Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Day I Discovered I was a Bigot (And the Complete Reversal that Followed)

Is...Is she gone?

*Scans room* Whew, okay. While I am grateful for Ivy taking over for me while I punched my way out of a Mosasaur, she scares the poop out of me. How do you think I got in there in the first place? It wasn't actually that hard getting out though because there wasn't any skin left. The Museum people sure were angry at me.

Also, for those interested, besides being really interested in Dinosaurs, Ivy runs a cosplay blog that she's just revitalized and which you can find here

Anyways, now that I've fulfilled my continuity requirements, this Sunday was Mothers Day! How did you guys celebrate your mom? Like most people, I did it with tiny paper bunny rabbits and Chinese food.
If you have to ask why, then clearly you don't love your mother.
After that, I decided HEY! I really like making stuff, so I made something else, just for myself:

This now adorns my wall. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to make it rattle. 
And then I cleaned my whole room because HOLY SHIT WHEN DID I START BEING PRODUCTIVE?! My reputation as a career slacker is seriously on the line...I know! I know! I'll celebrate my wildly successful finals season by giving you guys a new Super Special Saturday Bonus Post! WAIT, NO! That's the opposite of slacking! NOOOOOOOOO!

Guys...I'm being an adult. Make me stop it.

Well...I guess there's no resisting it...Here's this week's topic...

The Day I Discovered I was a Bigot
(And the Complete Reversal That Followed)

Internet; I have a confession. In my younger years, I was kind of a huge asshole. While close friends and former co-workers might disagree with my use of past-tense, it is true, and I have mellowed out over the years. Part of it was, as the smarter of your number might have already figured out, that I used to be a gynormous bigot. That's what we're here to talk about today; bigots, bigotry, my experiences with it, and Jesus, I really need to find a new word for that. I hate that word. Literate Pomeranian! Find me a new word for "Bigot"!

Literate Pomeranian is busy, Thomas. Come back after I'm done with the Business Section.
Like a lot of things, it started innocently enough; my parents raised me as they would have liked me to live; a Conservative Christian. Now, as a brief disclaimer, I'm not going to blame them for that, nor do I hold it against them. This isn't going to be a post about how Conservative Christians are evil, self-serving, racist, corrupted bigots. If you're looking for that, then you should probably shuffle on. Or keep reading anyways because you're flexible like that. I do not believe that my being brought up in a Conservative Christian household necessarily lead to what comes next, just like I don't necessarily think that all Conservatives and/or Christians are all of the above.

That being said...

Anyone who has been inside of that circle on the Venn Diagram of Politics knows that there's a dark underbelly there. Anyone who is of a strange religion, currently unemployed, fancies other members of their own gender, or; God forbid; has a Vagina, sees this less as a 'dark underbelly' and more as a 'Dark Face-that-is-constantly-screaming-at-me' and it's not hard to see why; America is currently enthralled with at least two great ideological battles, Gay and Women's Rights, specifically. This section is more vocal than it's been in what has to be getting on fifty years, it's known for pushing its own religious ideals on to the unwanting and then screaming about first amendment rights when its resisted and Internet, I used to be a card-carrying member.

Well, maybe not card-carrying. I'm not sure they were giving out cards to kids my age.
 Maybe some of you remember; as a kid, everything is simplified. The world isn't in so much black and white as it is simple pastels. Thing about that though is that it's really easy for someone to start shifting around colors when you're not looking. As I had said, this story starts with me being raised in a Conservative Christian Household and as I had also said, thing's were fine that way for a while. It wasn't really until I started homeschooling that things got nasty.

It wasn't even the act of homeschooling itself; honestly, I think I did better academically than I ever would have in public school at the time, but the thing about homeschooling is that your kid can get lonely. So what do you do? You find other homeschoolers. The thing about that though...Well, there's an idea that people who homeschool are all religious nutcases. I can't speak for the whole of homeschooling but that was definitely true for the small swatch I was introduced to. I don't really remember much about the people we met every week at the church; most of what I learned there was about cool stuff like Colonial Life and Geography and...Clown School...

No, I didn't stutter, that was a class I took. I was like nine.
There were a couple things that stuck out at me, even back then though. Does anyone remember Bionicle? That early-00's pseudo lego fad that had robots with fire swords and awesome shit like that? I loved the heck out of that toy line for a little while which is why it was so weird to me that some kid's mom had thrown his into the fire. Why? She felt it was possessed by the Devil. Then the story took a turn that set off even my under-developed bullshit detectors; the kid claimed that later that night, he saw a mechanical claw shadow on the wall and thanked his mom the next morning. As a mostly-functional, reasoning adult, I can conclude that either his parents were fucking with him or he was lying to us, but even back then it didn't sit right. If one of his Bionicles was created by Satan, then what did that say about the Three I had? I didn't believe the boy, but I don't remember playing with Tahu much after that either.

I was also in a choir at the time, did you know that? Hell yeah, bitches, I can sing! Still can't juggle though. It was in this choir that I met another kid about my age who introduced me to words like "Republican" and "Liberal" and "Catholics are basically pagans" and showed me what he read in Rush Limbaugh's newsletter. I liked this kid a lot and he and I got along famously. Any chance he got though, he kept reaffirming that notion; You are Christian and there are people who don't want you to be Christian because they hate you.

These were the first times I'd been exposed to the idea that there were things outside of and working directly against what I had been taught. In hindsight, maybe that's a thing my parents could have impressed on me more; that there were people out there with ideas different from ours and they're not really bad. I don't have to agree with them, but that doesn't make them the Devil, either. That may well have prevented what came next.

POLO SHIRTS! *shudder*
During my stint in the (my) big (Nice, but still pretty modest) house, the towers fell and for whatever reason, my parents decided that it was time for us to see other people (for eight hours of the day). I mention the towers for frame of reference but also because it played another small role; it reinforced in myself, as it did with many many people that A) America ruled and everyone's just jealous of how free we are and B) anyone coming from a Religion different from mine was bad and I shouldn't listen to them. I went into my new school with this attitude and that was about the absolute worst thing that could have ever happened to me. Not because brown kids beat me up every day, but because the school and nearly all of its faculty actually affirmed that idea. I won't go into too great detail because I know for a fact that at least one of you is still waiting for a full post about it, but let me just say that it was at this school I learned to hate liberals, atheists, gay people, illegal immigrants, French people, Muslims, and most Asian and South American countries.

Source: Hyperbole and a HalfYou knew this image was coming eventually.
Those first three especially gave me fits. I had been raised to understand that Religion was extremely important and now all the sudden I was being told that there were people who didn't agree with that and they were going to suffer eternally and that upset me quite a bit. Mostly because it seemed like a huge problem with a very simple solution; Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, be good, and Don't be Gay or you'll be Damned. Simple, right? Maddeningly! As a pre-teen going on teenager, it was so hard for me to reconcile the fact that these people were throwing themselves into the pit simply because they didn't want to go to church. I felt like I had to help them, so I did the only thing I thought I could; I fought with them, for them.

I argued about Evolution, I argued about atheism, I argued about liberalism and how many dicks Jon Kerry sucked to get nominated (The group consensus was at least 37), and all of this did diddly squat because I wasn't arguing as much as I was talking with my friends about these things and they were telling me how right I was while I did the same for them. Now granted, there were people who disagreed with us and once they spoke up, we had the tendency to pounce on them, sometimes teachers included. There were at least a couple instances where I could tell I was losing ground but instead of blaming the ideology I was preaching, I blamed myself for not knowing enough about it. Not that that stopped me from not knowing anything about it, I was kind of a lazy kid.

I was actually going to do a real quick MS Paint graph of what a vicious cycle this was, but I feel like my life can be better metaphorically represented as a bicycle that eats people. Somehow.
All of this went on until I hit my conservative apex in about 8th grade. I had a hardline (though not always well-defined) Republican stance on everything from Gay Marriage to Capital Punishment to that courthouse that had the ten commandments removed from its foyer. I was going to heaven and it was my job to get as many people as I could there whether they liked it or not. I was even working on converting a not-very-bright classmate of mine by poking holes in Darwinism. I had fantasies about going back in time and pleading with the founding fathers to endorse Christianity because their original idea wasn't bad but LOOK AT ALL THE ATHEISTS AND GAY PEOPLE.

And then, some things happened. Three things, really. The first thing was we studied the origins of the world in Science class. Nothing special, just forty-five minutes of hearing how evolution was made-up bunk. Normally, I was all for that, but I came to learn about how the world was made, not how silly it was that scientists reconstructed a skull from six fragments. It bothered me that my science teacher went from being objective to frothing at the turn of a single topic and even more so that she deviated from fact into near-anecdote in the effort of it. This was the thing that gave me the idea "Maybe these people aren't the best authority"

The second thing was I lost an argument. I didn't just lose, I was completely picked apart and I could see every glistening speck of where I went wrong. Remember that cool kid from earlier with the Rush Limbaugh newsletter? This was that cool kid's cool kid opposite. We were fast friends, got along famously, and were hilarious together. Natural entertainers, both of us. The specific argument was about Gay Marriage. I argued that it was against God's law (a fact that I now call into question) and he rebutted that that's great and all, but America isn't a Christian nation and that should have no bearing on the discussion. He said that the constitution made all men equal, gay, straight, or peculiarly fixated with vegetables. I had no rebuttle to this. None at all, and the only thing I could do was repeat exactly what I had said before, but with more emphasis, a thing that I now take as a sign of cracking. That was the thing that gave me the idea "Maybe these people aren't all stupid, crazy, and blind."

The last thing was the most jarring, though I didn't realize it at the time. Being a stupid kid like I was, I was watching stupid kid TV. Specifically, I was watching one of those shows where they play video clips of people hurting themselves over and over again while a narrator, who you just know has spiky hair and a soul patch, goes on about how stupid that person was. This particular segment started with a man watering his garden when WHAM baseball bat out of fucking nowhere!

Like this, but less cute.
The narrator explained in a uncharacteristically sober manner that this man who had been king of watering his lawn just moments ago was now going through the arduous process of being gay-bashed, as he was openly gay. The first thought that went through my head was "Good, maybe that'll teach him not to be gay." The second thought that went through my head was "Wait, wait, wait, hold up. Did I really just think that?" This was difficult for me to reconcile, even harder than all the people who were needlessly damning themselves. At what point did my religion of "God loves everyone" become "Take blunt implements to people we don't like"
This was the thing that gave me the idea "If I continue like I do, how long until I'm the guy with the baseball bat?"

At this point, all the right pieces were in place. My faith in the people I had considered upholders of the one true way was shaken severely, I was suddenly more open to new ideas, and I had now seen a horrifying potential outcome of the way of thinking I had ascribed to. Not five minutes after that I immediately went to the kitchen and declared "Do we have any juice boxes?"

Also known as epiphany juice in some circles.
Nothing changed. Not really. Not in the way I acted or the way I thought. Not immediately. What did change was that I was now seeing the world through slightly different eyes. Eyes that let me see the flaws in my own way of thinking. I still approached most things like I always had, but I started noticing that I was wrong a whole bunch of the time. When someone tells you as a kid that people will try to convince you of things, but don't believe them no matter what, you tend to overlook a bunch of holes in your own beliefs. I don't think I stopped identifying myself as a Republican for at least another year but sure enough, every time I sent one of my ideals, beliefs, or viewpoints into battle, it always came back slightly altered, if it came back at all.

Years later now, my views on a lot of things have completely reversed. The moral here isn't that conservatism is bad and liberalism is good or that Christianity is closed-minded and totalitarian because there are a lot of cases where that simply isn't true. I spent this article talking about the nasty side of my experiences with Conservative Christianity because that's what I know, that's my experience as a bigot and how I got to be who I am. Make no mistake though; You don't have to wear a cross on your vest to be a bigot. I've met many militant atheists, hateful liberals, and just all-around crazies. The Right has its seedy underbelly and the Left does too and I'm not out to disprove that, not for a moment. Above all, the thing I want to get across here is this; be prepared to be wrong. At some point, you will be. It might be Earth-shattering, it might just be annoying, but whatever it is, you do yourself and whoever proved you wrong a dreadful disservice by not correcting it.

Thank you, Goodnight.


  1. Very intresting...when did we meet for the first time? I wonder what you would have thought about me had we met before 2002...Well I'm glad to know you and I do not judge you at all *if you were wondering if people would judge you for this post* I myself can be a bigot on a few fronts. Or I have been in the past I should say. Its just life and people. We all have our things we struggle with. :-D

    PS. I LOVE your tiny bunny! I bet your mother loved it.

  2. Before 2002? Not much. I don't think I really started thinking about other people's beliefs until '04 or so. We met in my Sophomore year, I remember that being a time of me not really wanting to talk about politics, due to how often I got proven wrong. I do remember not liking your "Coexist" bumper sticker.

    P.S. Yes, tiny bunny was a very easy build for how adorable it is. If you've ever considered papercraft, that wouldn't be a bad place to start; no tricky folds, all one piece.