Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Discrimination Against Bigots

Ok, you knew it was coming. How could I *not* blog about our oh-so-arrogantly-ignorant Senator Stacey Campfield and the bomb of misinformation which he has released lately?

First, let's start with the fact that this woefully uneducated Senator made the statement that it was his understanding that A.I.D.S. was introduced into the human species by a single airline pilot who had sex with a monkey and then had sex with men.

Now, Senator Campfield claims that the comment was made "on the fly". In other words, he attempted to discuss a topic about which he knows nothing and grabbed the first myth that popped into his head.

He also went on to say that:
"I'm not a historian on AIDS," he said in an interview Friday. "But I've read and seen what other people have read and seen, and those facts are out there."

Ok, well, nobody said you had to be a historian on A.I.D.S. My question is, why are you working with the level of information that the average 5-year-old child might have on the subject when you are attempting to make policy on whether or not homosexual safe sex should be taught in schools?

Furthermore, notice that he claims that he has "read and seen what other people have read and seen, and those facts are out there." Ok, first of all, I've read and seen all kinds of ridiculous things that other people have read and seen, that doesn't mean that I judge whether something is valid or not based on such ridiculous criteria.

Furthermore, "those facts are out there" shows that he clearly doesn't understand the difference between "facts" and "claims". Yes, those claims are out there. They are not facts. In FACT, his information is based on material from more than 20 years ago. Surely he realizes that keeping abreast of current science research is part of his responsibility when making policy regarding such issues?

The sad thing is, even the most skimming glance at the CDC web site, which is perhaps the primary source for reliable information on H.I.V. and A.I.D.S., would have allowed him to avoid making himself look like such a buffoon.

The problem isn't necessarily just that Stacey Campfield's education-level regarding one of the most devastating viruses known to the human race in the past 100 years is stuck at about a second-grade level. The problem is that his failure to educate himself before forming an opinion has not only revealed him to be something of a monkey himself, but he is spreading the disease of ignorance via misinformation in a way that actually endangers lives.

That's where we get to the second leg of his ridiculous comments, which include the statement that it is "virtually impossible" for individuals to become infected with the H.I.V. virus via heterosexual sex.

Really? Here is a direct quote from the CDC web site:
"Heterosexual transmission accounted for the second largest route of HIV transmission in the United States in 2006."
Wow. The second LARGEST ROUTE of HIV transmission in the United States in 2006. If that's "virtually impossible", I'd hate to see what "highly likely" looks like!

But let's just say for the sake of argument that all of the bullshit spewed from the mouth of this arrogantly ignorant mis-representative of the people of Tennessee were true... does it really matter?

Whether the information he claimed was true or not (it isn't), he is attempting to exclude homosexual safe sex education from being taught along with other types of safe sex instruction because he "doesn't agree" with homosexuals.

I'm not sure what delusion one would suffer from in order to believe that not agreeing with who a person is allows one the privilege of denying them life-saving information that can a) prevent them from dying a long, slow, horrible death and b) save the taxpayers from having to foot the bill for the medical care for as many A.I.D.S. patients which most often have no choice but to make use of indigent care programs paid for by taxpayers.

In essence, the message that Senator Campfield is sending is that he thinks it's perfectly fine if homosexuals die of A.I.D.S. because they didn't receive proper education in sex-ed class, because he thinks they are sinful people who are an abomination to his invisible friend.

I "don't agree" with religious people who attempt to create a country with policies based on what people wrote thousands of years ago who didn't even know where lightning comes from. That doesn't mean that I would deny him or his kind a proper education about how to save his life.

I won't get into the realities of how there are more than 300 species of animals with homosexual populations among them, because that is obviously way over the head of anyone like Stacey Campfield and I wouldn't want his head to explode from too much science being introduced at once.

What I will say is that I am very proud of Bistro owner Martha Boggs for having the courage to stand up to such an arrogantly ignorant jackass and not just mindlessly smile and not like so many southern women have been taught to do in the presence of "authority figures".

If a man-child like Stacey Campfield had the courage to face someone like me and I had the opportunity to present counter-arguments face-to-face with him, I would most like to address his claim that Martha Boggs was "unprofessional" in her interaction with him:

Senator Campfield: What is "unprofessional" is when someone allows their religion to get in the way of adequately advocating for the rights of ALL of their constituents based solely on the fact that they believe in invisible beings whom they believe have spoken through ancient people to say that having a natural attraction to people of the same sex is morally wrong.

I am 100% certain that Senator Campfield commits quite a few sins on a daily basis.

When you allow your personal religious beliefs to prevent you from doing your job, which is to serve ALL of your constituents and not just the ones you "agree" with, ESPECIALLY when it comes to life-saving health education, you have proven yourself unworthy to serve at taxpayer expense.

If you would like to refund every homosexual person the amount of tax money they have been forced to pay toward your salary, perhaps they wouldn't mind so much that you are practicing religious-based bigotry against a large portion of Tennessee's population. Until then, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

If your beliefs put you at odds with your duties, the morally right thing to do would be to give up the one which you feel is less important. You have a right to your religious views. You do not have a right to deny life-saving education to ANYONE based on religious beliefs.

In fact, your attempt to enact laws which you have clearly acknowledged are based solely on religion would seem to be in violation of the United States Constitution, since it prefers your particular religion which happens to view homosexuality as "wrong", despite the fact that there are other religions which do not view it as such.

Separation of church and state. That includes those who attempt to legislate based on personal religious beliefs alone.

Tennessee is not your church, and you do not have the right to subject us to the views of your church to the detriment of an entire segment of our population.

Either give up your attempts to make the state of Tennessee into your own personal Sunday school class, or go monkey around somewhere else.


Friday, January 20, 2012


The new year is well underway, and most of the decorations one sees while driving around during the winter holiday season are gone. However, there are a surprising number of people who, like myself, enjoy the soft glow of lights on the trees we put up inside our homes so much that we are not so anxious to see them gone (especially the fire-safe, artificial variety).

I often remind people who celebrate Christmas yet are in a huge rush to dismantle all of their decorations before New Year's Eve that Christmas BEGINS on December 25th, but doesn't officially end until January 6th. That's because January 6th is the 12th day of Christmas, which is Epiphany. It is on that day that, according to legend, the three kings arrived to visit the baby Jesus.

I often hear my Christian friends reminding one another that "Jesus is the reason for the season", and yet, it seems that once the presents are unwrapped and the stockings emptied, there's as big a rush to dismantle all visual signs of the Christian holiday as there was to get the "black Friday" deals at the stores.

You'd think this wouldn't bother an atheist like me, but it does. Perhaps the biggest problem I have with it is that it seems that once the visual reminders of the holiday celebrations are gone, many people (not just Christians) develop amnesia when it comes to remembering to practice compassion and kindness.

I also happen to enjoy holiday music, especially the secular tunes. I'm so disappointed when, after playing the holiday music on the local radio stations for weeks, it comes to a screeching halt after midnight on December 26th each year.

Really? You started playing it shortly after Halloween, but you can't manage to tolerate it until January 6th? How about we wait until after Thanksgiving to START playing it, then surely we can manage to continue playing it until after the cultural holiday traditions are commpleted and the holidays have officially ended?

Most of the holidays we celebrate which are hailed as "religious" holidays are actually more secular and cultural in origin, with religions adopting and adapting them after the fact, and it is the cultural value that I appreciate most in these celebrations, since understanding what is behind them teaches us so much about our ancestors and our biological history.

Back to the diminishing compassion and kindness: I've heard people who claim to be "good Christians" judging people who leave their decorations up after New Year's as being "tacky" or "trashy". How ironic that the people who are being called tacky are the ones who are observing the full length of the holiday rather than the commercial version, which ends just as soon as the gifts are all opened.

How ironic that the theme of the holiday is kindness and compassion toward others, yet those who dismantle every possible sign of the holiday in such a rush are judging other people for such trivial things, labeling them as undesirables for attempting to keep the tenderness and beauty of the season alive as long as possible.

I've seen other signs of lacking compassion and kindness in the new year... People who are frightened by inclement weather they aren't accustomed to are ridiculed because they "don't know how to drive in the snow", with nary a thought given to the fact that they just might be motivated by a deep love for their children in the back seat to go a little more slowly than their impatient counterparts find desirable, because they just really want to make sure they (and others) get home safely.

Does anyone remember when they were first learning to drive in the snow? Have we forgotten that there are many young drivers on the road today? Call me an old sap, but when I see people slowing down far more than they probably need to as snow is falling, I find myself wishing they'd be this cautious when approaching traffic lights and stop signs even on a clear, sunny day.

Annoyance is something we all feel, and I think it can be healthy to express it, but sometimes I think we focus a bit much on the fact that we are annoyed and forget what annoyance really is: ego. Annoyance is something the ego feels when it doesn't like the fact that the world isn't catering to our wishes. It says "My desire to get where I'm going more quickly is more important than anyone else's fear or safety. My wishes are more important than anything else that could cause things to not go my way."

It seems that we are able to put our egos aside for a short while during December (at least once we've braved the stores for the gifts we hope will put a smile on our loved ones faces). However, it is a very short-lived sentiment that I would like to see year 'round, and I have noticed that those of us who can't bear to put our lighted trees away tend to have this desire for lasting compassion and kindness in common.

I'm known for being somewhat of a non-conformist, and I knew there were others like me. However, I recently happened upon a post by a dear friend of mine from grade school who was "confessing" that she still had her tree up and how she enjoyed the beauty of the soft glowing lights. I planned to comment, but first I read the other comments (as I often do). I was filled with joy when I saw post after post of others happily proclaiming their love for their tree lights still up and proudly burning, and the accompanying warmth and joy they feel as they associate those lights with time spent in the company of loved ones.

If there is anything we can and should carry into this new year, it is the knowledge that no matter how strange we think we are, no matter how others ridicule us because we don't blindly follow the masses, there are far more people just like us than we realize.

Go forward in this new year with confidence that you are not only perfectly acceptable just as you are, but that you are also in far more good company than you may ever know!