I love it when media inspires me to check myself. After all, that’s what public art is all about – the sharing of ideas and thoughtforms in ways that make us question personal truths. It’s especially exciting when these self-revelations are triggered by something totally unexpected. In this case, it was the television show Shameless. (Possible spoilers to follow from Season 6, Episode 7: “Pimp’s Paradise”.)
In an episode I recently watched, Frank (the show’s central vagabond and troublemaker) has to visit the principle’s office for his grandson. The boy, Chuckie, was asked to do a book report for class and chose Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The school board wants to expel Chuckie as punishment for his offensive choice. They don’t want the other students to be poisoned by polarizing, Nazi ideals. The scene goes as follows:
[Warning: The following scene’s language may offend you.]
Schoolboard Member 1: “Hitler’s diatribe on Aryan superiority is not an appropriate theme for a sixth grade book report.”
Frank: “Did you tell the class they couldn’t write about Nazis?”
Member 1: [scoffs] “Well, usually they’re not writing from the Nazi perspective. So, no. Look, it’s okay to write about mass murderers. You just can’t side with the mass murderers.”
Frank: “Uhh… this is a direct attack on his First Amendment rights. A right, I might add, that belongs to everyone – regardless of intelligence deficiencies or possible retardation.”
Member 1: “Yes, but there are conditions to those rights. Like yelling, ‘Fire!’ in a public theater or preaching white supremacy to middle school students!”
Schoolboard Member 2: “Look, we simply can’t allow Hitler’s hate speech to alienate our diverse student body. We’ve worked very hard to create an open atmosphere for all our students.”
Frank: “Look, you can’t go teaching equality and then get your human rights panties in a bunch when it comes with a couple of wedgies. Every asshole is entitled to his beliefs! That’s the yin and the yang of democracy! It’s the same freedom that allows you to teach wearing that silly beanie — [motions to Member 1’s yarmulke] – and those Crayola-colored kids out there to go to school together. It doesn’t matter anyway! Pretty soon, there’s not gonna be any Jew, or Aryan, or Hindu, or Muslim, or Mexican, or Blacks. There’s just gonna be the rich and the fucked. And our grandson is already one of the fucked. So, at least let the boy express the degenerate ideas he can actually comprehend! And that, my multicultural friends, is liberty! And justice for all!”
[Here’s a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvnlWbLz2ZY%5D
Now, Frank might not be the gentlest soul, but he is eloquent. He also makes a very important point.
To use his words directly: every asshole is entitled to his beliefs.
There are people in this world with whom you will not agree. Hell, there’s some people out there right now that so fervently oppose your worldview, they are prepared to kill you for it. That’s just the hard truth of our beautiful, diverse human ecosystem. Not everyone agrees on everything, and I really don’t believe there will come a time when everyone will. When we strive for world peace, we aren’t striving for everyone to believe all the same things. We’re striving for everyone to tolerate one another, peacefully.
When we seek equality, we seek equality for everyone. Not just the disenfranchised. Not just the discriminated against, or the abused, or the overlooked. We must also fight for the rights of those with whom we adamantly disagree. In fact, it might be most important to fight for those people. Perhaps in doing so, we can learn how to listen to thoughts and opinions that make us cringe. That’s an important skill, because those thoughts and opinions totally exist, and you do a disservice to yourself by pretending they don’t. You do the world a disservice by saying that those cringeworthy thoughts and opinions are invalid.
I’m not saying I agree with Nazis. I don’t. I think you guys have heard me (read me?) long enough to know that I don’t tolerate discrimination, racism, bigotry, or hate. But I do tolerate—more like suffer—the people who spread those ideas. Because, at the end of the day, being a racist does not automatically make you an idiot. Being a bigot does not mean you can’t positively contribute to society. Spreading hate doesn’t necessarily make you evil or a monster, even if it’s easy to assume that it does.
When we see these people out there… the sexual predators, the racists, the ideological extremists, the xenophobes, the homophobes, the terrorists… it’s not our job to tell them they’re wrong. It’s not effective to tell hurtful people that they’re views are invalid. Because that’s wrong. All views are valid, because all views are subject to the opinion of the viewer. It’s our job to say we don’t agree, and here’s why. While outliers will always exist, humans have a great tendency to migrate their beliefs in packs. When enough people say, “I don’t agree with this view, so I don’t hold it,” – well, eventually a majority of the assholes are going to question their views.
I believe in equality. That means a devoutly Christian baker should be allowed to refuse homosexuals service – that’s their right as a business owner and an individual, and they shouldn’t be accosted for their beliefs. That means health professionals should be able to refuse medically treating Muslims and the LGBTQ. That means Westboro Baptist Church should be able to picket the funerals of dead soldiers.
I don’t believe any of those things are morally right, mind you. I believe that refusing someone service based on their beliefs, or sexual preference, or whatever is utter and complete bullshit. Just make the fucking cake. Just administer the damn IV. Just let the family grieve. But, still, those people have the right to exercise their beliefs just as much as I have the right to call them pieces of shit. As long as they aren’t deliberately hurting anyone, then they should be allowed to exercise their freedoms.
That’s why I’m against punching Nazis and throwing paint on people wearing fur.
Y’all get the point. Try to be less violent toward people with radically different beliefs. Try to understand where they’re coming from and, if you can’t accept their opinions, simply learn to let them speak and then tell them you disagree. You can leave it at that. It’s totally okay. You can still fight for your beliefs without seeking to punish the people fighting for the opposite.
In the immortal words of Eminem: “You find me offensive? I find you offensive for finding me offensive.”
I love you all, no matter your beliefs or choices. You’re all beautiful in my eyes. Even if some of you are assholes sometimes.
What are your experiences with this subject? Share your opinion! By having a conversation, we can create a more inclusive and understanding world! Just remember to keep it civil. // This blog does not tolerate hate, bigotry, or discrimination of any kind. Purposefully hurtful language is not accepted here. //
Ronin believes that all people are entitled to be themselves, because nobody can stop you and the world is dope like that. Check out his writing on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and WordPress. Subscribe to his YouTube channel for neat videos at the end of every month.
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