 20 jobs. I have, however, been turned down for jobs many times for things having to do with my physicality and my appearance. I suppose if an employee WANTS to interview their boss, it could be allowed... I simply don't think a potential employer should be empowered to withhold employment on specious grounds. But, again, I'm not writing my opinions from your point of view, although, clearly, you are a far more valued and in demand employee than I have ever been, and kudos to you for it.

>>Abortion? Hey, as long as you don't make abortion illegal, that's cool.

I don't believe in legislating my own preferences or tastes, especially where doing so would restrict the actions of other people. However, I certainly do believe in expressing my own preferences and tastes, especially on my blog.

>>Pro-choice should be about more choices.

Yeah. Or as someone on TV once said, I'm not in favor of abortion, I'm in favor of birth control.

I hope my tone, above, wasn't too abrupt. I enjoy your comments and wouldn't want to chase you away. But I try to communicate as directly as I can, most of the time, and, yeah, this post is all about opinions of mine that have come under considerable attack over the course of my adult life, so I suppose my tone is indeed somewhat presumptive... although I'm merely trying to be pre-emptive.

Thanks again for the comment.

At 11:48 PM , Blogger Julia said...

Those positions I spoke of weren't good positions. They were jobs that I never would have interviewed for if I knew the terms of employment.

60 hour work weeks (salaried, of course), on call in the evenings and weekends. Places to cheap to pay for the personnel they truly need. Only thing good was the money.

This is why I hate employment agencies. You tell them, specifically what you want, and they completely ignore you.

At 6:33 PM , Anonymous Nate said...

Uh, is it right that I should agree this strongly on all of your points (except maybe #1, I have too many problems with involving religion in the winter solstice festivities, I'd rather they were entirely secular)?

Well, I suppose I'm a little more emphatic on the ID thing too. So, maybe we're not THAT sympatico...

At 9:28 PM , Anonymous The always esteemed Scott said...

But on my own time, I say "Merry Christmas", and if that pisses anyone off (and I imagine it will, at some point),

Does this really happen? I mean, having someone get pissed at you for saying 'Merry Christmas' when they're not, you know, Christian? Myself, I think that the whole 'War on Christmas' thing is entirely overblown; I don't know a single person here in desperate-not-to-offend Canada who would ever consider 'Merry Christmas' to be offensive. I mean, like you, I say 'happy holidays' at work, mostly because my workplace is extremely ethnically diverse, and wishing a Hindu a Merry Christmas, while not particularly offensive, is kinda pointless.

One thing I've yearned all my life to see made illegal is the horribly medieval, utterly useless ceremony of the 'personal interview'.

See, I *love* this idea. It's why I read your blog, Highlander - you think of stuff like this that I would never in a million years consider.
Of course, it'd never work, because the concept of an interview is too firmly ingrained in work culture, but I still like the idea, Julia's quite valid arguments notwithstanding.

And you know what? I'm pretty much with you on the rest of it too. Hmm.

My word verification is'frqjy', which sounds vaguely offensive.

At 11:52 PM , Blogger Ragnell said...

Highlander -- Good for you, reject the stupid labels! It's time we all dropped the left/right division and started making opinions on a case-by-case basis. Conservative... Liberal... Both sides are equally corrupt, anyway.

scott -- It depends on their relationship with Christianity. A lot of non-Christians down here are sensitive about the pervasive influence of Christian culture (which, if you want to split hairs, is basically Pagan culture dressed up with a cross) and after a month straight of nothing but religious music on the radio (Christmas Carols!) you can develop a hair-trigger temper.

I would have probably have taken someone's head off last year for "Merry Christmas" not because of the well-wishing, but because I'd just told my mother about the Wicca thing and had a huge fight. Of course, the rest of my office was spared that because I was warring that year with Melissa. Melissa was a convert to Judiasm (with a similar problem with her Christian family) and more sensitive to Christian culture than the most brittle ex-Catholic-turned-atheist I'd ever met. We had a "tolerance war" as we both tried to display ourselves as less reactionary than the other. Ultiamtely she drew the line at the Holiday Door Decorating and insisted that the office party be a "Holiday Party", and I drew it at the Christmas music, because I couldn't stand it when I was Christian.

But, for some people it's not so much a greeting as a reminder that you just don't quite fit in with the rest of the group, y'know?

(Oh, and in case anyone cares, I've since made up with my mother and can take it as a cheery greeting again)

At 5:05 AM , Blogger Mark said...

Well said on all points. While there is always room for nitpicking and quibbling, I feel that we are on the same page regarding most of your positions.
I've always thought about covering such things over on my blog, but was always overcome with laziness before attempting it. Maybe someday.

Keep the up the articulate rants and venting!

At 8:46 AM , Blogger Highlander said...


I don't think you and I are quite in tune on abortion, either, as last I read on your blog, you still wanted to burn down abortion clinics and everyone in them. What was that phrase... 'citadels of infanticide'...?


Believe it or not, I wished someone a 'Merry Christmas' on the bus last week and got a five minute lecture on how not EVERYone in the world celebrates Christmas and my arrogance and yaddity yaddity yaddity. Fortunately, my soft skills managed to turn the lecturer around by the time her stop came up, as I calmly pointed out that my expression of holiday cheer was meant only to reflect which form of Winter Solstice ritual I myself celebrated, not to presume on anyone else's. I also made her realize that by lecturing me for intolerance, she was in effect showing some intolerance herself. We parted amicably... but... yeah... a simple "Merry Christmas" can get you some shit, down here in the South 48.


Oddly, the chick on the bus who was lecturing me so earnestly on my hateful cultural imperialism was a Wiccan. She, at least, wasn't so far gone she expected me to just intuit that and wish her a fruitful Beltane (or whatever the jebus it is Wiccans celebrate as a Winter Solstice ceremony), but her thesis was that unless you KNOW someone else shares your ceremonial bias, you should stick with a safe 'Happy Holidays'.

I think it was Clemens who once noted that an insult is like a drink... neither can effect you if you don't accept it. I don't intend my holiday greeting to be offensive; those who find offense in it are manufacturing it on their own.


Watch the hands, buddy. ;)

My word of the comment is ezbhkdj, who is, I think, one of the loonier Old Testament prophets.

At 3:44 PM , Anonymous Nate said...

Well, people change over time, and I have too. My opinion of abortion is that in most cases it is bad for society, and in all it kills a person, but that in some cases it is a sad neccessity. Of course, for me those neccessary cases are medical neccessity (where the continued pregnancy will kill the mother) and I also believe that a rape victim should have the option to abort, but should also receive free counselling before (and after).

I'm still not entirely sold on killing a defenseless and blameless child because of something a father it never met did to its mother, but I have to admit that forcing a rape victim to bear her rapist's child is a little too heartless for me.

The abortions I have a serious problem with are the ones done for the sake of mom and dad's convienence. Killing your offspring because you don't want to accept the responsibility of raising them is just plain sick.

My word is Xbshhhbr, which I believe is the name of one of the Greater Elder Squirmy Things mentioned in the Necronomicon.

At 7:14 PM , Blogger Ragnell said...

Highlander -- I'm not the least bit surprised. I've met that girl many times over (And Yule's the Wiccan holiday. Exactly like the Christian Holiday, without the virgin -- but there's still an exalted mother, a nativity, a feast, and a tree so it's all good)

nate -- I have to agree with you on the convenience thing. It's sick. And in this day and age with all of the birth control we have available to still be so irresonsible as to end up pregnant when you've made a conscious choice to have sex, but not to have children is pathetic. And to actually go through with the abortion (which can itself be fairly risky and can seriously messy) is cold-hearted.

And I think everyone who has an abortion should have free counseling afterwards. So many girls think it's just in and out, they don't realize how that sort of choice will affect their lives.


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