Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: My Progressive, Rational, Educated and Gay Facebook Friend”


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.


Graphic: funnyjunk

14 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: My Progressive, Rational, Educated and Gay Facebook Friend”

  1. I live just a stone’s throw from the Brazoria County line! Surprised, huh? I was also active in the anti-Proposition One movement, which I assume surprises no one, either! If this upsets “Neal”, I’d like to pass along to him a little message. Bite me! When you and your “buddies” sought to invade the privacy of our women and children- to hold them up to shame and worse- that was the last straw for many who’d not been paying attention before. You were riding a high wave. But you rode it too far and just piled up on a stone jetty.

  2. This is kind of a dumb post. For one, Orange County hasn’t been a conservative bastion since the 60s when John Wayne was still around. Witness what’s happened at UCI the last year when “the progressives” attempted to ban the flying of the American flag on campus and forced the Border Patrol from recruiting at a job fair. We also have Loretta Sanchez in a safe seat in the House of Representatives who isn’t exactly a conservative Republican. Penn takes the noble liberal route of not wanting to offend anybody as if offending somebody is absolutely the worse thing you can do. Get over it Penn and man up!

    • California’s funny: used to be the North was blue nearly all over and the South right-on red. Now it’s shifted: the Eastern side is medium pink (more territory, fewer voters); the Western side is blue (brightly so in the Bay Area) . . . except for that one remaining Orange hold-out, still hanging in there. True the county has a more moderate conservative base than it used to: it has grown its politics more towards the middle, exactly like the rest of the state except for Shasta County up north, rural and staunchly candy-apple bright, and Fresno thick across the middle of the state, dead white and neutral. Some wag suggested recenty that the state had divided politically along an as-yet invisible earthquake fault. If so, (it was a great cartoon in the 80s in Science Fiction & Fantasy, I think) after the great upheaval, there the blue will be, the thick Left Coast strip of cities and farmland anchored in bedrock from San Diego to Canada’s Gold Coast … as the rest of the country disappears. Ha!

      Oh, Wayne, you haven’t been around here very long or you’d know better. Take a break and go work on your reading comprehension skills.

  3. This whole Texas thing brought Lyle Lovett’s line to (presumably) ex-wife Julia Roberts: “That’s right, you’re not from Texas, but Texas loves you anyway.”

    I’ve come to think of the U.S. as an E.U. like amalgamation of a number of different countries that share a fairly common language, currency and a few major broadcasting networks. Texas is a separate country, as is the Southeast. Metropolitan NYC, Metropolitan Boston, the Midwest, the West, South Florida, Northern California, Southern California, the Northwest, etc. These are all genuinely different places with genuinely different manners and mores.

    I’d suggest anyone who’s lived in just one place in the U.S. all their lives has missed a great deal by not moving around some.

    • And yet in many ways, the states are becoming more alike, and sadly so. I highly recommend the TV series “How the States got their Shapes” that covers this evolution nicely. Recently it revealed that a regional difference of my childhood—in Boston, a soft drink was called “tonic” has vanished, its place being taken by “soda.” And in some parts of the South, the word used is “coke”…for any carbonated beverage, even Pepsi.

            • ” the states are becoming more alike, and sadly so.” There’s an old time radio stream ( that plays the entire broadcast of any of its shows (24/7) — from 16-inch vinyl — commercial breaks (“twice as much for a nickel or two, Pepsi Cola is the drink for you”, “we now interrupt…” war news from Europe and Korea both; and PSAs on health (except smoking; even doctors advertised cigarettes), behavior, civil defense, safe driving and citizenship, among other subjects. I often come across one read in the usual announcer’s dictatorial manner, called This Is Your State Flag that was aimed at differentiating each state by giving the history and ideas behind each banner. The facts I recall about the the one on Texas (they were big on facts rather than critical insights back then is that the Galveston hurricane in the 20s caused the greatest loss of life in the country (I believe that still stands as a tragic number: 8,000+), that Texas comes from an Indian name meaning “friend,” the flag colors stand for the brave, the liberal and the pure, and that — and this one stuck fast in my mind — there is no period after the Dr in Dr Pepper.

              . . . or was that “the brave, the uh…. loyal, and the pure?”

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