28 April 2011

on opinions, and entitlement thereto

so! not only did the battalion publish my column, they published a response to it the next day!

do yourselves a favor and don't read all of the response. just watch this instead:

the only real point that he makes is "if you tolerate everything, you stand for nothing." this is a great point! but it's also totally irrelevant to everything else in the piece, which is a combination of fundamentalist outrage over the existence of queers and epic butthurt over how i define muster and how it relates to the way i see myself within the aggie community.

oh yeah, and apparently queers are reprehensible because by having sexytimes with one another we are apparently depriving people who don't exist of their...existence? i don't know, it's crazycakes.

anyway, discussion of this totally idiotic response to my (heartfelt, carefully written, extremely personal) column in the batt resulted in some honest musing on the true meaning of he's entitled to his opinion.

this is something that we tend to say when we reach logical impasses. it is, you might say, the civilized alternative to using violence to convert another good-faith actor to your own point of view. and under those circumstances, it's actually a pretty useful sort of semantic vacuum; agreeing to disagree means that neither of you loses face by giving up your position. it is a recognition that even if you don't agree with an argument, you can still respect it, because you respect the person making it.

my favorite band is cobra starship; if you think they're terrible, i may believe that you are in error, but i don't have the ability (or desire, really) to force you to change your mind. i can try to persuade you to like them by spamming you with pictures of victoria asher, but your tastes may just not be the same as mine. my enjoyment of them (as a band, and as people) isn't threatened by your lack of same. this is the way that reasonable people deal with minor disagreements about trivial things.

the problem comes when you try to extend this expression of respect to a larger realm of discussion. not only do the subjects of disagreement become less and less trivial, you also have no assurance that the other party is, in fact, a good-faith actor, and sometimes they actually offer compelling evidence that they are not. for instance: "I do not hate homosexuals; their lifestyle is offensive and against my beliefs."

(he also likens us to animals and strongly implies that we are, as a class, somehow dishonorable. winner!)

applying the "entitled to his opinion" label to this argument is fucking ludicrous. this dude does not respect me. he does not respect my right to pursue romantic and sexual relationships with consenting partners, even there is literally no possible way that my life or my lifestyle will affect him in even the slightest way. if he doesn't respect my right to live my life in the manner i choose, he doesn't respect my right to exist, and he certainly doesn't respect me. he doesn't even respect the love for the a&m family that we presumably have in common, since he seems to think that i can't possibly have opinions about muster that aren't somehow skewed by a political agenda or a pathological need for approval.

shit, dude, i don't need your approval. and i didn't need to bring muster into the discussion at all to talk about why SB 63-106 sucks, which you would probably know if you'd actually read my letter. but apparently your "i'm not a homophobe, but..." schtick has affected your reading comprehension.

that was mean. i shouldn't have said it. (but i'm not going to delete it.)

it's like math. if someone thinks that two plus two equals five, no matter how fervently they believe it, no matter how much or how often they fail to understand addition, it still isn't true. just because i can't beat the arithmetic into their heads doesn't make them any less wrong, and i am not obliged to take their obstinately ignorant, objectively wrong "opinion" seriously. moreover, there are certain circumstances where i absolutely should not waste any time pretending that i respect their right to be wrong. if i'm calculating the stress capacity for a highway overpass, for instance -- any task where getting the right answer is important, because getting it wrong will endanger others -- i would at best be wasting time and/or money and at worst be engaging in criminal negligence were i to extend any due consideration to their opinion.

not that i think killing the GLBT center would collapse highway overpasses, or anything. but how many men and women have to become the victims of discrimination and violence before people like this dude stop contesting our right to exist? how long are people are going to treat us as though maintaining that we should not be harassed and devalued and disadvantaged is asking for special treatment?

how long will it take for people to realize that the best way to reduce the necessity of places like the GLBT resource center is to stop attacking and complaining about it at every turn?

to sum up: you are entitled to the opinion that cobra starship sucks. you are not entitled to the opinion that other people's sexuality is any of your fucking business, or that you get to treat them differently because of it.

(cobras never say die, y'all)

25 April 2011

oh my

this made me cry.

also, i got an email yesterday from the battalion asking me if i would send them a picture so they could publish a version of my muster post as a guest column. i...don't have one. /o\

but: it appears that they found an equally great guest columnist. \o/

21 April 2011

got a little story for you, internet

this is a story about a very special holiday celebrated every year on san jacinto day, 21 april, the anniversary of the 1836 battle at which texas gained its independence from mexico. since 1922 it has also been a day for texas a&m aggies to gather, recall their days as students, and remember their absent comrades and friends. since world war II, we have called this day muster.

texas a&m is an interesting place. the university as it exists today is so very different from the tiny land-grant military college established by the texas legislature in 1871, but current and former students continually strive to maintain a lot of the culture established during its first few decades -- values that the first aggies, most of them poor farmers' sons, brought with them when they arrived on the campus of the agricultural and mechanical college of texas beginning in 1876. muster is, essentially, the convergence of several of these values: family, fellowship, and duty towards the fallen.

it is, to paraphrase in the extreme, a Big Fucking Deal.

i didn't attend muster until i was 19, but my first experience with aggies united to remember and support their own came several years earlier. americans and especially texans probably recall the bonfire collapse of 1999; i recall it because one of the kids who was killed was the youngest child of extremely dear friends of my family. i was a little too young to know him personally, but i have known and loved his parents since i was eleven years old. my mother was one of the people his dad called in the middle of the night on november 18th to let us know that stack had fallen.

his funeral was so crowded that hundreds of people ended up packed into the foyers and aisles at our modestly-sized church. there were speakers set up outside so that mourners seated on the lawn in folding chairs could hear the service.

a lot of those people were parishioners and friends. but a lot of them weren't.

i start to tear up just thinking about it, even now.

i bring this up not because i'm trying to establish some sort of aggie cred or whatnot; i only want to try and explains what it means when i say that as a demonstration of solidarity, support, and strength in the face of grief, muster leaves that day in the dust. and we hold muster every single year.

more than any other of the myriad traditions associated with texas a&m, i feel like muster is really when we put our money where our mouths are with regard our bluster about all belonging to the aggie family. with a lot of other institutions, claiming to be a family would be -- is, even -- empty rhetoric meant to cajole donations out of alumni. not so a&m.

once an aggie, always an aggie, we say. no "ex-students" of texas a&m; if you were among us once, we will stand with you always. even if you never attended a single day of classes -- although thankfully, this year campus muster will only count one from the class of 2014. i didn't know him. i don't even know where he's from. i will probably never know. but because i am part of the family that boy chose, because in choosing that family he chose me, i likewise choose to mourn for him and for all of the joys and sorrows he would have endured alongside me in this family, this state, this country, this planet.

muster is on a very fundamental level about how we all belong, and about how the least of us is just as worthy of remembrance as the greatest. it doesn't matter who we are. our colors and churches and classes don't matter. we are all aggies, and we honor our own.

so imagine, then, the overwhelming horror i felt when -- on this of all possible days -- i found out that the following resolution passed the texas a&m student senate at their meeting last night:
Whereas: The Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center is partially funded by student fees.

Let it be
That it is the opinion of the students of Texas A&M University that the university should provide equal funding for family and traditional values education, as well as alternative sexual education...

(full resolution available here)

now, the fact that the student senate (charitably described as "a bunch of careerist junior republicans" by my aggie best friend) produced this garbage isn't really surprising. they've been trying to find an excuse to defund the campus GLBT resource center for years, and this isn't even the first time i've written about it. i suppose it's a little surprising that they're using this separate-but-equal tactic, if only because it's so manifestly stupid, but then again, when i was a student i actually witnessed an anti-marriage equality protest wherein a dude "married" his bike. i guess they couldn't get the administration to allow them to bring a goat onto main campus for political purposes.

honestly, their argument isn't any more absurd than any of the dozens of other versions of it that queer advocacy groups get bombarded with every single day. at any other time, this would just be business as usual: see the news pop up on metafilter, roll eyes, forward to friends with a few exclamation points, and then go about the day's business.

but today is not a usual day. today is the day when aggies come together to affirm their support for one another. today is the day, more than any other, when we show that we are a family.

the student senate, in their wisdom, decided that today would be a grand day to openly attack part of that family. and worse, then they decided that it would be appropriate to sign that attack with the names of 46,000 members of that family, thousands of whom will be assembling in a few hours' time to do right by their fellow aggies at the campus muster ceremony.

and to that i say: no.

a&m student senate, you don't get to do that. you do not have the right to taint today with bigotry and hate, and the fact that you thought it not only appropriate but fair to do such a thing makes me wonder about you. something like this goes so far beyond bad bull; it undermines not only the very values that you are disingenuously claiming to stand for, but the entire spirit of both muster and of texas a&m.

when i started writing this post, i was agonizing over whether i should even go to my local muster this year. i wasn't sure how i could square the sick feeling i had in my chest over this with not just my responsibility but my desire to honor my aggie family? how many of them would approve of the sophistry which the elected representatives of current students have so proudly endorsed? can i even claim them as family at all?

i still don't know the answer to those questions, but i do know this: if you can't set aside your prejudices in order to support your fellow aggies, on this day especially, then i'm not sure you deserve to be counted among this family at all.

softly call the muster -- i'll be there.

rachel '07