Forgive me, but the following post may be a bit on the rambling side as I unpack some of the cognitive perturbation that kicked off my weekend. Friday evening, just as we were closing shop, I got into a conversation with a fellow co-worker, who ended up dragging in a third-party with a penchant for the...well, let's just say obscene for now. What followed was about twenty minutes of after-hours conversation, and some of the most ignorant, depraved, and bigoted nonsense I'd ever directly heard in my life. I'm usually lucky enough to have this kind of toxic hate speech kept at arms length and encountered only by news purveyors recounting the latest indignities of Fox & Friends or Glenn Beck types. What third-party guy had to say, though, might put even those folks to shame with the kind of stuff that makes you wonder what happened to this person to make them so freaking scarred and awful. The kind of conversation that makes you glad that, at least even on your worst, most cynical day, you're still not that bad.
I cannot transcribe the full conversation, nor how we even got onto the subject, but somehow the third-party guy made it all about his slash-and-burn rhetoric against "the gays" and their "agenda." This followed on the foot heels of Thursday's news that, here in Michigan, our Republican governor signed the RFRA For Adoption bill, which allows adoptions agencies to discriminate against would-be parents on the basis of religious beliefs and to deny same-sex couples trying to adopt. To say that this third-party was in favor of this action would be putting it mildly.
He hates that gay people can parade around openly in society and that he has to watch them kiss or hold hands. He argues that gays should absolutely not be allowed to adopt, because they'll brainwash children into being gay or molest them, and that homosexuality is a choice, despite pretty much all research on genetic and epigenetic factors that influence sexuality. I made the mistake of asking him why this is different than allowing African-Americans to adopt, another segment of our society that is often marginalized and discriminated against.
More often that not, when this question is posed you get a lot of side-stepping and equivocating and protestations that "it's just not the same!" Even though it totally is the same because bigotry is bigotry, plain and simple. So, I was a bit taken aback when the third-party's hatred of blacks let spew, and how abolishing slavery was a mistake, how he wishes his ancestors had been wealthy enough to have slaves, and how "they all" are nothing but savages. Blacks and Africa led to AIDs, he said, which then led to the homosexual community deliberately poisoning the blood supplies in the US with AIDs so that straight people would get infected and, thus, forced to give a shit about this disease. His argument was not only revolting, but amazingly complex in terms of sheer lunacy and fringe conspiracy, as if there's some kind of gay Illuminati plotting a hostile world-takeover. He argued, though, that the only time he'd be compelled to give a shit about gay people is if there were a bounty on their heads so he could hunt them down.
I've been in a bit of a daze following all of this. As I said before, I've never come face to face with somebody so noxious and poisoned that they should probably have "hazardous waste" tattooed around their mouth. I knew he had some outlandish ideas and odd political stances (he's an evolution-denier and a 9/11 Truther, but thankfully neither topics come up this time around), but to inadvertently get lost in such a swamp of toxicity was overwhelming.
I needed to try and reclaim some measure of sanity, and this third-party was a solid reminder of why social justice and education is so damn important. So, I'm chipping in to Jennifer Foehner Wells (@Jenthulhu on Twitter) campaign to raise money to benefit Books For Africa. After this third-party guy ranted on and on about how atrocious the birthplace of humanity was and is, Jennifer's campaign seems like as good a way as any to mentally recover and do something good for those less fortunate than me.
If you're willing and able to join the cause, you can order your SJW Pride tee right over here. All proceeds raised are going directly to Books For Africa.
really conveys the sentiment that people who care about equal representation in fiction for all:
--human or alien--
are not villains but superheroes!
I spent hours researching charities that benefit children and emphasize books and literacy. The one I chose not only perfectly ticks off every box, but serves at the highest level. You can rest assured that Charity Navigator, the top vetting site for charities, gives this organization 5-stars on all levels, including financial transparency. 99.1% of this charity's total expenses are spent on the programs and services it delivers.
The words "social justice" are used, in some circles, rather disparagingly, particularly in terms of media that strives to be inclusive and representative of the world we live in. In fact, social justice is something that we should not only strive for, but demand. Social justice is what ended slavery, it's what gave women the right to vote and to have autonomy over their own bodies and medical decisions. As with any progressive movement, there are vocal, and oftentimes nasty, detractors. People like this third-party guy was a rude reminder of exactly why social justice is necessary, particularly in terms of combating and winning against sheer ignorance.
Here's the thing - I'm a firm believer that education is the best way to destroy ignorance. Books are key to this. Knowledge is power, not fear-mongering and blind hate, and we cannot give in to those toxic, sad, rabid members of our society who would seek to destroy and usurp progress all in the name of petty bigotry.
I try every day to be a good person, to my family, to my society, to this one-and-only world that we live in. I hope that whatever I leave behind on Earth when my days are done, that it is at least a little bit more positive than when I came into it. If I can help an animal in need, if I can help, somehow, for children in our pathetic and overly-swamped adoption agencies make their way into a loving family -- regardless of gender or orientation -- or to simply raise my soon-to-arrive child well and instill her or him with values and moral fortitude to carry on improving things, then at least I can die well.
Books are how we progress and communicate and disseminate information. It's not the only way, but it is still instrumental. This is where we record our history, and it's a part of the human legacy. They should speak about us, and the human condition -- all humans, not just a few, and not only the minorities among us, but all of us. They are vital, and they must spread. They must make their way into the hands of those less fortunate. Books are one of the first places that education begins, and educating the world -- not just America, but the entire global society -- is of supreme importance, particularly in those impoverished nations. Third-party guy may not give a shit about them, but we ignore them at our own detriment.
Remember this old aphorism: A rising tide lifts all boats.
And since I can hear some of you bemoaning about giving money to a project that supports books for Africa when we have problems here at home, problems like the RFRA acts and discrimination against LGBTQ communities at the hands of our very own government, I'll also be giving money to Freedom From Religion Foundation in an effort to help combat the incursion of religion into American politics, which I see as the epicenter to many of these problems and uphold the constitutional separation of church and state.
It should be noted, too, that American-branded, religiously-fueled hate isn't merely an issue confined to the borders of the US, but has also become a large export into Africa by figures such as Scott Lively, who helped engineer Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill, so all the more reason to send books to those desiring education and agency of their own. In light of the growing anti-gay legislation in Africa, the Ugandan Academy of Science was a part of a panel formed by the Academy of Science South Africa to study the research compiled on same-sex orientation, resulting in the release of a report on the heritable nature of sexual orientation. More on this at IFLS, and well worth the read.
Hopefully I've helped somebody today. And hopefully you can, too. Charity is good for you. But it can also be a hell of a lot better for others.