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Friday, February 16, 2007

Public Displays of Hatred

I rarely get into anything controversial here. And I try to live and let live; if you want to act like a jackass, go for it. If you think I am a jackass, you are entitled to that opinion, and I'm quite sure you're not alone. Recent events in the media make it very difficult for me to bite my tongue (which is really saying something, because WTF makes it hard for me not to bite my tongue, some days).

We've seen the celebrity mugshots in recent years, where someone is arrested for drunk/drugged driving. They apologize, they go to rehab, they are forgiven, they get back to work and we give them tons more money. That's how we do it here in the U.S. of A. And I have no real problem with that. It's not good to drive while under the influence, of course, but if you do, it's a good thing that you get caught. And exposed. Apologies (giving the benefit of the doubt here, that they are sincere apologies) are good; rehab is often a good thing; I am all in favor of forgiveness. If you have a gift, some artistic or athletic talent, then it is a good thing to get yourself together and go back to sharing your gift; and if people are willing to pay you for getting back to work, that's all good. These are not the people with whom I have a problem.

Addiction is that strange animal, that disease/choice combo over which some people have very little power. Until they learn to take that power. I have compassion for these people. Sure, there are those who can afford to run in and out of rehab because their publicists tell them it will look better for them if they go in. But I'm not talking about that now; still trying to give these folks the benefit of the doubt.

No, the ones I have a problem with are the people who demonstrate their hatefulness, their complete lack of suitability for living and working in mainstream America, or more importantly to me, what I WISH were their complete lack of eligibility for continuing to collect enormous sums of money from the American public. I don't care how gifted you are. If behind the gift, you are toxic, I want you to be quiet. I don't wish you any harm, but I wish you'd go somewhere and quietly attend to your soul, for a very, very long time. And I wish people of conscience would stop paying you big bucks. I don't care how talented you are. There are people as talented as you, who put out less poison than you do. They can do your job. I don't care what TV show you're on, or what team you play(ed) for. To your mama, you are irreplaceable. To most other folks, you're not.

This is part rant/vent, but it is an equal part an attempt to understand this phenomenon, and why we, the American public, the American media, are handling these situations in the way that we are. I haven't yet been specific. I'm talking about cases like (these are the most recent examples) Isaiah Washington and Tim Hardaway, with their anti-gay venom. And I'm writing about it partly to vent, but even moreso, to get some other perspectives on it, because the events that follow such outbursts, and the way in which we respond to them, bewilder and frustrate me.

Isaiah Washington is an actor on Grey's Anatomy (which I've never seen, so I neither love nor hate his work). He referred to another actor on that show, a gay man, as a "faggot." He denied it, then apologized for it. Then he announced that he was going to rehab. I have never seen where he is addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, food . . . no addictions that I've heard about, and I did search a bit. I'm a therapist. I'm not certified in addictions, so I don't deal with them except peripherally. So I don't know a LOT about rehab. Question: "To what kind of rehab do you admit yourself, to get treatment for being a hateful person?" I've never heard of such a program. Not that it would be a bad idea. Just never heard of it. I think it was Jay Leno who joked that at such a rehab they make Washington watch Rosie O'Donnell and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Maybe so. You might say that it's not so much a rehab as it is a psychiatric hospital. OK. Since when is being an ass a psychiatric diagnosis? Or could it be that "he has checked himself into a rehab" is the contemporary euphemism for "He knows he screwed up, but he has grown accustomed to being really rich, so he's going away for a while with the expectation that he'll come back and all will be well and he can stay really rich."

Hate (and the lack of self-regulation that causes some people to share it so freely) is not a medical disease, like a chemical addiction is. It's not. What comes out of your mouth is purely a matter of choice. A willful decision that you make.

Then this week we have former NBA player Tim Hardaway. He was commenting on a book that was just released by another former NBA player, John Amaechi, who is gay. Well, he probably wasn't commenting on the book, because I'm quite sure he hasn't read any the book; he was commenting on gay players in the NBA. And he had a lot to say. Not just about gay players in the NBA, but gay human beings in the world:
..."Well, you know, I hate gay people. I let it be known I don't like gay people. I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. It shouldn't be in the world, in the United States, I don't like it."
And after he got off the radio, where he was sharing this wisdom, he was informed that he would be banned from an upcoming All-Star game, as a consequence of his sharing.

So what did he do? He issued an apology. I didn't see or hear it. I'm not even attempting to be objective here. I heard his initial harangue. There is no version of "I'm sorry" that is going to have any meaning, within days or hours of saying the things that he said. Here's my question (one of them, about these things): Do we want someone who feels this way to be honest about it, or do we want them to hide it? I'm not sure we're clear on this. If such a public person is honest about their feelings, then the ball is in our court, so to speak, on how we handle it. Do we still pay them? Will we still watch the TV shows that they're on? Still buy tickets to the games in which they play? It seems to me that we will. But some of us must feel at least a little uncomfortable with that; so that may mean that we want a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on hatefulness. So we are not required to wrestle with the morality of our response.

Please note, I'm not talking about people having an opinion, expressing an opinion, religious, philosophical or otherwise, on homosexuality, or any other topic. I have no problem with respectful disagreement about any issue. I'm talking about people promoting hatred.

I know some would argue that such people are "just" actors, athletes, whatever they are, and we should accept their "work" and disregard their personal actions. But I think, rightly or wrongly, they're more than "just" the practitioners of their vocations. They have a louder voice than others do. What they put out adds to the collective voice of our society. I want them to be quiet. We, as consumers of their products, could quiet them. So far, we don't. We haven't.

26 heads are better than one . . .

Blogger Squirl said...

Wow, good rant/vent. I've heard others put down celebrities for voicing their political opinions. Now, I have no trouble with that.

But they're spewing hate. Obviously, they're entitled to their opinions. However, especially with sports stars, young, impressionable kids will hear this. Do they really need to be tainted with this hate from a celebrity they look up to?

Maybe if parents were listening with their children there could be a great learning experience. But if that kind of venom is dropped, unobstructed, into little minds, who knows what it will do.

Celebrities are allowed opinions. Just, please, don't spew your venom to drop where it will.

Blogger Karen said...

Before reading your post I was checking out a daily quotes page and saw this:

"The power of hiding ourselves from one another is mercifully given, for men are wild beasts, and would devour one another but for this protection." ~ Henry Ward Beecher

It occurred to me at the time that it could be about keeping certain opinions hidden. Your post makes me think that that's exactly what it means.

Blogger Susie said...

squirl, I agree, but I think very few parents take time to discuss such things with their children. And like you, I have no problem with people expressing their opinions or even promoting their agendas, in a way that doesn't include hatred or language intended to injure. We can do better than that; and we can require better than that of public figures, if they want to remain public figures.

karen, I don't know if you and I are talking about the same thing, but your quote, and your take on it, is, to me, at the heart of this issue. And it's something I ask myself, and don't have a clear answer. That is, do I want to know what's inside someone that I endorse, support, whose check I sign by my patronage? Or do I want to enjoy their product and just not know much about what goes on at its source? Because once I do know, for ME, at least, I have a decision to make.
True story: I used to think Sean Connery was tremendously appealing, for many reasons. The last film I saw him in was The Untouchables, in 1987. That same year, he said in an interview that it is OK for a man to slap a woman, his woman, occasionally, if she gets out of line. I heard him say it in an interview. I have since heard someone ask him to clarify, and he repeated his point of view, as originally stated. That was the end of Sean and me. He would be just a little bit wealthier than he is if he got my 50 cents or whatever it is he gets, when people pay to see or rent his films. He doesn't know it. But I do. And that's important to me. I don't want to make or keep people famous who promote such things. But people didn't stay away from him in droves. And it was very widely reported, and still widely available that he feels this way. Very curious to me.

Blogger WILLIAM said...

"I want them to be quiet. We, as consumers of their products, could quiet them. So far, we don't. We haven't."

I may stop back and leave another comment but for now I want to address your last line.

We consume the news. The news gives us stories of hatred, violence and bad things. They also give us and the people who say these or do these horrible things extra voice. We need to stop consuming the news, press, tabloids and other crap. Until we stop giving the news our money unless they change it will always be the extra voice, the megaphone if you will of these hating people.

I will have to come back after I digest this for a while.

Blogger mrtl said...

Now I'm angry. It's been so long I forgot my password and then my long-winded comment disappeared.

Snippets of my eloquence:
- Nice way of saying, "Shut your pie hole!"
- Opinions good. Nastiness bad.
- Pedestals as soapboxes not always good.
- Yeah, what you said.

Blogger lawyerchik said...

I have to admit: I felt the same way about Natalie Mains and the Dixie Chicks' comments about President Bush and the war in Iraq, but in that case, the public let those girls know what it thought about their opinions, which was good to see.

It bugs the snot out of me when it seems that those opinions that get blasted are those expressed against "hot-button" issues/groups, when there are others who get treated just as badly (or worse) with the endorsement of the public.

For example, I am getting tired of seeing episodes of TV drama in which the villian is "overly" religious. Does it matter? Is there any real way of making those people who espouse such hatred for Christians that they feel compelled to villify them like that? I don't know.

The bottom line seems to be that the best way we have of teaching and promoting decency and good moral values is to take opportunities - like you have here, Susie - to talk about these things with our friends and acquaintances.

If nothing else, it gets people to think of a viewpoint other than their own. What they do with it at that point, whether we like it or not, is their problem.

Blogger Arlene said...

If it helps, and I doubt it does, it's Friday :-)

Kudos to you for not being afraid to say what ya feel!!

Anonymous Daphne said...

Susie, thanks for writing about this. I am really glad to think about this from another perspective.

I have a lot more to say. So I will return.

okay and reading your comment re Connery -- not regarding Connery but overall, I am SO with you. It's so hard to continue to admire anyone's talents or hotness or whatever after you learn they have basic disregard for humanity. Ha! I mean, duh.

Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I agree with you 100%, Susie!

Blogger Von Krankipantzen said...

I hate the hate. Whoops. Maybe I should rephrase that.

It is when people deal with their racial/gender/religious/sexual orientation related hate issues by believing that the focus of their hate does not have a place on the planet and even worse, broadcast this assertion in a very public way, I get very pissy. Arrogant assholes!

And specifically with the basketball guy. If he only knew the ramifications of his statement. If he removed every gay person from his life things would probably fall apart. Is his financial planner gay? Is his lawyer gay? Is his favourite restaurant owner gay? Is his dry cleaner gay? Is his mechanic gay? Who knows...

Anonymous Ortizzle said...

Celebrities have to pay a price for their celebrity: anything they say within earshot of another human being with potential to make it a news item is cannon fodder for the media. They should have the smarts to know that if they make a bigoted remark, it's going to turn into headlines. Evidently, those of us who watch them by seeing their movies or watching them on T.V. are feeding the media machine, and fattening their coffers for better or worse.

I totally agree with you that apologetic comments to the press and going to "rehab" for being racist, etc., is a farce. In an odd way, though, I think there is a positive side to this: if the general public sees that this sort of behavior is not condoned, even if we know it is all a little media game the T.V. moguls are playing, it at least has one positive after-effect: the average Joe Bigot (Redneck, Racist, Homophobe, etc.) realizes that maybe they need to keep their mouths shut, too, since such opinions are best kept under wraps unless they wish to face similar consequences, albeit on a smaller scale.

Unfortunately, we live in a "You-Tube" world where every jerk in the Universe thinks they have a right to spew venom to the rest of the world, and even be applauded for it. I recently saw a YouTube clip of a guy who rounded up a bunch of latinos on the pretext of offering them work, and then drove them off in a truck (laughing all the way as he hit every speed bump he could at full force) and dumped them in front of an immigration office. That disturbs me far more than a celebrity making an off-color remark. Celebrities, even if it is all a fake thing, at least have to make a pretense of being sorry. Symbolically, it counts for something: even if they are not really sorry, they are held accountable in some way.

What really scares me is all those people at the grass roots level who run around calling themselves Christian while in the same breath labeling others as faggots, whores, "un-American" etc., etc. THEY are the scary ones. THEY do not have to be accountable. And THEY have a geater influence than we would like to think.

Yes, celebrities should keep their mouths shut sometimes. For many reasons. But at least the huge amounts of money they earn force them to do this sometimes. I am more concerned with what the average Joe Blow is doing to indoctrinate future generations. These are the people who are raising future generations. And their behavior, unless it reaches unusual extremes, is going unchecked.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I did not mean to disagree with you because I don't. Just wanted to say, "Yeah, and there are a lot more sharks out there we need to fear." :-))

Blogger Lynn said...

This burned me up, too, Susie. I was glad to see this guy take so much public heat for spewing such hateful filth. Hmmm... I wonder why he seems to be AFRAID of gay people (not!)...

The timing of this news story was refreshing for me personally. I'm glad for the people who spoke up in response to this hatred. I had just sent off the story I had completed and felt this little worry that it would be rejected out of hand simply because the main characters are gay. I just want someone to read it and SEE that my characters are people before they are any categorizable 'else'. They are people. I love my characters and it bothers me to think that my story might land on the desk of a bigot.

Blogger Susie said...

william, that's true; I don't see any end to that. As a former journalist-type person, I have to ask, what is newsworthy? Is it newsworthy that a public figure is racist, homophobic, etc.? I don't know. It might be. It would be if that knowledge changed things (as in my case, I don't support people who are openly misogynistic). Lots to think about.

mrtl, I can't believe you said so much in so few words. You, of all people! ;) I whole-heartedly agree: opinions good, nastiness bad; pedestals do not make good soapboxes. Amen, Sister mrtl.

lawyerchik, very juicy comment :) I really like the Dixie Chicks' music. I really am not interested in musicians' (actors', athletes') political views UNLESS I am going to a political rally, where I know that's what I'm there for. I don't want to pay people to tell me their political views -- and that's true whether I agree with them or not. That's what family and friends are for. I had the cringing, "I wish she had kept that home (meaning in the U.S.)" reaction; like, you talk about family with family, you don't criticize family to outsiders; a lot of people felt that way, I guess. You make some good points. There are people against whom it seems OK to make nasty commentary. I don't condone any of it. We have to be bright enough, and self-disciplined enough, to express our views without trashing those who don't share them.

arlene, what, the jackasses don't talk on Fridays? ;) I really hardly ever tackle any current events here; this just bugged the hell outta me, though.

daphne, I look forward to your coming back. And yes, the Connery factor -- I have to live with myself, and I wouldn't do that as well if I suspended my basic values for the sake of pursuing entertainment that I enjoy. It's a sacrifice; a small one, to be sure, but a sacrifice just the same. And I've had plenty of ridicule and rolled eyes over the years when I've declined to go to a movie in which he appears. Oh, well. (I'm sure I unknowingly see other wife-beaters' movies, sadly; but I can't boycott what I don't know about.)

ssnick, 100%?! Wow. :)

kranki, yes! And to say, "I don't like it . . . it shouldn't be in the world..." WTF? Wish I could banish from the world all the things I don't like! The arrogance, indeed.

ortizzle, thank you. Excellent points. It's much bigger than one hateful basketball player. You are so right; it was easy for me to crystallize my fear and disgust onto the public figures. But they are symbolic of the rest of "us;" that IS the problem.
As a Christian, people who express their hatred in the name of Christianity are particularly repugnant to me. And dare I say, to Jesus, too.

lynn, I wish you every success with your story. And maybe the timing, in this case, will turn out to be an advantage to you.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sick of this kind of crap. I, too, have a rant and I've been debating what to say about it. For now all I have is WTF is wrong with these people??!!!

Blogger Nina said...

Hate given a platform . . . when my kids were young I used that . . . they are showing us how not to be. I'm so glad we are not like that.

Now, I find that still goes through my head. I'm so glad that I'm not like that. I'm so glad I'm not so unhappy in my life, that I have to knock down another.

It truly sadden me that someone has felt pain because of these ignorant comments. That the media gives so much attention to them.

We have become a nation of mediated voyeurism. From reality shows to celebrities getting married, to which one of the three men is the father of her baby?

We give them the power and they don't seem to be careful with it.

The hard part is those that agree will not think of it as spewing hate, but as the truth. There has to be enough of us who see the hate for what it is, before it will change. Until that happens they will open their mouths and spit out hate and sadly there will be those that agree with them.

Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

It was probably one of them queer bashers who messed with your graphics, Susie!

I don't mind celebrities voicing their opinions (not hate, but opinions) as long as no one goes thinking those opinions are any more important than any other citizens' opinions.

And even though I find Washington's public characterization of his co-star quite distasteful, at least he was only talking about one person. I get scared and disgusted when someone like Hardaway comes out pissing his mean-spirited, fearful ignorance on a whole group of people. Replace the word "gay" with a race or a religion and see how that goes over.

The problem is, there are too many people in this country who are only too willing to agree with idiots like Hardaway, and to use the queer community as a scapegoat for every perceived injustice. It's hard to get a sincere apology from somebody like that when they feel like they have so much sympathy for their righteous hatred.

Blogger Susie said...

traci, go ahead and rant, my dear. February is a good ranting month. So is March, for that matter.

nina, you express something that I often think, and share when the opportunity presents: just thankful I don't live inside THAT head; what an ugly place to have to spend all day.

bucky, ain't that the truth?
That's it, Bucky, they are entitled to express their opinions, of course. It's just bizarre to me that the public gives more credence to the political opinions of a celebrity than to Joe Schmo next door. I know Joe Schmo. He's brighter than many a celebrity.
But that's about political opinions. Different from hate.

I'm trying to think of whether hatred can ever be considered righteous. Arguments could be made on both sides. Interesting choice of words. I think it would have to be the very rare occasion, and certainly not directed at a group of people.

Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

I guess more accurately, I should say SELF-RIGHTEOUS hatred. Because being truly righteous doesn't have anything to do with hatred.

Blogger Susie said...

bucky, I knew what you were saying. I was just struck by those words together, and thinking about whether they ever do go together. "Righteous" is, itself, an interesting word. Meanings ranging from "Godly" to "That Ferris Bueller, he's a righteous dude."

Blogger eclectic said...

Eeep -- can o' worms being opened over here, huh?! Good on ya, Susie, to take your stand where you can. I too, hold "grudges" by refusing to support industries or individuals who publicly stand for things I just cannot abide.

I don't expect every celebrity, or even every average Joe, to agree with me on all issues under the sun, and I respect differences of opinion. Likewise, I expect to be respected, and expect the other voices on the issue to be respected, too. That's where the breakdown occurs for me.

You don't like to be around gay people, Mr. Hardaway? You're entitled to that preference, though I'm sorry for how much drearier your life will be as a result. Still, you're not entitled to disrespect gay people as people, as a group, or to mock or hate me or anyone else who does not share your opinion in that regard. Your celebrity makes your opinion the more laughable, given how many gay people are in the public fan base from whom your salary is ultimately drawn, but, whatever dude.

Anonymous peaches said...

"What comes out of your mouth is purely a matter of choice. A willful decision that you make".

Amen to that sista!

I was just thinking about this the other night when Nicole Richie was arrested for yet another DUI, and I doubt she'll spend any 'real' time behind bars or anything else for that matter. Perhaps she'll have to pay a fine and not purchase the latest Louis Vuitton bag, or not- she has enough money for both.

As to what I quoted above, some people just do need to keep their mouth shut, and IF they must spew their hate, at least be sensitive. Saying something like- I'm not comfortable around someone that is gay- so much better. Dosent make it right, but at least there is some sensitivity and its their feelings and not hurting others for who they are.

Blogger lawyerchik said...

42"very juicy comment :)" - I try! :)

I always think of this poem when this topic comes up, in large part because there seems to be such passion about suppressing speech when it comes to things we dislike or disagree with, but never when it is something we believe in.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

One of the first things law students study in constitutional law is the difference between speech and actions. Yes, there are things we shouldn't say (like "fire" in a crowded theater), but the rest of it is pretty well open - as it should be - whether the speech is "hateful" or not.

Once you start down the road of suppressing speech, regardless of the reasons, you open the door for the government or private citizens using the government to sanction your speech.

We already have many, many laws prohibiting conduct that can and should be enforced when there is conduct that violates those laws. Once you start letting the government control your speech, you allow them the authority to control your thoughts.

There is an old saying (can't remember who said it) that I think dates from the American Revolution: I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it. The true test of whether we have freedom of speech is whether we can listen to someone else saying things we despise and allow them to say them.

Everyone has the right to be an idiot, as long as they don't act on their idiocy. We've bought into the ridiculous notion that we can't control our actions for too long, though, which has led us directly to this crazy idea that we have to suppress speech we don't like so that people don't get out of control.

The hate spewed against gays, religious people, muslims, whoever, says more about the people doing the speaking than anything else. If you're going to start creating constitutional exceptions for freedom of speech, you're going to gut the 1st amendment.

Blogger Susie said...

eclectic, I saw on another blog, I think it was Joe.My.God., a link to the site of Hardaway's carwash business in FL. It was quite funny, the "reviews" that people are leaving there. We'll see if his business suffers.

peaches, yea; opinions don't concern me. Hatred concerns me.

lawyerchik, I've always liked that poem, too. Interesting ways of looking at things here: the lawyer looking at it from a legal standpoint, and the therapist from an interpersonal relations standpoint. I would not at all want it to be illegal for Hardaway or anyone else to act like an ass, verbally. My call is not for a constitutional remedy, but for higher standards of personal accountability. That only comes from each individual, not from the law. As I tell my clients and myself: before you speak, consider, "What is my intention in saying what I'm about to say?" If it's negative: to hurt someone, to get revenge, etc.; there's a good chance it's better left unsaid. And if your intention is a good one, but what is about to come out your mouth has very little chance of furthering that intention -- another good time to shut up. This spills over nicely to the Sunday Post, I think. I wasn't thinking legally at all; just "for goodness' sake, can't we SOMETIMES just choose to shut up, with the poison?" And the answer is, apparently, some of us can and some of us can't.

Blogger lawyerchik said...

"...higher standards of personal accountability"

I agree with you totally on that. Someone who voices that kind of hatred about others says so much more about himself than about those he hates.

You sparked something, though: I thought about this (still!) all afternoon today and wrote my own post!!

Hope you're feeling better, Susie! I loved your "accidental Christmas tree!" My grandpa used to point out "volunteer corn" whenever he saw it.... :)

Blogger Annejelynn said...


most of the crap available to us wouldn't be so if we didn't accept it...

Blogger It's Me, Maven... said...

Totally posting this comment totally blind, not checking what others have said...

Sometimes our words are an addiction. Hatred and jealousy can be addictions. Cattiness can be addictions. Hate begets hatred.

To cure hatred is love. Jesus is love. I find it sad that some folks who put themselves out there as people of "faith," can be some of the most intolerant people.


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