Daily Archives: March 7, 2012

Speech and Kirk Cameron

Kirk Cameron, former child star and current subscriber to an apparently particularly uneducated brand of evangelical Christianity, is shocked and appalled that when he makes public statements on a nationally-televised talk show about homosexuality (and thus, the people who are homosexual) being “unnatural” and detrimental to civilization, there are a large number of people who will react to such a public statement by taking it upon themselves to mock him for it. He says:

I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years — without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach ‘tolerance’ that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I’m in the public square.

Well, Kirk Cameron, here’s the thing. You are correct when you say you should be able to express your moral views on social issues, and as a staunch defender of the First Amendment, I will defend to the death your right to say whatever ridiculous, ignorant and bigoted thing that has been fermenting in that cracked clay pot you call a brain pan. But the First Amendment also means that when you say such things, other people have the a right to mock you and the silly, stupid words that have dribbled out of your skull through that word hole above your chin. If you call someone “unnatural,” they might call you an “asshole.” That’s the deal.

To put it another way: The First Amendment guarantees a right to speech. It does not guarantee a right to respect. As I am fond of saying, if you want people to respect your ideas, get better ideas. Likewise, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence. If you’re going to parade around on television engaging in hateful bastardry, then, strangely enough, people will often call you out on it. They may also call you out on the hypocrisy of maintaining that when you say that the way someone else lives is unnatural and detrimental to civilization, you mean it with love, but when they call your words bigoted trollspeak, they’re crossing a line or engaging in slander — the legal concept of which, incidentally, you don’t appear to understand very well, nor libel, which generally speaking is probably more applicable in this case, you crazy public figure, you.

(You’re also wrong about homosexuality being unnatural — birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it! –  not to mention, of course, that the imputation that “unnatural” means “wrong” is one of those stupid things people say when they haven’t thought through the implications of the assertion. I mean, you’re aware television is “unnatural,” right? So are pants. So are eyeglasses, cell phones, indoor plumbing, the Growing Pains complete second season on DVD, and just about any weapon more complicated than a rock. The rule I would like to apply moving forward is that anyone using “unnatural” as an intrinsic reason for something being bad or wrong must commit to a life of Rousseauean simplicity in a location untrammeled by the unnatural accoutrements of human civilization. I recommend the forests of Papua New Guinea or any place in Siberia, so long as it is above the Arctic Circle.)

Kirk Cameron, I fully support your right to speak your mind about moral views. I also fully support the rights of other people to criticize you and those views, and also their right to be mean to you while doing so, and not just because, in my opinion, it’s mean and not in the least bit loving to suggest gays are detrimental and destructive, simply by existing and loving who they choose to love and refusing to accept your desire for them not to be who they are. You’re entitled to your stupid, petty, awful, hateful bigoted opinion. Everyone else is entitled to call it exactly what it is.

Lopsided Cat Would Like to Welcome You to Whatever’s 7,000th Post

“Hello, you talking monkey things. I have been informed that we have arrived at the occasion of the 7,000th entry on Whatever, and that as is custom with you incomprehensible monkey things, this occasion must be marked with some special event. So here is the special event. First, I will sleep. Then I will doze. Then I will nap. Then, I will come to your house and deliver a disemboweled but still living creature onto your doorstep. As is the custom of my people. Then I will stare at you, unsettlingly, for several minutes without blinking. This is also the way of my people.

“What is that, incomprehensible talking monkey things? You do not wish for a living but eviscerated creature to be delivered to your door? Well, fine. Refuse my gifts, then. I will speak no more to you, monkey things. You go now. I have napping to attend to. It’s serious business. Clearly you wouldn’t understand. Incomprehensible talking monkey things understand so little.”

He’s Not Winning, He’s Just Not Losing

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikinews

Super Tuesday come and gone and Romney is doing what Romney apparently does, which is gather to delegates to himself in the least impressive way possible. It takes a special presidential candidate to outspend his main rival four to one in Ohio and yet win the state with only a 1% margin — correction, it takes a special candidate to outspend his main rival who is an unmitigated public bigot in Ohio and yet win with only a 1% margin — and it appears that Romney is that candidate.

Meanwhile Santorum, the unmitigated public bigot in question, won three states and led in Ohio for a substantial portion of the evening before dropping only a single percentage point behind Romney in the final tally. That’s more than enough for him to stay in the race, particularly because the next stretch of primary states are in the South and Midwest, i.e., not Romney’s best territory in that they’re full of evangelicals and/or blue-collar folks. Looking at the primary calendar, in fact, it’s not until April 24 that Romney gets a batch of states that look generally friendly to him — that’s the day a bunch of Northeast states vote — and even then Pennsylvania’s in there to mess up his math.

My predictions in this primary season have been atrocious, so no one should actually rely on my opinion, but it looks to me like Romney, despite all his cash and the fact that Santorum is objectively terrifying to people outside the Conservabubble, might not actually wrap this up until the whole damn primary season finishes up in June. Santorum is running strong enough to pick up some of the more conservative states, and, hey, who knows, maybe Gingrich will pick up another pity primary or two down there in the South. Or maybe Romney doesn’t wrap it up at all, and we have that fabled brokered convention that makes all the politinerds squee with delight. And then what? A brokered Romney/Santorum ticket? Man, I get the twitchy giggles just thinking about that one.

(Dear GOP: A Romney/Santorum ticket would be like handing Barack Obama the largest, most delicious fruit basket ever created. Delivered by a pony. A sparkly pony. With ribbons in its mane. Named “Buttercup.” Just so you know.)

Now, those of you with a sense of memory may point out that Obama didn’t wrap up his nomination until June 2008 (and that before then, there were 20 debates between the Democratic candidates, nearly as many as the Republican candidates had this electoral season), and that the partisan rancor between the Obama and Clinton camps was pretty impressive. Didn’t stop Obama from taking the White House. This is a fair point. It’s also a fair point to note that 2008 was a year with no incumbent in the White House — and the incumbent being reasonably popular and currently benefiting from a (slowly) growing economy — for whom an extended primary season is beneficial, since it keeps his eventual opponent busy beating up and spending money on someone else. And as Santorum is to the right of Romney, it will also make it harder for him to pivot to the center later, to pick up all those independents he’ll need to actually win.

It’s also fair to note that on the GOP side in 2008, McCain locked up the GOP nomination on March 4. This year’s primary calendar wouldn’t have made locking up the nomination entirely likely, but there’s no reason that by this time someone couldn’t have been a prohibitive favorite for the nod. Romney, who was supposed to be, still isn’t.

And, I don’t know. In a way that’s heartening, I suppose. If Romney has shown us anything this year, it’s that you can have nearly all the money in the world it’s possible to have thrown into your campaign and still be fundamentally unattractive to a large number of the people you need to convince to be the GOP nominee. Money isn’t everything in this campaign, although so far it’s been just barely enough to keep Romney in the winning column. I do wonder what’s going to happen when Romney finally gets to the general election and has an opponent that he can’t outspend four or five to one, with the hope of eaking out another low-single-digit victory.

Actually, I’m lying — I don’t really wonder. I in fact have a pretty good guess what’s going to happen to him. I don’t suspect he’s going to like it.

The Big Idea: E.C. Myers

Fair Coin, the debut novel is from E.C. Myers, is about wishes, and the complications that come from getting your wishes granted. This is interestingly coincidental for me because just the other day I was talking to my daughter about “The Monkey’s Paw,” the short story in which one’s wishes are granted… badly. I was trying to explain to her that wishes have consequences. She looked at me like I was speaking Martian. Fortunately for you, E.C. Myers is somewhat better at explaining this concept.

E.C. MYERS:

“After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” – Spock, “Amok Time”

I’ve always been fascinated with stories about characters finding a magical item that grants their wishes. My favorite Disney movie is Aladdin. One of the most memorable books from my childhood is E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, in which “it” is a Psammead, a fairy who grudgingly doles out a wish a day from his sand pit. And I’m a huge fan of The Twilight Zone, which is largely populated by hapless souls who strike deals with devils/djinn/angels/shopkeepers to get what they’ve always wanted.

Wish fulfillment stories are often predicated on the idea that you can’t get something for nothing, and they often feature surprising twists, even outside the far-reaching borders of the Twilight Zone. In Nesbit’s book, wishes only last until sunset, which is fortunate because they never turn out quite the way the children expected. Edward Eager’s Half Magic is about a coin that only grants wishes halfway. In stories like W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw,” wishes come true in a dark and tragic way. If you wish you can turn invisible, as a guy did in one episode of The X-Files, you might get hit by a truck. Basically, you were probably better off before you made the wish.

These stories are cautionary tales about… What, exactly? The danger of wanting things? It’s not inherently bad to want something, but the point seems to be that everything has a price, and the going rate for wishes is pretty steep. Though most of these stories end in similar, even predictable ways, we continue to be fascinated by magic lamps, magic coins, wishing wells, shooting stars, angels, demons, wishbones, creepy wishing machines at amusement parks, and so on.

If a character is lucky enough to survive an experience with a wishing fill-in-the-blank, it’s likely because he or she realizes that lasting change only comes from within. The experience of getting what you wanted, living with it for a bit, and then losing or giving it up is better than having had the thing. You can go somewhere over the rainbow for a little while, but there’s no place like home.

In Fair Coin, the coin that Ephraim finds is just as tricky as you’d imagine. When he makes a wish and flips it, his wish comes true. If the coin lands on heads, his life becomes puppies and unicorns. But if it comes up tails, those puppies and unicorns bite. And they might have rabies.

But unlike wishes granted by the Psammead, the intended and unintended effects of Ephraim’s choices don’t go away at the end of the day. The conflict isn’t that he wishes for himself to change, but that the coin seems to be changing other people and the world around him to conform to his wishes. At first it seems harmless enough to wish that his crush likes him back, but soon Ephraim wonders: Is it wrong to alter other people’s lives this way? What kind of person does it make him? Ephraim struggles between his growing sense of responsibility and the unlimited possibilities the coin offers, as the differences mount and his problems spiral out of control.

The real danger in using an unknown object like Ephraim’s coin lies in the temptation to make just one more wish to fix everything that’s gone wrong. Magic can be a terrible addiction, right, Frodo? And of course, there’s a twist.

If I can play Rod Serling for a moment, ultimately, wishing is about hope, but hope is wasted if you don’t use it for encouragement, consolation, and motivation if your wishes don’t come true right away. (They seldom do.) We make idle wishes every day. “I wish I had a better job.” “I wish I had time to write.” “I wish I could help you.” “I wish…” Sometimes when you make a wish, you’re really making an excuse for not taking action.

We might wish for things we never expect to happen without magical or divine intervention, but that might just be taking the easy way out. There are plenty of things we have no control over in life, but we all have the power to grant some wishes for ourselves or others—no strings attached.

And what if your wishes could come true? I’m sure most people have thought about what they would ask for given the opportunity, and they’re certain they know how to game it so no there are no unwelcome tricks. You’ve probably heard the phrase “be careful what you wish for,” but is it possible to make a wish with a positive outcome? Perhaps, Disney tells us, if your wish is selfless. But even Aladdin’s last wish (spoiler!) to free Genie at the end of the movie had dire consequences: There were two dreadful direct-to-video sequels.

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Fair Coin: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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