Unlike most Comments of the Day, this one by Penn/Same Penn, who has two aliases here due to WordPress’s inexplicable habit of eating his posts, requires some back-reading to fully appreciate…but it is worth the effort.
The original post is about a Facebook friend’s mass condemnation of the Lone star State as a frightening, bigoted and violent place where he would never set foot, in part because of his anger over Houston’s rejection last week of a bill that would expand LGBT civil rights in the city. My post noted that painting Texas with such a broad and harsh brush is itself bigotry—a position that cannot be rebutted, I believe—and reader Neil protested that the anti-Texas and Texans sentiment was just.
This inspired P/SP to one of the most eloquent and thoughtful posts Ethics Alarms has ever received, on any topic, and his is complex here, far ranging from its inspiration.
Here is Penn’s Comment of the Day on the post, Unethical Quote Of The Week: My Progressive, Rational, Educated and Gay Facebook Friend:
I went along with Neil’s original post with “Texas as a place is amazing; Texas as a political animal is everything he said” in the spirit of the initial feckless Facebook post which I read, very personally, as a reaction to the usual hypergeneralized slams at California that predominate in these blog comments. This is what happens when twits tweet and people do not meet face-to-face: all of us (even the level-headed, logic-minded Texagg) take advantage of the new, still new, so-called “social” media to kick out once in a while where one feels free to do so.
I’m sure Friend — and Neil — know as well as I do that the so-called “news” media’s aim for quotability and enragement factors mean that we are set at one another’s throats largely by dint of public pronouncements and mispronouncements by notable (for any reason) figures, rather than being given a chance to recognize and share our similarities. By today’s everything-as-entertainment rule, in fact, the latter would be a dead bore. Hyperbole, like Beau Brummel fashions in Regency England, is all the rage. That the exaggeration is frequently gormless and bound to arouse the ire of the reader is either immaterial (hey look, I can get revenge – for something – here, what fun!) or intended (haha! they can’t see me!) makes no difference. What Friend had to say would be ignored by most; it just happened to land in ethics world. And ethics world is where unacceptable comments like that are taken to task.
All well and good. It deserved to be dissected and the writer Friend castigated. (Though I wouldn’t qualify it for “hate speech” — I’m pretty angry at airport security myself)
I was shocked to the core when, nearly fifty years ago, a close friend whom I had never thought of as an Alabaman though I knew he came from there, rounded on me for using the term “cracker.” (“Besides,” he added, after comparing it to other insults more familiar to a New Yorker, “it only applies to folks from Georgia.”) What I learned about Alabama that day, same and non-same, I have applied liberally, if one may use the word niggardly, to view the variations elsewhere. And to learn the derogatory terms and refrain from using them when possible, barring, say, “flat-lander” to yell at Oklahoma drivers holding up traffic on 10,000-foot Colorado passes. (Not that I can defend Colorado here with impunity: it is now demonized with pot fumes!) Some generalizations stick, even knowing an excellent mountain driver from Tulsa. Everyone has them.
It is said (at least friends — that’s lower-case real friends — who share homes in both places say) that Austin has as many liberal, progressive, “out there” odd-balls as San Francisco does; and that majorities of Orange County California and Brazoria County Texas folks can match each other for all-out, do-or-die right-wingers. Berkeley has a significant conservative Republican votership, and the most diverse multi-cultural population in the country is Jackson Heights, New York with a violent crime demographic 97% below the national average.
So … I cut some slack for feelings. Friend’s are heavy ones, he’s probably not going to let go of them any time soon (though Jack’s blog might help) because they come from poisonous barbs thrown in his direction; Neil’s are closer to home, perhaps, and that’s how Texas is portrayed in the everyday media bombardment: there is a truth in there, like it or not. And mine are sympathetic because in order to participate in Ethics Alarms, I have to do things like swallow “hippie” as some kind of nasty symbol for a whole population that is (nearly) nothing of the kind, and re-define “progressive” as a dirty word. For once, I kick against the pricks.
We now return your station to the control of its local broadcaster.