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2011/07/23

Is This Lunch or A Tea Party? Battling Ignorance in the Workplace

I went to lunch today with a couple of co-workers, peers of mine, so they are fairly well-educated people. Fairly well-educated people. I stress that, because, just as you have no idea who really lives in the house next to you, you never really know the person in the cube next to yours… that is, until you go to lunch and the subject of politics comes up.

Politics! Why that’s one of those things we’re never to discuss in polite society, isn’t it? Hmmm. We’re sitting there – at a little dive known for their chicken wings and live music (hair metal) (they picked it) – waiting for our food when the woman across from me mentions that Michele Bachmann is ahead in the polls in Iowa! Because I’m not expecting anyone to bring up politics, it catches me totally off guard and a conversation about politics is off and running (for President!). The woman next to her is excited to hear this news. Turns out that her husband, a state trooper, is a big fan Ms. Bachmann’s and the pair plan on voting for her in 2012. This conversation goes on for about 45 minutes. The discussion includes abortion, the Mormon religion, Michele Bachmann and Obama. Seated at the table we have one diehard republican, one liberal conservative who just does not like Obama, and me.

My first impulse is to dive in and challenge everything that they believe. But I resist. First off, I am woefully unprepared for this type of debate. Michele Bachmann in such a ridiculous character that I really never thought I would come face to face with someone who actually takes her seriously. My bad. I have an opportunity to inform, but I lack the basic information to do it. Secondly, since I can’t educate, I decide to remain as neutral as possible in order to gather information. I want to know what these people think – what makes them tick. I want to know just what it is about Michele Bachmann that would lead one to believe that she is intelligent enough, experienced enough, and skilled enough to be President of the United States.

Turns out it’s because they think she’s sexy. They think it would be fun to see her stand in front of the nation and flip her hair. They just like her. Period.

I want to point out the fact that her husband – who is probably gay – runs one of those horrible gay-reversal therapy clinics (which is state and federally funded!). I want to point out the fact that Michele believes in creationism and believes that it is the only thing that should be taught in our public schools. I want to point out the she doesn’t believe in science, evolution, or global warming. She believes that if we teach America’s children anything about gay history that the school system is therefore encouraging students to ‘try it out’.

Seriously – her belief system makes Scientology and Mormonism seem positively logical by comparison.

Do I have a duty as a gay dude to educate these two women? Yes? Okay, maybe I was just being lazy, but I decided, no. I didn’t agree with them, but I did try to get them to see that belief systems are a very personal thing – and while everyone has a right to believe whatever they wish - not everyone should be President.

I tried to point out the difficulties the Obama administration faced upon taking office and that he inherited a lot of unresolved issues. It didn’t matter. Obama was deemed ineffective. They don’t want him to see another term. Why? They don’t like him. Well, I point out, I didn’t either – if I had my way Hillary Clinton would be President. One of them agrees. But then they think a woman President would also be ineffective because she would have to deal with countries where women are considered less than a man. I point out, that as secretary of state, she’s having to do that now. The fact that Michele Bachmann is also a woman seems to escape this person, and I decided to cut my losses.

But the whole “women as less than a man” somehow morphs into the issue of abortion. One of the women doesn’t feel that abortion should ever be allowed – not even in cases of rape. I explain that I believe that a woman has the right to do with her body whatever she wishes – including not getting an abortion, if she so chooses. Again – abortion – a very individual, personal thing – something everyone should get to make a decision about for themselves. If this woman was raped and decided to keep the baby, provided that she planned on raising and providing for the child herself and was sure she could love the child despite the circumstances of its conception, then I fully support her decision. Because that would be what she chose for herself. On the other hand, if someone was raped and became pregnant after being raped and decided that an abortion is what she needed to do for herself, I would support that decision, too. The whole concept of the right of individuals to choose for themselves seems to be a concept lost on most conservatives, right? No.

Republicans amaze me – they believe that the government should not be allowed to tell people what to do – except when it comes to abortion and gay rights.

Democrats amaze me, too – they seem to think the government should be involved in everything. If a social issue exists – just keep throwing money at it.

I lay my cards on the table. I believe in the rights of the individual. I believe people may believe and behave in anyway the see fit as long as it not physically or psychologically harmful to others. I think smaller government is a good idea. I think government is too involved in trying to solve social issues – something that their track record would seem to indicate that they are no good at – and not taking care of the basics – keeping people safe, keeping people from taking advantage of other people, and keeping the economy on track.

Unfortunately, we live in a country where there exists a two-party system. So each year, I go to the polls and end up having to choose the lesser of two evils. And in 2012, something tells me that I will be voting for a democrat, again – because if you look at those vying for the republican nomination – there ain’t nothing but evil.

Michele Bachmann is a dangerous woman. Why? It stems from her twisted, evangelical belief system. Michele operates from her own Biblical World View: which basically means she can say that anything that doesn’t fit with her ideology is the product of mistaken theological premises. In other words, if it contradicts what she believes, it must be false.

Michele Bachmann is the face of anti-gay politics.

“Any of you who have members of your family that are in the lifestyle—we have a member of our family that is. This is not funny. It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay.” – Michele Bachmann, referring to her lesbian step-sister – or maybe her husband, it is hard to tell

“Little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and perhaps they should try it.” – Michele Bachmann on why gay history should not be taught in our schools

"Barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined, and just because someone feels this or thinks this, doesn't mean that we're supposed to go down that road." – Marcus Bachmann, Michele’s gay husband, on what to do about gay people

I could go on and on. Michele Bachmann certainly does. And hard facts do not get in the way of what she believes. All you need to do is google Michele Bachmann and all sorts of nonsense will appear. Click away. It would all be mildly amusing, if it wasn’t so dangerous. And hateful. And twisted. And wrong.

Now I have a decision to make? What to do about these two women at work? De-friend them? Break down the walls of their cubes and seize their desks? Go all PC educator on their asses? Start sending them news articles pointing out the folly of evangelical politicians?

I don’t know. And part of me doesn’t care. These women can believe what they want to believe. That’s their right. I’m not sure pointing out what is illogical, what flies in the face of science, what the actual facts are, or what is just downright mean-spirited, contradictory, hypocritical and petty would have any effect on their belief systems.

Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s a cancer. And I’m no doctor.

When I look at the United States and hear of some the legislation that is proposed and the values that legislation is said to represent – I find it chilling, but more – I am simply amazed that such ideologies still exist. I used to think that such ignorance only thrived in states like Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. But it’s really much closer than any of us would care to believe.

In fact, it could be as close as the cube right next to yours.

Yes, like objects in the mirror, ignorance is much closer than you think.

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