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Sixth and Ninth
2006.07.11 (Tue) 21:22
Some years back, Two Percenter Jeff had a date. He picked a good bar in Manhattan, and told his date to meet him at Sixth and Ninth. After a shower and a shave, Jeff hopped on the PATH train from Hoboken, got off at the Ninth Street station, ran up the stairs, got to the corner...and found no beautiful girl waiting for him.
He waited for a half hour. He called her apartment — no answer. She didn't have a cell phone. Finally, Jeff's cell rang; his date was calling from a payphone at the corner of Ninth Avenue and Fourteenth Street, where she had discovered to her dismay that Ninth Avenue went no further south.
Jeff patiently explained that he had told her to meet at Sixth and Ninth. His date reiterated that Ninth didn't go below Fourteenth, so how could it cross Sixth? Spelling it out, Jeff said: "No, Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street. I said Sixth and Ninth!"
Jeff grew up just outside of Manhattan, and had lived in the area all his life. To him, it was natural to give a Manhattan intersection as avenue first, street last — as far as he knew, that's just how it was done. His date was from the Midwest, and didn't see it that way. (For you romantics out there, don't worry — it all got straightened out in the end.) But the problem here was one of simple miscommunication, because Jeff and his date weren't starting from the same basic ground rules.
There is a point to this story.
Ed Brayton has a quick post up regarding the religious take on gay marriage. One particular passage caught our attention, and got us to thinking:
There is authentic value and beauty in the committment of two people who love each other and share all of the burdens and responsibilities that come with that commitment, but that is ignored completely by those who fight against gay marriage.
The Pope has branded gay unions an expression of "anarchic freedom" but said he wanted to focus on the positives, not negatives.
"The family is itself based primarily on a deep interpersonal relationship between husband and wife, sustained by affection and mutual understanding," the 79-year-old said, before hundreds of fireworks burst into the sky.
But this completely ignores the reality that there are millions of families around the world that are based in an identical fashion on a deep interpersonal relationship between husband and husband, or wife and wife, sustained by affection and mutual understanding. Does the Pope really believe that only heterosexuals are capable of such relationships, or of sustaining affection and mutual understanding? Apparently so.
Of course, we agree with Ed completely on this issue. However, looking at this from the other side, we also think we understand the point behind the apparent vitriol spewed by the anti-gay crowd, even though we don't agree with that point at all. The point has to do with what we'll call "ground-floor perceptions" — the a priori assumptions that humans make, upon which they base all of their subsequent analysis and conclusions. In simplistic terms, we're talking about whether you automatically assume the avenue is first and the street is last...or the other way around.
You see, the problem as we see it is: those who oppose gay marriage on religious principles don't see "gay" as an adjective, like "black" or "Jewish" or "fat" or "brunette." If they did — if "gay" was just another contextual adjective to them — then sure, the honest and fair-minded ones would see the utter absurdity in saying something like "gays don't deserve the privilege of marriage." Because, quite simply, it would be exactly equivalent to saying "blacks/Jews/fat people/brunettes don't deserve the privilege of marriage." And even the devoutly religious folks can recognize that inconsequential characteristics (some of which, until recently, weren't considered inconsequential) have nothing to do with a person's ability to bear the rights and responsibilities of a committed monogamous relationship. So if "gay" is just another label like "black," "Jewish," "fat" or "brunette," there really isn't much to argue about.
But therein lies the problem: that's not the starting point for those who oppose gay marriage. The point, to many of them, is that "gay" is a conscious decision, a deviation, even a sin or a crime. It is an action, not an adjective. In other words, their ground-floor perception is that "being gay" is like "drowning kindergarteners" or "eating babies" or "raping grandmothers." And in that case, saying "someone who is gay doesn't deserve the privilege of marriage" is equivalent to saying "someone who drowns kindergarteners/eats babies/rapes grandmothers doesn't deserve the privilege of marriage." And when you think about it that way, even people who advocate gay marriage might actually agree with such a statement. Yes, people who do the things described above deserve the right to marry, but most people seem to agree that they all exhibit abhorrent behavior, and that society would be better off without them. As such, they tend to attract a kind of "fuck 'em" attitude from many people. And that's the same way that the religiosos view "being gay."
It's a basic problem of ground-floor perception. We gay marriage advocates are simply looking at the obvious facts, using logic and reason to analyze them, applying compassion and a sense of mutual beneficence, and coming to an obvious conclusion; that conclusion being that there's no more reason to restrict a gay person's civil liberties than there is to restrict a black person's, a Jew's, a fat person's, or a brunette's. But the religiosos don't see the same "obvious" facts in the first place, which is why they can't help but come to an entirely different conclusion.
We're thinking that what we really need to concentrate on is getting those basic facts recognized. Both sides of this argument need to start from the same "square one." Without that initial common ground, we'll always just be talking past one another, like Jeff and his date, neither of whom could understand why the other was unable to comprehend simple English directions.
But that leads us to the ultimate question: how do we explain, patiently and kindly, how their perceptions are just completely incorrect from the get-go? How do you alter someone's ground-floor perceptions when everything you offer them is filtered through those very same perceptions? Metaphorically, how do you get them to Sixth and Ninth, when they can't understand that avenues come first and streets come second? It's a tough question, and it's made tougher by the fact that the assumptions of most of the anti-gay crowd are rooted in that most secure and socially unimpeachable of cultural institutions: religion. Frankly, we aren't sure of the answer. We just hope that, despite our suspicions, the answer isn't "you can't."
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[ Filed under: % Greatest Hits % Religion % Two Percent Toons ]
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Brian, 2006.07.11 (Tue) 22:24 [Link] »
Glintir, 2006.07.12 (Wed) 18:44 [Link] »
Pool Guy, 2006.07.12 (Wed) 19:16 [Link] »
The Two Percent Company, 2006.07.12 (Wed) 22:16 [Link] »
ed, 2006.07.15 (Sat) 06:10 [Link] »
Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2006.07.15 (Sat) 12:32 [Link] »
M@, 2006.07.20 (Thu) 17:23 [Link] »
M@, 2006.07.20 (Thu) 17:29 [Link] »
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