Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Whacko Jacko

In the long run, I don’t care if he did it.  [He = Michael Jackson.  It = sexually molest young boys.]  But some of the media hoo-hah surrounding it this time brings up some things worth commenting on.
  • Is the investigation racially motivated?

    Pfft.  I rather doubt it.  Everything negative involving a black man is not racist.  Get off the cross, we need to burn it.  [For the sarcasm impaired, yes, that last comment is intended as a tasteless joke.]  However, it’s worth noting that since there are fewer famous blacks than famous whites in this country, we do tend to pay more attention to the stories involving famous blacks, and thus the media may give us more of what we pay more attention to.  So while I don’t think the investigation is racially motivated, the media attention may be, indirectly.
  • Is this an attack on Michael himself?

    Well, sort of.  But less because he’s famous than because he’s eccentric.  Oh, and because rumors and full-on investigations about exactly this have swirled around the guy for over a decade.  Let’s face it, Mikey: it’s not like no one ever imagined that you might have done this before.
  • Why does this happen when he has a new record release?

    Is this taking advantage of Jackson’s other current media attention to get this higher play?  Or the conspiratorial reverse, is this intended to distract attention from his new record and damage his sales?  These questions play into both the racial and personal attack screeds.  Frankly, when I heard that the police search of the Neverland Ranch occurred while Michael was in Las Vegas shooting a new video, it seemed apparent that the investigation probably was timed… to be done while Michael was out of town and couldn’t interfere with the search than to specifically target his fame.
  • And finally, did he do it?

    It’s really tempting to say “Yes, of course, I always knew he was a pervert,” but what we “know” is largely innuendo and supposition and accusation, all supported by a media who would love to crucify him (there’s that cross thing again!).  Him or anyone else equally famous they could dig at.

    On the other hand, Jackson has enough eccentricities that it could be just one more.  Maybe this all truly is a fabrication of a sex-crazed media, and he really does love (platonically) children and wants to embrace his inner child so very dearly (perhaps in response to his own media-stolen childhood), and thus when he “sleeps” with kids he really does just sleep with them, cuddling them like teddy bears.  And nothing else.

Updated on October 19, 2010
And as of summer 2009, we will perhaps never really know.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Gay Marriage: Marital Misdirection

The opposition to same-sex marriage is composed of almost exclusively misdirection.  In the end, there are no rational reasons for the opposition, only emotional ones, and thus the arguments put forward are typically intended not to counter same-sex marriage but to derail the discussion, driving it off course and getting it stuck in a swamp.

First is the partial misnomer, “gay marriage.”

The proper term is “same-sex marriage.”  To call it exclusively “gay” is a convenient shorthand, but it also allows (even encourages) the discussion to focus exclusively on the male-male side of the question, and thus male-male sex, which is a subject which squicks a lot of straight America (certainly more than are squicked by girl-on-girl sex).  In focusing on the male component, it also thus renders half or more of the marriage seekers somewhat invisible — and its those “invisible” ones who are often in the most stable relationships and thus more likely to be raising children within their relationships.  And speaking of “invisible”, let’s not forget the bisexual men and women who might be in a longterm same-sex relationship: just because you can’t visually tell whether they are exclusively homosexual doesn’t mean that they are.

(Even more proper a term is “same-sex civil marriage”, which takes the religion component out of the picture.  So long as the government certifies marriages for opposite sex couples without requiring a religious component, religion doesn’t deserve any say into whether government can do the same for same-sex couples.)

Second is the “slippery slope” argument.

If same-sex marriage is approved, won’t that lead to triad (or more-ad) marriages, to intra-family (mother/son or sister/brother) marriages, to adult/child marriages, or to human/animal marriages?  The answer to this is that those questions are different from (but parallel to) the same-sex marriage question.  One type of marriage will not automatically lead to another type, just as mixed-race marriages didn’t lead to other changes when they became fully legal, nearly 40 years ago.  The laws which specifically prohibit same-sex marriages (DOMA, et al) don’t address these other types of relationships, and there are already separate laws relating to those which don’t touch on the same-sex issue.

The opposition likes to put this strawman up as a question to same-sex marriage proponents: “Well, if gay marriage is accepted, what will you say to the man who wants to marry his sheep?”  The best answer is “I don’t care.  That’s a different type of marriage.  Let him fight his own battle.”  Keep the discussion properly and narrowly focused.

On the other hand, maybe same-sex marriage would lead to other marriage shifts, but in a completely different way.  (And by extension, the mixed-race marriage issue may be a lead-in to same-sex marriage after all.)  Without passing judgment on any given type of relationship where those involved might like it to be a full-fledged marriage, we see in both the mixed-race and same-sex cases that some of the laws governing them were (are) regressive, hateful, and downright wrong.  Once we take the time to examine those laws closely and see them for being the bogus laws they are, we may also find that other laws governing other sorts of relationships are equally as regressive, hateful, and wrong, and thus also need to be changed.  (Or we may not.  I don’t foresee marriage being approved for those who cannot give informed consent, such a children and animals.  But that’s merely one example, and there are many other laws relating to such relationships.)

Third is the “marriage is for procreation” argument.

There is absolutely nothing about procreation itself which is improved by the presence of a formalized bonding of exactly two opposite sex, unrelated people; the wife is not more fertile as a result, nor is the man’s sperm more aggressive.  And there is nothing about marriage which requires that progeny result from the union.  This is actually a confusion of procreation with heredity.  Procreation is deemed to be best when it occurs within marriage because then the spouses have better control over one another (more specifically: the husband knows who the wife is having sex with), and thus the line of descent (and of inheritance) is made clear.  In the end, ensuring proper inheritance is a goal of both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages.

(Note that this does not make any statement about the raising of children by anyone.  I’ll discuss my thoughts on that at some point.  The stated opposition here is only about procreation, so that’s all I am addressing in my counter-argument.)

Fourth is the “thousands of years of tradition” argument.

These traditions never actually applied to exclusively “one woman and one man,” because two of a single gender just wasn’t a social option.  When society is unable to conceive of the existence of homosexual people, much less of ongoing relationships between such people, society doesn’t have rituals which apply to such people and situations.  Let’s face it: society changes over time, and when it does, so do its traditions.  Holding to “thousands of years of tradition” would have our sailing vessels never leaving sight of land.  It would have us using human and animal power for all our transportation needs.  It would have our systems of government be non-democratic monarchies.  It would have us treating women and children as property.  It would feature multiple wives for each man.  It would have us worshipping a multitude of different gods.  It would have us huddled in caves, painting on walls.

Updated on November 11, 2003

Updated on October 14, 2010
Added bit about “same-sex civil marriage’.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Pick a Number, Any Number

You know what annoys me?  (This week, anyway.)  The abuse and misuse of math, specifically in number metaphors.

Lately, I’ve been hearing an add for Seattle-area car dealership Carter Subaru which claims that they are in the Top Three (which means they are #3, because otherwise they would say they are #1 or #2) out of 500-and-some dealership teams in the nation in sales.  All well and good.  Then they go on to brag at least twice in the commercial about how proud they are to be in the top 99.5% of the sales teams in the nation.  SCREEEECCHHH!  Everybody except the bottom 3 or so would be in the top 99.5%; it’s nothing to be proud of.  (What they really mean is that they are in the 99.5th percentile.  Ah, the subtlety of a single syllable.)

Twice in the past month or so, I’ve seen misuse of “360 degrees”.  Once was in The Stranger, comparing something to a drag queen making a 360-degree spin on one heel and going the other way, and once was in the Seattle Gay News (never noted for their skillful editing anyway) about Mary J. Blige’s latest album being a 360-degree change from her previous one.  (Unfortunately, web searches won’t bring up either reference.)  Girls, “360 degrees” is a full circle; you can’t go the other way out of a 360-degree spin, and a 360-degree change means that Blige’s latest album is no different from the previous one!  (What they both meant, of course, was 180 degrees.)

In the same vein, but not using numbers per se, are Disneyland references to when they used to use ticket books for the rides rather than an all-day pass.  (They changed around 1980, I think.  I had been to Disneyland maybe a dozen times as a kid, and I recall being enthused about not having to have a ticket book when I went to Dollywood in 1979.  We had a simple pass when we went to Disneyland again in 1982 or so.)  The ticket books featured A Tickets, B Tickets, and so on up to E Tickets, each type being good for a different class of rides.  The really cool ones (the Matterhorn Bobsleds and such) were E Ticket rides (and you never got enough of those tickets in the booklet!), while the A Tickets were the extremely tame rides like the King Arthur Carousel and Sleeping Beauty Castle.  Today, 20-plus years from the end of the ticket books (and even a decade ago, only 10-plus years out, when I wrote one of my earliest letters of comment on the subject), people forget this and they assume that “A” was the best thing, perhaps like getting grades in school.  And thus, when someone refers in print to some experience being “a real ‘A Ticket’ ride,” I can only roll my eyes and bitch quietly to myself.

Updated on November 23, 2003

Updated on October 13, 2010
According to the tickets shown on this site, Sleeping Beauty Castle was a C Ticket in 1957, reduced to a B Ticket in 1959.

This site indicates it as an A Ticket in 1972; I would have been at Disneyland as early as 1969 (age 3).